Magazine. One of the cornerstone bands of the Post-Punk/New Wave genre from the late 1970s until disbanding in 1981. In that relatively short period of time they were a substantial influence on bands all through the 80s and beyond.
Howard Devoto formed Magazine in Manchester, shortly after he left Buzzcocks in early 1977. In April 1977, he met guitarist John McGeoch, then an art student, and they began writing songs, some of which would appear on the first Magazine album. They then recruited Barry Adamson on bass, Bob Dickinson on keyboards and Martin Jackson (previously of the Freshies) on drums, forming the first lineup of the band. After signing to Virgin Records, Magazine played their debut live gig at the Rafters in Manchester on 28 October 1977.
“Motorcade” co-writer Dickinson, whose background was in classical and avant-garde music, left shortly after several gigs in late 1977. In early 1978, the band released their first single, “Shot by Both Sides“, a song Magazine recorded as a quartet. It featured a guitar-bass-drums sound similar to punk rock. Shortly after the single’s release, Dave Formula, who had played with a briefly successful 1960s rock band from Manchester called St. Louis Union, joined as keyboardist. “Shot by Both Sides” used a chord progression suggested by Pete Shelley, which was also used in the Buzzcocks track “Lipstick”. The Magazine single just missed the UK Top 40. The band, with Formula on keyboards, made its first major TV appearance on Top of the Pops in February 1978, performing the single.
Following a British tour to promote their debut album Real Life (which made the UK Top 30), Jackson left Magazine in late July. He was replaced briefly by Paul Spencer, who performed with the band for gigs across Europe and some television appearances, including The Old Grey Whistle Test, where they played “Definitive Gaze”. Spencer quit partway through the tour, joining the Speedometors shortly afterwards. He was replaced in October by John Doyle, who completed the Real Life promotional tour and remained in the band.
Magazine’s second album, Secondhand Daylight, was released in 1979, reaching the UK Top 40. The album featured a greater use of synthesisers. That same year, McGeoch, Adamson and Formula joined electronic project Visage, recording and releasing the single “Tar”.
During the 1981 recording of the band’s fourth studio album, Magic, Murder and the Weather, Devoto quit in May of that year, months before its release, and the remaining members decided to disband. Magic, Murder and The Weather was very much considered a breakthrough album for the band in the U.S., with About The Weather receiving considerable airplay via FM. But sadly, there was no band to follow through.
This 2009 reunion, which contained some different personnel (guitarist McGeoch died in 2004) was enthusiastically received by audiences,and this Electric Proms gig, recorded by BBC 6 Music, gives ample evidence they were missed.
Magazine’s music continues to be an influence today. While rooted in the punk and new wave movements, Magazine combined elements of avant-garde and pop. Radiohead in particular draw on the lyrical style of the group, and have performed “Shot by Both Sides” in concert. Morrissey, a fan and acquaintance of Devoto’s, covered “A Song from Under the Floorboards” as a B-side to his 2006 single “The Youngest Was the Most Loved”. “Floorboards” was also covered by My Friend the Chocolate Cake on their 1994 album Brood. Half Man Half Biscuit have performed live covers of a number of Magazine songs. “The Light Pours Out of Me”, from Real Life, has been covered by the Mission, Peter Murphy, Sleep Chamber, Zero Boys, and Ministry. Swedish punk band No Fun at All did a cover of “Shot by Both Sides” on their record And Now for Something Completely Different. Devoto co-wrote two songs with Mansun, “Everyone Must Win” and “Railings”, contributing vocals to the latter, and the band later covered “Shot by Both Sides” for John Peel Sessions. In issue 66 (May 2011) of Bass Guitar magazine Duff McKagan cited Magazine’s album Real Life as an influence, particularly on tracks where McKagan uses a chorus effect. Johnny Marr cited Magazine as one of his main influences when promoting his debut solo album, The Messenger in 2013.
No lightweights, at all.
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