Magic Roundabout was a noisy pop band in Manchester (and Nottingham) that existed from 1986 to 1988 and didn’t release any records at the time (apart from a track on a cassette compilation). This past year, Third Man Records released a 7-inch single called “Sneaky Feelin’” and a six-song LP called Up, which are so up our alley. We checked in with two of the six band members, Nick Davidson and Linda Jennings, to find out more about Magic R and the music they’re making now with Thee Objects. Interview by Gail O’Hara / Images courtesy Magic Roundabout (This interview appears in chickfactor 19, available now in print)
chickfactor: How have you been holding up during the pandemic? What have you been doing?
Linda: Played my classical guitar, painted and learnt some languages. But gradually stopped that when work started coming in.
Nick: During the pandemic I was putting the Magic Roundabout LP together and sorting out the promotion with the band, best to be busy maybe? I’d retired as a mental health nurse in 2019 so had time to do that.
How long was Magic Roundabout a band?
Linda: We formed around the summer of 1986 but split in early 1988. So not long.
How did it come together?
Linda: I was attending Art College and met Paul (Chadwick, bass) on the bus. We chatted about music and decided to form the band.
Was it named after the TV show?
Where all have you lived? And where do you live now?
Linda: We all lived in and around Bolton, then the band all moved to Nottingham. Nick lives in Shipley. Myself, Paul and Karrie live in Stockport. Nicola is in Bolton and Maria in Sheffield now.
What were you listening to at the time? Did you feel part of a scene, a community?
Linda: I loved indie/alternative music, ’60s and local bands. Yes, I liked to go to local gigs and support them.
Nick: Shop Assistants and Jesus and Mary Chain were our stepping off points. We’d been passionate about Bauhaus, Cocteau Twins, The Fall before them, but I think we were 17/18 in ’86/’87 & we couldn’t play very well. We’d wished we’d been born in the ’60s because everything seemed to be going downhill in the ’80s. To think how it is now. ¶ We were friends with Inspiral Carpets. We recorded at Clint’s studio and they were always supportive of us, there was The Tyme Element, King of the Slums, Dub Sex that we felt an affinity with, at the same level as us, getting nowhere really.
Were you playing lots of shows at the time?
Linda: We seemed to gig quite regularly in 1987 flitting from city to city. We played some quite interesting gigs alongside well known indie bands at the time.
Were you from musical families?
Linda: My mother’s family were musical my Aunt sang professionally for 30 years and appeared on TV.
Nick: My maternal granddad had a great voice and I was told he was a great pianist in the pub, but not so much really.
What were you like as teenagers?
Linda: I was a chatterbox; Nick was precocious the rest of the band were quiet types.
First gig? First record you bought with your own money?
Linda: I went to see Blancmange with my best friend at Manchester Apollo.
I bought “Man With the Child in His Eyes” by Kate Bush.
Nick: Toyah at 13 with my mum; “Mickey” Toni Basil.
Why was the original LP never released?
Nick: There never was an LP. We just had a lot of recordings, actually enough for a double LP. In ’87 we really got the recording bug and it was relatively cheap to record in studios that were appearing in Manchester. We recorded a few longform pieces (as I’d guess they’d be called today) we could only fit one on a single LP.
Linda: We seemed to whip through 1987 like a whirlwind and never endeavoured to find a label or promoter at the time.
Did John Peel ever give it attention?
Linda: I don’t think we sent him any recordings? But if we did maybe he just had too many to listen to.
How did it end up coming out on Third Man?
Linda: Originally Ian Masters and Nick fancied releasing it from old cassette copies, but Third Man got to hear it and wanted to sign us. So we all jumped on board.
What role did Ian Masters and Warren Defever play in getting the record out?
Linda: Originally Ian Masters did a cover of our song “Carol in Your Eyes.” He asked me to pen out the lyrics from an old cassette copy. Then Ian and Nick wanted to release all our best recordings. So through Warren and Third Man our old cassette recordings got cleaned up remastered and pressed onto vinyl to our delight (no tape hiss).
Nick: We’d met Ian Masters at one of our gigs in ’87 and, as I did the sorting out bit of the band, he befriended me. Magic Roundabout were booked to headline Pale Saints’ first gig in Leeds in 88 by Ian, but we spit up before that could happen. We stayed in touch and became good friends. We (me and Ian) released stuff as PinkEyeSore in the 2000s, recording by post. ¶ More recently Ian encouraged us to do something with our old recordings. Which we obviously did.
What other bands were you guys in? are you in now?
Linda: I have been in many bands as well as playing solo and duo over the years. Some covers bands and some original. At the moment I gig as solo, duo/band, playing original/covers.
What are you up to these days? Jobs, pets, kids?
Linda: I teach guitar, bass, vocals, keyboards, ukulele and percussion as well as running regular music nights, I do mainly covers gigs. I’ve played most genres. I have one son. No pets as I’m too busy to devote my time to one at the moment.
What are you watching, reading, listening to?
Linda: I like watching documentaries on music, art and sciences.
I don’t watch any terrestrial TV. I like European cinema.
I support local writers of prose and poetry.
I like reading books on health, diet and psychology.
I like a variety of musical styles, most stuff apart from death metal and really dull current pop music.
What are Thee Objects up to these days?
Linda: I’ve worked with Nick over the years and written and recorded with him. The current lineup doesn’t include me at the moment due to other musical commitments but we are hoping to get to together pretty soon to collaborate once again.
Nick: That feels like a whole other story. Recording with Nikki Barr of ’80s UK band Bubblegum Splash! and with Ollie from Evans The Death this year hopefully. Maybe some more 3 Eyed Monkey. ¶ We are looking to release a tape/LP of a couple of Magic Roundabout tracks from ’88, “She’s a Waterfall 2” and “Buildings of Sunshine” and remix/reimaging of MR songs by some pals this year as well, plus part 2 of our comic by Simon Beecroft. Lots of other stuff to be honest.
Records Magic Roundabout cannot live without
Larkin Poe, Venom & Faith
John Lennon, Imagine,
Melody Gardot, My One And Only Thrill
G Love and the Special Sauce, S/T
This Mortal Coil, It’ll End In Tears
Carpenters, Close To You
The Velvet Underground & Nico, S/T
David Bowie, Black Star
Frank Zappa, Apostrophe
Echo & the Bunnymen, Porcupine
The Velvet Underground, White Light/White Heat
Broadcast, Tender Buttons
Pefkin, Celestial Lights
Severed Heads, Clifford Darling, Please Don’t Live in the Past
Leonard Cohen, Songs of Love & Hate
The Seeds, “Mr Farmer”
Silver Apples, “Program”
Poison Girls, “Persons Unknown”