The Magic If: a short history

We started off as a college band at University College, Oxford in 1991. Original members were: David Hoffman (guitar), James Geddes (piano), Richie Primer (bass) and Matt Butcher (drums); together with a variety of vocalists and guitarists. After a few years jamming, and a couple of line-up changes – young Geddes buzzed off to Chicago, being replaced by Jeremy Cooper, and we were joined by Andy Bell (guitar) – we were struck by a genuine tragedy: the sudden death of our bass player, the much beloved Richie, without warning in 1994.

Thus our first real gig – sadly – was Richie’s tribute gig, with Matt Butcher on bass and Matt Perry on drums. Other college type stuff followed – including later Gordon Davies on bass (a long-time jamming dude with young Hoffman) and Paul Castell on sax. The Magic If wound down after a few gigs and some demos in 1995 as we all wandered from Oxford.

However, music (writing and recording) went on, and by 1997 a relocation to Manchester by Hoffman and Davies led to revived playing, joined by David Boyle on harmonica and keyboard. Since then, there has been a long and spinal-tap-esque search for drummers… Meanwhile Hoffman continues to plug away at the recording, producing a number of demos with a variety of guest artists and producers, such as Avi Amitai (Israeli rocker) and Doug and Graeme ‘Snap’ Rappoport (Los Angeles dudes of the highest order).

Whilst the odd gig and the occasional demo have not really flowered into a major musical career for our brave heroes, the Magic If still considers itself alive, if resting, rather than deceased… and there is the odd gig, whether collectively or solo, such as David’s sets at the Jewish event, Limmud, 2003 onwards, Blues for Jews, later Shir Chadash, with a host of assistance from others. David now performs also with Shir Chadash and as part of the Jewish songwriting collective, Shira Britannia.

And then early 2008, we finally got into a recording studio, with David, Gordon and Andy, plus Asher Dresner, Naomi Soetendorp and guests Alex Toff and Judith Silver, produced by Jon and Andy from Shock Productions – an actual CD resulted! Plus there has been more recording since with Joel Berkowitz, Nathan Finkel, Richard Muswell, Dean Staker and others (which crosses over with the other Hoff band, the Token Vegetation). All of this is now available as the ‘Blues for Jews’ remastered CD .

Same recording sessions remastered, plus a bunch of other material recorded by Sean Kelsey of Chilli Inc Studios has now led to the full on Magic If album – all the classic Magic If tracks from the 25 year history of the band freshly recorded, or at least polished up and remastered.

And then there’s the Friday night Synagogue band Shir Chadash – more details on their page – an outlet for Hoffman’s liturgical compositions, as well as those of others. Shir Chadash now has a CD out as well – email for details.

Plus the Jewish rock albums ‘Kadosh‘ – full on Jewish rock, produced by Glenn Grossman in New York, with a host of guest musicians (details on the recordings page) – and the title track is now the subject of Hoff’s first proper music video. And ‘Ancient Inspiration’ produced by Sean Kelsey at Chilli Inc Studios and featuring various of the Shir Chadash and Token Vegetation bands.

So the story continues and the magic flows on – if we ever get a drummer, a gig, a record…


This page is dedicated to the fond memory of the late, great Richie Primer – our bass player with the fifties’ quiff