|Track||Album / Single|
|Shot By Both Sides||Virgin VS 200|
|Back To Nature||Secondhand Daylight|
|Model Worker||The Correct Use Of Soap|
|A Song From Under The Floorboards||The Correct Use Of Soap|
|Sweetheart Contract||The Correct Use Of Soap|
|The Great Man's Secrets||Magic, Murder And The Weather|
|Give Me Everything||Virgin VS 237|
|Goldfinger||Virgin VS 207|
|Rainy Season||Jerky Versions Of The Dream|
Magazine (l to r): Martin Jackson (drums), Dave Formula (keyboards), John McGeoch (guitar), Howard Devoto (vocals), Barry Adamson (bass)
Contributor: Peter Trenholm
I came to Magazine late. I’d heard their name of course, but in pre-internet days it wasn’t easy to hear music that was mentioned in the big three music weeklies, so they bypassed me in 1979. I was (and still am) a massive Skids fan. They were the band I bought every release of. And at 14 years old, that took my pocket money. I had some spare for Sounds and the NME, and then bought other records on the recommendation of friends: the Jam, the Banshees, Tubeway Army etc. But not Magazine.
Fast forward to 1983. Skids had split up. Stuart Adamson was in the process of forming Big Country, and Richard Jobson and Russell Webb, the surviving Skids, joined forces with John McGeoch and John Doyle from Magazine to form The Armoury Show. I loved them by default. They weren’t brilliant. Not at all, but they had their moments, and hearing John McGeoch’s guitar made me realize that Jobbo had found another brilliant musician to put his lyrics to. So I backtracked. And am I glad I did.
I bought Real Life first, as that was the only LP by Magazine that my local record shop had in stock. The sleeve was a bit battered from sitting on their shelves for five years, but the vinyl itself was mint, and it sounded mint too. I’d read that Shot By Both Sides was a fantastic single, and while I liked the version here, I didn’t think it was the best on the album. That would be Definitive Gaze for me. Of course I didn’t realize that the single version was different (and much better), for a little while, until I bought After The Fact, which included that version. Boy was I blown away. After The Fact was the soundtrack to my summer in 1983, when I was supposed to be studying for ‘A’ level mock exams. Not a chance, I was playing Back To Nature, A Song From Under The Floorboards and About The Weather. Those songs still send shivers down my spine.
I bought the other LPs in quick succession and quickly realized that they were turning into one of my favourite bands. Howard Devoto’s solo LP, Jerky Versions Of The Dream, became a firm favourite too. These people could do no wrong.
Looking back, Secondhand Daylight probably remains my favourite Magazine album; side two is surely the greatest second side of an album ever? Well, possibly.
So, to a top ten of Magazine songs: I’m going to cheat a little and add a couple of related songs, just because …
Shot By Both Sides
An obvious choice I know. But this is one of the singles of all time, isn’t it? One of the few records that always gets me on the dancefloor, sober or drunk. It is just sublime and a defining record of the punk era. Perhaps Magazine’s only real ‘punk’ single? Here’s their TOTP appearance, with Mr. Devoto looking bored. It went down the charts the week after.
Back to Nature
After the sublime instrumental The Thin Air, Back To Nature kick-starts side two of Secondhand Daylight. It’s one of those songs that is a slow burner. I didn’t think it was much of a Magazine song on first listen, but it turned into one of my favourites. The same with …
I loved the fact that Devoto said ‘fuck’ on this. Played it everywhere in the house and car, till my parents said they got the joke and to give up … this was 1983 after all. Ha-ha. The first line “Thunder shook loose hail on the outhouse again” paints a wonderful picture in my head.
Always loved the line “I know that Reagan/Carter/Obama will look after me” Sarcasm? Irony? I’m not sure. This was the second song on a lot of people’s favourite Magazine LP, The Correct Use Of Soap, and it is such a great song. Magazine were moving away from their roots, but what they were doing was so different from their peers; they remained much more interesting. This is perfect pop:
“I have been indulging
In ostentatious display
Doing little more than eat
Three square meals a day”
A Song From Under The Floorboards
But not as perfect pop as this. Why this wasn’t a huge single for them remains a mystery to me. I guess the main reasons were that the New Romantics were high in the charts and the colourful pop music of the 80s had kicked in. Magazine remained underground. A Song From Under The Floorboards remains their finest moment. Arguably.
I’m not sure why “We drank from cups on standard issue sofas under scaffolding” is one of my favourite Magazine lyrics, but it is. My mind was working overtime on that. I’m sure what I think it’s about isn’t what Howard knows… Sweetheart Contract actually hit the charts. Well, the top 50 anyway.
The Great Man’s Secrets
Easily my favourite song from the final, McGeoch-less, Magic, Murder And The Weather LP. The album wasn’t their best, but it’s not as bad as everyone says. This track is sublime. Reminds me of a specific time in a specific place with a specific person.
Give Me Everything
A stand alone single, which is always a winner, not filling an LP with previously released songs. This is a great great 7″ (with their version of Captain Beefheart’s I Love You, You Big Dummy on the B-side) and is one of their finest single moments. Along with Into The Valley by the Skids, I used to carry this to 18th birthday parties in the hope the DJ would play it. They never did.
I’ll close with a cover. Why not. I laughed the first time I heard this. My mother used to have the Shirley Bassey version. I knew all the words. When it came on at the end of my US version of After The Fact, I nearly spat my tea out. I don’t quite know why now. The Bassey version is the laughable one.
Two songs to finish off that aren’t Magazine but are directly related. I could list another twenty brilliant Magazine songs – Definitive Gaze, Motorcade, Great Beautician In The Sky, Because You’re Frightened, Touch And Go, Burst, Feed The Enemy, Cut Out Shapes, This Poison … the list is endless. But these two Devoto songs, post Magazine, are as good (if not better) than anything in the Magazine canon.
Firstly, Rainy Season from Jerky Versions Of The Dream (1983). I think this would sit in my ever-expanding top five 7″ singles of all time. Pure brilliance. The lyrics are so powerful and evoke times and places that I can only share with myself.
“Was it really only yesterday
when you left in such a rush
and the falling cliffs filled the bay?
I used to know this place
I used to know your name
my skin remembers”
I can’t exaggerate how much I love this song. I’ll take it to my grave.
And this one, secondly, isn’t far behind.
Luxuria’s Redneck, again in my top five singles (there are at least twenty-five on the list btw!) – this is perfect pop music. Could have been massive. Should have been massive. Again the lyrics are amazing:
“I feel sharp
I feel blunt
A precision instrument
I really gleam
Watch me bite on a bullet
And spit out a limousine”
I might have that one at my funeral, along with The Jesus and Mary Chain’s Nine Million Rainy Days and Swans’ version of Love Will Tear Us Apart. But that’s another story.
The joy of Magazine. I hope I’ve done them justice. I’m sure there are many songs I’ve left out that others would put in. And vice versa.
Magazine split in 1981, but reformed against all odds in 2009 and played some dates in Manchester and London, followed by a new LP, No Thyself, and full tour in 2011, with Noko from Luxuria replacing the late John McGeoch in the line up of otherwise original members (classic line up?). The LP was decent but didn’t recapture their previous heights. Worth listening to for sure, but if you’re new to the band, you can’t do worse than one of the many compilations they have released over the years, not least one of the After The Fact LPs (there was a different version for the UK and USA – the US one is better, but the UK one was my main introduction), or maybe the more recent, Where The Power Is, which you can get off Amazon for a couple of quid on CD. Enjoy!
Magazine (1977 – ?)
Howard Devoto – lead vocals (1977–1981, 2009– )
John McGeoch – guitar (1977–1980)
Barry Adamson – bass guitar (1977–1981, 2009–2010)
Martin Jackson – drums (1977–1978)
Bob Dickinson – keyboards (1977)
Dave Formula – keyboards (1977–1981, 2009– )
Paul Spencer – drums (1978)
John Doyle – drums (1978–1981, 2009– )
Robin Simon – guitar (1980)
Ben Mandelson – guitar (1981)
Noko – guitar (2009– )
Jon “Stan” White – bass guitar (2010– )
Peter Trenholm has been a vinyl and music addict for almost 40 years, when buying a Skids single in Woolworths changed his life; and apart from spending his time scouring record shops for the next big thing, he actually plays his LPs and doesn’t just buy them for trend purposes. He lives just outside the Co Durham town of Bishop Auckland, famous for nothing really, and spent several years playing in his own punk band, Four Eyed Sometimes. These days it’s more pipe and slippers than rock n roll. As of 2017 he’s currently looking forward to the first Skids LP in 35 years, and their 40th Anniversary tour.