Formed in Birmingham in 1972 by vocalist Bob Catley and guitarist Tony Clarkin, Magnum began their career playing as a house band at the city’s famous Rum Runner club. The desire to follow their own musical path ultimately cost them the Rum Runner gig, but prompted Clarkin to reveal a gift for crafting the kind of majestic, uplifting hard rock songs that made them a much-loved band among their many fans. faithful, especially in their 80s heyday.
Their soulful sound garnered enough audiences to sustain them for six decades, from hit albums and arena shows in the 80s, to a brief hiatus during the hard rock downturn of the 90s, and a hard-earned resurgence. over the past 10 years.
As they celebrate their fiftieth anniversary with a new album The monster roarsBob Catley guides classic rock through some of their must-have albums.
Kingdom of Madness (Jet, 1976)
“We got fired by the Rum Runner for doing things we thought were cool – Steely Dan and Steve Miller, not just Top 40 stuff. Tony Iommi, John Bonham and Cozy Powell used to come down after their gigs and get on stage. It killed us, they found a DJ.
“Tony said, ‘I have some songs, let’s record them.’ We did demos at Nest Studios in Birmingham David Arde [Jet Records manager], Sharon Osbourne’s brother, liked them and invited us to record an album at De Lane Lea studios in London. We recorded it in 1976. We had to sleep in the cafeteria. The next morning the London Symphony Orchestra came in saying, “Who’s that bunch of bums?” It was us, lying on the carpet.
“We liked the harmonies of Queen. You can hear Queen’s big influence in our harmonies on the album. It took two years to come out. There was punk, and we were like, ‘This is going to drop like a lead balloon.’ But it went on the charts [No.58]. A good start. It was a good omen.”
Hunt the Dragon (Jet, 1982)
“hunt the dragon That’s when our sound started becoming the Magnum you’d expect to hear, with epic keyboards and gorgeous guitars. It was recorded in 1980 with production by Jeff Glixman. Some great songs; line soldierand I love the Spirit. It has great lyrics, it means a lot to me.
“The people say The mind kept them alive in times of depression. Tony wrote a lot of songs like that. If you are depressed, they lift your spirits. We were supporting Krokus in the UK when hunt the dragon came out of. Their album came in at number thirty or something, ours came in at seventeen!
“The British success of hunt the dragon album led us to tour with Ozzy Osbourne in America, the second part of the tour, after [Ozzy’s guitarist] The terrible accident of Randy Rhoads. Ozzy was doing huge arenas at that time, it was completely new to us. They hadn’t heard of us there, but we did really well.
A Storyteller’s Night (FM Polydor, 1985)
“One of my favorites. A fresh start for Magnum, songs that were a bit more commercial that people could get into more easily. We toured the songs before we recorded them, to see how they would pan out. The audience We loved it. We thought, ‘This is going to work.
“We recorded at UB40’s Birmingham studio in early 1985. The songs were excellent; How Far Jerusalem, Just Like An Arrow, Les Morts Dansants. For a singer, singing these songs is wonderful. It worked, we opened up to a wider audience in the UK. We have done many tours. We played Monsters Of Rock in 1985 and were offered a worldwide contract with Polydor. They revived it, and it sold
“A storyteller’s night honor us. I don’t think we would have achieved much without the success of this album. We still do a lot of those songs, they’re still relevant to the fans. They wouldn’t let us play against them.
Watchful (Polydor, 1986)
“We were looking for a ‘name’ producer. Roger Taylor was mentioned, and we said, ‘Oh yeah! Can we have it? We went to Queen’s Mountain Studios in Montreux in 1986, for about three months. Fantastic when you’ve been a Queen fan all these years.
“Queen had the Magic tour coming up, so Roger kept jumping. Dave Richards, the engineer, took over and was great. They had the loudest speakers in the world. He puts lonely night turned on, and said, ‘Do you want to hear it loud?’ We said, ‘Yeah.’ He cranked it up, and we ran for our lives out of the control room [laughs]. It just blew your mind.
“We were invited to Wembley the following year, to watch Queen’s last show on the Magic tour and to the post-tour party. It was great, a crazy party. It was good to be ‘Roger’s band’, under his wing. When the world is falling apart and street child. we still do Vigilant.”
Wings of Heaven (Polydor, 1988)
“Tony started writing as soon as we got back from the Vigilante tour. It was decided that we would record at Polydor’s Wisseloord studios in Holland, with their new producer Albert Boekhold. It started well, but got bogged down with new technology, keyboards and drum stuff. It didn’t sound good. We listened to it when we got back, the Christmas before it came out, and it was, ‘Oh no! We can’t turn this off.
“We hired Joe Barbaria and Ross Cullum to remix everything in two weeks, because it was due out in April. They flipped it over and saved our bacon. It received rave reviews and was the best-selling album we’ve ever had – number five in the UK. Nobody knew that we had almost no album.
“On tour I liked playing in the NEC arena in Birmingham, but I always craved the clubs, really. At the NEC you turn around and ‘Where has everyone gone?’ I used to have Tony on my right, and the drummer behind me [laughs]. But I would love to do it again, go ahead.”
Goodnight LA (Polydor, 1990)
“The label said, ‘Do you want to write with other people?’ Tony agreed, I didn’t quite agree. I didn’t see it as our label would – how to make the band more successful in America. Tony started writing with Russ Ballard in London, and came up with Rocking chair, which was great. He went to America and wrote with Jim Vallance [one of Bryan Adams’s writing partners].
“We went to record with Keith Olsen at Goodnight LA studios. It was a big push for Magnum to attract an American audience. There was a disagreement between Keith Olsen’s management and our UK management over who would manage Magnum in the United States. They couldn’t agree, so after all it didn’t even come out in America.
“Which is a shame, because it’s a damn good album. I’m sure the Americans would have gobbled it up. A lot of people loved the album. Some thought we had become Americans. The following year, we released a live album. The mindto say: ‘We are Magnum, we are English, really!’ »
The Thirteenth Day (SPV, 2012)
“Was the upper chart placing a big problem at the time? [No.43 in the UK, Magnum’s highest placing since 1992’s Sleepwalking] Yeah! the thirteenth day is a great album. On stage, we used to start with All the dreamers. It was huge when it started.
“black tattoo dance, it’s a true Magnum epic, a brilliant anti-war song lyrically. I love it. I think we’ll probably bring that back for the next tour. It’s a great title. We made a compilation called black tattoo dance last January.
“The cover of the thirteenth day Was Awesome, by Rodney Matthews [legendary album cover artist closely associated with Magnum, who did 80s favourites including On A Storytellers Night and several recent albums] again, with the little devil on the front.
Lost on the Road to Eternity (SPV, 2018)
“The year before, Tony and I had been in something called Rock Meets Classic, playing arenas across Germany alongside an orchestra from the Czech Republic. We struck up a relationship with the bandleader, Wolf Kerschek, and Tony asked him to orchestrate two of the songs on the album. The full orchestra sounds wonderful on the title track.
“Tony also said, ‘Do you want your mate Tobias Sammet [vocalist with Avantasia and Edguy] appear on a song?’ I said to Tobias, ‘I’ve listened to enough Avantasia songs, you come and pay me back!’ He sang with me on the title track, in his inimitable way. We had it performed at Birmingham Symphony Hall on the tour, and it went really well.
The Monster Roars (SPV, 2022)
“In March 2020, we spent three weeks rehearsing [for the Serpent Rings tour] with our new bassist, Dennis Ward [ex-Pink Cream 69]. With three days to go, news came that the tour would have to be postponed.
“Tony had a few songs partly written, so instead of sitting at home feeling sorry for ourselves, we started recording the new album a year in advance. We took a break and started this again. year. By this time, Tony had totally rewritten one of the tracks, because it didn’t work. It became Your blood is violence, one of the epic songs on the album. Dennis is a fantastic bass player, and his voice matches mine for the harmonies. I look forward to working with him on the fiftieth anniversary tour.
“Me and Tony still have a long way to go. We have come a long way together and we love working together. We haven’t finished yet.
The Monster Roars is now available.