6. Breakthrough On A Storyteller's Night
With Bob having his hair cut and Tony using a new guitar (a Fender - he had ruined his old Gibson) with his Marshall amplifiers, the reformed band set forth for some more concerts. ”Before First Light“ and “Just Like An Arrow“ , which had already been in the set for some time, gave an idea of what could be expected from the next album, but the band could not get hold of a new deal immediately. Finally a one-record distribution deal with the FM company was arranged by the new manager, Keith Baker, and a new 12“ single, produced by Peter Scheir, was put out soon.
This 12“ was one of the most popular MAGNUM-tunes ever called “Just Like An Arrow“, a rocky love song with a very catchy melody. There were two tracks on the B-side, a new version of “The Word“, recorded in the legendary Abbey Road Studios with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and “Two Hearts“, another mid-tempo love song with a cracking guitar solo .“Arrow“ and “Two Hearts“ were recorded again for the next album in different versions, therefore the 12“ is another rare collector's item for MAGNUM fans.
The release of “Arrow“ coincided with only two gigs at the London Marquee in front of an enthusiastic audience. Most of the songs of the forthcoming album were put on the setlist: “Soldier Of The Line“/ „The Spirit“/ „Just Like An Arrow“/ „How Far Jerusalem“/ „Before First Light“/ „The Prize“/ „Lights Burned Out“/ „Endless Love“/ „Changes“/ „Les Morts Dansant“/ „Sacred Hour“/ „Back To Earth“/ „All Of My Life“ and “Kingdom Of Madness“. Immediately after that Eddie George left, but luckily Mark returned and the band went into the studio again to work on their new album.
“On A Storyteller's Night“ was recorded in UB40's Abbatoir studios, Birmingham with Kit Woolven, who had worked with THIN LIZZY before, as producer and engineer and was released in May 1985. The band had to pay 15.000 pounds for the production themselves, to be paid in two instalments, which was a great financial risk, of course. There were ten songs on the album, which had mostly been written in the tour bus as Tony felt under pressure to put something new out rather soon. These were: “How Far Jerusalem“, “Just Like An Arrow“(remix),“On A Storyteller's Night“, “Before First Light“, “Les Morts Dansant“, “Endless Love“, “Two Hearts“(remix),“Steal Your Heart“, “All England's Eyes“ and “The Last Dance“.
Two singles were put out, first the remix of “Just Like An Arrow“, then “On A Storyteller's Night“, a mysterious song about nightmares and fairytales. The singles failed to chart, but the album shot up the charts to No. 24. It even made the top spot in the Kerrang!-magazine's Heavy Metal charts. MAGNUM appeared on three TV-shows which supplies the fan today with rare video footage. Although it never was a single “How Far Jerusalem“ became a fan favourite and was rendered on most future tours. It was a song about a man coming to London expecting to find the streets paved with gold, but ends up poor and disappointed. The idea for “Before First Light” came from a gravestone on which Tony had read:” See you before first light”.
Les Morts Dansant, originally entitled “Cannon”, was a song based on a documentary Tony had seen shortly before. It was about the British army in the First World War shooting their own men, especially young soldiers, for cowardice.
Some years later MAGNUM even received a golden record for “On A Storyteller's Night“ with more than 100.000 items sold. FM Records celebrated that by issuing a limited edition in golden vinyl. It still is the best-selling MAGNUM-album ever.
The cover, which had also contributed to this success was another Rodney Matthews picture and probably his best one for MAGNUM. It showed a hooded man telling stories to a group of dwarves in a medieval tavern. The pictures on the wall are the covers of “Chase The Dragon“ and “Eleventh Hour“. A sack on the floor sports the “Sword Of Chaos“-emblem. The picture is topped by the new band logo in winged letters. Matthews is supposed to have decorated the tavern like the interior of the pub The George in Norton St. Phillip near his home. His own dog, Patch, is lying under the table.
The band was to go on another short tour of Britain with MULTI-STORY as support, but there was yet another setback. Jim Simpson was offered to join U.F.O., accepted immediately and left.
Looking for a drummer again, the band found Mickey Barker. The then 32-year-old and self-taught Mickey became MAGNUM's youngest member. He had played in his school band, PYGMALION, SLENDER LORIS, ITALIANS, SECOND VISION, JETHRO TULL and ZOO Q before and was brought in so quickly that he had only six (!) days to learn MAGNUM's entire tour set. One of the photos from the first session with him is on the back of the album cover although he didn't play on it at all.
Now there was success, the band was finally well-known, the magazines reported and reviewed, but they still lacked a record deal. Yet, luck was with them again. A DJ sent a MAGNUM tape to a representative of the German major label Polydor. He got interested in signing them and contacted Keith Baker. It was agreed that the band should play a kind of “test-gig“. Polydor choose their appearance as the opening act of the famous Castle Donington Festival.
Motivated by the prospect of a four-record-deal with a major company MAGNUM played nine songs from their current tour set. Bob, backed by Mo Birch-Stanway and Sue McCloskey, and the band gave a stunning performance and got the deal!
After the gig many people said that MAGNUM should have deserved the top of the bill (instead of ZZ TOP) rather than being on stage second after the opener RATT.
Polydor soon re-released the album and MAGNUM's first ever promotional video clip to support the remixed single version of “Just Like An Arrow“ was produced. It showed an evil car in a bullring and a western town in which the band is performing the song. A mysterious rider, who eventually turns out to be a beautiful young lady hunts the car and manages to blow it up before it can kill the band. The video was even filmed on location in Spain.
The album release coincided with a tour of Britain in May/June 1985. The setlist consisted of 16 songs: “Before First Light“/ „The Spirit“/ „All England’s Eyes”/“The Lights Burned Out”/“Endless Love”/“How Far Jerusalem“/ „On A Storyteller’s Night“/ „The Prize“/ „Les Morts Dansant”/“Just Like An Arrow”/“Two Hearts“/ „Solder Of The Line“/ „Changes”/ “Kingdom Of Madness“/ „Sacred Hour” and “The Last Dance”. Luckily, one of these concerts at the Mayfair in Glasgow was recorded for a radio broadcast but survived in the Radio Clyde archives so that it could be re-mastered and published on a CD in 2004. As the publishing company was River Records the album was named “The River Sessions”. Al Barrow created the cover, which showed a futuristic landscape in brownish colours. A few spaceships are arriving at a big tower-like space station in the middle of a lake.
In November/December MAGNUM were on the road in the UK again, this time supported by IQ and THE ALLIANCE. Tony said: “Before the album was out the fans could already sing the “new“ songs backwards“, therefore they decided to add three then unreleased songs “Lonely Night“, ”Back Street Kid“ and “Red On The Highway“ to the set. The running order was now: “All England's Eyes“/ „On A Storyteller's Night“/ „Hold Back Your Love“/ „The Prize“/ „Back Street Kid“/ „ Les Morts Dansant“/ „ Lonely Night“/ „Endless Love“/ „How Far Jerusalem“/ „Changes“/ „Two Hearts“/ „The Lights Burned Out“/ „Drum Solo“/ „Red On The Highway“/ „Soldier Of The Line“/ „Kingdom Of Madness“/ „Sacred Hour“/ „Just Like An Arrow“/and “The Last Dance“. Occasionally they also played “Hit And Run“.
The concert at the Camden Palace London was recorded for a commercial video. It was a 60-minute-recording reducing the tour set to twelve songs: “How Far Jerusalem“, “Before First Light“, “On A Storyteller's Night“, “All England's Eyes“, “Les Morts Dansant“, “Just like An Arrow“, “The Lights Burned Out“, “Endless Love“, “Two Hearts“, ”Soldier Of The Line“, “Kingdom Of Madness“ and “Sacred Hour“ The gig was also broadcast on radio and came out as a bootleg-CD in Austria, Spain and Japan later. The video was the first MAGNUM-release by Polydor through their partner company Polygram. It was finally issued on DVD by a Canadian record company in 2005.