16. HARD RAIN - The Spirit Survives
Tony's next aim was to record the new songs he had already written. He didn't know what exactly would become of them when he asked Bob to sing on two acoustic demos which he wanted to send out to some record companies. He wanted to find out whether anyone was interested in publishing these songs and in what form they wanted him to record them. The two songs on that demo were “Shame For The Bad Boy“ and “Cry Cry Cry“.
One of the first people who got that demo was Rainer Hänsel, whose Konzertbüro had managed MAGNUM's last tour. Hänsel was instantly convinced that these songs could be the beginning of something great and new. He offered Tony a record deal and told him that he didn't really have to change much, especially Bob was to be kept as the singer. The new “band“ was called HARD RAIN after a line from the song “You'd Start A Fight“. Bob sang and Tony played all the instruments alone, he even learned how to play the keyboards and the drums. The Zella Studios, MAGNUM’s former homestead, had meanwhile closed down due to problems with their landlord. Mark Stuart set up a new studio named “Mad Hat” together with Claire Swan, his business partner. Tony also contributed some equipment to help it get off the ground. Meanwhile the name has been changed to M2-Studios and Mark is the only owner. The album was recorded there and the only other people involved in the recording were engineer Mike Cowley and two girls called Jackie Dean and Wendy Peddie who did the backing vocals on some songs.
The self-titled debut was released on the 10th of March 1997. The final song titles were “Rage On“, “Shame For The Bad Boy“, “You'd Start A Fight“, “Stop Me From Loving You“, “Looking For A Way“, “Cry Cry Cry“, “I Must Have Been Blind“ (which was the new title of “Baby Blue“),
“Perpetual Commotion“, “Different Kind Of Love“, “Another Nice Mess“ (whose earlier title was “Revelations“) and “That Ain't Love“, which was included as a bonus track, because its style was a little different from the other songs.
The cover showed the new HARD RAIN logo, a red H and an R interlinked with each other in front of a blue and orange background. The booklet could be folded up to reveal a mini-poster that showed the recording studio in a purplish colour, all overgrown by strange weeds. The album was re-released in England in 1998 with a different cover, but the songs were the same. There were also negotiations about a Japan release, but that was never realized.
”Stop Me From Loving You“, a love song with a 6/8 rhythm, was also put out as a single in Germany with an edited single version and the album version of the title track as well as “Rage On“. The single cover sported the HARD RAIN logo in blue in front of a blood red cloudy sky and a blossoming rose.
Unfortunately, the album and the single were only available as imports in England, so they proved very difficult to get, which did the sales figures no good. Sales in Germany weren't too good either.
Whereas fans had no difficulty in buying it here in Germany, hardly anyone of the occasional MAGNUM buyers had noticed that they didn't have to watch out for the M-shelf but for the H-shelf in the shops. After some time many shops finally filed the album in the MAGNUM shelf, but by then the damage was already done and the album had flopped.
Nevertheless, the album was a good one. There were strong lyrics, for example for “Shame For The Bad Boy“, which was a song about James Dean, “Another Nice Mess“, which was about all-too-offensive religious people, who think they're on a mission all the time and “Different Kind Of Love“, a song about a passionate love between two women, which was even named as her all-time favourite by long-term-MAGNUM-fan Shelagh Blumire. There were various musical styles and rhythms and Bob's vocals were underlined brilliantly by the background singers. Some songs clearly sounded like MAGNUM, others were really different and left the fans puzzling about what direction HARD RAIN would finally take. Tony said “With MAGNUM, I knew there had to be an epic on the album, for example“, but here they were free to do everything they wanted.
The press generally hailed the album. Most journalists saw MAGNUM continued in HARD RAIN but liked the new elements as well.
When the album was finished Bob and Tony started to look for new members to make HARD RAIN a real band, that could play live concerts, too. They contacted Mickey to play the drums again, but he was already involved in other projects and couldn't join. Then they asked Kex Gorin to return. He agreed and even rehearsed with the band for two weeks, but somehow that didn't work out either. A new bass player was found in Al Barrow. He had already played in a lot of local Birmingham bands like THE DAY AFTER, BORDERLINE, EDEN'S LAW and with Vince
O'Regan. Al finally brought along his brother Rob, who had already been in some bands with Al and had worked as a studio drummer for some time, to fill the drummer's spot.
Sue McCloskey, a former member of the SILVER CONVENTIONS, who had already worked with QUILL, MAGNUM, Ella Fitzgerald and Tina Turner, was recruited as a background singer on stage and for future HARD RAIN albums. For the keyboards they found Paul Hodson, who had started his career as a professional musician at the age of 16. He had already worked with members of URIAH HEEP, SLADE, JUDAS PRIEST, DANTE FOX and John Parr. He was not only an excellent keyboarder, but also an experienced songwriter, engineer and producer.
As soon as the band was complete, the band started the rehearsals for their first tour. They only played small clubs in the UK to build up a reputation for HARD RAIN, which was rather difficult because, as stated before, the album was difficult to get there. The only major gig was the headliner's slot at the Gods Of Rock festival in Wigan in November. The setlist on the Rage On-tour was: “Intro: Singing In The Rain“/ „You'd Start A Fight“/ „Shame For The Bad Boy“/ „Looking For A
Way“/ „Vigilante“/ „Stop Me From Loving You“/ „Rage On“/ „Les Morts Dansant“/ „Perpetual Commotion“/ „I Must Have Been Blind“/ „Sacred Hour“/ „Different Kind Of Love“/ „Another Nice Mess“/ „The Spirit“ and “Tell-Tale Eyes“.
It was striking that only four old MAGNUM songs had made it into the set, which made pretty clear that the future was more important for the band than the past. Tyla, the former front man of the DOGS D'AMOUR supported HARD RAIN on this tour. The band were given a very warm welcome by the fans, who had not seen Bob and Tony for two years, but the old songs were celebrated much more than the new ones.
In 1998 the band went on the second leg of the tour and included two new songs in the set. One was a beautiful old-style ballad called “One Night Ain't Love“. The other one was highly controversial, though. It's title was “Eat It Up“ and it was quite a toad for the fans to swallow as the band gave up for that song what had made them great - melody! It was a rock song with a nice rhythm, but there was no catchy tune, something that you could easily sing along to. Bob announced at some concerts that the fans would probably “hate it“, which, in fact, was no exaggeration!
At the Gods Of Rock festival Bob first met TEN mastermind Gary Hughes and they soon agreed on a Bob solo project that Gary would write and produce. So Bob went off with Gary after the second part of the tour to do his solo album and to work on another project with Clive Nolan of ARENA, so there were no further concerts until the second HARD RAIN album was out.
In early 1999 Bob returned to record the second album, which Tony had been preparing meanwhile. This time, the whole new band would be performing on the album, also to be recorded in the Mad Hat studios, and Tony had some surprises in stock.
A new deal was signed with Eagle Rock Records, who issued the CD on the 17th of May 1999. “When The Good Times Come“ contained eleven new songs: “Eat It Up“, “Who You Gonna Trust“, “Rock Me In Ya Cradle“, “No One Can Show You The Way“ (earlier called “Pray“),“When The Good Times Come“, “Talks Like A Lady“, “An Ordinary Day“, “Showtime“, “Lightnin' Strikes“, “Never Say Never“ and “Step Back“. One more song, “Stand Up“, which was about showing courage of your convictions was deleted but three more songs were recorded as demos: “Just To Look At Me”, “Midnight Fire” and “Que Pasa Mi Amor”. A fourth demo, “Still” was first recorded with sue’s voice and finally recorded with Bob singing it on the next MAGNUM album “Breath Of Life”.
All the band members are assembled on the cover around Tony's guitar case and all of them look very happy, but, on the whole, this album was a disappointment. The old magic was back in some tracks like “Who You Gonna Trust“ or “Never Say Never“. But e.g. “An Ordinary Day“ sounded only vaguely familiar. After listening to it several times the faithful listener discovered that this had once been the ballad “One Night Ain't Love“. It had undergone massive changes as the chorus had been exchanged and Sue sang the lead vocals now.
“Showtime“ was the jazziest song Tony had ever written. The lyrics were about a burned-out performer who has to pull himself together because the show must go on. “When The Good Times Come“ was a love song and the statement of “Never Say Never“ was that all problems between lovers can be worked out. “Talks Like A Lady“ was a song about a young emancipated woman, who walks into a Midwest US-town, where women are more or less regarded as toys. The men there quickly notice that “this one is different!“. Despite the interesting lyrics there were a lot of songs that didn't fulfil the old fans' expectations.
The press reviews were mixed. Some liked the album, some didn't like it at all and again there were much less buyers than expected. To promote the album HARD RAIN went on their second tour. The concerts were only in the UK again because going abroad would have been too big a financial risk to take.
The running order for the tour on which they were supported by KICK was: “Intro: Singing In The Rain - Showtime“/ „Shame For The Bad Boy“/ „You'd Start A Fight“/ „Rock Me In Ya Cradle“/ „Who You Gonna Trust“/ „Looking For A Way“/ „Eat It Up“/ „An Ordinary Day“/ „Rage On“/ „No One Can Show You The Way“/ „Vigilante“/ „Talks Like A Lady“/ „Les Morts Dansant“ and “When The Good Times Come“. On some concerts the last song was left out. Only two MAGNUM songs had survived and the audiences became visibly smaller.
In the Mad Hat studios Tony contributed a guitar solo to MARSHALL LAW’s album “Warning From History”.
Meanwhile Bob was already planning his second solo album with Gary, so the band had to turn down two tours, even one as support act for URIAH HEEP. Then Bob noticed that HARD RAIN was not really what he wanted to do. His solo project was more in the old MAGNUM style, which he had liked much better. When he had the choice between touring with his solo band and HARD RAIN he finally he told Tony and the others that this time he would quit the band. So HARD RAIN took a long break in order to decide what to do without Bob. Tony kept writing songs that may or may not be published one day. Finally in early 2001 Derek Kemp, the long-time MAGNUM agent suggested a reunion. Tony made up his mind about his musical past, present and future and came up with an idea...