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Magic, Murder and the Weather: The icy cold New Wave art rock of Howard Devoto and Magazine
11.18.2016
04:53 pm

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Music

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John McGeoch
Howard Devoto
Barry Adamson
Magazine


 
For his darkly literate songs of icy alienation, violence and psychological nonconformity, Howard Devoto has been called rock’s answer to Vladimir Nabokov. Devoto was all of 18 when he split off from Buzzcocks, the laddish punk band he’d formed in 1976 with his fellow Bolton Institute of Technology student, singer/guitarist Pete Shelley. After just one EP and a handful of live shows (including the 2-day Punk Rock Festival at London’s 100 Club which also included Sex Pistols, Subway Sect, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Clash, The Vibrators, The Damned and the French group Stinky Toys) Devoto felt constricted by what he perceived as the cliches of punk’s predictable three-chord thrash. “What was once unhealthily fresh is now a clean old hat” he said at the time.

Devoto immediately went about forming Magazine, a musically complex group who were critical darlings, but whose records seldom charted very high on the pop charts. Magazine‘s unique art rock sound—heavily-influenced by David Bowie’s Low album—was a fortuitous combination of some truly incredible one-of-a-kind young talents: Devoto’s twitchy, half-sung, half-sneered vocals were matched perfectly by the multi-layered keyboards of Dave Formula; the singular guitar sound of the late, great John McGeoch and a phenomenal rhythm section consisting of Barry Adamson on bass and John Doyle on drums. McGeoch, who later played with Siouxsie and the Banshees and Public Image Ltd., has long been considered one of the greatest guitarists of the post-punk era, using flangers, a chorus effect and a percussive arpeggio technique to achieve his influential new sounds. Nothing, and I do mean nothing else sounded like Magazine did when their remarkable first album, Real Life, was released in 1978.
 

 
For such a young man, the prematurely-balding Devoto’s deeply cynical lyrics betrayed an intense and often-self loathing inner life. As a poet he was particularly adept at portraying insanity, social alienation and toxic anxiety (“Look what fear’s done to my body!” being one of his more memorable lines.) The music was simultaneously icy cold (Formula’s department), jagged and angular (McGeoch’s) and rocked like hell (credit due there to Adamson and Doyle). Truly Magazine were one of the most instrumentally formidable bands of their day and heroes to the sort of import record-buying rock snob smartypants who loved the Psychedelic Furs, Gang of Four and early Ultravox. Their profile in America was greatly enhanced by their appearance (singing “Model Worker”) in Urgh! a Music War and the release of their instantly classic sophomore effort Secondhand Daylight.

McGeoch quit the group in 1980 after the recording of Magazine’s third album The Correct Use of Soap frustrated with the low income and what he perceived as Devoto not giving his best efforts during an American tour. They recorded one final album without him, 1981’s unremarkable (especially when considering the three stone classics that had come before it) Magic, Murder and the Weather before Devoto would disband the group, finding no suitable guitarist to replace a genius like McGeoch.
 

 
After a solo album, 1983’s A Jerky Version of the Dream (if you are of a certain vintage you will no doubt recall the “Rainy Season” video, which at one point was on heavy rotation on MTV) and two albums as Luxuria, the enigmatic Devoto left the music industry entirely and became a photo archivist. A 2002 collaboration with Pete Shelley as ShelleyDevoto saw him get the music bug again, but it wasn’t till 2009 that Magazine reformed, first for a short series of live dates and then the critically-acclaimed No Thyself album in 2009. It’s unclear what the status of Magazine is today, although they did release a live EP (recorded in 2009) for Record Store Day on April 16, 2016.
 

“The Light Pours Out of Me”
 
Much more Magazine after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Siouxsie and the Banshees’ greatest lineup in concert, July 1981


 
This is SO GOOD, and it seems that it’s only just turned up on YouTube in its entirety in the last few months: quality footage of a complete Siouxsie and the Banshees concert—from arguably their strongest period, the three years when guitarist John McGeoch was in the band—broadcast on the superb long-running German TV program Rockpalast.
 

 
Please indulge a detour here so I can hyperventilate like a gushing fanboy about McGeoch before we get to the music—he’s far from a household name even among guitar geeks, but McGeoch’s playing ranks with Rowland S. Howard’s and Daniel Ash’s in its importance to the sound of post-punk, particularly in its gothier forms. Before the Banshees, he had noteworthy tenures in ur post-punks Magazine and new-romantic instigators Visage, but with the Banshees, he adopted a richly textured style of layered picking that recalled both The Police’s Andy Summers and his own Banshees predecessor and successor Robert Smith (more famously of The Cure, of course), without actually sounding quite like either. He’d been pointing the way to this kind of thing here and there in Magazine, but it seems like the Banshees set him loose to turn the idea into something magical. His style during this period has been singled out as an influence by guitarists like The Smiths’ Johnny Marr, Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, and Jane’s Addiction’s Dave Navarro. McGeoch’s performance on the indelible classic “Spellbound” earned him a slot in Mojo’s 1996 list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time; hear for yourself, here it is on Top of the Pops.
 

 
McGeoch contributed excellent work to the Banshees’ LPs Kaleidoscope, Juju (cited just yesterday as one of ten must-have post-punk records), and the astounding A Kiss in the Dreamhouse before his struggles with alcohol led to his ouster from the group. He soon joined The Armoury Show with refugees from The Skids, and a few years later turned up in the most commercially successful version of Public Image Limited, but it was his work with the Banshees that made him a hero. Here’s that Rockpalast concert, offered into evidence.
 

 
March 4, 2014, will mark the 10th anniversary of McGeoch’s death.

Previously: Siouxsie and the Banshees: in concert Amsterdam, 1982

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Siouxsie and The Banshees: In Concert Amsterdam, 1982

image
 
‘New band, new mistakes,’ said Siouxsie Sioux in an after-show interview from this concert of The Banshees at De Meervaart Theater, Amsterdam in 1982.

Siouxsie was describing changes to The Banshees line-up over the previous 4 years, which had seen the arrival of drummer Budgie, and guitarist John McGeoch, joining Siouxsie and 1st Banshee Steven Severin.

As McGeoch explained it was the core dynamic of Severin and Siouxsie that made The Banshees work.

The Banshees were one of the most important and influential bands of the past 30 years, and while so many other bands from the sixties, seventies and eighties are getting back together and taking to the road again, it would be good to see The Banshees regroup, to take their rightful place at the top of the tree.

Sadly, any reunion would be without McGeoch, who died in 2004. McGeoch was classed as a Punk Jimmy Page, and had successful career with Magazine, Visage, The Banshees, and Public Image Ltd. I’ll leave it to McGeoch to describe performing with The Banshees in concert at De Meervaart:

‘It was great, because I felt like I was a teenager again, which was at least 20 years ago - and it’s nice to have memories like that.’

 

And o, what memories.

Track Listing

01. “Israel”
02. “Painted Bird”
03. “Arabian Knights”
04. “Spellbound”
05. Interview with band
06. “Switch”
07. “Happy House”
08. “Head Cut”
09. Interview Steven & Siouxsie
10. “Voodoo Dolly”
11. “But Not Them”
12. “Sin in My Heart”
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Happy Birthday Siouxsie


 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment