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One of the might-have-beens of the mid-'90s Britpop explosion, Marion made for a slightly inconsistent but often quite striking band. Based out of Manchester, the five-piece took declared inspiration from earlier musical giants of the city such as Joy Division and the Smiths (in the case of the latter, to the extent where they recruited that band's old manager Joe Moss to handle their affairs). Strong hints of older rock & roll crept in as well, from the Beatles to the Buzzcocks, making for a sometimes captivating blend topped off by frontman Jaime Harding's passionate (almost to a fault) singing. Harding and guitarists Phil Cunningham and Tony Grantham had known each other since they were teenagers, but Marion as a "proper" group only began in 1993. Drummer Murad Mousa, an acquaintance of the three, and bassist Julian Philips, later replaced by Nick Gilbert, filled out the original lineup of the group. Early singles via Rough Trade and other labels, as well as an increasingly high profile series of opening slots for the likes of Morrissey and Radiohead, lead to a full deal with London Records. Possibly pushing the Smiths connection a bit, some pre-album singles were recorded with Stephen Street, but Al Clay did the production honors on their debut This World and Body, which appeared in 1996. While the album made a minor splash and the group gained a reasonable enough profile, even winning an American release for This World and Body, at the end of 1996, Marion withdrew into the studio to record its follow-up The Program, which ended up not appearing until late 1998. In perhaps the ultimate sign of a tribute back, Johnny Marr produced The Program, but neither the album nor its associated singles made a splash in the now-imploded Britpop music scene, though the band pulled off a well-received series of festival appearances. The quintet even did a one-off concert in Los Angeles due to the passion of fans based out on the West Coast, but 1999 saw only a series of confusing rumors regarding a new American deal surfacing and the departure of Grantham. By the middle of that year, Marion had essentially collapsed with the formal announcement that the members had all gone their separate ways. Grantham's next projected effort was termed Chalk, while Harding kept the rights to the Marion name and set about forming a new band with guitarist Wayne Ward. As of early 2001, however, nothing has been heard from Marion Mark Two.
© Ned Raggett /TiVo
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