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Progressive Rock Book Reviews

Steve Hogarth

The Invisible Man: Diaries 1991-1997 written by Steve Hogarth

Review by Jason Hillenburg

In the second half of their career, Marillion have distinguished themselves as an uniquely creative act able to maintain a high level of artistic excellence while managing to navigate their way through the tumultuous waters of The Music Business, circa late 20th-early 21st century. Lead singer and songwriter Steve Hogarth is, arguably, the public face of the band and his exceptional talents as a musician, performer, and lyricist have served the band well since he joined in 1989. 

2014 finds Hogarth turning towards the book world. Miwk Publishing has brought out handsome hardcover and paperback editions of his diaries covering the years 1991 through 1997. This volume, the first of two, is an elliptical account of the singer's life during those years. In a brief introduction, Hogarth explains that writing in spurts and numerous distractions caused significant gaps between entries. These gaps in other works can often affect its continuity and impair its readability. However, the consistently relaxed, conversational tone of Hogarth's writing gives the book a special flavor. One can read the work chronologically or dip randomly into its pages and come away from the experience feeling as if Hogarth is sitting next to him (or her) and regaling her (or him) with tales from his daily life.

Another highlight of the book is Hogarth's surprising dramatic skill. He never belabors vividly sketched encounters. His observant eye locks in on significant details and spares readers any excessive dross. The descriptive powers at his disposal are considerable. It might not be surprising to some that Hogarth excels in this form given his songwriting talents, but those energies do not always translate well from live performance and the studio. 

There is a fair amount of focus on Marillion's behind the scene workings, but the entries favor depicting the seldom-discussed aspects of shoddy lodgings, equipment problems, and travel over lurid tales of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The man who emerges from these pages is fascinating. During these years, Hogarth seems like a man constantly balancing the demands of his profession with his personal life. His commitment to artistic and professional excellence shines through. Loneliness creeps in and his sensitivity in these moments will undoubtedly move many readers.

While Marillion fans will likely read this work in greater numbers than anyone else will, it has universal appeal. We are rarely privy to this side of a professional musician's life - the decidedly unglamorous road stories about poor food and non-functioning toilets, the physical and emotional exhaustion, the family waiting at home. Likewise, we rarely see performers bare their lives in such an unedited, achingly sincere fashion. There is no pretense here. When a reader finishes their first pass through this book, they are likely to set it down satisfied that they have witnessed, in a small but significant way, a chronicle of a life well lived.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

You'll find an audio interview of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
 
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