5. Eleventh Hour Indeed!
Before recording their next album MAGNUM got another unusual offer. The BBC wanted THE MOVE to play live at a jubilee show and planned the entire thing without having the consent of the members, who had split years before. The only one who was prepared to do the show was Carl Wayne (who died in 2004), but the other members refused. As the show was already confirmed, the BBC needed a stand-in and contacted MAGNUM via Dave Morgan. The band agreed and backed Carl at the show with Bob doing the background vocals and the tambourine. As the show was broadcast on the radio, there are some quite good quality tapes around, so watch out for them. Parts of the show was even released on a BBC-LP called “Heroes and Villains“, which is really hard to get by now! On that occasion a MAGNUM radio session at the BBC was arranged and recorded but not published before the sampler “Long Days Black Nights“ in 2002.
The next MAGNUM-release was an EP containing the aforementioned live tracks and two new ones, which were the first finished recordings from the latest studio sessions, “Back To Earth“ and “Hold Back Your Love“. Both were love songs, but “Back To Earth“ was an almost IRON-MAIDEN-like rocker with a fast, pulsating rhythm and made a swell opener for future concerts. “Hold Back Your Love“ was softer and keyboard-dominated but no ballad.
The next record was completed in 1983. Tony was asked to produce the album himself, so he gave it a try. “That was my choice”, he said, “I didn’t believe we needed to spend money on an outside producer, and I’m happy with what we’ve got.” However, the force behind that was JET, who cut down the budget. According to Tony the Portland Studios, where it was to be recorded had a “technical standard of 1930“, so his work became very difficult. The album title was “Eleventh Hour“ and the Rodney-Matthews-cover showed an apocalyptic scenario in which the goddess of money with horns and claws presents some of the achievements of “civilisation“ to a group of children: nuclear power stations, vain treaties, drug syringes, fighter planes, strategic rockets with grim faces and poisonous chemicals. This was a picture to illustrate the song “Young And Precious Souls”. Tony explained: “Everything’s undecided, but that’s typical of the way we work. Everything is left to the last minute, or if you prefer to the eleventh hour – that’s the reason for the album’s title.”
There were eleven(!) new songs on this album, “The Prize“, “Breakdown“, “The Great Disaster“, “Vicious Companions“, “So Far Away“, “Hit And Run“, “One Night Of Passion“, “The Word“, “Young And Precious Souls“ and “Road To Paradise“. Another song, “True Fine Love“, was left out, as it wouldn't have fit in with the style of the others. As the former singles and the EP had sold poorly, no single was lifted from the album.
When the album was about to be released MAGNUM presented four new songs at the BBC radio show mentioned earlier, namely “The Prize“, “Vicious Companions“, “Breakdown“, and “Road To Paradise“.
The album reached No. 38 in the British album charts and No. 4 in the Heavy Metal charts. The band set out for a headliner tour of the U.K. with the SANTERS from Canada and US-rockers STAMPEDE as support.
The running order of the concerts was “The Prize“/ „So Far Away”/”Reborn”/“Breakdown“/”The Great Disaster”/”The Spirit”/”Hit And Run”/”Soldier Of The Line”/”The Word”/“Sacred Hour“/ „The Road To Paradise”/”Viscious Companions”/”All Of My Life”/”Young And Precious Souls”/”Long Days Black Nights”/”Back To Earth”/”Kingdom Of Madness”.
Tony needed help to reproduce the intricate guitar parts of the album live, so Robin George, who had played in LIFE and the DAVID BYRON BAND, was hired for the tour as second guitarist. In August they played the Marquée in London and the Reading Festival. The setlist was changed again for the autumn concerts: “Soldier Of The Line“/ “The Prize“/ “Changes”/ ”The Spirit“/ ”Hit And Run”/ “Back To Earth“/ “Breakdown“/ ”Reborn”/ ”The Great Disaster”/ “All Of My Life“/ “Sacred Hour“/ “Invasion“/ ”Young And Precious Souls”/ ”Kingdom Of Madness” .
However, although the fans steadily cheered them on, a lot of problems came up. The album title, which was meant as a hint to the man-caused end of the world, suddenly got an entirely new meaning as this record almost became the end of the band!
First JET hesitated to prolong the record deal for a new album as they were not satisfied with the sales of “Eleventh Hour“ compared to “Chase The Dragon“. Even long negotiations could not change the company's mind. The band then even considered pretending to split up in order to get out of their JET deal.
Without the backing of JET records MAGNUM organized a new tour for spring 1984 themselves. The running order was slightly changed: “Soldier Of The Line“/ „The Prize“/ „Before First Light”/ “Breakdown“/”Changes”/”The Spirit“/”Road To Paradise”/”Just Like An Arrow”/”The Lights Burned Out”/”All Of My Life”/”Sacred Hour”/ ”Young And Precious Souls”/”“Back To Earth“/ „Invasion“/”Kingdom Of Madness”.
They were already able to present the two new songs to their audience, but more trouble was to come. Tony’s mother died and he got seriously ill, which hit him so hard, that he had to withdraw from the tour and it took him such a long time to recover that the entire rest of the tour had to be staged without him. The rest of the band hired Laurence Archer from STAMPEDE and GRAND SLAM as a stand-in and he learned the songs as quickly as possible, but he kept his own style nevertheless. The result was very interesting - MAGNUM on stage without their mastermind!
At the end of the tour Tony had still not recovered and the future of the band was doubtful. So Mark decided to leave the band to join PHIL LYNOTT'S GRAND SLAM along with Laurence Archer. Then Kex left. He had no other chance as he had a family to feed and a mortgage to pay off.
Having already played a tour with TRAPEZE he now joined Robin George in whose band Mark was meanwhile playing, too. Mark also recorded an album together with their former support band STAMPEDE called “Hurricane Town“. Robin, Kex and Mark recorded an album called “Dangerous Music“ together. Later Kex played in Roy Wood's band. The end of MAGNUM seemed to have come, even Bob couldn't hold back his tears on stage when the concerts seemed to be the last ones.
As Bob seemed to have to look for a new job, he was offered Ronnie James Dio’s job in RAINBOW (which he turned down). He asked Malcolm Dome for help to find him a new band and then applied for an audition in BLACK SABBATH to replace Ozzy Osbourne but that didn’t work out. But finally Tony recovered and he, Bob and Wally started looking for a new drummer and a keyboarder for some Christmas concerts. These were mainly staged because so many fans had asked for them in countless letters. A very young drummer was found in Jim Simpson from THE MEAN STREET DEALERS, HOOKER and BLOOMSBURY SET, and Eddie George (ex-THE ALLIANCE) took Mark's place behind the keyboards. The Christmas shows all went well, so the band decided to have another try, which proved to be a wise decision when the next album finally gave them what they had so long deserved.