Well it's been good here so far this year. For those of you lacking a proper education, Doctor Who has been
brilliant, as has the music. In fact if you listen, you realise it would not have been anything like so good, without
the brilliant music score. Just goes to show you how incredibly important music and musicians are to us all. Can
you imagine a world without music? Mind you once the smoking ban has settled down and the drinking ban has been introduced (don't
laugh it happened in America once) we will probably get at the very least decibel controls, for our own good of course.
What else have I been doing? Well, I went to see some big steam engines instead of the silly narrow gauge stuff I normally waste a lot of time on. My own
model railway, 'The Little Angel', (Of Angel Station fame) will have its annual bash in July and this year we celebrate twenty years of real steam. So when I
was first burning my fingers on these little monsters, I was probably also listening to the new album 'Masque'.
I would be dancing on one leg (it's a long story but don't let anyone tell you train sets are not dangerous) my new born son Thomas in my arms listed to 'Billy's
Bounce' or the 'Timelords' 'Doctoring the Tardis'. Well nobody's perfect.
It was probably the unreleased version of 'Masque', which I liked better than the final one. Its not that Mick's tracks weren't very good. As songs and as
recordings (I think Mick did them all on his own) they are brilliant. They just didn't fit on that particular album for me. I tried to use some of the stuff from the
first version on the re-masters and before you ask, yes we did have the original master tapes, which is more than can be said for a lot of the other stuff.
Unfortunately, they were on a different format and wouldn't play!
Let's face it, Manfred probably wouldn't have let me use them anyway, although I remember only a few years ago, he told me he had just been listening in the
car to a mix from that album of 'Mars', which included a version of Edwin Stars 'War'. Still not heard that and probably never will now . Remember this was a
long time before '2006'. Still I got you 'Summer In The City' didn't I? So stop complaining so much.
Following on from our recent compilation DVD, I'm told you should soon be able to buy a longish version of the Budapest concert. (Helen advises its due for
a September release, something to look forward to for those Autumn evenings - Nigel). I say longish only as I've gone and lost the copy Nigel kindly sent
me to the tidy police, so I am not certain which version we will end up with. All the colour versions I have seen, have edits in them, but Nigel is convinced
bless him, that we have the full version here. Anyway who cares? Even if it does contain a few edits, it will still be a brilliant concert to own. 'Somewhere
in Afrika' was one of my favourite albums and the Somewhere in Europe tour easily one of my favourite tours.
The live album released after the tour although always a big seller, was a huge disappointment to me. As well as recording for three nights in Budapest they
also recorded at the two Dominion gigs in London. Once again master tapes do exists but apparently need to be baked in an oven before they can be used.
Much was added to this album in the studio afterwards, including all the drums. Songs were ruthlessly edited and only one fragment of a moog solo was
included on the entire album which should have been a criminal offence. Worse still 'Martha' and 'Don't Kill It Carol' were left off a live album! True the live
'Don't Kill It Carol' did reappear later on a 12inch single's B side as well as on the cassette version of the album, but even on this the knife had been busy cutting great chunks out of the song.
It isn't that Budapest is a bad album to listen to. The music is great. In fact the album is a very good and well produced greatest hits, with a difference. It is
just that to the fans, Budapest is light years away from what it claims to be, which is a live album. I am often asked why a band, famous for being one of the
best live acts on the road, should choose to do their first stab at a live album in such a clinical way.
Well for a start Manfred was not interested in doing a live album at that time. He told me some years later that live albums don't in his opinion work and he had
not really wanted Budapest to be released. His argument was that the atmosphere of a gig is very important and this can not be captured by expensive
recording equipment. Manfred felt the tape recorder in the audience was more likely to produce a good result, not that he was promoting bootlegging I hasten
to point out. Obviously Manfred's view as mellowed over the years or we would never have got 'Mann Alive'. He probably would not have let me use those
superb live tracks on the box set, 'Dirty City' and 'Pleasure and Pain'. Do you know they were just taken straight of the mixing desk and they're not only awesome but oozing with atmosphere?
At the time of Budapest the result of Manfred's lack of interest was that Chris Thompson and John Longwood produced Budapest. When I talked to John a
few years ago now, he explained to me why the dubbing and editing had gone on. First I should explain that John was at the time on the Wirral for the guitar
festival where he was playing with Moody and Marsden of Whitesnake fame. I had met John only briefly before, and he kindly arranged to meet me to chat
about his time in the band. Like most of the people I have met, since I got involved in all this stuff, I found Mr Lingwood to be a thoroughly nice guy. Before
we get too carried away however, it should be remembered that he is also a musician (remember we couldn't live without them) and a very good one at that.
Now I used to think I had just been bloody unlucky picking this band. For a start Manfred is always talking his own abilities down, and constantly finding fault
in his performance. I once asked him if he considered himself a perfectionist which he denied forcibly. Yet he can still spend an eternity in the studio fiddling
with one song to get it just right. Even then he often ends up throwing it out.
John told me that Budapest had been produced in the fashion it had been, because there had been so little useable material out of the five two hour plus
concerts! He went on to explain that the drums had not recorded well and sounded awful and that the band was not playing terribly well either! He might have put that last bit a little stronger.
Since that conversation with John, when I watch the full Budapest in black and white, or listen to my bootleg tape on which the drums sound great, (perhaps
it's the Philips tape recorder!) I inevitably have been questioning my own ears. What I am hearing is a band at the top of their game. For me Manfred was
playing at his very best and most innovative, I mean go watch that 'Martha' solo again off the last DVD if you don't believe me. (The only better solo I have
heard is on a 1981 Dominion gig, I bought at a record fair in York. Again I do not make a habit of promoting any form of bootlegs, but the solo on that is beyond brilliant).
Anyway back to Budapest in 1983 and John and Matt were sounding tight and looking good as well. The late Steve Waller might have been setting a few
nerves on edge backstage because of his health problems, which must have been very difficult for the others, but front of stage to the fans in the packed
crowd, he was truly awesome. 'Demolition Man' with the exploding amp was one of the great moments in any concert ever and the series of false endings
just, well wicked. Added to all of this we had the voice himself, Mr Chris Thompson singing as well as playing better than ever.
The set was brilliant too with all that African stuff, which sounded just great plus, 'Nostradamus', 'Demolition Man', 'Tribal Statistics', 'Redemption Song'. Older
stuff like 'Spirits', 'Don't Kill it Carol', 'Martha', 'Blinded', 'For You', 'Davy' and 'Quinn'.
So what were they hearing that I am not, which caused them to struggle to fill even a single disc, never mind the obvious double album recorded Dire Straights style, warts and all.
Well as I have already observed John Lingwood is a musician and I have discovered something about musicians, which you all need to know, even if you are
one of these incredibly talented (yes I am jealous) and sadly misguided folk yourself. I have discovered that I haven't just been unlucky and picked the only
rock band populated by perfectionists. All musicians suffer from the same incurable condition and the better the musician the worse it gets.
All was revealed to me at a big band concert at The RNCM earlier this year. That night they were playing with the singer Jackie Dankworth, although she did
not come on until the second half. My son Thom plays piano in the big band and I have been fortunate enough to get to know many of his musical friends
over in Manchester, amongst which there is a seriously good drummer, double bass player, trumpeter and sax player. For the record and I can't emphasise
this enough, all of them like Mr Lingwood, are very nice people indeed.
The first half of the show sounded great and was received with rapturous applause from an enthusiastic and extremely appreciative audience. I rushed to
the bar, eager to tell each of them how well the first half had gone. I found each of them at different times and at once said how good it had sounded. This
is where it gets strange and incredibly difficult for me to understand.
Every one of them and this is no exaggeration smiled sadly at me, patted me sympathetically on the shoulder, as if I knew nothing, (I don't!) and said 'ah yes
but did you hear the mistake?' Once they were all together, they began to compare mistakes?' Words were spoken with far more enthusiasm than seemed
descent and proper to a fool like me in a concerted effort to decide which of them had actually committed the biggest gaff of the night so far. Each was arguing fiercely for their own claim to this coveted prize.
It was then I realised, that a respectable musician will only ever be happy with the tiniest fragment of his life's work. Ironically that fragment celebrated by its
creator will often pass his or her audience unnoticed, who have already been blown away by the rubbish played earlier. Put this into the context of
Budapest and suddenly ten hours of music is not very much at all. Perhaps we should consider are selves fortunate Budapest was not a single!
So at last all is finally explained. Now I know why all the concerts I've heard from the 1983 tour sound so good, and 'Miss You', the most live and exciting
track on the 'Mann Alive' tapes was left off. The answer my dear readers is that I am not a musician. There is however a serious side to all this light hearted
nonsense. We the customer often don't get what we want and the album Budapest is a case in point. In 1983 fans were clamouring for a live album that celebrated the live show.
It has taken a long time to put that right, but when Budapest the DVD is released, you will at last get a brilliant memento of a great period in MMEB's long
history too. As way of compensation for having to wait so long, this time you get to see the concert too. So rush out and buy it, edits and all (maybe –
Nigel). Perhaps it is not perfect, but it will give you a much better idea of why this band had built up such a huge and passionate international audience by
this time, than the album which followed the tour, ever did.
Rumour has it the DVD will come with a similar cover to the album, plus a reproduction of what was probably one of the best tour brochures they ever did.
The 1983 tour will also be remembered as one of the most entertaining visually. As well as the exploding amp, there were all the scary heads whose eyes lit
up, brilliant films of course and then there was the robot itself. Watch the DVD and enjoy. Oh no hang on a minute I am not allowed to talk about that yet! Hope I haven't gone and given anything away.
It was just after that 1983 tour that the music press spread rumours of a reunion of some of the old 1960's band at the Marquee club in London, a venue they
had played at many times in the early days. It was never going to happen of course and probably never will. For years I saw that as being a good thing, but
as we get older, a strange kind of nostalgia gets a hold of us. Now I find myself beginning to wonder if it would be such a bad idea for some of them to get
together with Manfred now and play a bit of blues and jazz and perhaps even a couple of old hits.
Having enjoyed the Beatles 'Love' album, and some of the modern takes on Sergeant Peppers, it would be fun to redo something Manfred Mann with a
modern feel. I'm not trying to claim that 60's Manfred Mann were as good as the Beatles, but they were one of the best bands musically around at that time.
How about Mann Made Again? Oh well I can dream, but common Manfred imagine 'LSD' (the song not the drug) Paul on vocals but with a moog solo in the
middle! Or how about 'Come Tomorrow' sung by Noel, or D'Abo fronting an Earth Band version of 'Quinn', and yes, you could finally do 'Handbags and Gladrags?' (Yes, I know they did it for the BBC Nigel)
Chris Thompson did an enjoyable version of 'Pretty Flamingo' at the Dominion in 1981, so he could sing that one, although come to think of it Mick recorded a
version of that not long ago, so perhaps he should have a go. Did you know, next year will be the forty fifth anniversary of Manfred Mann's first record
'Why Should We Not'? It would be a great time to do something like this. Of course we would also want some brand new music to mark the forty fifth year as well.
As I said all this is pure nostalgia of course, but isn't that mostly what Earth Band is about these days, anyway? What I am not arguing for is an attempt to
recreate the past, because for me that just never works. This brings us neatly back to Doctor Who. For those who don't know it was a big show from 1963
(Now there's a coincidence!) to the late 1980's., at which time both Manfred Mann's Earth Band and the good Timelord seem to come to an end. The new
version of Doctor Who is just that. It is new, different, modern but with an affectionate nod here and there to the old classic series and boy has that worked.
A quick plug for my new Prudence Fairweather Website.