5 Generations of Manfred Mann
Rock Magazine (US Magazine) 26 Feb 1973
The American public had barely recovered from Beatlemania when without warning we were assaulted by a third wave of the British Invasion...
"there she was, just a-walkin' down the street."
There was something about Manfred Mann that reminded those of us who were into jazz of a good soul jazz band. They played tunes like Cannonball
Adderly's "Sack O Woe" and Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man." Bluesfreaks noted the band's fondness for Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightnin"
and Muddy Waters' "Got My Mojo Workin'." Rock 'n Rollers noted the presence of tunes associated with Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley and the newer
generation of rock music fans found Manfred's musicality well in line with their Liverpool fab faves, The Beatles. In back of this was a man named Manfred Lubowitz.
"I came to England from South Africa in 1961," Manfred recalled, "had Mike Hugg and myself had a kind of freak version of the Modern Jazz Quartet.
he played vibes and I played piano, and as that ran it was just impossible in England to earn a living. We were doing a lot of Thelonius Monk and
influenced by Coltrane and Ornette Coleman and people like that. I'd never heard of Chuck Berry or Bo Diddley and I was listening to Miles Davis and
Ornette Coleman. When I came to England and couldn't earn a living, one got involved with other people. We got into this thing where if you did the
right kind of Ray Charles, the right kind of Charlie Mingus, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, gradually this sort of vague mixture came about."
Manfred Mann and his Earth Band were spending the Saturday afternoon in New York at that champion home away from home for pop stars, the
Holiday Inn. Various band members and friends and press were spread out around the room watching TV, drinking beer, talking, doing whatever pop
people do in their spare time, mostly waiting. Toby Goldstein, Polydor's emissary to the press, was doing her best to restore some semblance of order
to an interview schedule that had gone down the drain an hour before. Manfred dutifully received interviewer after interviewer... and no matter how
each one tried to think of really original questions, the interviewer had the feeling that the same questions had been asked dozens of times before that day alone.
"'"Do Wah Diddy' was like at the end. We'd been going for a year and a half. It hadn't started off as a 'Do Wah Diddy Diddy' type band at all," Manfred
continued with chronology, "It happened with Paul Jones like that. He wanted to be a star and left the band and that's why the band changed. With
Michael D'Abo we all collectively, very friendly like, decided to leave. We all knew that it was coming to a creative end and we just decided to call a halt.
"I usually began things before the other things stopped in fact. While Manfred Mann Chapter Two was still going on, Mike Hugg and myself formed
another band called Emanon which we were rehearsing collectively. So we were already rehearsing that band and then our manager said, "Look,
why don't you call the thing Manfred Mann and tell everybody what you want to do instead of pussyfooting around with having two bands.' It started
off with a lot of steam, a lot of creative fire, a lot of enthusiasm. There were certain kinds of sounds we wanted an I think it stood up; like the kind of
brass harmonies we used were very different. If you listen to them there's a great avoidance of thirds. A lot of it is open fourths, open fifths. A lot of
the horn arrangements and a lot of the kind of very loose playing on some oft he tracks is very influenced by some Mingus things where everyone
kind of blew very roughly together. All the horn influences were jazz and we tried to put it over a very rock rhythm section. At the same time it was
almost a self-conscious attempt to be different, and I think it was a mistake. I find now that we're able to, because there's just Mick and myself, play
musical lines that are much more involved and much more interesting."
Today's Manfred Mann has an Earth Band. Mick Rogers, the singer-guitarist, is from Australia and has an easy style that fits well with Manfred's low
pressure concepts. This group is not out to blast anybody's ear drums and the vocals are sufficiently non-distorted that you can actually understand
the words Mick is singing. Bassist, Colin Pattenden plays bass expertly but mostly keeps out of the spotlight. So, in fact does drummer Chris Slade.
By comparison with so many superstar drummers, it is his very lack of egocentric spotlight-hogging that causes much notice of this shy Welshman
who got his start with his fellow countryman, Tom Jones. Also added is a new instrument for Manfred, the Mini-Moog, a small self-contained synthesizer which sits atop Manfred's Hammond organ like an added manual.
"About eighteen months ago I saw one advertised," Manfred explained, "and I tried a few and gradually settled down with the small Moog. All the
adverts I'd seen for Moogs were enormous things with plugs and jack-plugs and computers to pre-set them and thousands of pounds worth of
equipment. I saw this little thing. I was just about the first one in England to have one. I find the instrument very expressive and I don't think that
they're gimmick instruments anymore, if they're used properly. The instrument has the potential to be a new breed of keyboard instrument."
There is a tradition that has been carried through the entire career of the Manfred mann bands, at least since the Doo Wah Diddy band. That is the
tradition of the material written by Bob Dylan. The first Mann/Dylan collaboration was "With God On Our Side" and it continued with "Just Like A
Woman," "If You've Gotta Go, Go Now" and "The Mighty Quinn." The Earth Band has recorded two Dylan tunes, "please Mrs Henry" and "It's All Over Now Baby Blue."
"It just cane about," Manfred told us innocently, "We started doing one and then perhaps six months later we stumbled on another one. It just seemed
to happen. They seemed to be commercial without being 'Moon and June' lyrics. We were very reluctant to bring out Dylan material that was on a
Dylan album. We did a thing called 'If You Gotta Go, Go Now.' At the time Dylan had not recorded that on an album. Generally speaking, once
everybody knew the Dylan version I was much more reluctant to pick up on it. We seemed to be lucky enough to get hold of tapes that hadn't been released."
For the most part there has not been a carry over of repertoire from one Manfred Mann band by the next. The lone exception is 'Mighty Quinn' which
the Earth Band still performs in quite a different manner from that of the so-called Chapter Two band with Mike D'Abo. It went down to good audience
response at the Academy of Music and is being considered on a future Polydor LP. Will there be an inclusion of past glories within this band?
"I tend to think very much in the present," said Manfred, "I tend to be so concerned with what's going on at the moment that I find it very hard to look at
it (the past). It's much easier for somebody who's outside it. People who were listening to 'Do Wah Diddy' in England just don't come to groups like us
anymore. Over here there's a kind of nostalgic thing for British mid-Sixties music and in England there's a nostalgic thing for American mid-Fifties rock and roll."
Today's Manfred Mann is as good or as better live than recorded. In fact, Manfred admits to having his problems trying to get the kind of feeling the band can get live on the LP's.
"I used to be very recording orientated and now I find it difficult," he said. "You've got to get it all right. It's all got to be perfect. On a stage
performance the feeling has to be right. When you get in the studio you have to also contend with technical perfection."
There's little danger of Manfred Mann's Earth Band getting into the kind of extended free things that have been so popular lately both in jazz and rock.
"We're getting up to perform music. If I'm going to play like the solo in 'Bobby Stout' I might as well put in that song, which is a good song and which
everybody can really enjoy and you don't have to be a musical intellectual. I want to communicate with people. I enjoy the songs, I enjoy a lot of
simple pop music. I enjoy a lot of top 40 music because I've been through that. "I'm absolutely unconcerned about direction. I feel that the direction will
come naturally without me preplanning it as a conscious thing."
One thing is sure, whatever Manfred Mann does it will be musical and listenable, and before this band is through, he'll already have a plot boiling for
the next one.