After leaving the Buzzcocks in 1977, vocalist Howard Devoto formed Magazine with guitarist John McGeoch, bassist Barry Adamson, keyboardist Bob Dickinson, and drummer Martin Jackson. One of the first post-punk bands, Magazine kept the edgy, nervous energy of punk and added elements of art rock, particularly with their theatrical live shows and shards of keyboards. Devoto's lyrics were combinations of social commentary and poetic fragments, while the band alternated between cold, jagged chords and gloomy, atmospheric sonic landscapes.
Magazine performed their first concert in the fall of 1977 and were signed to Virgin Records by the end of the year; by that point, Dickinson had left the group. The band recorded its first single, "Shot by Both Sides," as a quartet; Devoto had written the song with his former Buzzcocks partner, Pete Shelley. Appearing in early 1978, the single gathered good reviews on both sides of the Atlantic and charted in the U.K., peaking at number 41. Before they recorded their debut album, keyboardist Dave Formula joined the lineup. Real Life, released later in 1978, continued the confrontational, arty pop-punk of "Shot by Both Sides." Following their first tour, Jackson left the group and was replaced by John Doyle. The new lineup recorded the band's second album, Secondhand Daylight (1979). Secondhand Daylight was somewhat of a departure from the debut, featuring more keyboards, smoother rhythms, and streamlined lyrics from Devoto. Despite its ambitiousness, the record was poorly received by the press. During this time, McGeoch played with Siouxsie & the Banshees, while Adamson, Formula, and McGeoch were part of Visage, along with Steve Strange. At the beginning of 1980, the band released its third album, The Correct Use of Soap.
In the summer of 1980, Magazine released "Sweetheart Contract," which became their second and last British chart hit, peaking at number 54. After it hit the charts, McGeoch left the band to become a full-time member of Siouxsie & the Banshees; he was replaced by Robin Simon. Magazine toured America and Australia and recorded a live album called Play, which was released at the end of 1980. Simon left at the end of the tour, with former Amazorblades guitarist Bob Mandelson taking his place. Magic, Murder and the Weather was released in the spring of 1981; it proved to be Magazine's last album until three decades later. Devoto left the group in May of 1981 to pursue a solo career and the band broke up shortly afterward.