Rock GPA: Magazine [part 9]

Magazine – The Complete John Peel Sessions | 2008 – 3.5

This album was a real delight, when I chanced upon it in the bins of Everyday Music while in Portland a few years back. Not just because it was Magazine, but because in 200o, Virgin released a boxed set of Magazine rarities called “Maybe It’s Right To Be Nervous Now.” It was a 3xCD box with the big lure being disc three with this material on this CD, available only in the box at that time. Since I had all of the Magazine CDs already, I resisted paying top dollar for the Magazine Box just to get the Peel Sessions. This release, albeit nearly a decade later, rectified that problem.

The program opens up with a great version of “Touch + Go” that smokes the single version pretty easily. It simultaneously has more energy and “pop values” than the official version. The intro of “The Light Pours Out Of Me” sounds even more muscular than the “Real Life” version, with Barry Adamson’s bass in particular taking all comers. But these tracks, as great as they are, are not large variations in form form their official versions.

“Real Life [Definitive Gaze]” is. It’s interesting that the first four tracks on this disc date from February 1978; a full four months prior to the release of their debut album. From the title, obviously they hadn’t nailed this one down yet. McGeoch’s guitar is worlds away from how it sounded on the album version. It sounds like he’s running it through tremolo and wah wah pedals simultaneously for a radically overhauled sound.

The last track from that session is an overhauled “My Mind Ain’t So Open”  that takes on new coloring just three weeks following its release. Since the band is now enhanced with the keyboards of Dave Formula, he takes a very Eno-esque synth solo on the middle eight of this track, further cementing the influence of Roxy Music upon this band.

The second session takes in “Give Me Everything,” “Burst,” “I Love you You Big Dummy” and most intriguingly, The Buzzcocks’ “Boredom.” The latter is the only track on this disc that is unique to this album, and like with the redux version of “My Mind Ain’t So Open,” the opportunity is made to introduce synthesizers on a formerly guitar punk song.

The third session from May of ’79 is a trio of tunes: “TV Baby,” “Thank You [Fallettin Be Mice Elf Agin],” and “Permafrost.” The former sports superior Devoto vocals to the B-side version. He’s no longer resorting to coarse punk bellowing. He’s already moving on to more sophisticated musical climes. The Sly Stone cover predates the album version by many months and has a great vocal break after the bridge where Howard and whomever [the liner notes are foggy here] sing the chorus a cappella for two measures to some greater impact than on the final recorded mix.

I’d like to know who thought “Permafrost” would be a good fit with the BBC? Naturally, the crux of the song had to be censored since “I will drug you and f*** you, on the permafrost” would never pass muster on Auntie Beeb! But how to do this? I’d like to be able to describe what the band did but it resists explanation. Devoto sings “I will drug you  in a total (unintelligible), on the permafrost.” End result? Their most devastating song has been curiously neutered. And since the band were so bloody-minded, it had to be their decision to do this. Why, I can’t say. The harrowing outro has been extended on this version, but it’s all for naught without that couplet.

The final session, from January, 1980, features four songs from the “Soap” era in recordings that predate their official release. “Floorboards” sounds every inch itself, but “Twenty Years Ago” is its usual undisciplined self; all version of this song differ in some fashion. That’s the point, I think. “Look What Fear’s Done To My Body [Because You’re Frightened]” is another track that changed its title by the time it was locked down with Martin Hannett on “Soap,” but the arrangement is not too different from the familiar version. I’d like to say who produced these sessions, but the packaging is missing that crucial information.

This is another fantastic Magazine compilation. They’re all great because of the level of their songwriting and performance. Any of them are exceptional records and this one is no different.  The sonic differences make for some novelty for the seasoned Magazine listener. That many of these tracks were laid down prior to their official recording means that the band cleverly and effectively got the government to pay for their demos! It get’s docked half a grade point only due to the bad decision to include “Permafrost” in a compromised recording, but otherwise, this is a selection that would make virgin ears fans of the group. Definitely.

Next: Against all odds…

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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3 Responses to Rock GPA: Magazine [part 9]

  1. Echorich says:

    I have this release on my Xmas for myself list and will do my best to get it soon.
    I want to hear Twenty Years Ago as I think it is, for Devoto, one of their most important songs. It is a favorite of mine as stated previously.


  2. Mike Shanley says:

    Pulled this one off the shelf again tonight. I love it. Even though, like you say, many of the songs sound similar to the recorded versions, they have a live, raw quality that doesn’t always cut through the album production. I actually came across your write-up while searching for a definitive quote on what Devoto says in “Permafrost.” I reviewed the album when it came out, and I could only approximate it. My feeling is that anyone probably listening to the song on John Peel at the time probably knew what REALLY went there.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Mike Shanley – Welcome to the comments! Sorry I could not give any definitive help there, but I don’t think it’s possible. At any rate, thanks for reactivating an old thread that I hold some affection for.


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