Prologue - Days of Wonder
MAGNUM - what a great name for a great band. But, although it is widely believed that Tony invented the name, he didn't. The original idea for the name came up when Les Kitcheridge, the first guitarist was still in the band, who then were one of the two house bands at the notorious night club and casino "The Rum Runner" in Birmingham's Broad Street. When they were looking for a proper name his mum had the idea of calling it MAGNUM after the oversized champagne bottles!
Tony Clarkin replaced Les shortly after. He had started his professional career as a ladies' hairdresser(!) after having finished school. The real reason for him to learn how to
play a guitar was that he “wanted to have a stock of girlfriends“. In his early twenties he had started to play in several amateur bands (e.g.THE QUESTION MARKS) , before he played in THE
BOULEVARDS, who originally consisted of Tony on lead guitar, Kenny Picket on rhythm guitar, Kenny Hepworth on bass, Tony Piovesana on drums and Geoff Graves on vocals. Bob Catley had got to know
Tony when their first bands both played at a college around 1968. In 1972 Bob and Kex Gorin, asked him to join MAGNUM and he soon became head of the band. Bob had previously worked for the GPO
(now British Telecom) and his first band was called the SMOKESTACKS (with Kex Gorin on drums). Then he had joined THE CHANTELLES, LIFE, CLEAR WATER, and CAPITAL SYSTEMS. He had answered an
advertisement by the band and became their lead singer. This band was renamed PARADOX soon after. They consisted of Charlie Harris on bass (later replaced by Dave Morgan), John “Pank” Panteney on
drums, Paul Sargeant on guitar and Dave Bailey on the keyboards. Bob also recorded a single with them called “Ever Since I Can Remember“/ „Goodbye Mary“ and a few more songs, “Like The Day Goes”
, “What’s The Rush, Dillbury” “Mary Colinto” and “Somebody Save Me”, but these were never properly released. PARADOX split up in 1970. However, all four songs were unearthed and released in 2007
on a Psychedelic Rock sampler.
Kex Gorin had also been in another band called THE ANDICAPS together with Jeff Lynne and Jake Commander to name but a few of his bandmates.
At the Rum Runner, whilst the second house band (BAREFOOT) played cover versions of mostly chart material, the new MAGNUM lineup played musically adventurous adaptations of well-known numbers by a wide assortment of artists including the Zombies, the Searchers, Stevie Wonder, the Beatles, Buddy Holly, to name but a few. Tony played the guitar, Kex was the drummer, Bob did the vocals and played the tambourine and congas. The second vocalist was Dave Morgan (ex-member of BALLS, THE BLAISES, the UGLYS and many other bands), who was already an accomplished singer/songwriter. He also played the bass guitar, having replaced Bob Doyle, who had been MAGNUM’s short-lived first bass player. It was during this period that Tony started writing his own songs (the first one being called “From Where I’m Looking On”, but that one was never properly recorded). His first original songs were played alongside the other material in their set. The band managed to secure some recording time at a local studio, "Zella" and recorded a couple of demos including "Sweets for my sweet" and some original songs.
In 1972, before joining Magnum, Dave Morgan had played the guitar on some shows with a band who were backing singer Carl Wayne (from the MOVE). Richard Bailey played the flute and saxophone in this band and Kim Holmes (who later founded Nest Studios, where MAGNUM recorded most of their early demos) played Latin percussion. Dave and Richard remained friends and Richard occasionally helped out with keyboards on some of Dave's original recordings. Dave and Tony asked Richard to add flute (and some keyboards) to the early Magnum recordings at Zella Studios.
Meanwhile, back at the Rum Runner, there was a lively competition between the two house bands, and to give Magnum the edge, it was decided to add a keyboard player. In December
1973, Richard joined as Magnum's first keyboard player and with this line-up the band played at the Rum Runner six nights each week until June 1974. This was an era when nightclub audiences
weren't really interested in live bands - they preferred DJs playing easy dance material. The management at the Rum Runner, always conscious of costs, weren't too happy paying for a five piece
band, so sensing difficult times ahead, Richard accepted an offer to join another band "Copperfield" and left Magnum for an 18 months spell in South Africa. Magnum continued as a four piece,
their time at the Rum Runner coming to an end shortly afterwards.
So the band was eventually sacked for developing their own style when jamming with other young and hopeful rock musicians like Tony Iommi (BLACK SABBATH), Robert Plant and John Bonham (LED ZEPPELIN).
At that time
Tony's main influences were YES, QUEEN, Muddy Waters and Buddy Holly, who he still likes a lot, but also AC/DC, which you'd probably never have guessed! Tony phoned a lot of agents to get the
band a new deal, but they were only asked to stand in for bands who had cancelled their concerts and this led to rather awkward situations, because the cancelling band's music often had nothing
in common with MAGNUM's style. This was especially difficult since the band had abandoned cover versions and played only original songs in their shows and they even had to play in a proper disco
for a week! Nevertheless they recorded a four-track demo in Birmingham's Nest Studios in 1974. During this session at least two songs written by Dave and sung by Bob were recorded but never
released. The titles were “Baby I Need” and “One More Round The Bend”, which resurfaced on an acetate disc in 2005.
In January 1975, still during their cover version time, the band had their first single out, which was - of course - a cover version. They recorded the old SEARCHERS classic “Sweets For My Sweet“ in a typical MAGNUM-style production. Originally it was intended to be a Christmas single with parts of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen“ in it, but that idea was dropped. Only a studio demo tape survived of that version.
With Dave Morgan being the vocalist the record has a strange touch to it, because it's the only MAGNUM track ever published which doesn't have Bob on lead vocals.
The B-side was Tony's first recorded composition, a song called “Moving On“. Here it was Bob's turn to sing and Dave did the backing vocals, the keyboard and flute parts were
played by Richard Bailey, who was a guest musician on this record but joined the band some time later.
Roger Greenaway, a producer who knew the band, had some connections in the music business and arranged a one-single-deal with CBS, who finally published the record.
This single is probably the most sought-after MAGNUM item ever, you may compare its rarity and value for a real fan to QUEEN's first “LARRY LUREX“-single. Even some of the most ardent MAGNUM fans haven't got a copy, so if you have one - lucky you! As much as 403£ have been offered for an old acetate version of that song with the unreleased “One More Round The Bend” on the B-side during an e-bay auction in early 2005!!!
The band's success was still minimal; they were now working as a backing band, playing for American rock stars, e.g. Del Shannon, on small tours. Bob, whose only job were the
backing vocals and some occasional tambourine parts, once said: “The best thing about this was being drunk every night and getting paid for it“.
Dave Morgan saw that working on these terms was not what he wanted, because the band could hardly feed themselves. So he left shortly after the single to become a flying instructor. Later he joined the much more promising new project of the ex-MOVE-musicians Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood called ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA. His decision proved to be right when E.L.O. smashed into the charts with their 1977 double album “Out Of The Blue“, while MAGNUM didn't even have a record deal.
He was replaced by Colin Walter “Wally“ Lowe, who played the bass for MAGNUM until the farewell tour 1995. He had started to make music in a school band called ME AND THE OTHERS, in which he had played the guitar but he later changed to bass in his second band QUILL, whose singer was Sue McCloskey, many years later the second vocalist of HARD RAIN. Richard Bailey, who had been in South Africa for two years re-joined the band and Bob took over all lead vocals. So the band could exist further and they still firmly believed in themselves
From January 1976, when Richard re-joined the band, MAGNUM began doing numerous small gigs around the UK, including pubs and occasionally night clubs that featured live bands. In Birmingham there were still several clubs such as Barbarella's and Rebecca's where bands could perform to good audiences. Before joining Magnum, Richard had played in a band called WHITE RABBIT, who had a residency at the “Railway” in Curzon Street, Birmingham. This venue was shared by several of the best Birmingham bands and usually attracted enthusiastic and appreciative audiences. Richard used his earlier contacts at the Railway to secure a regular Thursday night spot for MAGNUM. The band’s following grew rapidly there and the rest is history, as they say. Some hard core fans from the Railway would later became roadies, stage managers and sound engineers, along with some members of other local bands.
Strangely enough, the first MAGNUM-recording issued on an album was done at this venue, recorded with a Revox machine for private purposes. Forgotten in Tony's loft, it survived twenty-four years. When in 2000 the boss of Zoom Club Records, Geoff Gillespie, asked Tony for some unreleased material for his label, Tony finally offered him this treasure. With the help of modern equipment the recording was remixed to gain an acceptable quality and the album “Days Of Wonder“ was published.
The first MAGNUM setlist, rendered on the album was : “Invasion“, “Everybody Needs“, “Master Of Disguise“, “Kingdom Of Madness“ (then a brand new song, according to Tony they had only learned it the day before),“Universe“, “Baby Rock Me“, “Moving On“, “Find The Time“ and “Stormbringer“, “Without Your Love“ ,“Lords Of Chaos“, “Runaround Sue“, “In The Beginning“, “All Of My Life“ and “The Battle“.
Luck struck them when in 1977 they were suddenly offered to support Heavy Metal legends JUDAS PRIEST on a UK-Tour, which they gladly accepted, although they were still unsigned. This first put the name MAGNUM on the map of British rock music.