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Manfred Mann

Often mistakenly referred to as a solo artist rather than a bonafide band, namesake keyboardist Manfred Mann was creative player-manager to a series of frontmen, six in total, namely Paul Jones, Mike d’Abo, original Mike Hugg (when re-named MANFRED MANN CHAPTER THREE), Mick Rogers (twice!), Chris Thompson (thrice!) and Robert Hart – the latter half when the group transpired into MANFRED MANN’S EARTH BAND. The first incarnation was an integral part of the British beat movement of the mid-60s (over a dozen hits including three No.1’s: `Do Wah Diddy Diddy’, `Pretty Flamingo’ and `Mighty Quinn’), while EB fitted uncomfortably into the 70s progressive-rock scene (best-known Top 10 hits: `Joybringer’, `Blinded By The Light’ and `Davy’s On The Road Again’), and so on into the 80s, 90s, 00s…
MANFRED MANN were formed in London in late ’62, initially as The Mann-Hugg Blues Band. Consisting at this stage of Manfred Mann (born Manfred Lubowitz, 21 October 1940, Johannesburg, South Africa), drummer/pianist Mike Hugg, guitarist Mike Vickers (also sax/flute), bassist Dave Richmond and singer Paul Jones (also harmonica), they performed locally as Manfred Mann & The Manfreds until, on the advice of producer John Burgess, they simply went by the name of MANFRED MANN. Different and distinctive from The BEATLES in the fact they had an organ player (sometimes two!) at the forefront of their mighty sound, the jazz/blues-inflected group secured a deal at H.M.V. Records.
After being trapped in the stalls for false starts `Why Should We Not’ (an instrumental) and `Cock-A-Hoop’ in 1963, early the following year MANFRED MANN gate-crashed the Top 5 with the harmonica-fuelled R&B classic `5-4-3-2-1’, a tune Mann & Hugg had scribed for the TV show Ready Steady Go!; Richmond had now been replaced by Tom McGuinness. With a beat derivative to its predecessor, another self-penned cut `Hubble Bubble (Toil And Trouble)’ just about cracked the Top 10, another step toward their inaugural transatlantic chart-topper `Do Wah Diddy Diddy’ (an earlier minor hit for The EXCITERS).
Deciding to freeze out their 45s on their debut LP, THE FIVE FACES OF MANFRED MANN (1964) {*7}, preferring instead to rely on a barrel-load of R&B covers (at least on the Brit version), the group still managed to break the Top 3. Along with a couple of Jones-penned cuts, a group composition and Mann-Jones’ `I’m Your Kingpin’, blues was the over-riding factor here on staples `Smokestack Lightning’, `Hoochie Coochie’, `I’ve Got My Mojo Working’, `Down The Road Apiece’ and `Bring It To Jerome’; incidentally, the US Top 40 version (“The Manfred Mann Album”) was a couple of tracks short, while their take on “The Five Faces Of…” (1965) was completely different.
`Sha La La’ (snatched from The SHIRELLES), `Come Tomorrow’, MAXINE BROWN’s `Oh No, Not My Baby’ and DYLAN’s `If You Gotta Go, Go Now’, reeled off four further major hits for the combo, and once again there was no sign of them on sophomore UK Top 10 album, MANN MADE (1965) {*6}. Together with individually-penned songs by Hugg, Jones, Vickers and McGuinness, half the set was littered with covers including `Since I Don’t Have You’ (from The SKYLINERS), `The Way You Do The Things You Do’ (The MIRACLES) and `Stormy Monday’ (T-BONE WALKER).
Featuring ex-Bluesbreakers/GRAHAM BOND addition Jack Bruce on the chart-topper `Pretty Flamingo’ (scribed by Mark Barkan), the shockingly disappointing `You Gave Me Somebody To Love’ (with CREAM-bound Bruce replaced by Berlin-born Klaus Voorman), was not the only personnel change that year.
Fans and pundits alike could’ve been forgiven for looking twice at freshman singer Mike d’Abo (ex-Band Of Angels), PAUL JONES’s ringer replacement for their first Fontana 45, `Just Like A Woman’ (another DYLAN ditty). Restoring their Top 10 ranking, fans hoping that the group’s religiously-staunch approach to matching singles with albums were probably happier that the song was tagged on as a bookend on AS IS (1966) {*5}, but because there was no `Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. James’ (their accompanying No.2 smash), the LP fell short of expectations and the Top 20; it was also issued at a time when PAUL JONES was achieving his first of four hits, `High Time’. Of the album itself, songs by each individual (the northern soul-esque `Dealer, Dealer’ and the hangover of `Morning After The Party’) were somewhat overshadowed by a re-vamp of Johnny Mercer’s jazzy `Autumn Leaves’.
Sandwiched between the major success stories of `Ha! Ha! Said The Clown’ and other outsider song `Mighty Quinn’ (a No.1 straight from DYLAN’s “Basement Tapes”), the instrumental `Sweet Pea’ (from TOMMY ROE) and the vaudevillian `So Long, Dad’ (scribed by RANDY NEWMAN) had slowed things down to a snail’s pace chart-wise.
Bolstered by their slightly low-key cameo singing `My Little Red Book’ in BURT BACHARACH’s soundtrack to Peter Collinson’s What’s New Pussycat? in ’65, their catchy line in stomp-pop singles had put MANFRED MANN ahead of the cinematic queue. Despite Collinson’s reservations, chiefs Mann & Hugg transcended the Ready Steady Go! appeal with UP THE JUNCTION (1968) {*6}. It was their first post-“Sgt. Pepper’s” album, and it showed: the title theme’s kitchen-sink psyche was one part LENNON/McCARTNEY, two parts BRIAN WILSON, infatuated with elongated vowels and harmonic premonition. Just as charming in moulding The BEATLES’ tropes were `Just For Me’ and `Walking Round’. Minus the florid pretension, the latter could well’ve been another No.1, and one had to hand it to Messrs Mann and Hugg for putting their film credentials where their harpsichord was (the soundtrack generated not one single hit). On the gorgeous `Love Theme’, the dapper gait of Burt himself silhouetted the orchestrations and brass arrangements, and their proficiency in hard swinging soul-jazz (`I Need Your Love’ in Les McCann motif) was another revelation, gilded by freaky Voorman reed parts on `Sheila’s Dance’ and the eerie `Wailing Horn’.
While Americans had a few extra choice 45s available to hear on the doctored THE MIGHTY QUINN {*6}, Britons again felt short-changed on its cousin MIGHTY GARVEY! (1968) {*6}. Cloning other combos that had (or were about to go) celluloid: The KINKS, The SPENCER DAVIS GROUP and HERMAN’S HERMITS, d’Abo and/or Hugg were in control of this set (`The Vicar’s Daughter’ and `Country Dance’), the exception was the forgettable destruction of LEADBELLY’s `Black Betty’ and the aforementioned Tony Hazzard piece, `Ha! Ha! Said The Clown’; after climbing the charts again with John Simon’s (You Are What You Eat movie-bound) `My Name Is Jack’, MANFRED MANN “phase one/two” wound up proceedings with further Top 10 breakers: Hazzard’s `Fox On The Run’ and Mitch Murray & Peter Callander’s `Ragamuffin Man’.
© MC Strong 1994-2004/GRD/LCS // rev-up MCS Jun2015

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