John Dexter Jones

The Myth Remastered

Hot Day, Milton Keynes

In the summer of 1994, on Saturday afternoon July 2nd, JUMP played its fourth gig of the week at a venue called The Skoolhouse in Milton Keynes. It was a very hot sticky day. The occasion was the first screening of a film called ‘Brave’, which was a spin-off from the concept album of the same name by Marillion. If it was hot and sticky outside, then the interior of the concrete box of the club could only be described as swelteringly uncomfortable. Organised by The Web, we’d been invited to play at the event along with a certain John Wesley. Wes went on first and was able to sit down with his acoustic guitar and sweat his way through half an hour. We took the full impact of the heat, the lights and the dripping mezzanine to entertain the troops before the screening. I had a bottle of port on the drum riser – a salve for ragged vocal chords (we had another gig coming up that night at Dukes, a club in the same town) – but it was so hot, the bottle was like a bar of soap, and so almost impossible to swig from. I managed, but I also had to drink water! The performance went well and merchandise sales were brisk. I wanted to see the film, but I needed to cool down first, so found some shade on the tailgate of the van, and had a beer.

I think Mark was the only member of Marillion in attendance, and to my surprise, he sought me out in the boiling hot car park, and expressed his enjoyment of our set. We had a chat, exchanged numbers and went back inside to watch the premiere. I can’t remember much about the film, but the Brave album (brave as it was) has grown on me with each listen over the last twenty six years. It’s one of their finest in my estimation…

After that, we packed up and drove across town to Dukes to play two hour-long sets, the second of which would begin at around midnight. I shudder at the thought of the sheer madness of what we did in the 90s (although at the time I loved every minute). After that, we went home, and after that, some days later I received a phone call.

Mark asked when we were next playing, we had more of a chat, and he duly attended a gig at The Captain Cook in Acton, notable only for his presence and my falling down a deep crevasse between the footlights and the front of the high stage. I never stopped singing, and resurfaced to generous applause. He expressed an interest in maybe working with us as producer. He liked the band, we hit it off as people, and to be honest, saying yes to his suggestion probably took less than a nano-second. So it was that our journey would take us to a quiet industrial estate in the middle of the Buckinghamshire countryside – home to The Racket Club. In the lead-up to the recording, he came to rehearsals in darkest Wycombe, took close account of the material, made some suggestions and came down the pub. That’s what producers do…

During this period Mark and I spent some time chatting about the state of the world, and particularly the music industry. We spent more than one evening in the famous Pink and Lily pub round the corner from my house, having a few beers. One of the themes that arose regularly during those conversations concerned the important role that internet would play in the future of Marillion. We were driving through Chesham one day and Mark pretty much told me that the World Wide Web would engender the Marillion Renaissance. Remember, this was 1994 and it was still very much in its formative stages. He had no doubt whatsoever. I’d say his vision was realised!

In 1995, we recorded The Myth of Independence at The Racket Club. Mark produced it, and if you listen carefully, you will hear him playing in a couple of places… The sessions were engineered by a splendid and patient young man called Stewart Every, who was diligent, dry, and always in a good mood. You can’t beat that. In the same year, JUMP opened twice for Marillion – once at The Mean Fiddler for the launch of the ‘Afraid of Sunlight’ album, and once at The Forum, when that tour got underway. Both occasions were memorable – Tony Hadley was in the kebab shop after The Forum. Gold. The following year we supported them in Holland at the Vredenburg in Utrecht. There were pools of fish in the backstage bar at the after-show.

But I digress. Back to the tale.

When we finished recording ‘Myth’, Mark mentioned to me that he was considering recording a solo album. Steve Rothery was working on stuff for The Wishing Tree, and by then, Steve Hogarth may well have been contemplating the material for Ice Cream Genius. Having spent a bit of time travelling over the Chiltern ridges to record at The Racket Club, I was at least familiar with ‘the way there’. Tentatively, we wondered out loud about a collaboration, and having between us adopted a fittingly casual approach, I was given a couple of tapes (yes, cassettes…) to take home and experiment with. I still have them, and I still have the lyrics and top lines that I developed for some embryonic ideas.

Time went by, and nothing came of it. On we went. Mark, with Marillion, to demonstrably fulfil his prediction that their ground-breaking use of the internet, and the direct contact it afforded to their huge fanbase, would see them prove every traditionalist naysayer unequivocally wrong…and me, with JUMP, to journey ever-onwards through the endless hinterlands…

It seemed appropriate to relate this tale now – not only because, even after a twenty five year wait, Mark Kelly’s Marathon is a fine musical statement, but also because in the first quarter of 2021 this re-mastered version of The Myth of Independence hits the shelves. In 1995 when it was released on Cyclops Records, it sold briskly. By the end of that decade, save for a few used copies cropping up at ridiculous prices on the web, the album as a physical entity was listed as ‘unavailable’. During lockdown, I began work on a book containing all the JUMP lyrics – a response to a number of enquiries over the years. Engaging with that process (even as the writer of those words) meant a lot of listening and reading. When I reached the Myth album, it occurred to me that it was a unique piece of work…

It remains the only JUMP studio album not recorded at MARS studios, and one of only two where an individual is listed as sole producer – Breaking Point, produced by Ronnie, is the other. Myth was the album that brought us to Fish’s attention – he told me as much when he invited us to open for him on the ‘Sunsets on Empire’ UK Tour – citing Mark’s production role as piquing his interest. Perhaps most importantly, it reminds me of the value of sheer hard graft. Those glimpses of the ‘big time’ that meeting Mark and recording The Myth of Independence gave us, did not happen purely by chance. In nearly forty years of working in the dark pools of the music industry, I’ve heard many bands complain about the injustices of the ‘Business’, as though somehow they expected to climb the greasy pole by dint of some self-determined entitlement. It’s worth noting that by the time we played that boiling hot gig in the summer of 1994, JUMP had already notched up a colossal number of appearances for a group of part-time professionals holding down other jobs. It was around 350-400 gigs by then. That’s how the opportunities to spend a little time in the sunlit uplands came our way – and still do. We’re never there by accident…

As I conclude, I’m listening to ‘This Time’ by Mark Kelly’s Marathon. It’s a cracking track, and Ollie Smith’s voice suits it perfectly. I hope they go out live. I’d go. It’s twenty-six years since The Myth of Independence was recorded. When I spoke to Mark to ask if he’d spare us a few words to include in this booklet, he didn’t hesitate. We had a chat and it was clear that the generosity of spirit characterised by the opportunities that he and his bandmates have given to so many, including JUMP, is still very much in evidence. We spoke of a surfeit of cough sweets, a lottery win and wondered where the time goes.

Who knows?

John Dexter Jones, April 2021