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|Magnum began as the house band at Birmingham's famous Rum Runner night club (later the home of Duran Duran). Joining Clarkin and Catley were drummer Kex Gorin and former Uglys and Balls bassist Dave Morgan (later a member of ELO). The band line up remained the same from until 1972 when Les Kitcheridge joined temporarily on guitar. Bob Doyle left Magnum in 1972 to join Roy Wood's Wizzard.
Morgan comments: "I was absolutely broke, and the people who owned the Rum Runner club were building this new night club called Snobs, and they got all the musicians that worked at the Rum Runner helping out. I went to the Rum Runner one night, so Tony Clarkin said, "Come and earn some money building this new club." So I was down there every day helping them build this thing, and on the night I used to go down to the Rum Runner just to see the groups. I was in there one night, and to cut a long story short, Bob Doyle the original bass player with Magnum left the band, and Tony Clarkin said, "Can you play bass?", I said "Yeah", he said, "You got the job!" That was it, I just happened to be there when Doyle left, so I got his job!".
They began to develop their own style by playing Clarkin's songs at a residency at The Railway Inn, in Birmingham's Curzon Street, in 1976. In 1975, Clarkin and Dave Morgan received an offer from Jake Commander to help with the construction of a studio, rather than being paid with money, Clarkin suggested being paid with Studio time. Much of Magnum's early demo material was recorded at Nest Studios on Birmingham, which would later lead to a recording contract with David Arden of Jet Records. During the "Nest" sessions at least two songs written by Dave Morgan (and sung by Bob Catley) 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.
A one off deal with CBS was arranged via producer Roger Greenaway, and the band released a cover of The Searchers' "Sweets for My Sweet" in February 1975; however this failed to trouble the charts. The original recording included a medley of "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" but was edited out for the single release. Lead vocals on this song were by Morgan, who left the band soon after, and was replaced by Colin "Wally" Lowe. Success was still minimal; they were working as a backing band for artists such as Del Shannon on small tours. The band was expanded to a five-piece with the addition of Richard Bailey on keyboards. May 1977 saw band support Judas Priest on their Sin After Sin UK tour, still without the backing of a record label.
Magnum's debut album Kingdom Of Madness was released on Jet Records at the end of 1978 and reached #58 in the UK Chart, receiving a five star review from Geoff Barton of Sounds. They toured the UK in October/November 1978 as support to David Coverdale's Whitesnake. Leo Lyons, formerly bassist with Ten Years After, produced the follow-up album Magnum II — which was released in 1979, but failed to chart. Another support tour was organised for November 1979, this time with Blue Öyster Cult. A live set, Marauder, was released as an album and reached #34 in the UK, and a live double single ("Live at the Marquee", including "Invasion") reached #48 in the UK Singles Chart. Bailey departed soon after and was replaced temporarily by Grenville Harding as support to Def Leppard's On Through The Night UK tour in March. For the second leg in April, permanent replacement Mark Stanway took over keyboard duties. Magnum also appeared at the Reading Festival in 1980. April 1981 saw another support tour with Tygers Of Pan Tang on their Spellbound UK tour.
Their most notable success during these early years was the Jeff Glixman produced Chase The Dragon (1982) which reached #17 in the UK, and included several songs that would be mainstays of the bands live set, notably "Soldier Of The Line", "Sacred Hour" and "The Spirit". Glixman was previously best known for his work with Kansas, and this was the first Magnum release to feature the artwork of fantasy artist Rodney Matthews. The tour included a support slot with Krokus in February on their One Vice at a Time UK tour. as well as a few US dates were played during the summer of 1982, supporting labelmate Ozzy Osbourne - these would ultimately prove to be the only live gigs the band have ever played (to date) outside of the UK and Europe. The band returned to the UK in July for their own headlining tour of the UK.
Budgetary constraints at Jet denied Magnum the use of an outside producer for 1983's Clarkin-produced The Eleventh Hour, which peaked at UK #38. A UK tour started in May 1983, featuring additional guitarist Robin George for live performances. Magnum also appeared at the 1983 Reading Festival, with George in attendance.
Magnum and Jet parted company shortly after, and there followed a twelve month period of instability with the band's future clouded by uncertainty. Many fans believed that Magnum had split up. Kex Gorin was replaced by Jim Simpson and Stanway took some time away from the band to work with Phil Lynott and was replaced by Eddie George. An independent tour was organised for February 1984 without the backing of a record label. Lawrence Archer temporarily stood in for Tony Clarkin, when he became ill.
Stanway had returned to the band in 1984, and they toured the UK in January 1985. Magnum signed a one-off deal with FM Records, and released On A Storyteller's Night, and was also notable for the cover by Rodney Matthews. It reached #24 in the UK, and launched the band across Europe. For the May UK tour Jim Simpson was replaced by Mickey Barker.
The success of Storyteller's earned the band a major label deal with Polydor Records, and they embarked on the most commercially successful period of their career - opening the famous Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington in August 1985, on a bill that also included Bon Jovi, Metallica, Marillion and headliners ZZ Top. A second leg for the Storyteller's tour was concluded in December 1985.
The first release for the label was co-produced by Queen drummer Roger Taylor in 1986, entitled Vigilante. The switch to Polydor saw an increase in the marketing budget, and promotional videos were made for the singles "Lonely Night" and "Midnight". A full UK and European tour scheduled in March 1986, including appearances at The Garden Party Festival, Milton Keynes Bowl in June and Out In The Green Festival. A second UK leg was organised in September 1986 and finishing in Europe in November 1986. In March 1987, the band embarked on a third UK and European tour and an appearance at 1987's Reading Festival.
Magnum enjoyed increased success with the album Wings Of Heaven (#5 in the UK). Three singles from "Wings of Heaven" reached the UK Top 40, including a Top of The Pops appearance with "Start Talking Love". A successful tour followed in December, and by now Magnum had been elevated to an 'arena' band in the UK, headlining the Birmingham N.E.C. and several nights at London's Hammersmith Odeon, supported by the Norwegian band Stage Dolls.
The band went to Los Angeles for the Keith Olsen produced Goodnight L.A. which peaked at #9 in the UK chart. The band performed at Berlin's Arena Festival, followed by a full UK and European tour in September 1990. They toured the UK again in November. Following Goodnight L.A.'s lukewarm reception Magnum parted company with Polydor. They released the live album The Spirit in 1991 and toured the UK and Europe again to support the album. During the concerts in Germany the band played live with the Roger Taylor band The Cross. Magnum continued to release albums for various labels on one-off deals, the first being Sleepwalking in 1992 on Music For Nations with a full UK tour in October. This was followed by the acoustic album Keeping The Nite Light Burning in 1993 with a UK tour in April.
Rock Art was released in 1994 on EMI. A UK tour was scheduled for April, but the remaining dates in May and June were postponed or cancelled. A low key tour was arranged for August and Europe in September. In the summer of 1995 Tony Clarkin announced the band were to split and a farewell tour of the UK and Europe took place in March, documented on the live album Stronghold (titled The Last Dance in mainland Europe).
After Magnum split, a spin off group featuring Catley and Clarkin was formed called Hard Rain, and they released the albums Hard Rain and When The Good Times Come. It was around this time that Catley launched a solo career using various songwriters, including Gary Hughes of the band Ten. However, Hard Rain found gigs and bookings hard to come by, and there were discussions about renaming the band as Magnum. Also, at this time, Catley was becoming increasingly focused on his solo career, and he quit Hard Rain, marking the end of a working relationship with Clarkin that dated back to 1972. After a quiet period Clarkin announced the end of Hard Rain.
Eventually, Clarkin and Catley re-launched Magnum with the album Breath Of Life in 2002 on SPV with a UK tour in December. They were again joined by Stanway, with former Hard Rain bassist Al Barrow and former-Thunder drummer Harry James. This was subsequently followed by Brand New Morning in 2004 with appearances at Germany's Bang Your Head Festival and Lorca Rock Festival in Spain with a tour around the UK and Europe in December.
Clarkin comments: "The break since the middle of the Nineties was definitely necessary for me. Since the end of the Seventies, in fact since we embarked on the preparations for our debut recording Kingdom Of Madness, not a single month had gone by in which I didn't work for Magnum, composed for the group, or at least thought of them permanently. For almost twenty years, all my thoughts had revolved around the band. I needed a break to clear my head and to be able to devote myself to the band again with renewed energy."
When Harry James returned full time to Thunder, Jimmy Copley became a full-time member of Magnum. The band toured in April 2005 to mark the 20th anniversary of On A Storyteller's Night they released a live DVD of the Astoria concert entitled Livin' The Dream, which came complete with a small documentary and promotional videos from throughout the band's history.
Magnum completed work on a new studio album, Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow released on 26 March 2007, that also marked the return of cover artwork by Rodney Matthews. The album entered the UK Album Charts at #70, the first time Magnum have charted in the UK since 1994. It also reached #4 on the BBC Rock Album Charts and #60 in Germany.
Magnum toured the UK and Europe in May 2007. Harry James played drums temporarily for half the tour as Jimmy Copley was taken ill.
In 2005 former drummer, Kex Gorin was diagnosed with kidney cancer. Gorin had a kidney removed and underwent radiotherapy and steroid treatment, but died of the disease on 21 December 2007.
Magnum undertook a UK tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of Wings Of Heaven in November 2007. These shows were recorded for Wings of Heaven Live album which was released in March 2008.
In 2007, Magnum played a one off show at the Robin 2, Bilston, Wolverhampton. This was a charity event in aid of former drummer Kex Gorin and his family. An auction of memorabilia was staged before the show which raised over £10,000. Magnum then played a two hour set of old and new material.
On 15 June 2009, they released Into the Valley of the Moonking on SPV.
In 2010, the band released, The Gathering, on Universal/Sanctuary; their first ever cross-career collection spread over five discs featuring a 1988 live recording from Hammersmith Odeon.
The band released their next album, The Visitation, in 2011. The band toured in support of the album throughout March and April 2011.
On August 30th Magnum announce new compilation album Evolution celebrating the last 10 years on SPV GmbH since their reformation in 2001. The album will be released on November 11th, 2011 in Germany and November 14th for the UK & rest of Europe. The set will feature songs culled from the band's previous 5 releases in re-recorded, remixed and remastered form with 2 new songs.