MAGAZINE – ” Shot By Both Sides ” Classic Song’s

Posted: July 5, 2021 in MUSIC

Had you asked me, towards the end of the year or at any time since, what was the best single of 1978, I would rave at you cheerfully in favour of ‘Teenage Kicks’. But had you asked me that question at any time between, say, the spring of that year and the very end of Autumn, I would have had a different answer. I would have said Magazine, ‘Shot By Both Sides’.

“Shot by Both Sides” is a song written by Ex-Buzzcocks Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley, and performed by the English post-punk band Magazine. It was released in 20th January 1978 as the band’s first single (reaching No. 41 on the UK charts) and appeared a few months later on their debut album, “Real Life”.

The song originated in a riff that Pete Shelley came up with when Devoto was helping him with “some tentative Buzzcocks songs. He played the chord sequence and I was really impressed, said so, and he just gave them to me there and then. An identical guitar riff was used in the song “Lipstick” by Devoto’s former band released as a “B-Side” in November 1978, for which Devoto received a co-writing credit. The single feels like more of a traditional punk recording: raw and to the point, power chords, no keyboards. The version on “Real Life” is more produced (with John Leckie twiddling the knobs, as he did years later for Magazine-lovers Radiohead on their album The Bends), the guitars are a bit more layered and jangly, and there are interesting keyboard textures from Dave Formula, who I don’t think was a member of the band at the time of the single recording.

The name of the song came from a political argument between Devoto and his girlfriend, in which his girlfriend said to him, “Oh, you’ll end up shot by both sides”

The song has been cited as a seminal work of the post punk genre. The cover artwork was designed by Malcom Garrett, based on the 1886 work La Chimere regarda avec effroi toutes choses by Symbolist artist Odilon Redon.

The B Side to the single was “My Mind Ain’t So Open” Released on Virgin Records.

Out of the Buzzcocks came singer-songwriter Howard Devoto with Magazine, bringing a bit of prog to punk. In this brilliant opening salvo, the frenzied musical action is ricocheting around him and he’s stuck in the middle thinking he’s been “shot by both sides, they must have come to a secret understanding.” Is he exaggerating the protagonist’s sense of self-importance—that two sides would care enough to conspire to kill him? Is he paranoid? Or truly are there forces at work that want him dead? An anthem for anyone who’s felt just a bit persecuted at times.

‘Shot by Both Sides’ has muscle and energy, but it’s a focussed, targeted energy, as dark and paranoid as Devoto’s lyrics. Barry Adamson and Martin Gorski lay down a solid rhythm over which McGeogh doubles up on riff and lick. Devoto’s voices twists away from the sound, arch and affected, reminiscent of Steve Harley in its refusal to settle on a straight tone.
He works his way into the heart of the crowd, shocked to find what is allowed, losing himself in the heart of the crowd whilst the song hurtles towards him. The song’s confidence momentarily disintegrates, mimicking the sense of Devoto cracking, the rhythm chopping up, its momentum dispersing before Devoto goes full-on batshit paranoid. The middle of the song sees McGeogh go off into a high-speed solo, slashing at the notes in piercing fashion, before retreating to allow Devoto to give full reign to his drama. McGeogh, who was one of the most influential guitarists of his time, would come to the same conclusion, his departure from the band stemming in equal parts from frustration at Magazine’s lack of commercial success and the decreasing amount of space allowed for him and his guitars: he would be both ornament and architecture to Siouxsie and The Banshees’ lush middle period.

Live TV gig on July 2nd 1979 for Belgian TV show Folllies. The footage has been used on YT with the single dubbed on – here’s the real live sound and peformance in HQ.

‘Shot by Both Sides’ was Magazine’s first release. Howard Devoto had left The Buzzcocks because he wanted to do more than the pure punk sound, and in guitarist John McGeogh he found a musical partner more than capable of realising his ambitions to incorporate elements of progressive and avant garde music. Devoto envisaged a keyboard player, and between the single and the album versions of the track, he found one in Dave Formula, but in this moment the band were a four-piece, with McGeogh the dominant player, and ‘Shot by Both Sides’ was both introduction and farewell, looking Janus-like to future and past. It wraps itself in the punk sound of angry guitar, but its immediately a fuller, deeper sound, built upon a charging riff full of menace, and an ascending lick, a rising string of notes, written by Pete Shelley and generously allowed to form the keynote of this song.

Nothing the band did sounded remotely like as good as this. ‘Shot By Both Sides’ was pure, driving, musical ecstasy, power and energy in beautiful balance, taking over your ears until the only thing you wanted to do was to play it again, immediately, and louder! And forty-one years later, like ‘Teenage Kicks’, it hasn’t aged a second. Let the riff pound out and immediately we are trapped, in the middle of the crowd, overwhelmed by fear, “Shot by Both Sides.
And still the only response is to play it again.

The Band:

  • Howard Devoto vocals
  • John McGeoch guitar
  • Barry Adamson bass
  • Martin Jackson drums

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