The Making of Atom Heart Mother out now! 2008-23-10


Sleevenotes for 'On The Wings Of A Vigilante - The Polydor Years' (unreleased CD compilation) - including Tony Clarkin Interview 2006

Birmingham, England; early 1970s, epicentre of the UK hard rock scene. Alongside Judas Priest and Black Sabbath, you should never forget the mighty Magnum. A name associated with big, and in music too, as Magnum would prove in the 80s too.

Magnum must compare alongside their West Midlands counterparts (abeit with more of a Queen like pomp), with a big sound, a singer with a big voice, and some chart success too. Although the band had to wait for the new decade to achieve their success, their roots are in the late 60s and early 70s.

While it is the oft reissued early 80s material that is usually written about, it wasn’t until the band signed to Polydor in the mid 80s that the band achieved their highest chart placings, and recorded some of their strongest material that is still featured in their live shows today. An era not to be forgotten or glossed over.

The men behind Magnum, vocalist Bob Catley and guitarist / songwriter Tony Clarkin, both founder members and mainstays, first crossed paths in the early 70s. Featuring on the same bill during their course of a plethora of bands, Catley (whose earliest recordings remain unreleased) asked Clarkin to join his band, already called Magnum, at the suggestion of the previous guitarist. And so was struck a professional relationship that lasts to this day. Even when Magnum split in 1995, they formed Hard Rain together.

Back in the 70s, while fellow Brummies Sabbath and Priest found success, Magnum were working hard on a more local level, and a 1975 CBS single sank without trace. It wasn’t until they signed to Jet in 1978, where they released their debut album ‘Kingdom Of Madness’ that Magnum started to gain the recognition they deserved.
Over the course of the next 5 years, the band issued a total of 5 albums on Jet, including the live album ‘Marauder’, and a number of singles.

Clarkin’s songwriting held the band together, his guitar working well with the band’s keyboards to add a progressive pomp sound that was distinctive and, amongst those in the know, popular.

This era also saw the build up of a longstanding relationship with illustrator Rodney Matthews, who would provide much of the band’s equally distinctive artwork. Matthews, a former prog band drummer, would later record an EP with Clarkin on guitar, such was their relationship.

The last studio set’s title ‘The Eleventh Hour’ nodded towards Jet’s working practices, with whom Magnum’s relationship had become strained.

1985’s ‘On A Storyteller’s Night’, now considered a classic, was issued through a one off licence deal with Wolverhampton based FM, was the musical watershed that would effectively get the deal with Polydor.

It is with that signing with Polydor that we start this collection. The 1986 album ‘Vigilante’, produced by Queen’s Roger Taylor, was a strong polished set, the title track played live for many years to come.

“Midnight” and “Lonely Night” were two of three singles lifted from the album, and the tour was one of the longest undertaken by Magnum. And after the ‘occasional’ line-up change over the previous years, the band were pretty stable during their signing to Polydor, with Clarkin and Catley augmented by bassist Wally Lowe, drummer Mickey Barker and pianist Mark Stanway.

One then new song, “It Must Have Been Love”, was dropped during production, to be recorded for the 1988 follow up album ‘Wings Of Heaven’. That album and its singles “Days Of No Trust”, “Start Talking Love” and “It Must Have Been Love” provided the band with their biggest chart successes; I remember a heartfelt thanks from singer Catley for putting the band in the Top 40 at the Hammersmith Odeon show that year. The singles also provided some live takes on earlier classic numbers. A taster only, you need a separate collection for singles alone to include them all.

The final studio set for Polydor, ‘Goodnight LA’ (issued in 1990), saw Polydor pushing for success in America, and although a strong album, it wasn’t received as well at the time. Outside writers, including Russ Ballard, were brought in to co-write with guitarist Clarkin. The single “Rockin’ Chair” was as good a single as any but the success of the previous album was not repeated.

Magnum were still a strong and popular live draw, as the 1991 double album ‘The Spirit’ showed, drawing on material from the previous 12 years.

With label and band parting, Magnum continued for two more albums before splitting. Collaborations and solo projects ensued, but the legacy was never forgotten.

Only more recently have Magnum reformed, and have issued two more studio albums. A live show in London was also filmed for DVD. With hat and hair gone, the now shaven headed guitarist Tony Clarkin remains the band’s songwriter, and Bob Catley, still weaving spells, remains as animated as ever on stage.

Through the extensive Magnum back catalogue, don’t forget the Polydor era; it’s much stronger and certainly was more successful than it’s usually given credit for.


Joe:   Did you feel you were riding a crest of a wave with the album ‘On A Storyteller's Night’?

Tony:   The actual truth was that we were completely broke and could not get a record deal anywhere. So we did a six week tour to earn some money to be able to go in to a studio to record an album and pay for it ourselves. It was recorded at UB40 studio and we knew the house engineer. He got us a good deal on the price. It still took ages for us to pay for it though.

Joe:   Was the Heavy Metal / FM deal an escape from Jet? And why was it so short lived?

Tony:   It was just licensing deal with FM for the UK. This was the only company that would give us a deal.

Joe:   How did the Polydor deal come about?

Tony:   A Disc Jockey gave a copy of On A Storytellers Night to Michael Golla from Polydor International. He suggested he might sign us.

Joe:   How much of the Vigilante material was written, or even performed, before signing to Polydor?

Tony:   I don't think any of the material was written before the signing. We actually received acknowledgement that Polydor wanted to sign us the day we played Donnington after we came off stage.

Joe:   “Vigilante” has become a live classic that stands up to everything else you've done. Would you agree?

Tony:   It was the easiest to record. It was also very enjoyable as we recorded it in Montreux with Roger Taylor & Dave Richards engineering. It was the first album that sounded like a real record to me.

Joe:   How did you feel about the chart success that came with ‘Wings Of Heaven’?

Tony:   It is an example of when a record company are totally behind the band & the marketing is really good. When these things work well together it pays off.

Joe:   How did you feel about the comparatively poor reviews of ‘Goodnight LA’?

Tony:   Most of the criticism was due to me writing with other people. This was something the record company insisted on at the time. In retrospect I think it was a mistake but I did learn a lot working with other people. Also we recorded the album in America and for some reason people thought we had sold out.

Joe:   Was there ever an option to extend the 4 album deal.

Tony:   I believe there was but I wanted to end the deal because new people had come in to Polydor who were not really interested in Magnum.

Joe:   How do you feel the Polydor material stands up now?

Tony:   We still play lots of the tracks from these albums when we play shows today. So I think they have stood the test of time pretty good.

Disc 1

Vigilante (from the album Vigilante)
Lonely Night (from the album Vigilante)
Need A Lot Of Love (from the album Vigilante)
Midnight (You Won’t Be Sleeping) (from the album Vigilante)
Back Street Kid (from the album Vigilante)
Days Of No Trust (from the album Wings Of Heaven)
Start Talking Love (from the album Wings Of Heaven)
It Must Have Been Love (from the album Wings Of Heaven)
Wild Swan (from the album Wings Of Heaven)
C’est La Vie (b-side to Start Talking Love)
Back To Earth (live b-side to Start Talking Love)
On A Story Teller’s Night  (live b-side to Start Talking Love)
Crying Time (live b-side to It Must Have Been Love)
Just Like An Arrow  (live b-side to It Must Have Been Love)
Lonely Night (live b-side to It Must Have Been Love)

Disc 2

Rockin Chair (from the album Goodnight LA)
No Way Out(from the album Goodnight LA)
Heartbroke And Busted (from the album Goodnight LA)
Born To Be King (from the album Goodnight LA)
Matter Survival (from the album Goodnight LA)
Shoot (from the album Goodnight LA)
Mama (Live from The Spirit)
Need A Lot Of Love (Live from The Spirit)
Pray For The Day (Live from The Spirit)
Les Morts Dansants (Live from The Spirit)
How Far Jerusalem (Live from The Spirit)
The Spirit (Live from The Spirit)
Kingdom Of Madness (Live from The Spirit)
When The World Comes Down (Live from The Spirit)


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