The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Thursday, January 03, 2008


1-3-08 Magma

After writing about my indoctrination into the King Crimson cult yesterday, I thought I should write about yet another ‘cult-like’ experience involving a band: Magma.

Surely you jest? I certainly bought my 99 cent U.S. A&M LP of “Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh” (1974) (with a presskit & photo) before hearing it. It is, of course, Magma’s best loved work – and reasonably easy to get into. I was lucky – I had a presskit to help “explain” things a bit – the made-up language, a brief description of their own ‘cult-like’ existence…before that I’d heard of Magma – but…nobody to discuss ‘em with! Perhaps I saw some British press? Were they from Germany? The name of the LP certainly looks German…oh, it’s Kobaiian! And they’re French?

So, I find a 99 cent copy of the follow-up “Kohntarkosz”, and expensive imported LP’s of the first two on Philips. Still don’t really have anybody to discuss ‘em with. I eventually discovered other people who knew who they were and could listen to their music. I do not remember hearing Magma on the radio, actually – though I may have done so. At an “Imported LP” shop near me, they were selling T-shirts that somebody was making – I got a Magma T-Shirt (white with a black Magma logo, red rings around the neck etc). I snuck a photo of me wearing it into my high school yearbook.

I eventually mail-ordered LP’s from a place that had “Magma periphery” – and I got all sorts of French jazz-rock albums of the mid-to-late 70’s – some better than others. It all seemed like one thing. More Magma! Absolutely loved their bassist, Jannick Top. Another friend worshipped drummer Christian Vander.

What does it all mean? Who are they, really? “Udu Wudu”, “Magma Live”, “Attahk” – and I was essentially done. There is so much Magma periphery that it is almost impossible to discuss. And all of this BEFORE the internet. And before ever seeing any Magma video. And before going to France and trying to meet them in ’79.

Like my King Crimson experience, when it seemed like the Magma spaceship reached it’s terminus with “Attahk” (1978) (the next record, a Christian Vander solo album called “Offering” was an altogether different thing) – I was done. My time in the Magma barrel was over. Of course, their place was taken by a variety of things – my first encounter with Japanese music, new wave music, a little bit of growing up etc. I mark it all down to a lesson learned, a good time had (’74-’78) – is it any wonder I didn’t do the British 70’s glam rock at the time? I was busy with the progressive rock cults!

Writing this, I realize that there were other trains of thought between my King Crimson fandom & my Magma fandom. I was fiercely devoted to Henry Cow; Gong; Krautrock (Kraftwerk, Faust, Amon Duul II, Can, Neu! et al); all still lurking in the shadow of The Beatles, I hasten to add.

The 1970’s are much easier to figure out now than they were at the time! Which way are we going? Where have we been? Where do you want to go?

(A note discovered in a Magma LP cover that I wrote as a teenager: "Oh, great ZEUHL WORTZ, here I am again! All is quiet on the planet ORK (or is it ZEUHL WORTZ? I don't know). This album ("Kohntarkosz") makes even less sense than "MDK" did. But I like it. Purchased December 1974 at Aron's on Melrose out of sheer curiosity; I'd been told it was Magma's best album, it may be, but I don't have 'em all yet). This one's recorded a little bit better than the albums before it. See the sheet in MDK for further information.")


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