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Copyright © Creature Music Ltd 2013

 

The Manfred man and is bands of gold….

By David Barnett – Bradford Telegraph & Argus Sat 23 August 2003

It's a wonder Mike d'Abo knows which band he's supposed to be playing in on any given day. If he's not fronting The Manfreds either with or without Paul Jones, he's on the road with the Reelin' And-A-Rockin' nostalgia tour, or he's touring as part of the Maximum Rhythm & Blues extravaganza, or he's playing live with his own outfit Mike d'Abo and His Mighty Quintet (Mighty Quintet…Mighty Quinn.. geddit?)
 

 

 

The way we were..

Mike d'Abo as he looked after joining
 Manfred Mann..

But when d'Abo makes a return to Myrtle Park at Bingley next Saturday night it will be as part of the band that has proved to be one of the most enduring musical collectives to survive the Sixties.. The Manfreds.

Be warned this is no tribute band. This is the original Manfred Mann, and you can expect the original hits… Mighty Quinn, 5-4-3-2-1, Pretty Flamingo, Do Wah Diddy Diddy, My Name Is Jack, and dozens more. One thing you won't get though, is Paul Jones, the original frontman. Although still part of The Manfreds, as they are known, he won't be at the Bingley gig.

Can I detect the faintest hint of a sigh when I ask why Jones won't be there? "I'm fronting the band next weekend, "he says. "Sometimes the band plays without Paul and with me up front, sometimes the band plays without me and with Paul up front."

"You've got to remember that I had eight hits with the Manfreds – but of course I will be singing the number ones that Paul had hits with, Pretty Flamingo and Do Wah Diddy Diddy."

D'Abo joined the band in 1966, after the group had considered Rod Stewart, Wayne Fontana and Long John Baldry for the filling of the shoes of Jones, who went on to have a series of solo releases. With d'Abo at the helm the band went on to record some of their best loved songs including Mighty Quinn, My Name Is Jack and Semi-Detached Suburban Mr.James, until the band called it quits in 1969.

The Sixties were over, and the band that epitomised them for thousands decided to go the same way as what many consider the greatest decade of the 20th Century.

And there the story could have ended. They'd had a good run at it and no-one expected bands like Manfred Mann to survive when soul, disco and punk opened up whole new realms of music.

The band went their separate ways, with the drummer and man who gave the group, starting Manfred Mann's Earth Band and the other members tickling the charts with a variety of collaborations, cover versions and new original tunes. For Mike d'Abo it was a time for a whole new direction.

He says: "I'd never done anything in my life that could be construed as a 'career move'…. Things always tended to just happen for me. In the late Seventies I went to live in America and when I came back to Britain in the early Eighties after five years the whole music scene had completely changed."

He concedes that this is what could be seen as his fallow period. He says: "I always considered myself a song writer first and foremost and I carried on with that, but nothing very much seemed to be happening for me at that time."

In 1988 he formed The Mighty Quintet and started writing songs and performing again. Then there was one of those seminal music industry moments that changed his life once again.

Original Manfred Tom McGuinness was celebrating his 50th birthday in 1991, and the band thought it would be a giggle to get as many of the members together again for a celebratory performance. Only Manfred Mann himself declined, but when Jones and d'Abo took the stage together, that didn't matter. Magic was being wrought once more. D'Abo recalls "We got so many offers and requests to do live gigs again after that birthday performance that we couldn't really deny that people still wanted to hear the band."

Re-positioning themselves as The Manfreds, they went back into the studio and back on the road. And the rest, as they often sat, is recent history. Over the ten years since Tom McGuinness' 50th birthday, they have been busy like never before.

"If what's happening to me now could have been happening to me 15 years ago I would have been very grateful," laughs d'Abo. "Suddenly all the songs that we loved performing in the Sixties had found a new lease of life and were in favour again."

And it isn't just the oldest swingers in town who turn up to see The Manfreds play out of curiosity value. They are attracting a whole new and younger audience who are intrigued to see the men who first played these songs which have become such an ingrained part of popular culture.

He says: "Sometimes people are surprised when they turn up and realise we're the real thing and not a tribute band."

D'Abo pauses for a moment. While not having a real problem with the wealth of tribute bands that are around at the moment, he does voice some disquiet at the trend. "There are a lot of tribute bands out there and I think sometimes they end up making more money than the original artists," he muses. "Sometimes we've played places and the gigs haven't been as well attended as they could have been, yet the tribute bands are packing them in. Perhaps the public's memory is rather short, or perhaps younger people sometimes don't know the difference between the real thing and a copy, or perhaps don't care that much."

"People go to a gig and they want to hear a string of hits, so that's what we do - give them what they want to hear. The difference is that we are the real article."

The band has also been in the studio recently and produced an album called The Manfreds Uncovered, featuring a track list of classic Sixties and Seventies standards which sees d'Abo singing Donovan's faux-hippy anthem Sunshine Superman and Hones covering Deneice Williams' chart topper Free.

D'Abo's own songwriting talents have been given a fresh airing recently. His credits include Handbags and Gladrags, which was originally sung by Chris Farlowe, then by Rod Stewart and latterly by Welsh rockers The Stereophonics - and even gained fame as the theme tune to hit comedy The Office.

Then there's Build Me Up, Buttercup which d'Abo wrote for The Foundations who, by a strange quirk of fate, will be on the same bill as The Manfreds at Bingley next weekend. So you'll hear Clem Curtis sing the hit with The Foundations, and later the song's author will belt it out with The Manfreds. But the song also has another very special airing next weekend.

D'Abo explains: "Build Me Up, Buttercup was apparently the favourite song of Milly Dowler, the young girl who went missing and was then found tragically murdered in Surrey. I've been in touch with Colin Young, who was the original singer of the Foundations line-up which had a hit with the song, and he's recorded a brand new version of it, backed by a choir of policemen from the Surrey force, and this will be released next Sunday at a special fund raising day to boost funds for the Milly Dowler appeal."

It seems that in every way, Mike d'Abo and The Manfreds are well and truly back, and here to stay. There's just one more thing the man who recently sand Sunshine Superman wants now. "I'm so looking forward to the event at Bingley next weekend," he says. "But I'll be spending the week praying for fine weather."

 

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