Two important issues and connections I feel are relevant to mention at this stage are firstly that in 1978 Chris Thompson sang lead vocals on Jeff Wayne's
multi-platinum selling concept album, "War of The Worlds", about Martians invading our planet charted in virtually every country in the globe, thus giving him
the prestigious honour of being voted one of Britain's best vocalists.
Secondly, Mann himself was co-opted as a fellow Goldsmith College, South London, to teach music theory. The following year Mann, Waller, King, and
Lingwood backed Jimmy Hibbert of The Albertos on his heavy duty album. Chance co-produced by future Yes guitarist Trevor Rabin, renowned to close
fans as the first official Manfred Mann solo album released in October 1980, although I know others who claim this to be one of his more mundane releases,
I am in disagreement, as in many ways I prefer it to its predecessor, finding it's contents more accessible. To this day I find it enjoyable and interesting and it is a frequent visitor to my CD player.
The Tour which followed was nothing short of electrifying! About a fortnight before the albums release a remarkable incident occurred. I was browsing
around Camden market one Sunday afternoon looking for records, when I suddenly looked up and saw Manfred standing two feet in front of me with a
very amused expression on his face. After getting over this initial huge surprise, I proceeded to ask him about his new album and told him I couldn't wait to
see him play live again. He informed me about a couple of impending warm ups, we shook hands, Manfred thanked me once again for my eternal loyalty and
proceeded to introduce me to his lady friend Irene, and recommended that if I need any further assistance I should call the Workhouse, (I always did anyway!).
The two warm up dates were at Bracknell and Hatfield, with two end of tour sold out shows at The Dominion Theatre in London in February, 1981. These
were amongst the very best I had ever seen. I was in the front row both nights (going crazy as usual). The audience were great, everybody seemed to be
really enjoying the music and the atmosphere. It was great to have Thompson and Waller back in the touring band. In the meantime, Chris Thompson had
considerable solo success under his own belt with his sideline band, Night, scoring two American Top 20 hits with "Hot Summer Nights" and "If You Remember Me", the theme from The Champ.
Following the Chance Tour, Pat King quit to work behind the scenes with the Alec Leslie group. To this day, Pat still continues to work with Alec and has
been on hand on every Manfred tour since his resignation some 17 years ago. Also managed were tours by artists such as Europe, Elkie Brooks, Joan
Armatrading and Toto. His replacement Matt Irving was shortly drafted in. A multi-talented musician who plays keyboards as well as bass, he was
recommended by Steve Waller who was by now thankfully returned to the fold as a full time member. Glaswegian born Irving made up the hat trick of
Scottish members to serve the Earth band. Once again, an experienced player. On a personal note, he is a very pleasant man, who, like Steve Waller, was
always very kind and hospitable towards me. He had played with The Dream Police (pre Average White Band), Longdancer (with Dave Stewart) and with
Dave Flett in glam rockers Zaine Griff. The group disbanded in 1979n when Dave received the prestigious honour to tour Japan with Thin Lizzy and can be
heard on their Life album. With this re-vamped new line-up intact, Manfred expanded the group by adding acclaimed vocalist, New Zealand born Shona
Laing, who had a wonderful voice (and later made quite a name for herself). The new line ups debut single entitled "I Who Have Nothing" was very
interesting, and in my opinion, rates as one of their most underrated releases of all. Strange that it hasn't appeared on any compilation albums. Shona's talents have at long last been documented in this publication.
In 1982 MMEB released a cover version of Bob Marley's haunting "Redemption Song", this greatly inspired Manfred to compose a concept album about his
native homeland of South Africa and is distaste for apartheid. Upon hearing "Somewhere in Afrika", for the first time, I really wasn't quite sure what to make
of it all, it was such a departure from anything he had previously done. However when I saw the live shows, the three warm ups in Cardiff, Guildford and
Crawley, I began to feel very differently about the Afrika album and began to listen to it again more closely and appreciated it a whole lot more as a brave
and heartfelt album. I think that in years to come, it could well be acknowledged as one of Manfred's masterpieces.
Between 1981-1983 the Earthband were keeping a low profile, concentrating on new studio material. As an option, I was regularly going to the Golden Lion
Pub, Fulham to see Chris Thompson and the Islands performing "Lies", "Blinded" and "Davy". They were a very good tight unit. The group eventually
disbanded in 1983 when guitarist Robbie McIntosh accepted an invitation to join The Pretenders, and later recorded and toured with Paul McCartney as did
the former Islands keyboard player Wix. Incidentally, McIntosh played on the Chance album, and guested with the band in Europe. More recently McIntosh has permed a very promising solo career.
To coincide with the release of the Afrika album, with Chris Thompson back on board once again, MMEB undertook an extensive three sold out dates in
Budapest, playing to an overall sixty thousand ecstatic fans. The highlights of these were televised through somewhat disjointedly in November, 1983.
If one obstacle was providing real havoc on tour it was Steve Waller's excessive drinking. The final shows of the "Somewhere in Europe" tour were once
again held at the Dominion Theatre in April 1983. On the final night, Steve was so plastered he could barely stand. Manfred was so furious with him (despite
umpteen warnings), that this time around it was the final straw and Waller was out! Alas, for good this time.
Matt Irving was not terribly happy during his stay and promptly quit. Since that time, Matt has actively performed and recorded with Paul Young and has
guested with Lords Of The New Church, Squeeze, Chris Rea and ex Pink Floyd mainman Roger Waters.
Steve Waller returned to the South London pub circuit in a variety of bands eventually being offered an opportunity to join Whitesnake which unbelievably
he declined. Over the past couple of years Steve has been musically inactive, and is rumoured to be living in Stroud, Gloucestershire, (one of life's great geezers, Steve mate, I really mean that).
If there ever was an album which disappointed me in MMEB's illustrious career, then the eagerly awaited live album Budapest must surely be the chosen one (thank goodness Mann Alive is nothing like it).
I found it to be an inferior representation of the live shows and found the scissor and paste overdubs, fades and edits annoying. In fact I would quite
honestly say that Budapest may eventually be written into our rock history books as one of the most unlive albums of all time! (Eat your heart out Humble Pie, Grand Funk Railroard and Deep Purple).
With Waller and Irving now departed the coast was clear for the welcome return of our old friend Mick Rogers. Mick has been in the musical wilderness for
several years. His band Aviator with future MMEB drummer and ex-Jethro Tull skinsman Clive Bunker, has commercially failed and disbanded, following the
release of a pair of worthwhile albums for EMI's Harvest label. Mick eventually replaced Tom McGuinness in The Dave Kelly band and appeared not terribly
happy about his new employment. Strangely enough, Mick was the only member I had not spoken to in the old days. When I reintroduced myself to him at
the Marquee Club at a DKB gig, he appeared to be chuffed to bit that someone had remembered him so well, bought me a drink, and promptly gave me his
telephone number (which I'm sure has regretted ever since). No sooner had Mick rejoined his former colleagues, than the revamped line ups first single
"Runner" targeted the commercial AOR market. It was hugely popular, particularly as it coincided with the 1984 Olympics so fittingly and deservedly went on
to become MMEB's biggest hit since "Davy's On The Road Again", reaching No.20 on the American charts. Things were indeed looking on the up and up!
Parts 1-4 of Barry's excellent personal history of the band can be found in Platform End issues 16 to 19 and will be completed in forthcoming issues.