Magazine was an English rock band led by original Buzzcocks frontman Howard Devoto. They debuted with the 1978 Virgin single “Shot by Both Sides,” followed by the albums Real Life, Secondhand Daylight, and The Correct Use of Soap. The band’s instrumentalists — guitarist John McGeoch, bassist Barry Adamson, and keyboardist Dave Formula — were also involved in the electropop supergroup Visage. After McGeoch departed for Siouxsie and the Banshees, Magazine wrapped with the 1981 album Magic, Murder and the Weather.
Musically, Magazine crossed the trebly buzz of the new wave modernists (Ultravox, Japan, Tubeway Army) with the lavish sounds of the era’s maximalist heavyweights (Genesis, Pink Floyd, Be-Bop Deluxe).
Members: Howard Devoto (vocals), John McGeoch (guitar, 1977-80), Barry Adamson (bass, 1977-2010), Bob Dickinson (keyboards, 1977-78), Martin Jackson (drums, 1977-78), Dave Formula (keyboards, 1978-present), Paul Spencer (drums, 1978), John Doyle (drums, 1978-present), Robin Simon (guitar, 1980), Ben Mandelson (guitar, 1980-81)
Howard Trafford (b. 1952) formed Magazine in early 1977 after departing the Buzzcocks, a band he co-founded a year earlier in Manchester with fellow Bolton Institute of Technology student Pete Shelley. Trafford was a humanities major when he and Shelley discovered their mutual fondness for Iggy & the Stooges.
In February 1976, they read an NME concert review of a new London band, the Sex Pistols, that included a Stooges song in their set. Intrigued, they traveled down to London to catch the Pistols show. On the way back to Manchester, they decided to form a band along similar lines. Trafford adopted the stage name Devoto.
The Buzzcocks played their first concert on July 20, 1976, at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall as part of a triple bill with the Sex Pistols and local up-and-comers Slaughter and the Dogs. In September, the Buzzcocks played the second day of the 100 Club Punk Special, a showcase event for the Pistols and six additional acts formed or rebranded in their wake, including The Clash, The Damned, The Vibrators, Subway Sect, and a newly assembled Siouxsie and the Banshees. By this point, Devoto insisted that his Buzzcocks status was temporary because he and Shelley differed on their approach to the new music.
In December 1976, the Buzzcocks recorded their debut EP, Spiral Scratch, produced by Martin Hannett and released in January 1977 on self-press New Hormone. It contains four Devoto–Shelley numbers: “Boredom,” “Friends of Mine,” “Breakdown,” and “Time’s Up.” Devoto left the Buzzcocks immediately after its release.
Devoto, who felt constricted by the Buzzcocks’ breakneck speed and compact songwriting, sought to pair his theatrical delivery to a more varied, dynamic, and eclectic musical backdrop. He enlisted guitarist John McGeoch, bassist Barry Adamson, and drummer Martin Jackson. Apart from Jackson’s brief stint in local punk perennials The Freshies, the members were newcomers to the music scene.
Magazine added Bob Dickinson, a classically trained keyboardist who worked years earlier with Gavin Bryars on the minimalist drone piece “The Sinking of the Titanic,” which Bryars recorded for the first release on Obscure Records, a label established by Brian Eno for avant-garde 20th century classical recordings.
Magazine made their live debut on October 28, 1977, at the Rafters club in Manchester. With Devoto’s profile among the punk cognoscenti, Magazine drew instant press attention. Virgin Records, in its post-Pistols new wave contract frenzy (XTC, The Motors, X-Ray Spex, The Members), signed the band that December.
1978: First Album, Singles
Before Magazine entered the studio, Dickinson left the band. They cut their first single as a quartet. In February 1978, keyboardist Dave Formula joined Magazine, which issued its second single and first album that spring. Formula (b. David Tomlinson, 1946) once played in the sixties mod band St. Louis Union, which issued three 1966 singles on Decca. (Another ex-Union member, Keith Miller, surfaced in Sniff ‘n’ the Tears.)
In July, Jackson cleared out for drummer Paul Spencer, who played on their summer tour. That fall, Magazine found a permanent drummer in John Doyle.
“Shot By Both Sides”
On January 20, 1978, Magazine released “Shot by Both Sides” (b/w “My Mind Ain’t So Open”). Devoto wrote the song in his latter days with Shelley, who reclaimed the ascending riff pattern for the subsequent Buzzcocks b-side “Lipstick.” McGeoch performs the saxophone break on “My Mind Ain’t So Open.”
Buzzcocks graphic artist Malcolm Garrett designed the “Shot by Both Sides” picture sleeve, which lifts its finned goblin–snake image from the 1886 lithograph La Chimere regarda avec effroi toutes choses by French symbolist Odilon Redon.
Soon after this release, Magazine reverted to a quintet with Formula, who mimed the song with them on the March 16, 1978, broadcast of the BBC music program Top of the Pops. Their segment aired between clips by the Bee Gees (“Stayin’ Alive”) and ABBA (“Take a Chance On Me”). (Earlier in the episode, TotP thrust Kate Bush onto an awestruck British public with its first airing of the video to her debut single “Wuthering Heights.”)
“My Mind Ain’t So Open” appears on the full-LP version of the Virgin sampler Guillotine, which features early, pre-album cuts by XTC, X-Ray Spex, Penetration, The Gladiators, Linton Kwesi Johnson (aka Poet and the Roots), and shortplayer acts like The Table and . The thirteen-track LP appeared in France and New Zealand. However, the UK version was an eight-song 10″ without Magazine.
“Touch and Go”
This was their first recording with Formula, whose arsenal included a Yamaha CP70 electric grand piano, a Hammond B-3, an ARP Odyssey, and a Yamaha SS30 string synth.
“Touch and Go” appeared in a picture sleeve credited to , one of numerous monikers for Assorted Images, the design firm of Malcolm Garrett. It presents a formal serif font that became commonplace on later Magazine releases. The black and magenta columns represent the five members, as revealed on the back sleeve, which features b&w medium photos of each member by Linder Sterling, who also did sleeve graphics for the Buzzcocks’ post-Devoto debut single “Orgasm Addict. She later fronted Ludus.
French copies place “Goldfinger” on the a-side. This version has a picture sleeve with Devoto staring sideways with his microphone held at arms length and the word “…GOLDFINGER” extending from his head like a thought-bubble.
Magazine released their debut album, Real Life, in June 1978 on Virgin. The title comes from a lyric in the opening epic “Definitive Gaze.”
Sessions took place in March–April 1978 on the Virgin Mobile and at Abbey Road with producer–engineer John Leckie, a soundman on albums by Anthony Moore, Doctors of Madness (Figments of Emancipation), Gryphon (Treason), Kayak (Alibi), Roy Harper, Sharks, and Be-Bop Deluxe, including the latter’s recent Drastic Plastic, a catalog of new wave blueprints. The assistant engineer at Abbey was
“Give Me Everything”
On November 24, 1978, Magazine released “Give Me Everything,” a pensive, lurching mid-tempo rocker in G minor. The b-side, “I Love You, You Big Dummy,” is a Captain Beefheart cover from the 1970 Magic Band album Lick My Decals Off, Baby. The Buzzcocks covered this in their early set.
This is their first recording with drummer John Doyle, who completed the most durable Magazine lineup.
The producer of this single, Tony Wilson, was an early Mancunian punk presence who hosted the Granada TV music program So It Goes. The engineer, Starry Eyed and Laughing. The two also worked on a single by the Leyton Buzzards.
, worked on the 1975 second album by
The single’s picture sleeve lifts another Redon lithograph: the 1881 work L´Homme Cactus (aka The Cactus Man).
1979: Side Project, Second Album
Magazine retained its current lineup — Devoto, McGoech, Adamson, Formula, and Doyle — for the next two albums.
On the side, McGoech, Adamson, and Formula teamed with Ultravox keyboardist Billy Currie and two members of the recently splintered Rich Kids (guitarist Midge Ure and drummer Rusty Egan) in Visage, an electropop super-project headed by Blitz club impresario Steve Strange. Their debut single, “Tar” (b/w “Frequency 7”), appeared in September 1979 on Radar Records. Adamson subsequently dropped from the project, which continued for two albums as an Ultravox–Magazine side venture.
“Rhythm of Cruelty”
In February 1979, Magazine released “Rhythm of Cruelty” an Adamson–McGeoch number. The b-side, “TV Baby,” is a Devoto–Formula composition.
Magazine released their second album, Secondhand Daylight, on March 30, 1979, on Virgin.
Sessions took place in January 1979 at Good Earth Studios, owned by longtime David Bowie soundman Tony Visconti. Secondhand Daylight was produced and engineered by Colin Thurston, an experienced soundman (Ramases, Lust for Life, “Heroes”) who also worked on 1979 albums by fellow Virgin acts The Human League and Interview.
Secondhand Daylight is housed in a jade gatefold with artwork by Ian Pollock and Garamond font typography by Malcolm Garrett, who had now done sleeve designs for nine Buzzcocks releases (two albums, seven singles). The inner-sleeve has a distorted landscape image of the five members sprinting single file on a runway with McGeoch in front and Devoto in back.
1980: Third Album, Guitarists, Live
In mid-1980, John McGeoch jumped ship to Siouxsie and the Banshees, which had recently survived the abrupt loss of two members. He played on their single “Israel” and the 1980–81 albums Kaleidoscope and Juju, which saw them forge a psychedelic goth path on numbers like “Happy House,” “Christine,” “Red Light,” “Spellbound,” and “Arabian Knights.”
On the side, McGeoch interacted with Formula in Visage, which issued its self-titled debut album in November 1980 on Polydor. It features “Tar” and the subsequent singles “Mind of a Toy” and “Fade to Grey,” both anthems of the burgeoning New Romantic scene. The last of those features additional input by drummer Cedric Sharpley (ex-Druid) and Chris Payne, both members of Gary Numan‘s Tubeway Army and its spinoff Dramatis. Adamson plays on the two opening cuts, “Visage” and “Blocks on Blocks.”
Visage reached No. 1 in Germany and went Top 20 in the UK, Austria, Australia, and New Zealand. Its release coincided with the equally popular Vienna, the first Ultravox album fronted by Ure, who came to that band through his involvement with Currie in Visage.
Meanwhile, Magazine toured its third album with guitarist Robin Simon, who previously cut a single with Neo (a London-based punk spinoff of Milk ‘n’ Cookies, an American pop-rock band with Sparks ties) and played on Systems of Romance, the 1978 third Ultravox album that forged the sonic blueprint for the coming decade.
“A Song From Under the Floorboards”
On February 29, 1980, Magazine released “A Song From Under the Floorboards” . The b-side, “Twenty Years Ago,” This and subsequent 1980 singles appear in die-cut cardboard sleeves with
“Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)”
On April 4, 1980, Magazine released “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” . The b-side, “The Book,”
On May 23, 1980, Magazine released “Upside Down” . The b-side, “The Light Pours Out of Me,”
The Correct Use of Soap
Magazine released their third album, The Correct Use of Soap, in May 1980 on Virgin.
Sessions took place in the winter–spring 1980 with producer Martin Hannett, who worked on the two Joy Division albums and 1980 titles by A Certain Ratio, Basement 5, The Durutti Column, Pauline Murray & The Invisible Girls, The Psychedelic Furs, and Section 25.
Original pressings are housed in a cardboard stock cover akin to the recent singles. Garrett designed the red–white scheme of lines, eggs, and serif fonts. He also designed covers to 1980 titles by 999, Devo, John Foxx (Metamatic), The Photos, and The Yachts. Later pressings come in standard stock with white and yellow backgrounds.
In Canada, Virgin issued An Alternative Use of Soap, which shuffles the tracklist and replaces two Correct tracks (“Model Worker,” “I’m a Party”) with both sides of the recent “Upside Down” single. AAUoS is housed in die-cut cardboard stock in the same style as the 1980 singles.
In December 1980, Magazine released Play, a live album culled from their September 6 Melbourne concert. The 43-minute set features three numbers from Real Life (“Definitive Gaze,” “The Light Pours Out of Me,” “Parade”), one from Secondhand Daylight (“Permafrost”), four from TCUoS (“Because You’re Frightened,” “Model Worker,” “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” “A Song From Under the Floorboards”) and the standalones “Give Me Everything” and “Twenty Years Ago.” Two songs performed that night yet omitted from the album, “Shot By Both Sides” and “Feed the Enemy,” are appended to later CD reissues of Play.
Magazine co-produced Play with engineer John Brand, a soundman on late-seventies albums by Anthony Phillips (Sides), Brand X (Moroccan Roll), Bruford (Feels Good to Me), Cafe Jacques (Round the Back), Charlie (Lines), New England, and Rush (Hemispheres).
1981: Final Lineup, Fourth Album
Simon left Magazine shortly after the Soap tour to work with his old employer, John Foxx, on the ex-Ultravox frontman’s 1981 second solo album The Garden. It features one track, “Systems of Romance,” written at the time of the namesake 1978 album.
Devoto summoned an old Bolton Institute colleague, guitarist Ben Mandelson, for Magazine’s fourth album. Mandelson hailed from pub-rockers Amazorblades, which mixed punk, bluegrass, and jump blues on their 1977 Chiswick single “Common Truth” (b/w “Messaround”). Recently, he backed vocalist–songwriter Kirsty MacColl on her long-awaited debut full-length Desperate Character.
“About the Weather”
Magic, Murder and the Weather
Sessions took place that spring at Trident Studios, London, where John Brand served as the recording engineer. Hannett mixed Magic, Murder at Strawberry Studios, a Stockport facility once owned by 10cc. The assistant mixer, Chris Nagle, worked on late-seventies albums by Amon Düül II, Barclay James Harvest, Mandalaband (The Eye of Wendor: Prophecies), and the debut single by Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.
Garrett designed the album’s pink framed and tinted cover art, which features a column-cut stock image by Brooklyn street photographer Bruce Gilden. Garrett also designed 1981 album covers for Duran Duran (self-titled), Simple Minds, and Stray Cats.
Breakup, After the Fact
Howard Devoto left Magazine just prior to Magic‘s release. The others, daunted by the prospects of a Devoto-less band, promptly folded the group.
In 1982, Virgin issued After the Fact, a compilation with liner notes by rocker writer Paul Morley. It’s housed in a green cover with a hand-print and contains ten songs from the Magazine catalog: two apiece from Real Life (“Motorcade,” “The Light Pours Out of Me”), Secondhand Daylight (“Back to Nature,” “Feed the Enemy”), TCUoS (“You Never Knew Me,” “A Song From Under the Floorboards”), and MMatW (“This Poison,” “About the Weather”), plus the single versions of “Shot By Both Sides” and “Rhythm of Cruelty.”
IRS issued an alternate version of After the Fact with a red cover and thirteen tracks. This version omits “Motorcade,” “You Never Knew Me,” “This Poison,” and the two Daylight picks and adds Magazine’s non-album a-sides (“Touch and Go,” “Give Me Everything,” “Upside Down”) and b-sides (“My Mind Ain’t So Open,” “Goldfinger,” “I Love You, You Big Dummy,” “TV Baby, “The Book”).
Howard Devoto released his only solo album, Jerky Versions of the Dream, in July 1983 on Virgin and IRS. It features ten originals with backing by (future Spear of Destiny) guitarist Alan St Clair and Dave Formula, who co-wrote “Topless” and “Some Will Pay (For What Others Pay to Avoid).” The latter features Leisure Process saxist Gary Barnacle, who also plays on “Waiting for the Train.” Adamson appears on “Seeing is Believing” and “Out of Shape With Me,” which also features trumpeter Andy Diagram (Diagram Brothers, Dislocation Dance, Pale Fountains). Devoto then teamed with multi-instrumentalist Norman Fisher-Jones (aka Noko) in Luxuria, which issued two 1988–90 albums on Beggars Banquet.
John McGeoch remained a Banshee for three albums. He also played on 1981 albums by Generation X, the British Electric Foundation, and ex-Cowboys International frontman Ken Lockie. He left the Banshees after their 1982 album A Kiss in the Dreamhouse. In 1983, he produced an album by the Swedish new wave band Zzzang Tumb. McGeoch then reunited with Doyle in The Armoury Show, a supergroup with ex-Skids frontman Richard Jobson and onetime Zones bassist Russell Webb. In 1987, McGeoch joined Public Image Ltd. for their late-phase Virgin titles Happy, 9, and That What Is Not.
Dave Formula continued his involvement with Visage on their 1982 second album The Anvil, which charted on the strength of “The Damned Don’t Cry” and “Night Train.” The project no longer involved McGeoch but did utilize Adamson and Barnacle on select tracks. Formula then played on recordings by Ludus and occasional Tuxedomoon singer Winston Tong.
Barry Adamson played on the 1982 release Famous Last Words, Robin Scott’s third and final album under the moniker M. Aside from Jerky, he played on 1983 albums by Pete Shelley and (with Doyle) French singer Armande Altaï. After a mid-eighties stint with Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Adamson launched a solo career with the 1989 Mute release Moss Side Story.
Between Magazine and the Armoury Show, John Doyle backed Ippu-do member Akira Mitake on the 1983 Epic release Out of Reach, which also features guitarist David Rhodes (Random Hold), keyboardist (Japan), and bassist Norman Watt-Roy (Greatest Show on Earth, Blockheads). Doyle plays on three songs on a 1983 album by Model Trains. He appears on two Moss Side Story tracks.
Years after his early departure from Magazine, Martin Jackson deputized the drum slot in The Chameleons in late 1982 and early 1983. In 1984, he cut a single with Broken Glass, an early UK hip hop act with musician Andy Connell, a late-stage member of A Certain Ratio, which employed singer Corinne Drewery on the 1986 album Force. The three individuals (Jackson, Connell, Drewery) formed the sophisti-pop trio Swing Out Sister, which issued several 1985–87 singles (“Blue Mood,” “Fooled By a Smile,” “Twilight World”), which culminated with the 1987 Mercury release It’s Better to Travel and the transatlantic hit “Breakout.” Jackson then left Swing Out Sister, which continued as a duo with the 1989 Fontana release Kaleidoscope World.
In 2009, Devoto reunited Magazine for a UK tour that featured Adamson, Formula, Doyle, and Noko. This marked their first performance of Magic, Murder material before a live audience. In 2011, they released No Thyself, a 49-minute disc of new material on Wire-Sound.
- Real Life (1978)
- Secondhand Daylight (1979)
- The Correct Use of Soap (1980)
- Magic, Murder and the Weather (1981)
Non-album shortplayer sides:
- “Shot by Both Sides”* / “My Mind Ain’t So Open” (1978)
- “Touch and Go” / “Goldfinger” (1978)
- “Give Me Everything” / “I Love You, You Big Dummy” (1978)
- “Rhythm of Cruelty”** / “T.V. Baby” (1979)
- “Upside Down” (1980)
- “Twenty Years Ago” (1980 — “A Song from Under the Floorboards” b-side)
- “The Book” (1980 — “Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin” b-side)
- “In the Dark” / “The Operative” (1981 — “About the Weather” b-sides)
*Rerecorded for Real Life.
**Rerecorded for Secondhand Daylight.
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