8. On The Wings Of Heaven Into The Charts
This was the time when I got to know the band. I was strolling through London's city in a verybad mood. I was determined to buy the next best CD I would come across of a band I wouldn't know at all. In the Virgin Megastore I passed the “M“-shelf, where I found and liked the unicorn-cover, so I bought the album. I loved “Vigilante“ at once, within four weeks I had bought all the other MAGNUM records. Shortly after that I got a ticket for the Hammersmith concert. The performance blasted me off my seat and they became my all time favourite band.
Taylor/Richards were the first choice to produce the new album, too, but that didn't work out so the production work was done in the Wisseloord studios in Holland with Albert Boekholt. He had worked with the SCORPIONS, DEF LEPPARD, Elton John, Tina Turner and Mick Jagger before and gave “Wings Of Heaven“ a very commercial touch. The studio was great, but the band hated the place they stayed in so much that they called it the “Amitiville Horror House“ after the movie of the same title. Even years later Tony said in retrospect that although he liked the album he didn’t really appreciate the production...
The album title had been changed to and fro several times. Originally it was to be called “Different Worlds“, but the song was not really Bob's favourite, so the title was dropped. Then “Don't Wake The Lion“, “On The Wings Of Heaven“, “Magnum“ and “Magnum '88“ were discussed, but “Wings Of Heaven“ turned out to be the most suitable compromise between band and record company. After seven weeks of work the band returned to England for Christmas. In January 1988 they completed and mixed the album in the Sarm West Studios in London, which belonged to Holly Johnson of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, with the help of Joe Barberia, Ross Cullum and Guy Fletcher.
The album contained only eight tracks, but these were brilliant: “Days Of No Trust“, “Wild Swan“, “Start Talking Love“, “One Step Away“, “It Must Have Been Love“, “Different Worlds“
”Pray For The Day“, and “Don't Wake The Lion (Too Old To Die Young)“. “C’est La Vie” was a bonus track on the picture disc. Another song, “That's How The Blues Must Start“, had been announced before, but was dropped because it didn’t really fit in with Bob’s voice.
This was to be the most successful MAGNUM album ever. It was out on March 28th and smashed into the charts everywhere as soon as it was released. In Sweden it made the No.2 spot, in Great Britain it went up to No. 5, in Germany to No. 9. Within a short time it held silver and later even gold status with more than 500.000 copies sold. All the singles lifted from the album charted. First there was “Days Of No Trust“, a song lamenting the fact that our world is going down the drain and nobody seems to care about it. The band had recorded the song twice to really get it right. This single was released shortly before the album and became No. 32 in the British single charts. It came out in four different formats. The first edition of the 7“ was wrapped in a limited prismatic pack and contained a sew on patch that showed the “Wings Of Heaven“-logo. Later there was a normal 7“, too. Both contained an edited version of the title track and a bonus track called “Maybe Tonight“. The 12“ featured an extended version of the song and two live tracks, “The Spirit“ and “Two Hearts“, that were recorded during the “Vigilante“-Tour. The CD-single rendered the short and the long version of “Days Of No Trust“, “Maybe Tonight“ and the live version of “How Far Jerusalem“ that had been on the “Need A Lot Of Love“ promo-CD single, but without the spoken intro. This edition also contained the sew on patch and there was another edition in white vinyl. The video clip, directed by Marcello Graziani, was shot in an old factory hall and showed the band performing in their stage garment between barrels, pillars and pipes on a steel construction.
The follow-up was “Start Talking Love“, MAGNUM's most successful single of all times. It was released on May 16th and charted at No 22 in Britain. This was a song about two lovers far away from each other, whose love will eventually reunite them. Besides the title track, the 7“ contained another new song ,“C’est La Vie“, which should have already been on the album but wasn’t completed in time. The single came in a numbered gatefold sleeve with a pop up band photo. There also was a shaped picture disc version that had “Days Of No Trust“ on the B-side, too. The 12“ had an extended version of the title song and “C’est La Vie“ on the A-side and two more live tracks, “Back To Earth“ and “On A Storyteller's Night“ on the B-side. A numbered edition in red vinyl left out the live tracks. These had been recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon in London at two concerts in March. The CD-single featured the short and the long versions of the title track, “C’est La Vie“ and one more live track, “Sacred Hour“ from the aforementioned concert. There even was a video-CD of this single that featured the same songs as the 12“ (although on the 12“ the ending of the extended version was slightly longer) and the “Start Talking Love“ video clip. Unfortunately this recording standard has since come out of fashion, so it is hardly possible to play the video nowadays. It doesn't work on a DVD-player, maybe you are luckier using a multi-standard computer drive. The video was more or less a short version of the “On The Wings Of Heaven“ concert video and held the No 1 spot in the video charts for weeks!.
The third new single, out on June 20th, was “It Must Have Been Love“, a song whose chorus was recorded with a gospel choir to give it the right atmosphere. It was a song about a girl who fell in love with a rock star but got bitterly disappointed, having ended up as a one-night-stand. This song was issued as an edited version on the 7“, but came in another beautiful digipack and featured a very special song on the B-side. On tour in Germany, the band had recorded another new song with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in May 1988. This song was a ballad with wonderful string support called “Crying Time“. The 12“ featured the album version of the title track, “Crying Time“ and two more live tracks from the “Vigilante“-tour, “Lonely Night“ and “Just Like An Arrow“. There also was a 12“ in blue vinyl as a limited edition. The CD single contained the edited version of the song, “Crying Time“, the live versions of “Lonely Night“ and “The Lights Burned Out“ from the “Vigilante“-Tour. This single went up to No. 33 in the British charts and even made the top spot in the Heavy Metal charts. The video clip of this single showed Bob walking through a huge room that is decorated with white sheets. The rest of the band are performing sitting on chairs and a very young girl, who obviously impersonates the girl in the song, walks around, too, desperate and lost.
This time, there was no Rodney Matthews album cover. Instead, the front picture showed a photo of the band, grouped around a rock. Above and below the photo there was a cloudy red and yellow sky.
The album had very strong lyrics. Tony explained in the rock magazine “Metal Hammer“ and in the tour programme that e.g. the line “Headlines are courted by stretch limousines“ from “Days Of No Trust“ was aimed at themselves as they had used a Cadillac for travelling on the “Vigilante“-tour. “Wild Swan“ was a song about a picture Tony had seen some time before. It showed some of these birds with crossbow bolts in their bodies but very much alive, having survived this vicious attack. “One Step Away“ was about a goddess of temptation that tries to lure a man into his doom. Tony got the idea for “Different Worlds“ on a holiday in France. One day he left the shopping area in a city centre and, only a few blocks away, found derelict houses and utter poverty. In a way it was a follow-up to “On A Storyteller's Night“ .“Pray For The Day“ also continued an older song as it was about the Berlin Wall, which had already been one of the subjects in “Need A Lot Of Love“. The background of “Don't Wake The Lion“ was that Tony denied the old Rock'n'Roll idea of living fast and dying young, once made popular by THE WHO. He stated that he had become “too old to die young“ and merged that idea with the danger that there is a dangerous animal, a “lion“ in us all that, if set free, may eventually cause wars. The song was written on the road in Germany and Tony even asked the members of TALLEN whether they found the lyrics offensive (which they denied), then he started to write the music for it.
Because of the huge success of the new album and the singles, Castle Communications, who had meanwhile taken over the rights of MAGNUM's back catalogue, released a CD single with the album versions of “The Lights Burned Out“, “If I Could Live Forever“ and “Sacred Hour“, limited to 5000 items. They also released a compilation called “Vintage Magnum“, that first came in a double CD-pack with “Eleventh Hour“, but was also sold separately later. This one was especially interesting for fans who didn't get to know MAGNUM before 1985, because it contained all early tracks that were not on the official albums.
The “Wings Of Heaven“-tour started in March. Supported by KINGDOM COME, they toured Britain, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium and France. Most venues were sold out and the concerts at the Hammersmith Odeon in London were filmed for a video and laserdisc release under the title “On The Wings Of Heaven Live“ which came out on 4th July.
Originally a double live album had been planned, too, but Tony refused. He said that the fans would not want to have the album, a video and a live album, too, so the plan was dropped.
The video, directed by Tony Vanden Ende and Roger Hunt, was shot on the 25th and 26th March, which was lucky as, on the first night, there was a sound problem in the middle of “Don't Wake The Lion“. Bob lay down on the stage in despair, thinking that the concert had to be stopped. Luckily, the problem was solved after a few minutes and the band played on. In summer they played some open air festivals in Norway and the famous Roskilde festival in Denmark alongside T'PAU.
The songs rendered on this tour were “Back To Earth“/ „Vigilante“/ „Wild Swan“/ „Start Talking Love“/ „On A Storyteller's Night“/ „Need A Lot Of Love“/ „Pray For The Day“/ „How Far Jerusalem“/
”One Step Away“/ „Lonely Night“/ „Days Of No Trust“/ „It Must Have Been Love“/ „Don't Wake The Lion“/ „Midnight/“Just Like An Arrow“/ „Kingdom Of Madness“/ „The Spirit“/ „Sacred Hour“ and “When The World Comes Down“. The band introduced a new intro for “On A Storyteller's Night“, a children's prayer spoken by Bob's older daughter. For some strange reason “Lonely Night“, “Midnight“, “The Spirit“ and “When The World Comes Down“ were not included on the live video, which came out on 12“ laser disc, too. However, with the exception of “When The World Comes Down” those tracks were part of a live CD recorded on the same shows, which was part of the 2010 career-spanning box set “The Gathering”.
On this tour the band used a lavish stage show with a lot of fireworks. There was a broad staircase in the centre and smaller ones on both sides. The drum kit was on the right, the keyboards on the left, each between the stairs. Bob used a wireless microphone, which gave him maximal freedom to jump up and down like a pinball during the show. In the background a science fiction fortress stood towering, which was lighted up from behind during some songs, e.g. “Wild Swan“. The stage garment was nearly all black with Bob wearing torn jeans and a headband.
Now voices urging the band to try their luck in America became louder. Except “Vigilante“ only “Chase The Dragon“ had been published in the US, at the time when they were supporting Ozzy Osbourne, but hardly anyone had taken notice of that. So it was decided to issue “Wings Of Heaven“ in the States to have another go. Although the album was equipped with “Maybe Tonight” as a bonus track and in spite of the fact that American press reviews appreciated the album very much, a plan to tour the US with IRON MAIDEN failed after some negotiations.
Magnum had meanwhile made the front covers of the Metal Hammer and Raw magazines. Shortly before Christmas there was a second tour of the U.K. on which they were supported by the Norwegian band STAGE DOLLS, who had also supported them on their Scandinavian tour. The track list was a bit different from the last tour: “Intro“ (based on Prokofiev's symphonic suite “Lieutenant Kijé“) /“Vigilante“/ „Days Of No Trust“/ „On A Storyteller's Night“/ „Start Talking Love“/ „Need A Lot Of Love“/ „Wild Swan“/ „ Pray For The Day“/ „Les Morts Dansant“/ „ Two Hearts“/ „How Far Jerusalem“/ „The Lights Burned Out“/ „The Spirit“/ „Don't Wake The Lion“/ „Drum And Keyboard Solo“/ „Midnight“/ „Lonely Night“/ „Just Like An Arrow“/ „Soldier Of The Line“/ „When The World Comes Down“/ „The Last Dance“/ and “Merry Christmas“ as a special bonus. The band sang this last song dressed up in father Christmas robes with long white beards. They were hailed by 9000 fans at the Birmingham NEC and sold out the Hammersmith Odeon three nights in a row. Christmas was spent at home with the families before it was back to work again.