Magna Carta

Magna Carta was an English folk-rock band that released a self-titled album on Mercury in 1969, followed by nine studio albums and two live discs over the subsequent 19-year period, mostly on Vertigo.

Members: Chris Simpson (vocals, guitar), Glen Stuart (vocals, 1969-75, 1977), Lyell Tranter (guitar, vocals, 1969-71), Davey Johnstone (guitar, vocals, 1971-72), Stan Gordon (guitar, vocals, 1972-73), Tom Hoy (guitar, mandolin, vocals, 1975-76, 1978-79, 2009, 2015), Graham Smith (jew’s harp, bass), Nigel Smith (bass, keyboards, vocals, 1976, 1978-79), Pick Withers (drums, 1977), Robin Thyne (vocals, guitar, percussion, 1978-79), Lee Abbot (bass, vocals, 1979-92), Tom McConville (fiddle, vocals, 1979)


Magna Carta formed in April 1969 when guitarist–singer and songwriter Chris Simpson teamed with singer Glen Stuart (b. Alastair Urquhart) and guitarist–singer Lyell Tranter. They took their name from the Magna Carta Libertatum, a royal charter drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Stephen Langton (1150–1228) and accepted on the 15th of June 1215 by John, King of England (1166–1216) as a peace-maker between the unpopular English monarchy and the rebel barons, granting protection of church rights and protection from illegal imprisonment.>

Simpson hailed from Yorkshire Dales, where he worked an assortment of menial jobs, including millhand and post-mortem assistant.

In 1965, Simpson emerged in Chris & Forbes, a folk-pop duo with songwriting partner Alan Forbes Bainbridge. They signed with Philips for two singles: “Song of the Wind” (b/w “Empty Little Shadow”) and “Get Away From It All” (b/w “I’m Running Away”). In 1968, Diana Landor covered “Empty Little Shadow” as the b-side to her Pama Records single “Afro Blue.” Meanwhile, Simpson wrote but didn’t record a song called “You’ll Find Out,” which inspired covers by Italian beatsters I Pooh, German beatsters Paul’s Troubles, and the UK Mercury act The X-Calibres.

Simpson adopted the stage name Paul Stewart for the 1966 Philips single “Queen Boadicea” (b/w “Talkin’”). He recorded twelve songs for a proposed album, backed by guitarist Mick Woods, pianist Mike Rooms, and (future Jolly Jack) vocalist Alan Taylor. Woods partook in the Paul Stewart Movement, which cut the 1967 Philips single “Saturday Mornin’ Man” (b/w “Too Too Good”). In 2006, the vaulted album appeared with the Stewart single side on the archival CDr That’s The Way It Goes.

In 1968, Simpson adopted another alias, Christopher Colt, for the Decca folk-psych single “Virgin Sunrise” (b/w “Girl In the Mirror”), produced by Ivor Raymonde, an arranger for numerous pre-Beatles British acts (Marty Wilde, Billy Fury, Frankie Vaughan, Tommy Steel, The Springfields).

By 1969, Simpson played guitar at London University, where he met Stuart and the Australian-born Tranter. Stuart’s resume included songs recorded by Leslie Gore (“You Didn’t Look ‘Round”), Mike Berry & The Innocents (“Don’t Try To Stand In My Way”) and one song (“I Don’t Understand”) covered by Nola York, Sandy Edmonds, and Inez Amaya. On May 10, Magna Carta made their live debut.

Magna Carta

Magna Carta released their self-titled debut album in 1969 on Mercury.

A1. “Times of Change”
A2. “Daughter Daughter”
A3. “Old John Parker”
A4. “I Am No More”
A5. “Ballad of Francis Alabadalejo”
A6. “Spinning Wheels of Time”
B1. “Romeo Jack”
B2. “Mid Winter”
B3. “Shades of Grey”
B4. “Emily Thru’ the Window Pane”
B5. “Sea and Sand (The Isle of Pabay)”
B6. “7 O’Clock Hymn”

Producer – Brian Shepherd
Engineer – Dave Voyde
Arranged By [String Arrangement] – Spike Heatley
Written-By – Chris Simpson

Acoustic Guitar, Vocals – Chris Simpson, Lyell Tranter
Vocals – Glen Stuart

Double Bass – Danny Thompson
Fiddle – Johnny Van Derek
Flute – Harold McNair
Percussion – Frank Hedges, Tony Carr


Magna Carta released their second album, Seasons, in August 1970 on Vertigo.

A. “Seasons” (22:18)
    a. Prologue
    b. Winter Song
    c. Spring Poem
    d. Spring Song
    e. Summer Poem
    f. Summer Song
    g. Autumn Poem
    h. Autumn Song
    i. Epilogue
    j. Winter Song (Reprise)
B1. “Goin’ My Way (Road Song)” (2:56)
B2. “Elizabethan” (2:38)
B3. “Give Me No Goodbye” (3:10)
B4. “Ring of Stones” (3:49)
B5. “Scarecrow” (2:19)
B6. “Airport Song” (3:42)

Gus Dudgeon — producer
Tony Visconti — recorder, arranger, conductor

Chris Simpson — guitar, vocals, songwriter
Lyell Tranter — arrangements, classical guitar
Glen Stuart — vocal arrangements, harmonies, spoken word

Barry Morgan — drums
Tony Carr — drums
Spike Heatley — string bass
Rick Wakeman — organ, piano
Tim Renwick — recorder
Davy Johnstone — guitar, sitar
Peter Willison — cello
Derek Grossmith — flute

Linda Glover — sleeve design

Songs From Wasties Orchard

Magna Carta released their third album, Songs From Wasties Orchard, in 1971 on Vertigo. It features nine Chris Simpson originals and two songs (“Down Along Up,” “Sponge”) by Elton John Band guitarist Davy Johnstone, who co-wrote “Country Jam” with Simpson and Glen Stuart.

A1. “Knaresborough Town”
A2. “White Snow Dove”
A3. “Parliament Hill”
A4. “Wayfarin'”
A5. “Down Along Up”
A6. “Country Jam”
B1. “Time for the Leaving”
B2. “Isle of Skye”
B3. “Sponge”
B4. “Sunday On the River”
B5. “Good Morning Sun”
B6. “Home Groan”

Recorded At – Trident Studios
Engineer – Robin Geoffrey Cable
Producer – Gus Dudgeon

Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Mandolin, Sitar, Cymbal, Harpsichord – Davy Johnstone
Vocals, Lyre, Performer [Wine Glass] – Glen Stuart
Written-By, Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Percussion – Chris Simpson

Design [Sleeve Design], Photography By – Bloomsbury Group
Photography By [Magna Carta] – Reverend Peter Murphy

Lord of the Ages

Magna Carta released their fourth album, Lord of the Ages, in 1973 on Vertigo.

1. “Wish It Was” (3:33)
2. “Two Old Friends” (3:31)
3. “Lord of the Ages” (9:58)
4. “Isn’t It Funny (And Not a Little Bit Strange)” (2:32)
5. “Song of Evening” (3:43)
6. “Father John” (6:41)
7. “That Was Yesterday” (3:23)
8. “Falkland Grene” (2:49)

Recorded At – Sound Techniques, London
Producer, Arranged By – Tony Cox
Engineer – Victor ‘The Gnome’ Gamm

Guitar, Vocals – Chris Simpson, Stan Gordon
Vocals, Voice [Spoken Words] – Glen Stuart

Bass [String] – Danny Thompson
Drums – Alan Eden, Gerry Conway
Electric Bass – Dave “The Wag’ Peacock
Jew’s Harp [Mouth Harp] – Graham Smith
Percussion – Tony Carr
Piano – Jean-Alain Roucel
Steel Guitar [Pedal] – Gordon Huntley
Voice – Jon Curle
Voice [Impersonation Of Thirty Monks] – Simpson, Stuart, Gordon
Effects [Assorted Crowd Effects] – Simpson, Stuart, Gordon, Cox, Gamm

Design, Photography – Roger Dean

Took a Long Time (1976)

Martin’s Cafe (1977)

Prisoners on the Line (1978)

No Truth in the Rumour (1979)

Midnight Blue (1982)


  • Magna Carta (1969)
  • Seasons (1970)
  • Songs From Wasties Orchard (1971)
  • Lord of the Ages (1973)
  • Took a Long Time (1976)
  • Martin’s Cafe (1977)
  • Prisoners on the Line (1978)
  • No Truth in the Rumour (1979)
  • Midnight Blue (1982)
  • Sweet Deceiver (1983)
  • One to One (1988)


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