Friday, April 19, 2013

Manfred Mann

Two friends with a shared love of jazz formed a band in 1962 called The Mann-Hugg Blues Band, named after themselves, South African-born keyboardist Manfred Mann and drummer/vibraphonist Mike Hugg. The band was completed with Mike Vickers on guitar and alto saxophone, bassist Dave Richmond and Paul Jones on lead vocals and harmonica. Before long they changed their name to Manfred Mann And The Manfreds and after making their way through London's club scene  became known for their distinctive jazz-influenced style. by 1963 the group signed on with the His Master's Voice record label and the label's producer, John Burgess apparently convinced Mann that his name only needed to appear in the band's name once, insisting that the name be shortened to simply Manfred Mann. The band's first single, the instrumental "Why Should We Not" failed to chart as did the vocal follow-up "Cock-A-Hoop".

In 1964 the band was asked to provide a theme song for the new ITV music program Ready, Steady, Go. What they came up with was "5-4-3-2-1" and with the help of weekly television exposure the song went to #5 on the U.K. singles chart. Shortly after the song's recording Richmond left the band to be replaced on bass guitar by Tom McGuinness, a friend of singer Jones. While Richmond would return to record with the group later, this would be the first of many personnel changes. The follow-up to "5-4-3-2-1", the self-penned"Hubble, Bubble (Toil And Trouble)" went nowhere, but the band scored big with the next single which went to #1 on the British, U.S. and Canadian charts. It was a cover of a song that earlier that year (1964) was a minor hit by The Exciters. The song was titled "Doo Wah Diddy".

With the success of "Doo Wah Diddy" the band's sound enevitably moved away from their jazz-influenced sound to more of a pop least on their singles. Their albums would continue to contain the experimental renditions of jazz standards they were known for earlier in their career. While the singles would be more towards a pop sound, on their LPs one would find the likes of Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man".

Manfred Mann would continue with a string of hit singles that for the most part were cover tunes transformed by the band's distinctive style,  such as The Shirelles' "Sha-La-La", and Bob Dylan compositions "Just Like A Woman", "Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. James" and "If Yo Gotta Go, Go Now", all top ten U.K. hits. This run hit a peak with the band's second #1 release, and certainly one of The British Invasion's greatest songs, "Pretty Flamingo".

While the band did a pretty good job at juggling the pop requirements of their singles output while satisfying their more progressive inclinations on the albums, they were unable to keep up with the orchestral and instrumental ambitions of Mike Vickers and the urge for a solo and acting career tugging at Paul Jones. Consquently, Jones served notice of his departure once a replacement was found which ended up with his sticking around for another year. Vickers, on the other hand gave no such notice, leaving within a few months. McGuinness moved over to guitar, which was his original instrument. He always acknowledged that on bass he always felt he was merely a guitarist doing someone else's job. The band then recruited Jack Bruce, fresh out of The Graham Bond Organization on bass guitar. Bruce's tenure was a brief one, playing on "Pretty Flamingo" and the band's all-instrumental EP Instrumental Asylum before leaving to join the supergroup Cream. He was replaced by bassist, artist and close associate of The Beatles, Klaus Voorman.
r /> Paul Jones was finally replaced in July of 1966 by Mike D'Abo, vocalist and composer of the popular song, "Handbags And Gladrags". The band then signed to Fontana Records and were produced by Shel Talmy who had produced The Who and The Kinks. While a perfectly fine singer, (his version of "Handbags And Gladrags" stands as one of the best) the fact that D'Abo lacked the depth and emotive power of his predecessor led the band to compensate by turning their singles output to a lighter pop direction as evidenced on songs like "My Name Is Jack" and "Ha Ha Said The Clown". Their chart power, at least in the U.K. remained undiminished with their string of D'Abo-sung singles consistently hitting the top 10. The most successful of these was yet another Bob Dylan cover, going #1 in the U.K., #3 in Canada and #10 in the U.S.
with "The Mighty Quinn".

At the time that their final hit, 1969's "Ragamuffin Man" was in the top 10, Manfred Mann disbanded. Mann and Hugg wrote advertising jingles for a time, then continued to work together in a group format with Manfred Mann's Chapter Three, an experimental jazz vehicle described by Mann as a reaction to the band's days as a hit-making machine. Mann later in the 70s formed Manfred Mann's Earth Band, a progressive rock unit that produced some of the finest music of the decade as well as classic rock staples such as "Joybringer" and their Bruce Springsteen cover of "Blinded By The Light". In the 1990s most of the line-up of the 60s group minus Mann himself toured as The Manfreds with both Paul Jones and Mike D'Abo singing, sometimes together. When remembering the British Invasion, one should never forget Manfred

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