Published on October 5th, 2014 | by Mike Ainscoe0
INVISIBLE MAN DIARIES 1991-1997 – Steve Hogarth (Miwk publishing)
To Samuel Pepys, Anne Frank, Kenneth Williams and Adrian Mole, add the name Steve Hogarth. While there are those who ask “Steve who?” there are those Marillion fans (got it yet) who will be salivating copiously at the thought of the first of two promised volumes of Hogarth’s ‘famous’ diaries. On joining Marillion in 1989 and recounting his adventures travelling to Iceland, dropping from helicopters and standing atop glaciers (making pop videos eh?), it was his dad who made him promise to keep a diary – “What’s happening in your life doesn’t normally happen to people.”
Amongst the Marillion faithful, of which there are many in varying degrees of fixation, the diaries became a thing of wonder. Occasionally published in part in The Web fan club magazines, they started to take on more life at some of Hogath’s solo shows. Faced with a huge tax bill some years ago he ventured into a series of shows entitled ‘h natural’ where he could play a few songs, take requests (for songs), chat to the audience and read from his diaries, while at the same time make enough quick bucks to stave off the taxman. The ‘natural’ shows have been going for some years now and very entertaining they can be as well, the trip to St Brides in Liverpool now being as much a Christmas custom as mince pies and Rudolph. However, all credit to Miwk publishing for spotting the opportunity to put the Hogarth scribblings and scratchings into hard copy – after all, the devoted Marillion family are noted for their willingness to support all types of musical and economic ventures of their heroes.
So here we have ‘Invisible Man’ diaries which cover the 1991-1997 period, with a second volume promised later in the year. The limited edition signed and numbered hardback sold out quickly enough for another few hundred to be added to the run before the paperback edition kicked in. Quite a hefty tome it is too with nice production values and feel to it.
The introduction details minor thematic points, particular the dramatis personae who appear in various sobriquets all used with random imprecision, yet typical of the sort of minutiae that rock fans, and especially Marillion fans, lap up.
With very little beyond grammatical correction, the diaries are published as written and pretty much as one would complete a document of its kind, some days find themselves completely omitted for various reasons (writing, recording, impossible to do so or can’t be arsed) whilst others have that repetitive groundhog feel to them. Readers need to beware of the occasional big gaps between entries, so a useful tip, although maybe stating the obvious, is to check the dates before reading. There’s also a lack of input during recording periods – 1993’s ‘Brave’ sessions and the 1996 quiet period before the release of ‘This Strange Engine’ which might have given a window into their recording processes and which fans might have enjoyed, yet it’s understandable – who wants to be bothered with writing a diary when an album is in production.
There are times when the narrative falls into a routine rather like the touring life it describes. The routine of noting the time of getting up, having breakfast, the amount of coffee drunk and the amount of things bought, can become a little repetitive, yet it also goes to emphasise finding something to do within the daily grind of managing the logistics of a rock band on tour.
Little snippets and nuggets provide some interest all the way through the text and it’s quite warming to know that he has his roots done and buys Monopoly games from around the world and yes he does gets cards from fans with “my girlfriend wants to f**k you” (mind, it was in 1994). There’s also the ‘rug’ story from San Francisco late on in the volume, many readers of which will be hoping to find some resolution in volume 2.
The most interesting parts however may well be in the domestic routines away from the grind of the rock machinery. We get an insight into ‘normal’ things like moving house, plumbing in washers and the eternal question of ‘where shall we go for lunch?’ With it comes the more personal stuff and the family relationships are not avoided. Hogarth gives a small peek into his views as the children grow up, the constant periods of absence and how they affect the family unit.
Fans of course will revel in the minutiae and the chance for a peek inside the Marillion organisation and the man himself. For those who can’t wait, Volume 2 1998 – 2014 should be appearing before the end of 2014 – can’t wait to see if my personal encounter is in there……
Live photo taken by Mike Ainscoe