Thursday, October 8, 2009


It was 1975. FOCUS and TANGERINE DREAM were beginning to lack their lustre and the music press were featuring items about other European bands like FAUST, CAN, HENRY COW, GONG and some group called MAGMA who all looked interesting. A new avenue of musical discovery beckoned a gang of beery Northern Teenagers. On one of many visits to the legendary Tony's market stall in Manchester, a single; 'MEKANÏK MACHINE / EXTRACTS FROM KÖHNTARKÖSZ' caught my eye - worth a shot for 25p. Let's have a butchers at this here MAGMA. On playing the said single, it touched me like no other music ever had. Several paper rounds later, the LP's had hit the stereo and the gang were equally as enthralled. This boy more than the rest.

My memory can't recall the chronology of what was bought in what order, but I do remember the long hot summer of '76 being accompanied by 'LIVE' and that (still) spine chilling organ solo on side two of 'KÖHNTARKÖSZ', and the winter being soothed by the first Double LP set. This music with its enthralling drummer, magical vocals and astounding bass work was bordering on the obsessional to me. The strange but totally appropriate language meant little, but communicated perfectly. When would I get to see this live?

'ATTAHK' and 'ÜDÜ WÜDÜ' and 'INEDITS' nourished over the next few years. Whilst the other interests of HENRY COW and the Canterbury crew went their separate ways, M. Vander kept at it and still delivered the goods. (Who's the guy who frequently mentioned "conceptual continuity" Paul? FZ - Ed.) One of the gang happened to be in France in 1980 and got the Holy Grail - Andy saw MAGMA live!!! The report back was most enthusiastic. I got to the South of France in summer '81 and saw a MAGMA poster on a wall. "This is it - at last" - only to find the concert was in Monaco two weeks earlier. "Oh No!" Anyhow, I arrived home with the three 'RETROSPECTIVE' volumes and was introduced to the mighty 'THEUSZ HAMTAAHK'. This may be considered heresy, but 'MEKANÏK' never really hit the spot like the other long pieces, and in 'THEUSZ HAMTAAHK' I found the ultimate in MAGMA. The driving mid-section with all its complexities left me as breathless as when I first encountered 'MEKANÏK MACHINE'.

Then 'MERCI'. On the first few listening's, 'THE NIGHT WE DIED' seemed to be an apt one liner to convey my opinion, but 'OFFERING PARTS 1 & 2' made me realise what Christian was going for - and on CD too! In 1987 an advert appeared in the Record Collector wants section asking for MAGMA live tapes. I offered my meagre collection and got a reply from Steve Davis, which was quite a surprise. He put me onto the nations MAGMA Authority, Duncan Lane, who was soon to inform me that S.D. was promoting three MAGMA concerts in the U.K. Saturday 16-1-88 was the day I'd waited for, for so long.

Experiencing MAGMA in the flesh at last, I expected more than I could reasonably hope from them and got more. I've never seen a better performance by anyone; anywhere and the uninitiated who travelled with us to see this (after years of me boring the arses off them about this brilliant French group) were equally as amazed. Needless to say, I went to all three London concerts in 1989, spending the days selling off my psychedelic rarities in London collectors shops to finance the purchase of the now available back catalogue of MAGMA on CD.

I could present a reasonable musicological argument as to why the music of MAGMA is held in such high esteem by this writer. I still can't explain why it moves me on a deeper level - touching the parts other sounds can't reach. Christian Vander should be regarded as a true Genius. It is criminal that those with influence on what the average punter gets to hear treat his music with such apathy. All being well, I'll be in Faches Thumesnil on 7-12-91 for another fix of the supreme sustenance, MAGMA LIVE! and I intend to keep up the habit until Christian Vander stops the supply.


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