The story of MagellanMusic from its beginnings many years ago, giving insight into the development of this amazing underground phenomenon.
Details about the four protagonists.
- FELLOW TRAVELERS
Over the years a myriad of musicians and misfits and have joined forces with MagellanMusic to entertain crowds, and to produce an assortment of recordings
Sometimes these history stories are more boring than a drilling company, but what the heck? Maybe it's actually worth a shot...
Usually it's music that begins interest in music, so to better understand that let's pretend Yogi Berra says, "I ain't sure, but maybe I understand what he don't make sense sayin' if he says what he doesn't mean." A dish of macaroni and cheese won't help. Basically, it was the Beatles that got MagellanMusic's attention. It was one of those mind bashing moments that a lot of people will never forget. Except for Elvis maybe, no single appearance ever had such impact on so many. Jeff and his brother Ike were captured like millions of others and had more fun in school than they ever would because everybody else was smitten too. Jeff remembers arguments between guys because their favorite Beatle was the most important thing on the planet.
Even better for Jeff and Ike was their father. He was a wacky morning radio personality and had access to records way before anybody else did. Jeff remembers walking around his neighborhood carrying a portable record player, playing Beatles endlessly. Especially "Can't Buy Me Love". He played that one so much that it was like a bald tire. Later on in life Jeff was laughed out of a tire shop when he took it in to get a retread.
Needless to say, it lead into a love for all music. Radio became their schtick. Rock had been in a slump for a while, for reasons like: Alan Freed's payola bust, violence at concerts, Elvis' change to MOR and singing with Frank Sinatra on national TV, Buddy Holly's death, Carl Perkins' near death car crash, Jerry Lee Lewis' marrying his 13 year old cousin, police and legal problems with Chuck Berry, etc. It was also a time of goofy novelty songs like the Chipmunks, "Polka Dot Bikini", "Purple People Eaters" - good Lord! The only thing that kept rock going was the girl groups, for whom the Beatles had done many cover versions. But when they 'happened' there was no looking back. Rock definitely took hold. Listening to the radio was a good experience because there were still artists like Steve Lawrence, Connie Francis, and Louis Armstrong on the charts, but that was soon to change.
As time progressed Jeff and Ike were swept into the music scene and the fascination with guitars. The guitar in those days became the most popular instrument, so popular that a poll showed kids desiring rock stardom more so than being a President, normally their ultimate dream. Jeff and Ike were zonked by it too, endlessly pouring through the Sears catalog in the electronics/music section. Rock music exposure increased very rapidly. Even Elvis knew he couldn't compete and didn't try. By 1967, Rock had grown to the level of "Art" thanks to the Beatles 'Sgt. Pepper' album. (Only one critic didn't like it and we never heard if the rumor was true that he was banished to the Yukon Territory in Canada.) Not only was Sgt. Pepper a major step forward musically, it created the whole new genre of 'Progressive Rock'.
This genre truly opened up a new door. It allowed Rock to progress to a point almost unidentifiable with normal radio programming. Except! Few 'progressive' songs were playable. AM radio was the boss and it was the emergence of FM that made such a difference. College FM radio had the freedom to play anything they wanted and it was often the 'way out' groups heard. Sometimes they would play entire album sides. Today the Radio scene is so different that it's relevent only to say that in comparison it sucks! But anyway...
This is what lead into MagellanMusic. Jeff and Ike started learning music together about 1968, and by 1972 Jeff's interest was very high. So high that it was not often that he wasn't high. Yogi Berra once said, "Everytime I saw Jeff he'd say hi, and I'd say hi, and he'd say 'you wanna get hi?', and I'd say it's hi already. About 90°. He'd walk away laughin. What the hell was he sayin?" Good ol' Yogi!
Per and friends spent their High School years exploring many areas of illicit lifestyles and fun, a lot of which was music. The most progressive music forms were fully explored and appreciated. One night, Per and old drug mate Amariah Hession set possibly the world record for LSD intake in one night, estimated to be enough to obliterate the entire graduating class of Lone Oak High School, but it was moments like this that truly defined the importance of progressive rock. The sonic imagination was so spiritedthat in the Summer of 1975, Per finally gathered his fellow music fiendsand recorded the very first MagellanMusic album, "The Voyage of Magellan.
It was perhaps the worst album recorded in the history of music. Lack of professional recording experience dripped from it, but everyone has to start somewhere. In fact, their 'clique' of musician friends were impressed to no end because MagellanMusic were the only ones brave enough to attempt it. Plus, Amariah and Per played everywhere they could and would feature the entire album. Luckily there was no bloodcurdling, torturous screaming from those who listened, but many had to be awakened after their 'set' and would often say, "Did you get the license plate number of that truck!?"
What followed was a series of albums that greatly improved. They weren't at professional level, but their musical expressions were remarkable. MagellanMusic (especially Per) had prodigous writing output and a distinctly original sound. It was acoustic, but explorative and much closer to their 'progressive rock' inspirations. Many were taken aback (but would come forward again) and would actually admit, "This doesn't suck." By 1977 the acoustic approach would end, but after five albums there was no doubt that MagellanMusic had talent.
One point to make is the emergence of Phanus Phallus Phobias. MagellanMusic's fourth album was called "Death of a Favorite Cat" and featured comic folk parodies. It was a gutsy, straightforward, no holds barred style, and filled with the profanities. Today, sold in a store, they would definitely require an 'explicit lyrics' warning label. It was so unlike the MagellanMusic around it that it was considered seperate, and was given that bizarre name which seems to suggest psychological 'Fear of Penis' (Amariah's favorite subject). But as long as it's weird who cares? We will cover more on Phanus elsewhere on this site.
1977 was an extremely transitional year. After "...Favorite Cat" came the live recording of "The Boyd Hall Idiocy", then perhaps their best album of the acoustic years, "Made". It was a truly progressive album, based on the previous "Interpretation of Derek's Story" by Mikada Minn. Per couldn't let Mikada just rot away, so he incorporated various pieces of it with mostly new stuff. He was really nervous about the ol' plagiarism thing, and some of Bjorn's licks were good. Thankfully, except for the intro and outro segments, there was little taken from Mikada Minn. It was completely original and achieved the same effect of achieving the closest to their heroes. Very original, better than Mikada in a lot of ways.
It was a weird time too. Lots of the guys had started to move on. Per hooked up with some people who were good, but not quite the same as the familiar music crowd. It felt drier; like wiping your butt with gas station quality paper rather than Charmin. It was later in the year that AAA Marrz came into the fold and it was then that MagellanMusic changed - they became a contemporary, electrified pop group. This level was new but exciting to them. It was a good time to turn pro not just because of all the 'pay your dues' theology, but the need to find such little work that they could study 'I am starving' concepts.
The albums to follow were a brand new avenue but they turned out well. It didn't take them long to get comfy with the live 'gig' scene, except cleanliness. They knew how rough 'n' tough bar guys would use sinks as pissers, so they would more accurately 'let it out' when recording albums. Five albums came out in the coming years, their last one in 1981 called "Troik Systems". They were all good, but they had really tired of the recording set up. It was too old fashioned; too limiting. They were frustrated to the point of saying to friends, "We're frustrated to the point of...", and letting it go at that.
Lots and lots of live playing with different groups came next, mostly by Per and AAA. Per went to New Wave and AAA graduated down to Country. Interesting efforts, but at least it kept them musically busy. Obviously the sad part was the lack of MagellanMusic. They would say things like, "Oh, Magellan had a rough night last night and are trying to sleep it off." Or, "Magellan is on a trip. Around the world, that is." Or, "MagellanMusic is conjugating the repugnance of philosophical meanderings indicative of the dispersonal Religionist attitudes and misguided Spiritual inflect." At this point a distant stare would take over the conversation (or lack thereof) and everything would be lovely.
Per couldn't quite give up on MagellanMusic and started spending time developing a new style of acoustic guitar. It was a style that he perfected by practising often at a cemetary. He figured that if a corpse rose up and said, "Would you please STOP IT!?" he'd know to give it up. Thankfully that never happened, and the new play technique would always stay with him. The last MagellanMusic recording made was in 1984 and it was called "Songs for the Evening". It was entirely acoustic but with a 'ballad' approach, completely different than what they'd ever done. Many wondered if Per was a soap opera fan. Or a romantic novel reader. Or went shopping at Victoria's Secret. Until Per warned the person believed to have started these rumors that if he said it ever again he'd soon take a long holiday at Lake Disapperior...
That was the last album for years to come. What helped keep interest alive was the arrival of Vladimir Zsoerbin. He had become a big MagellanMusic fan and couldn't stop himself from starting a fan club. It included GE, Sunbeam, Holmes, and Carrier, but every now and then he mentioned the group as well. It opened up a new, 'inside' view of the band, which made them much more interesting. Besides all the inanity of Phanus there was a lot more humor than other fans expected. They'd even laugh sometimes.
Fortunately, Per accidently discovered a means of recording that could include everyone who cared to join in. Everyone who found out were just as amazed as Per, particularly when it was clear they had fewer pieces of equipment than worms have teeth. Since MagellanMusic had been thought dead forever it was a truly momentous occasion. They spent months working on it with bare essentials, but so much music poured out that they compared it to a 4 hour pee. Plus, many members rejoined so they could share in the happiness. It was called "R", and was so widespread in styles that it was sort of their answer to the "White Album".
From there MagellanMusic reestablished themselves as a continuing band. Live work was out, since they lived in a circle the size of the United States, but they definitely kept working. It was a time of rediscovery that was surprising to all of them. So much time had been spent living life so alien to music that any direction was worth the effort. Not the direction the Titanic took. In the next 10 years the most imaginative, adventurous recordings would take place, each improving with sound quality as better and better gear wasn't stolen, actually acquired legitimately. Two really interesting ones were 'live' albums that featured updated songs from the past. Of course they really weren't 'live' albums (making them outright lies to so many die-hard fans, but an attempt to better their listening pleasures at whatever the cost to those wonderful ears), but recorded as if it really was 'live'.
In 1995 more firsts took place (again) with the appearance of Phanus Phallus Phobias' first complete album, as well as the first Christmas album. Strange that it had "XXX" on the front and needed about 5 warning labels but it may have been the most popular MagellanMusic/Phanus album ever. Then in 1997 Ellis Dee was a new and very welcome member because he was the most gifted drummer they could have asked for. Well, MagellanMusic one time asked for Ringo Starr but that's beside the point. The resulting project was their first blessed CD and it was called "A Strange Traffic of Dreams". It was a moment all the members had waited for; the ability to fully understand that quality was worth selling in a store, and to actually see it sitting on a shelf made them shake in their boots. When urine would also drip down their legs they'd have to run faster'n jackals to the bathroom which would shut off that valve. Nice way to express excitement, eh!? "...Strange Traffic..." was undoubtedly their best example of varied styles. There was no way to describe it other than to ask, "Do you like Ice Cream cones?" If so, it was an actual possible sell. A good time to note that this CD was the best selling title MagellanMusic ever had - 20 copies!! So exhilerating a moment that all the boys went out to Taco Bell and celebrate without spending more than 10 bucks. An unforgettable night!
If that weren't enough, work began on the next MagellanMusic CD, and from the beginning it developed like no other project. It wasn't an unusual aroma such as not emptying the garbage for three weeks (notorious habit of Derek's), but very different. They weren't sure what it's name would be, but some of the songs were borderline New Age. Every time the band would hear tracks they'd wake up as if they had just smoked too much 'macaroni'. "Wow" was a collective sigh. They were not aware that it was AAA's sigh everytime he pooped.
MagellanMusic were closing in on completion of the CD when disaster struck. It was January of 2000 when Per Jensen suffered a burst aneurysm in his brain. There is simply no way to describe the anguish, fear and pain from such an encounter, but even worse, it was a very complex case. Over the next three years there were 2 more aneurysms, 2 more surgeries, a stroke, a nasty seizure syndrome - ultimately disabling him and creating a permanent affliction called Traumatic Brain Injury. It was Dr. Eric Nussbaum, Director of Neurovascular Surgery at St. Josephís Hospital in St. Paul, and his lovely assistant Nancy Mattsen who saved his life, to whom he shares eternal gratitude. Thanks to them, the miracle of life goes on.
"Ghost of a Living Twilight" finally appeared in May 2001, and it was immediately (deservedly) considered MagellanMusic's best album to date. It had a sound and quality that was best described in the by-line included on the cover - "The New Age of Rock" - and it was as accurate as could be said. (Many have commented that after listening to it one feels like they had enjoyed a toke or two of Mary Wanna!) Besides the flowing, esoteric qualities of the songs and performances,the most notable change was Cy Kadellick replacing Amariah Hession on keyboards. He gave much more expressive, vibrant touches of color to their sound. It was so much more imaginative that this is partly why MagellanMusic took on an adventurous project that we will speak of in a moment. Most impressive was the new record for sales by reaching a whopping total of 32 copies!! This time the guys splurged with a dynamic 13 course meal - a bucket of KFC and a 12-pack! Definitely another unforgettably forgettable experience (except they later partied so hard they don't remember it).
In 2004 a surprising and unexpected release happened in August, a compilation of Phanus tunes called "MagellanMusic presents: Phanus Phallus Phobias - Greatest Shits!" It was a superb collection of their best songs, re-mastered and re-edited for a tight, wham-bam kind of presentation. Even the cover and all liner notes were so filled with humor that the entire effort seems like complete submergance into crazed wackiness (which to them is normal, everyday life anyway). No MagellanMusic CD has ever had public response like this one. Some declared it MagellanMusic's best album ever, others called it a perfect soundtrack for a long trip tothe outhouse. New listeners compare it to a boiling witches brew of Spike Jones, Homer & Jethro, and George Carlin, yet it was rumored that sales were good because people were buying it just to destroy it. After an album like "Ghost of a Living Twilight", how could this possibly be the same band? Is it the musical equivalent of a Bigfoot sighting? Did a UFO accidentally drop these CD's and it's merely alien refuse? Was this masterminded by Derek Story because of brief stay in Bullschidt, Iowa? If we (or they) can ever figure it out we'll let you know!"
Fall of 2005 is going to see the release of a very special MagellanMusic CD called "Yesterday's Children". It's special to them personally because it isn't simply the result of recent writings. It was inspired by 'Free as a Bird' by the Beatles. The idea of going back to an old song recorded on a simple, home-style cassette player and transforming it into a wistful ballad was astounding. Most of MagellanMusic's catalog before "A Strange Traffic of Dreams" can't be released due to sound quality problems, so the Beatles' effort exactly mirrored their quandary It was in the early 90's when Per Jensen made the stunning discovery of an old recording thought lost forever, which was a very bold project that happened alongside MagellanMusic efforts throughout 1976, an attempt at music in the class of bands like Yes or King Crimson. With so many other songs available, they began work to try restoring all of them as the Beatles had done with 'Free as a Bird'. The results were fantastic; so good that work continued unabated. Those great old songs took on an entirely new character; very different from their original intent, but extremely satisfying in that they sounded exactly like they would have if current recording capabilities were available back then. The Phanus CD was released in the meantime because their work on "Yesterday's Children" was deliberately slow and careful, but now MagellanMusic presents great old songs that they aremore proud of than anything they've yet released.
Best of all, there is much more to come. MagellanMusic has always seen the future as a great thing to achieve, and as long they're alive they will do their best to reach it.
MagellanMusicwill go on until the last breath is taken.