The Magic Mixture






The formation of “Magic Mixture” owes everything to the meeting of Mel Hacker and Terry Thomas who were both students at the Central Foundation Boys’ School in Central London.  Although they had been in different classes, as six formers both chose to do ‘A’ Level Art.  They were the only two in a class that had never existed before as nobody in the school had ever taken Art at that level.  In the course of their studies, Terry discovered that Mel played the guitar and could perform convincing renditions of the chart hits from “The Shadows” and other groups.  Terry wanted to learn the guitar and Mel taught him everything he knew.  Pretty soon Terry’s abilities were clear to hear; he had found his vocation.

In 1962 the pair then formed a school band, “Peter and the Wolves” with Peter Rabin on vocals.  They played at school dances and local gigs.  Several other bands followed including “The Rest” and “The Amalgamation,” each one playing the hot music of the period from Stax and Tamla soul, through Hendrix, The Kinks and finally to the blues.  Terry & Mel formed a new band, “Maton’s Magic Mixture”, named after a school friend, John Maton, who was forever concocting new mixtures in the chemistry laboratory.  With Terry on guitar and Mel on bass, they needed a drummer so advertised in the “Melody Maker”.  At the subsequent audition the choice was narrowed down to two: Andy Beranius and Simon Kirke (subsequently drummer in the “Black Cat Bones”, “Free” and “Bad Company”).  Andy was offered the job.  However as he was about to sit his ‘A’ Levels’, the choice fell to Simon and this new three-piece blues band was born.  Incidentally Simon and Terry were to work together again some two decades later when Terry produced several albums for “Bad Company”.

The band played the college circuit around London supporting many “big name” groups of the era.  Mel had a day job as a technician at the City University where he met a student, Stan Curtis, who had an eight-piece band “The Baez Band”, named after Stan who was known as “Baez”; another long story.  This band had some spare equipment so Mel persuaded Stan to lend Terry some extra speaker cabinets so he could play louder!  Stan became friends with the band and when “The Baez Band” disbanded (after several members graduated college and left London), Terry invited him to join “Maton’s Magic Mixture” as bass player .

Shortly afterwards Simon left the band and Cliff Reuter (known to one and all as “Fifi”) stepped in as drummer.  The band was then re-named “Magic Mixture”.  It was decided that they needed an organist and, for some reason that made sense at the time, chose Stan to take up the instrument.  Mel and Stan went shopping and came back with a brand new Hammond M102 organ.  It was a horrendously expensive instrument bought on hire-purchase.  A week later the band was back on the road doing the college circuit supporting such bands as “Traffic”, “The Pink Floyd”, “Chicken Shack” and “Smile” (later “Queen”).

Some months later several things happened in rapid succession. The band signed to the John Edward Entertainment Agency and Jack McCulloch (named Jack Collins on the album) joined as drummer.  Jack’s brother, the late Jimmy McCulloch, was a teenage guitarist of impressive ability and he made guest appearances  with the band for a series of open air concerts in London parks where he performed a couple of songs during each gig. Jimmy went on to co-form “Thunderclap Newman” and then to play with Paul McCartney in “Wings”.  John Edwards introduced the band to Saga Records, a label known for budget priced classical releases but which had recently employed Lyn Chick as a promotions’ publicist to sign up new rock bands.  Saga signed the band for three albums and the recording sessions were at the label’s own studio at 15A Maresfield Gardens in London, NW3. This was actually the basement of the home of Marcel Rodd, the owner of Saga, and was used as a children’s nursery during the week.  The album was recorded on Saturday, 26th June 1968.

The word “studio” may be something of an exaggeration as it was little more than a large basement room which had a wooden shack – the control room – built in one corner.  The equipment was rudimentary with a small home-made mixing desk; a pair of Ampex 2-track recorders and a cellar rigged up as an echo chamber.  The band became suspicious when told to keep the microphones out of shot on any photographs; probably because they all carried the label “Property of the BBC”.  Indeed by the end of the session, the band had formed the opinion that the two engineers were BBC employees doing some moonlighting and all the equipment would be back safely at work on the Monday morning.

The recordings were all done with the absolute minimum of post-production. The band performed a song so that levels could be set, then a recording was made. Every backing track of the album was recorded in just the one take then the band went off somewhere for lunch.  In the afternoon the vocals were added and again just the one take was allowed and the album was finished.  All that remained was the photo session for the album cover and a few publicity pictures.   The album was released a few months later in September, price 10/-.

It is often commented that the “Motor bike song” does not fit musically with the rest of the album.  What actually happened is that the band was contracted to record 12 tracks and Terry had 11 tracks written and ready.  With the clock ticking Stan offered one of his own songs “Angellina” which was a rather soppy love song.  Terry refused to sing such stuff and instead took the tune, speeded it up and added some new lyrics to produce a joke song which Mel subsequently sang with a mock Somerset yokel accent  (not, as is often said, a cockney accent although Mel did live in Brick Lane) and Stan played the organ in the style of Reg Dixon at the Blackpool Tower Mighty Wurlitzer.

For a time it seemed that Magic Mixture might see real success.  The track “Moonbeams” got several plays on Radio 1 and Lyn secured the band a supporting gig at the 1969 Isle of White Festival headlined by Bob Dylan.  This fell through as Saga had decided that pop music was not profitable enough; their experiment ended and Lyn Chick moved on.  The band now without a label or publicist rather lost hope and Jack left to eventually tour with his brother’s band, Thunderclap Newman.  Fifi was called back as a replacement drummer when the band reformed as “Pleasant Street”.  With this line-up, they recorded four demo tracks at Regents Sounds Studios, Denmark Street which have been never been heard until now.  However this band soon faded from the scene so Terry and Stan went on to form a new band “Ax” with Nicko McBrain on drums (later with Iron Maiden).  After some conflict in this group Terry and Stan left to form a new band with John Anderson on bass and Steve Gadd on drums. Some months later Stan left to live near Cambridge but the band continued and became “Charlie” achieving great success in the USA and recording 8 albums. Terry Thomas continues to write, perform and produce.

The album "This is the Magic Mixture" is available in several formats including:-

Sunbeam Records CD number B001GNTHMW (version sanctioned by the band) 18 tracks including 6 previously unheard tracks >>>>>more info HERE

Sunbeam Records Vinyl number B001GNTHMC (version sanctioned by the band) a double disc pack with the original 12 track album and a 12inch bonus disc of 6 previously unheard tracks >>>>more info HERE

Wah Wah Records Vinyl (import not sanctioned by the band) has the original 12 tracks

Akarma Records Vinyl (import not sanctioned by the band) a high quality pressing of 180 gms from the original master tapes; limited to just 500 discs

There are at least five other CD issues out there which the band has never approved

The original Master Tapes are in the custody of Stan Curtis

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