For every ’70s rock band that became stadium headliners, there must be hundreds of ‘would-have-beens / should-have-beens.’ Sadly Goshen, Indiana band Magi are one of the latter.
It’s scant consolation that forty-eight years following the release of their only LP, ‘Win or Lose,‘ they are receiving the more geographically widespread plaudits their hard-rock debut merited.
As was / is so often the case, it was a matter of either not being in the right place at the right time, or as happened with Magi, the wrong place at the wrong time.
Formed in 1973 from the backbone of another ‘local’ band, Skull, the name was changed to Magi, and their first four-song emo was laid down on tape. (Two of these early compositions would, three years later, appear on the ‘Win or Lose’ album.)
They gigged extensively throughout Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, playing University campus shows and festivals as well as clubs and smaller venues.
Their sound was solid. Hard rock at its heaviest. To match this, they built their own oversized speakers and lugged them around to shows, blowing the ears and minds of audiences!
By this stage,the gigging was onerous and bass player Larry Hertzler left the band to take up at college. He was replaced by Tom Stevens – who would later play with The Long Ryders.
Seeking to capitalize on the success of the stage performances, Magi decided the time was right to record their first album, Further demos were put together, extending the length of the tracks on their earlier effort and now including three songs that would eventually appear on the album: ‘Win or Lose’, ‘Every Time I’m With You‘ and ‘I Didn’t Ask You.’
Although all the songs had been written prior to Tom joining the band, the demos were very much a team effort, with Tom and drummer Jerry Wiggins contributing to the arrangements of the tracks principally put together by the two guitarists, Larry Stuzman and Steve Vanlaningham. Lyrics in the main, were composed by vocalist / frontman, John Gaut.
Attracted by the ‘offer’ of 40 hours recording time, with 1,000 LPs and 1,000 singles for $1000 at Kalamazoo, Michigan’s Uncle Dirty’s Sound Machine Studios, the band got down to recording their debut album in the first week of August 1976.
Unfortunately, they did not really hit it off with ‘Uncle Dirty’ aka Bryce Roberson and cutting to the chase, Magi were left somewhat disappointed by the finished, pressed LP.
Fans acknowledged the LP didn’t capture the band as they appeared in a ‘live’ environment, but fortunately having built up a substantial local following, the initial run of albums was sold out over the ensuing months.
Buoyed by the sales, local TV appearances followed and gained them further recognition with some high profile support slots followed -like with Brownsville Station, for example.
By now, they had outgrown their local scene – the High School shows were presumably going to bands more of that age – and Magi were playing city centre bars and clubs.
Then came blow #1: the drinking age reverted from 18 to 21 in 1978, changing the gig landscape drastically. Additionally, winter in the mid-West is pretty unforgiving for touring bands.
So when the offer came from Larry Stuzman’s uncle Danny (one of the first Contemporary Christian Music – CCM – artists signed to a major label in the early ’70s) to move out to California – they jumped at the chance.
Then came blow #2: uncle Danny was tad out of touch with the rock scene. Punk had taken over L.A. big time. Magi‘s music was already ‘dated’ and although they changed their name to The Charge and hastily wrote a few New Wave style songs, they couldn’t even bring in enough money to cover their rent. Day jobs had to be sought and their hopes and aspirations were evaporating fast in the Californian dust and heat.
One by one, the members gravitated back to their home State
The dream was over.
But, boy! What a legacy!
John Gaut – Vocals
Larry Stuzman – Guitar
Tom Stevens – Bass / Vocals
Steve Vanlaningham – Guitar
Jerry Wiggins – Drums
|Win Or Lose / Mama||7″ single||1976||Magi||Has sold @ £40 via Discogs|
|Win Or Lose||LP||1976||Uncle Dirty’s Sound Machine||Has sold for over £400 via Discogs|
(** Information for this post was gleaned from the album’s insert notes by Jeremy Cargill of ‘Got Kinda Lost Records.’ **)
I’m a fan of The Long Ryders…that is cool.
They do sound like they could have fit in well with the arena bands of the day…they have that sound.
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I think you’re right some rock (80’s Glam for example) can date pretty quickly. But by keeping to the basics, like the boogie sound on the title track, I think preserves longevity. 🙂
I’ve heard of Magi, Vanlaningham in particular. I didn’t recognize Win or Lose but, it reminds me of Radar Love in a way.
The drinking age thing in 1978 sounded bizarre. I looked that up. Michigan did that and Iowa, to a degree but, weren’t they from Indiana?
The National Minimum Drinking Age Act didn’t pass until July 17, 1984 but, my state raised beer & wine to 19 in Oct. 1983. I graduated in 1984 at 17. Think I wasn’t drinking in college? HA.
Yeah – I think the chugging boogie of the title track could give it a bit of a ‘Radar Love’ feel. I know what you mean.
(My geographical knowledge of the are is pretty poor, but I gather from the sleeve notes he band did a lot of gigging in the ares / planned on doing a lot of gigging in the areas hit with the raised drinking age – though I’m not sure why that would have mattered unless they themselves were under 21. 🙂
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