Magazine, The Venue, Victoria, London 24th Nov 1978

poster
1978 was one of the most exciting years in popular music, the year the pretenders found their feet, and new diverse talent emerged. Amongst the vanguard was Magazine. The old guard had been thrown out in 76/77, now the new musical order was establishing itself.

 

 

Howard Devoto was an integral figure in the original Buzzcocks line up that had recorded the seminal Spiral Scratch ep. For New Wave fans his departure doubled the fun. The Buzzcocks debut album, Another Music in a Different Kitchen” veered off in one direction, Magazine’s “Real Life” in another.

 
John Peel promoted both bands heavily on his late- night Radio 1 show. Real Life was clearly special, and one of the best of the Punk/New Wave Era. Devoto’s clever lyrics, McGeogh’s dexterous guitar, Adamson’s fluid bass lines, and above all Dave Formula’s keyboards fused in wondrous alchemy behind Jackson’s drums.

 
They were the antithesis to the punk mantra that “anyone can pick up a guitar and play”. They were all consummate musicians, their compositions textured and complex. Dave Formula was to Magazine, what Dave Greenfield was to the Stranglers, giving them a flexibility and distinctive musical signature. Unfortunately hit singles did not come out of that alchemy for Magazine.

 
The Venue, in Victoria was a new music venue, holding around 800, opened only earlier that month, but a fabulous one. Originally the Metropole cinema, it was laid out like a night club, with elevated rear terrace and table seating, and a lower dance floor with stage. Magazine were doing two shows that night, no support. We had tickets for the first show at 8pm. Beforehand we had enjoyed a pint in a local pub and met John Peel who was drinking on his own. A real gent. Happy to talk. Star struck, we made no sense and I can remember nothing of the conversation.

 

 

Support was provided by  Ludus,  formed in Manchester earlier that year. It featured artist, designer and singer Linder Sterling playing  a mix of  jazz-, avant-garde- and punk, with Morrissey a devoted fan from the start. The band was founded by Linder , who was a player in the Manchester arts and music scene, having designed the cover of Buzzcocks’ single “Orgasm Addict” and Magazine’s debut album Real Life. It comprised  Arthur Kadmon, formerly of Manicured Noise, ex-Nosebleeds drummer Philip “Toby” Tomanov and bassist Willy Trotter. The show represented their London debut, was solid and promising, and at twenty minutes, the set was enough to arouse interest without giving too much away. Interval performer Johnny Rubbish lived up to his name.

ludus

Ludus

 

 
It remains one of the finest gigs I have seen. Devoto was a man possessed, the music was sensational, and there was a layering of sound absent from their contemporaries. It was Emerson Lake and Palmer, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, blended into three minute soundbites with lyrics by Nietzsche. It was as far away from The Filth and the Fury as you can imagine, but with an inventiveness and urgency that made it utterly compelling and modern. I started off on the terrace with a perfect view, but soon threw myself into the frenzied mass at the front soaking up every second of the glorious atmosphere.

magazine_119

 

 

Just occasionally, a gig is not about the songs, but the set- such was that night. We could have hung on to see their second set, but wanted nothing to disrupt the memory of musical perfection and headed off, dazed into the night.

 

 

Set List
Definitive Gaze
My Tulpa
The Great Beautician in the Sky
Boredom
Burst
My Mind Ain’t So Open
Thin Air
Back to Nature
Motorcade
Rhythm of Your Cruelty
Give Me Everything
Goldfinger
The Light Pours Out of Me
Encore

Parade
Shot by Both Sides

Howard-Devoto-Magazine-The-Light-Pours-Out-Of-Me-1978
The Guildhall, Northampton May 2nd 1980
This should have been a great gig. Bauhaus were the support act and their third album, The Correct use of Soap. had just been released, but all was not well. McGeogh had just left the band for Siouxsie & The Banshees, Robin Simon coming in to take over on guitar. The new material was fine, but Simon was not familiar with it. The songs were also played at a much faster tempo thn previously. This worked well with “Feed The Enemy”, but not with the rest. The set was weak, no “Parade”, “Back to Nature” or “Motorcade”, the encores ill judged. “Model Worker” was strong, but just as you thought things were on the up, off they went.

lancaster uni 1978 John McGeoch

John McGeogh 1978

McGeogh left reputedly because his guitar skills were being under- utilised, and the band’s music , whilst artistically praised, was failing to make commercial traction with sales. He had a point. The Clash had broken through with London Calling, The Jam with All Mod Cons, the Thompson Twins , Ultravox and Adam and the Ants were similarly poised to crossover into mainstream sales, something Magazine never achieved. The Play album from that tour is very good, with a far better set selection, but a year later they were finished, disbanding after their farewell album Magic, Murder and the Weather.
Pete Shelley helped to launch the first stage of Magazine, he wrote “Shot By Both Sides” and “The Light Pours out of me”, McGeough was pivotal in the edge he gave those first three albums. What remained of the band at a time when image was everything, with the likes of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Wham dominating The Face which had usurped NME and MM, was not enough. Their moment had come and gone, but their legacy was a fine one.

 
In the crowd that night, as a die hard Magazine devotee, I could sense that it was Bauhaus who now captured the zeitgeist, not their mentors. We stood towards the back, trying to achieve a positive perspective on the night. We couldn’t. The band seemed edgy, out of sorts, uncomfortable, the audience becoming restless until the closing numbers. It was a love affair that had lost its lustre.

 

 

Adamson, Formula and Doyle went on to work with Visage. But although Steve Strange had the image for the times that Devoto lacked, they still could not find a hit record alchemy beyond “Fade to Grey”.
Set List
Feed the Enemy
Stuck
I’m a Party
Permafrost
The Light Pours Out of Me
Because You’re Frightened
You Never Knew Me
Sweetheart Contract
Shot by Both Sides
I Want to Burn Again
A Song From Under the Floorboards
Model Worker
Encore
Twenty Years Ago
Definitive Gaze

Encore 2:
Give Me Everything
My Mind Ain’t So Open

Feb 17th, 2009 Manchester Academy
When some reunion dates were announced almost thirty years later, I hesitated, bruised by Northampton, yet still listening to the albums. I opted for the Manchester Academy show, a hometown gig for the band. I am so glad I did.

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Older & wiser

I was on the front row, the set list was perfect, the sound extraordinary, the band relaxed and clearly having fun. It is what musicians do, play live. Noko was on guitar and was able to replicate McGeogh’s lead guitar while still providing some original flourishes, respectful to the original, but not slavishly so. It bookended that first Magazine show forty years previous, one where the whole was everything.

Set List

The Light Pours Out of Me
Model Worker
The Great Beautician in the Sky
Because You’re Frightened
You Never Knew Me
Rhythm of Cruelty
I Want to Burn Again
This Poison
A Song From Under the Floorboards
Permafrost
The Book
Twenty Years Ago
Definitive Gaze
Parade
Shot by Both Sides
Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)
(Sly & the Family Stone cover)
Motorcade
Encore
Feed the Enemy
I Love You, You Big Dummy

There were some follow up dates. The reunion was successful, with a new album to accompany it, No Thyself, but then Dave Formula was involved in a car crash and everything came to a halt again. Probably permanently. Magazine will not go down as one of the greats, but instead as an interesting part of the rich tapestry of the music of that time.

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