Platform End On-Line (A Yawn in Your E-Mail)
In 2001 the paper Platform End magazine ceased due to production costs and the magazine moved on-line. The subsequent newsletters are below:
A Yawn in Your E-Mail (July 2001)
Carol and I have run the Manfred Mann Fan Club for about ten years now. Those of you who are members will already know this and my ability to ramble on in our magazine Platform End for a page or more under the highly appropriate heading "A Yawn In Your Ear". During those ten years we have managed so far 21 magazines and the odd newsletter, and who knows we may even get a mag out this year yet. (Who saw the pig with the MMEB logo fly past the window?) The enemy is time. Last year I took on a challenging change of career whilst Carol has been doing an intensive training course leaving us little time for Platform End. We still get lots of queries to answer and there are other related projects going on which all takes up time. We have no intention of stopping Platform End although a change in how it is funded must limit the number we can do, as well as the aforementioned time constraints. We did however need another way of talking to members across the world and had for sometime be talking about our own web site.
To start a web site you again need time and I guess some money and the technology! As somebody who still marvels at the concept of radio waves the later was asking a great deal, so the idea was like the new album slow to progress. Then two things fell into place that made all this possible. Webmaster and all round good egg Ron Clint offered part of the official site to us by the most incredible of coincidences only weeks after I had sold (selling is what I do best) the web site idea to good (and perhaps a little gullible) friend Nigel Stanworth who does have the technology. With Ron's offer in place Nigel bursting with ideas set about putting the new look site together. I use the new look term reservedly because Nigel was required at least for now to retain the official site style of presentation. Nevertheless I think you will agree having invested a lot of man hours into the project Nigel has managed despite these restraints to give the whole thing a fresh look. A past contributor to Platform End and a bit of a computer whiz but perhaps surpassingly not boring with it, (I know many of you know Nigel well) will join me in welcoming Nigel to the team and perhaps take a moments silence in memory of his spare time gone now for ever.
I also use the Yawn to bring you up to date on what is happening in the world of MMEB.
The new album continues to progress slowly and I was lucky enough to hear a couple of things just recently. The songs are home grown not covers with some oddly familiar classical themes creeping in from time to time, and very atmospheric and moody. There are some nice vocals from Noel and some nice instrumental sections including some very nice keyboard playing from Manfred. I was told fans might not like some of it I would be very surprised if that was true. It is different, that is true but Manfred has always tried to move on and do different things and for me it works well. Although a new direction it still has many aspects familiar to any fan of Manfred's music. The bad news is that the project is still some twelve to eighteen months from completion. I just hope Manfred is able to retain the freshness and spontaneity of the stuff I heard.
The boxed set also continues to make progress. More about that when I can. Suffice to say if it goes to plan you will kill for a copy! It will be four CD's with a booklet. Provisional titles for the CDs are "In the Beginning", "Hollywood Town", "Brothers and Sisters" and "To the Limit". To keep you going Best of Volume 2 should be available soon and yes it does include "I Who Have Nothing". If your bag is 60's Mann then I notice one more compilation of those sixties hits complete with CD ROM history of the band.
All that and a new Chris Thompson album on the way with Manfred making a guest appearance. MMEB are on the road again, who knows they may get to your town. Might see you there. I am off to get the next Platform End and the box set finished (with Carol's help and Nigel's help). Have a good summer and if your not a Platform Ender then you should be. It's only £12 Sterling a year plus a bit of patience now and again, and lots of people have made lots of good friends and for me that is much of what its about.
Rock and Roll
Andy and Carol Taylor
PS The Platform End web pages belong to the fans, if you have any ideas for content, or better still the time to write an article, review or have some photo's, send them in, Nigel will be glad of the support. Send them to Nigel Stanworth
Please note: No computers were harmed while making Andy write the content for this page.
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - September 2001
Excuses as normal, new job, Carol's studies, not enough hours in the day, that kind of thing. But sod it, we've just been away for three weeks so there, and that's why we've not updated the Yawn – because we were doing nothing. OK? Nothing!
So what about Platform End (the paper version?) Well it's still our hope to do one before the year is out, much as before but perhaps a bit fatter to make up for the lack of PE's. In 2002 we hope to get a couple out if possible. So many people seem to want it to keep going despite the much improved web site, that I suppose we will have to get a digit out. I've got something Mick wrote (with some still missing Mick!), the long awaited end to Barry's Winton's wonderful history (although it won't be the end I'm sure) and I had a long chat with John Lingwood earlier in the year who is part of Company of Snakes and The Moody Marsden Band nowadays. John hasn't changed a bit from Budapest days and has loads of fond memories of his time with MMEB. Most of the chat will appear in the PE and maybe the forthcoming BOXSET. I wish I could tell you more about the 'Box', but I can't. It is hoped to get the set out this year (please note hoped). The intention is that it will contain a mixture of well known and not so well known archive material, including if possible some rare material long since thought to be lost forever. I also hope to bring the story pretty well up to date. Timescales are not yet certain and changes are still ongoing. From experience I know how long these things can take.
A good example of this landed on my doormat the other day in the form of The Best Of Volume 2. It is so long since I compiled this selection and wrote the notes; it almost felt like someone else had done it. I think the booklet looks nicer than Volume 1 (I had nothing to do with the design on either) and I must admit listening to it after it was compiled in quite a detached way. I was pleased with the result. A nice one for the collection with the much requested 'I Who Have Nothing' at last as well as such other rare gems as the 7" 'Statistics'. This is the first compilation of MMEB to come almost up to date and features Noel McCalla as well as all the retrospective line-ups.
The Band continues to tour but I have not been able to get out on the road with them YET! I have not given up hope and will report back if I do make it. However judging from a phone call the other day when I'm not doping my proper job, I'll be nailed to a table until the Boxset is finished! Now that's not fair is it?
All the best folks.
Andy & Carol
Manfred Mann Chapter III
By Steve & Debbie Roots
The end of the sixties Manfred Mann Group in May of 1969 is well documented. Before the band drew to a close Manfred and Mike Hugg had already been experimenting with their own project, Emanon (strange name but 'no name' spelt backwards). Emanon even produced one now much sought after recording, a rare one sided single titled 'The Michelin Commercial Theme'.
The Emanon project and the demise of the sixties band finally allowed Mike and Manfred to play the music that they wanted to play. So was born Manfred Mann Chapter III. The line-up was not dissimilar from that of Emanon. However the music was a big change from the sixties band. Chapter III played Jazz, often gloomily with solo breaks, a different kind of music. Chapter III only recorded Hugg or Mann compositions and purposely did not feature lead guitar.
The large line up and the bad record sales eventually paid its toll and the band disbanded late in 1970. The listeners may not have appreciated the sounds of Chapter III then but as time passed the two LP's have gained more and more credibility. Simply titled Chapter III Volume 1 and Volume 2 the recordings are still available today on CD. Vinyl copies are rare. On the odd occasion that vinyls do appear on Internet auctions they sometimes fetch up to four times the new CD value.
Notable recordings made by Chapter III include 'Travelling Lady' a reworking of the sixties group's successful 'B' side 'A 'B' Side' (the success being its long TV run advertising Manikin cigars). 'Mr You're A Better Man Than I', a Hugg composition already successfully recorded by The Yardbirds, and 'Happy Being Me' the bands first single release and a song that remained in Earth Band's live set for some years to follow. Most tracks featured Hugg on vocals although the Volume 2 album did feature a Mann sung track 'One Way Glass'. A song destined later for the Manfred Mann's Earth Band album 'Glorified Magnified'. However fans were not prepared for such a huge change in musical direction and still called out for the old hits when the band toured. One hit not forgotten was 'Dylan's' Mighty Quinn. It remained a live favourite. Slowed down and sung mournfully by Hugg the song got a complete re-working. The chorus was sung by the bands backing singers (including a youthful Linda Lewis) and gave at least one part of the audience some part of what they wanted. Although the group's live performances were good, record sales were still poor and 'pushing forward the frontiers of rock music' was going to have to wait.
Mike Hugg and Manfred both went their separate ways and not only Manfred went onto success. Mike Hugg went onto record three studio albums and have chart single success with his theme from 'The Likely Lads' TV show. When Manfred went on to form the Earth Band, influences and songs from the Chapter III years went with him. The legacy from Chapter III is just two LP's (recently re-mastered) and some edited singles. One more LP imaginatively titled Volume 3 was recorded but never released. The tapes thought lost for years are now rediscovered. Fans of Chapter III, who still have found no other music quite like it just hope that it may soon be time to release it.
A Yawn In Your E-Mail - December 2001
Another year draws to a close and we will soon be doing the usual overeating thing, not to mention over drinking. Carol and I have I am afraid failed you this year. No Platform End. I do hope however to put this bit of rambling in the post for those who cannot regularly access our electronic Platform End.
As I said before we hope to produce a couple of Mags next year although the format is as yet undecided. Until we do something useful to deserve it we will not be taking your money. For now another big thanks to Nigel whose hard work is keeping us alive on the wed site.
There is quite a lot to report. The U.K. gigs next year are I am afraid off as I am told is the South Africa tour for now. The South African Tour was to be shared with Jethro Tull and as one of their members has broken a limb, for now the tour is cancelled. As far as I can make out the band will be back on the road in about May 2002 although there are a few gigs to go still this year. By the time this is published, I will have been to the gigs on the 8th and 9th of December. Good reports are coming in with regard to the revised line up and I hope to catch up and chat to the new drummer soon.
On CD the best of Volume 2 is out in Europe at least. Mostly taken from the regular back catalogue as that was all that was available for this it does include a couple of CD firsts. Tribal Stats is the single version whilst of course the much requested I Who Have Nothing makes its first CD appearance as well even if it was taken off record. This release is the last of a long project lead by Rob Corich which includes all the Re-Masters and the first Best Of. I think I have learnt a great deal from my involvement in this project (which I hope I can demonstrate in the next project, the 4CD boxed set). The project was strongly driven by certain factors. First few studio masters pre 1984 survive in England or Europe and those that do are mostly are standard as released albums, although we did find an alternative Black and Blue! This made bonus tracks very difficult to find. I know many find different edits interesting but for me the shorter fade on one version of Spirits is not something I can get excited about. In searching the world for interesting bonus tracks we did however discover some very exciting things such as the cancelled first album and unreleased Chapter III album. You are also driven by the constraints put on you by the record company whilst with this band nothing but nothing gets put out without Manfred's approval. I think the fact he cares so much about what goes out is a very good thing even if there are times when you wish he didn't! It is my hope that the box, when it comes sometime next year will include some of what we unearthed during the remasters project. A late Xmas treat and I hope well worth the long wait.
Manfred continues to work on the new album which as I have mentioned before already sounds very exciting. I am not sure when Manfred hopes to finish it but with no Gigs in the early part of next year we can only hope it won't be too long now.
Ian Thompson has been very busy this year. As well as his usual roles at the studio and as tour manager and keyboard tech Ian has been of immeasurable help in engineering the box helping to find stuff and convincing me of what not to try and include finding and if needed remixing things. He also took a rest from MMEB recently to manage Rick Wakeman's Russian Tour. No doubt the experience of MMEB's visit there last year will have been of much use.
If you haven't yet got Chris Thompson's new CD then I suggest you give Father Christmas an extra for the Christmas Stocking I doubt any Chris or Earth Band fan will be disappointed with this offering from Chris. It is a cool collection of heavy and powerful rock music and is by far the best thing Chris has done in years. What a shame it isn't getting much airplay here. There is even and all too brief appearance of Manfred.
Whilst I would avoid the new version of Do Wah Diddy Diddy out at the moment, R and B but not as we knew it, another song with a big Manfred connection has just been done by the Stereophonics. I refer of course to Mike D'Abo's wonderful Handbags and Gladrags. The new version for me is the best yet out doing both Mike's own version and the famous Rod Stewart version on which Mike plays piano. Manfred Mann never recorded the song on record, although they did perform it a couple of times on the radio as well as in a duet with Julie Felix on her TV show at around the time Mike penned the song. I can't help feeling there was a missed opportunity here.
Thanks again to Nigel for all is help and to many of you who have offered lots of encouragement and help with the Remasters .
Well that's about all for now folks except of course for Carol and I to wish everyone in the band ,the crew, promoters, tour managers and engineers, the record company lot and all fans far and wide a very Happy Christmas and a wonderful and I hope peaceful 2002.
Andy & Carol
A Yawn In Your E-Mail - February 2002
First up a Happy 'newish' year to everyone. Last time I wrote about the fan club itself. At the moment I have been concentrating what bit of free time I get to the box set (more on that later)so we have not done a magazine for sometime. I have a feeling we may also have mislaid some post to help the confusion. We intend to start doing some kind of a newsletter again soon so please forgive us if you are still waiting. This however is a good medium to talk thanks to the hard work of young (ish) Nigel Stanworth.
Just before Christmas I made it out to Germany to join up with the band for a couple of shows. I flew out to Leipzig via Frankfurt followed by one of the famous local taxis that go very very fast which took me to a funny little hotel out in the country next door to a flock of Geese whose days I suspect were numbered. The hotel was also the venue and whilst the Band were good (they always are) it was by no means the best gig I have done. Anyway it was nice to see everybody. Mick ,Steve, Noel ,Pat. John and even Simon (lighting) who I've not seen for sometime. I also bumped into plenty of fan club people. Sleep was not in great supply. At about four in the morning with far too much drunk young (well younger than Nigel) Ian Tompson tells me the crew are going early and its my job to make sure the band get to the next venue and then adds that as its a Sunday if I loose anybody the gigs stuffed. Come to Germany to relax he had said a few days before. Noel did his best to get lost. Having got him onto the right train just as it was pulling out of Frankfurt Main he got off again!
As a bit of a train spotter at heart these new German ICE things are serious trains. Anyway I didn't loose anyone. Manfred and I killed the time between trains on Frankfurt Station drinking mulled wine in a mini Christmas Fare whilst discussing just how much the way we celebrate Christmas is down to just one guy. That being Charles Dickens.
We also did talk about the next album. This is all positive stuff. Manfred has taken some of the recording back a couple of stages because it had lost a bit of the excitement. He however seemed very happy with the way it was developing. Hopefully you may get to hear a little preview on the box set later on this year. The second gig was for me much better others disagreed which just goes to show that its all down to personal choice. I probably thought it was a good night cause the soloing was so hot. Manfred's solo on 'Martha' was inspired a classic with a long slow build up to a powerful climax almost surpassed by the moog/ guitar battle on Father. Even the Moog solo on 'Dancing in the Sun' which speaking of taste is not my favourite part of the show was great.
Pete May I met for the first time. He has been playing drums for Cliff. After a few drinks I prepared to jot down just a few of the lesser scandals surrounding the Peter Pan of pop. Trouble is not only is Pete the true professional, but I don't think there are any scandals. With Cliff what you see is what you get. An all round jolly nice guy. Despite having worked for an all round jolly nice guy, Pete is settling into MMEB remarkably well (only joking)
As for the box set I cannot say too much yet. If it hits the shops as it is now I think (and hope) you will be very very pleased with it. Fingers crossed. Tell you more soon.
Carol and Andy Taylor
The MMEB mobile (Jens Goetzke)
Hi, I thought it would be a nice idea to send you these pictures showing my first own car, a FIAT 127 Special (built in 1977) perhaps to be shown at the PE website. I got the car in 1985 and
being already a long term MMEB fan at that time I decided to give it a special painting on the bonnet.
It was done by myself and I still think it was quite well. The pictures show the car at the morning when it was brought to the junkyard being a little bit damaged the evening before at a wedding party as party gag. How do you like them?
MMEB Fans on Tour
Thanks to Graeme Paylor for this photo from a recent trip to Scotland. Who is that with Lois?
Reinhard's First Gig
searching for material I've just found a picture of our very first gig on 13th September 1997 for the 125th Anniversary of the Gas-, Electricity and Water Company - the company I'm working for. I found a short note on Platform End No. 14 Autumn 1997 from Andy Taylor - obviously he visited this gig too. You can see my head on the right bottom I suppose.
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - April 2002
I am a child of the sixties (well fifties actually but who is counting). The Beatles or Silver Beatles or whatever they were called then played one of their first gigs in Litherland Town Hall, a stones throw away from the Victorian Vicarage in which I lived and probably failed to grow up in for many years. That is until it was demolished in favour of a much better and smaller new vicarage mostly made of paper and plastic. As I love to remind her as often as possible as she is now very grown up and opera going, my sister fancied Paul Jones. To be fair, most hot blooded females fancied Paul Jones and many probably still do.
So what has this all got to do with the preoccupation of most of my spare time over the last couple of years – "The 30 Years of MMEB Box Set".
Well unlike many, in fact most of the fans out there, I was a big fan of Manfred Mann in the sixties. To start with I loved those timeless classics like "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" and "5-4-3-2-1". As time went on, street cred became more and more threatened at a time in life when street cred was about the most important thing on earth (other than sex) and steam trains had dropped to a poor third. This lead to conversations like "well you should hear the B-side, or didn't you see them playing cool Jazz on the Julie Felix show or catch the Wednesday play this week Manfred and Mike did the music. I was too young and innocent to know about the "Ski Full of Fitness Song" (thank God), we probably didn't have anything as healthy as yoghurts in our house. I did kinda of know that Klaus Voorman did the Hovis voice at the start of the commercial. Oddly perhaps, that didn't crop up in conversations defending "My Name is Jack" against Creams latest.
Things got better. I am the other person you have longed to meet for years who liked Manfred Mann Chapter III. Where are the guitars man? Even in recent times, big fans have accused poor Bernie Living of self indulgence...and Hendrix wasn't.
In the last few years things have got little better. If I got a pound or even a Euro for every time somebody who thinks they know me says 'Hey Phil, I saw in the paper today, your lot are on in Manchester, Southport, Bosnia, a small hotel in Bognor etc etc etc, referring of course to the Manfreds who have found a market for themselves playing all the stuff that caused me maximum embarrassment in the sixties and very little of the cool jazz and R&B, the serious stuff in other words. Now much older and wiser than back in the sixties I have learnt that "My Name is Jack" is in fact a well crafted and well performed pop song and when the mood is right can be enjoyable to the ear. Do I want everyone to think I devote my spare time to this kind of stuff. I should be so mature now that I don't care, but I did never grow up, probably moving to a Vicarage made out of paper did that. What is more I hate the idea of it being seen as a nostalgia thing, I mean shit I like Dido, The Stereophonics, Oasis, modern you know bands man, oh and steam trains of course, but that's different isn't it?
So what I am trying to say is being a Manfred Mann fan has never been easy. It probably never will be. We have to wait years for a new album, no gigs in the UK. It sometimes seems that just about every band ever in the world has been on 'Later with Jools Holland', except Manfred Mann's Earth Band and there can't be many other bands with no video or DVD in the shops.
Then there is Manfred himself. He will often dismiss whole tranches of his career. Whilst one of the things I like most about him is his desire to move on, change, evolve, not to stay the same it can also be very frustrating.
So why not give up the whole thing and join the Wombles fan club for a bit of normality. Well I hope the Box Set when it arrives (which should be very soon) answers not only that question but many others.
For your money you will get four CD's. I make no apology for the inclusion of some very familiar material. I know that there is a limit to how many "best ofs" I would buy. With that in mind, I have tried even for a little variety here. A new 2001 live version of "Davy" for example. Nevertheless CD's two and three, entitled "Hollywood Town" and "Brothers and Sisters" cover much familiar territory with the odd jem hidden away. These however are very personal to me the compiler. Its what I like mostly on here, not always the great commercial tracks. There was some debate whether to include "Blinded" or not, it has been on every recent compilation album to date. In the end I decided it had to be there if this was to be a true 30 years album. CD1 "In the Beginning", traces the period from the end of the pop group to the establishment of the first MMEB and their first hit "Joybringer". Along the journey you will hear for the first time music that was long believed to have been lost for ever. Not only is this music good, but for me it kinda fills the gap. CD1 highlights the great Mick Rogers, co founder of MMEB. CD's 2 and 3 feature a number of vocalists from the last 30 years including the late Steve Waller. In particular it features the voice of Chris Thompson who for many years has been the voice of MMEB. Sadly I could find very little unused Chris Thompson stuff, so there is just one song you have not heard sung by Chris, interestingly written by Mick. CD4 features MMEB's other great singer, Noel McCalla and fingers crossed and all being well contains only one previously released track from Plains Music. I tried to find an even better version of that and can honestly say I couldn't. The rest of CD4 is all being well a mixture of previously unreleased songs or different versions. About half of the tracks on CD4 are live recordings, the oldest from 1993 and the newest 2001. So as well as featuring Noel, the spotlight is also on long serving bass player Steve Kinch, as well as Mick Rogers and at least three different drummers.
I have listed at the end of the little book, fully illustrated with many previously unused pictures I might add, all, or nearly all the people who have ever performed with Manfred on a record since the first Chapter III album. There is a more detailed account of those who have been part of the various live bands over the years.
More than anybody however, this is about one man - Manfred Mann. He will always try to dismiss his importance in anything he has done. In the end, the last thirty years, good and bad, its down to him. In my view it goes back further than that. Listen to the Manfreds try their best to create an exact replica of a sixties hit and there is a big hole in it. Frustrating though it must be for them, the true fan can only hear the hole, despite how good the rest of them are. Manfred and his style was as much part of that as of everything else he does. Interestingly when the Manfreds try their own arrangement of a song like they do with "Come Tomorrow "and "Oh No Not My Baby" then it works really well, 'cause don't get me wrong these guys are bloody good themselves.
There is a common thread in Manfred's music, a kind of timeless thing which no matter how much his style evolves and changes is always there. I am not sure what it is exactly but few songs since 1963 don't have it. "My Little Red Book" is one and I was delighted to find out only recently that Manfred does not play on that track. Its there on "Blinded" and "Martha", its there on some of the new and very different stuff he is doing at the moment. I am not sure what it is some jazz thing maybe, something in the beat.
Try this at home. Imagine Manfred playing keyboards live on stage, imagine any non Manfred track Once in a while you might get a fit. Now take any Manfred track and try again, "Do Wah Diddy" and "Blinded" will do and it does fit. Whatever song you take it will fit. That is why I have never understood fans who say dig MMEB but don't get Plains Music. Yes very different but its Manfred and whatever the secret ingredient is its there.
I believe that it is because of this 'secret ingredient' that little of Manfred's music ever dates. There are people who like to live in the past with their music and I suppose there is nothing wrong with that. There are people who like to dismiss music because it was made in the past and so in their view can have no relevance today. There are those who seem to think that to be creative in music you must be under a certain age. There are sadly many now who have no interest in the music but only in the sex, pain and drugs that the artist may have experienced along the way. This is so true now that I find that about 90% of actors and rock stars who confess to drugs or drink abuse with close to death experiences have probably got little more than a bad caffeine habit. The cynic in me can't help but wonder if it's that more than the music that gets some of them on 'Later with Jools Holland' though.
Manfred may not get to play stuff from the box on Jool's show, not even for the reasons I have given, but maybe even because Manfred does not want to. Manfred quite rightly will want to play the new stuff. What you will have beyond the very nice packaging, the brilliant book what I wrote, the brilliant photographs many of which I also took, around half the material previously unreleased is a collection of varied but timeless music spanning one rock legends career from the end of the first phase.
This is not a trip down memory lane, even though the music spans five decades. I hope when you get hold of a copy you find it challenging, fun and enjoyable. I think the oldest track dates from 1969 and the newest from hopefully the next project - so 2002. I have tried very hard to avoid using any track just because it was unreleased or a different version. Of course it is always subjective but I have tried to use only material that sounds good to me. As for retrospective albums, looking back, nostalgia all that horrible stuff, don't worry Manfred.
'We Have No Past' - this is just Thirty Years and more of Manfred Mann's Earth Band.
Please note I can't give a final track listing just yet, you will just have to wait a bit longer. Likewise latest news on a release date as soon as we know. As I said its never been easy being a Manfred Mann fan so why should it change now!
All the best... (Philip) Andy Taylor
(Carol sends her love)
Earth Band Tribute Band?
One member of the Manfred Mann`s Earth Band Fan Club has got this photo as a poster from her former colleagues as a farewell gift. (It seems that at least some of her colleagues know about her hobby...)
Instruments and Musicians:
On Vocals: The famous ECG Girls Choir (also called "The ESeeGeeGeeSees"):
Daniela/ Ute/ Katharina/ Gabi/Andrea/ Conny/ Andrea/ Claudia
On Lead Bedpan: Mr Spitzl
On Bass Bedpan: Ronald
On Bedpan Drums: Klaus
And last but not least:
On Ultra Sound Keyboards: Dr. Thomas Rapp!
On Bedpan Lid Cymbals: Oliver
On Rectoscope Flute: Thilo
On Bed Triangle: Mr Fritz
The Lead Singer post is vacant at the moment because none of the men was successful in growing dreadlocks.
The only member of the crew in the photo is the defibrillator monitor man Michael.(The other members of the crew were busy preventing groupies and groupas (male) from climbing the stage).
BTW: The photo was taken during the performance of one of their most famous songs:- "The Mighty Din"...
For autographs and booking enquiries: KKKBand@web.de
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - June 2002
I can't believe its time for another ramble, another Yawn. Nigel says it is, so it must be.
2002 seems to be flying by at the moment. So what's new then. Well not very much just at the moment. As most of you know MMEB are back out on the road again and sounding as good as ever so I am told. There is half a chance Carol and I might get out in July fingers crossed. For the older folk out there John Arkle tells me that Klaus Voorman was on the telly the other day. Who the hell is he I hear some of you younger and cooler ones cry. Well let me tell you who he was. This young German was perhaps intending to be an artist as against a bass player. He got to know the Beatles in their early days when they played in Hamburg. Later on he did the cover for the famous Beatle album Revolver which in itself secured him a place in history.
He went on to become bass player in John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band. There was even a time when he was rumoured to become a Beatle himself. (he would have to have become an adopted scouser like me). His voice was also heard on many TV adds in the 60's in particular Hovis. Klaus retired from music and is now back with his first love as an artist. He appeared on a Paul McCartney documentary on Channel 5 so look out for repeats. I forgot to mention he also took over on bass from Jack Bruce in Manfred Mann in 1966. He also managed to play recorder (on Quinn amongst others) and flute on Mann and Hugg's cool modern jazz stuff that was going on behind the hits in the sixties.
Shall I mention the Box this time. Hell why not, cause I am getting excited about it even if you are not, We Have No Title Yet is as you know made up of four CD's. Manfred has now listened and given his approval subject to it being clear that as well as hits and classics we are also including mistakes and outtakes. Ian Tompson who has been a huge help and support in all of this is doing a bit of last minute mixing and editing at present. Of the unreleased tracks the oldest of these date back to the unreleased Chapter III album from which I have culled three tracks including the Mike Hugg song that was reworked as the title track of the third MMEB album. Stepping Sideways is the now legendary cancelled first album. Its easy to see why it was withdrawn at the time as it is even less representative of how the Band was evolving than the first released album. Now we understand what MMEB is about and the no rules thing none of that matters and the Stepping Sideways stuff sounds pretty good to me. CD2 is mostly stuff you know but I have sneaked in (or as Manfred might say smurgled in) the Jon Sebastian song 'Summer in the City'. CD3 includes my personal favourites from over the years as well as featuring many of the different vocal talents Manfred has used over that time. 'Martha's Madman' (I love this song and the moog solos that go with it.) from Mann Alive is a reminder of how a band can still not get to do Later with Jools Holland even when they have three of the best voices in rock music working together. We were spoilt for that short while were we not.
Speaking of Chris he called the other day to say that he was very well incase anybody believed the nasty message on the message board. He is in the very very early stages of planning a possible DVD of Night and McNasty stuff and that's all I or he knows as yet. He may also have lent his voice to a forthcoming gramophone record who knows!!! Back to the Box and for me CD4 is the most interesting featuring some unreleased studio stuff from recent times including (I hope!) something from a forthcoming gramophone record. However my personal favourites are two live tracks from 1993 when Clive Bunker was on drums. Like you I have heard countless hours of live MMEB bootleg and otherwise and these two songs take a lot of beating. They are so moody and atmospheric and tight. The familiar one is 'Pleasure and Pain' before it was recorded and the other a song called 'Dirty City'. The book (please read in scouse i.e. boookk ) what I writ to go with it is great ( At least it is since Helen cleaned it up and took out the bad language). So things are looking good still. There is a lot to look forward to later this year and the new stuff next year and lots of live gigs going on. All we need now is a hit record again and when that happens Jools it will be too late and you will wish you had got them to do a set.
Might see you in the summer. Keep safe and enjoy the music.
Best Wishes Carol and Andy Taylor
(An EarthBand fan who is positively pink)
Regular readers of the message board will have seen 'pink' messages appear frequently. But who is the Pink Panther?
Meet Paul Bossenmaier, who'll celebrate his 43rd birthday in the first row of the MMEB gig at Esslingen, his home town. (Now that's a gift money can't buy - Ed). He got the nickname Pink Panther as this is his favourite television cartoon.
Paul has been a fan of MMEB since he was 16. In his own words "As a teenager I didn't have the money to visit a concert, but in 1979 a dream came true: MMEB live on stage at Böblingen - I never will forget the band and the show. Since then I have never missed an MMEB tour." His wife Sigrid, known as "Mrs. Panther", enjoys the same musical tastes.
Paul is famous (with the 'fan family') for his concert badges. An avid collector he was looking for tour T-Shirts, badges and pins. As the choice was limited, and as a maker of badges for the
past 6 years, he combined both his hobbies and started creating EarthBand related badges - not as a commercial venture, just for fun. The first MMEB badge was for the Tuttlingen gig last July.
This has now caught on with other people enjoying them too. As you can see from the examples on this page the badges are a labour of love.
Each badge is unique to a particular gig, each specially designed and inspired by particular events (the return of Father to the set for example), or by the surroundings or time of year. To date Paul has produced about 10 different ones. A normal run is about 35 badges, depending on the response from the message board.
So if you are at a gig in Germany this year, keep your eyes peeled, think Pink and you may get one of these splendid badges too!
Another kind of sightseeing
Uli Glup (Spring 2002)
It was 1978 when I visited London for the first time with my school class. Half of the students listened to the Bees Gees and the whole Saturday Night stuff, the other rest listened to Queen or ELO. Just one guy bought a album called "Watch" in a record store near Oxford Street. It was the beginning of a never ending love affair.
Almost 25 years, more than 30 concerts and 20 albums (or CDs) later, I returned with my wife and two friends. We planned an intensive '16 hours per day, completely self organized program' of the tourist highlights. All this in the hope we could see as much as possible during our four day trip. After just three hours of the first day we'd already decided that we should reduce our program to a symbiosis of sightseeing and learning facts about the British culture (like how is much a pint, especially when you have five of them).
The third day came and we were all a little bit tired. Most of the "interesting things" had been seen, (at least if we were to believe our Baedeker City Guide). Then I had a thought, "Why shouldn't we visit the famous Workhouse Studios of Manfred Mann, where all his masterpieces were produced? This would be something special". After a unbelievable period of silence (20 seconds) my friend raised his voice: "Okay, which underground?".
We took the Bakerloo line to the Elephant & Castle station (New Kent Road), in the hope that the walk to the Workhouse (Old Kent Road 488-490) wouldn't be further than half a mile. Unfortunately the Old Kent Road starts in the North with No. 1 and not, as I dreamed the night before, with No. 400.
Some blocks, 40 minutes, and many angry comments from my pals later, we reached this holy place for Earth Band fans all over the world. My first thought was "it doesn't really look like a Studio at all". Still I went to the steel door and rang the bell. Ian Thompson (the man responsible for Manfred's keyboards on stage), answered and let me in.
Ian showed me the great entrance room with Manfred's gold and platinum records from many different countries on the walls. We talked some minutes about the upcoming tour, the progress of the new album, and Manfred's whereabouts (he was visiting his daughter in Australia). After some minutes and a few photos it was time to leave the studios, full of impressions what I'd seen and heard. I forgot to ask Ian how many German tourists had visited the studios before. Meanwhile I wrote to the editor of the Baedeker - they should add the Workhouse Studios to their points of interests.
By the way, the ride back to downtown London was much easier and faster - just in front of the studios is a bus stop!
Manfred in the 50's
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - August 2002
We are all supposed to be celebrating, I am told. If you are not celebrating, Nigel S., here on known as 'Earth Boffin', is only going to get you and make you do something almost if not quite useful with your lives. So trust me and celebrate one year since 'Earth Boffin' took over the world, that is the world of MMEB on the internet. It's OK for you lot out there in the big world because you do have lots to celebrate.
Since 'Boffin' took control you have had better pictures, good articles, almost up to date news (and with this band that is an achievement), in other words a vastly superior electronic magazine better than anything we did on paper. Spare a thought however for this tormented soul. Just as I finish one 'Yawn' he is on the phone asking me for the next one. Demanding I check out his latest boffin inspired innovation, or check out some hot news (see the bottom of this page) such as the new album is finished. That one wasn't true of course.
There is none of this laid-back shall we get a mag out this year from the Boffin. You can understand why we, the Taylor family dread his calls, or visits (for one of Carol's famous Sunday diners), but you lot might think to drop the old message board a line and let him know just how much you do appreciate his efforts. Nobody knows more than me what a thankless task it is and Nigel has done you all proud. So let him know how much you appreciate him, if only so he goes on tormenting me. Nigel you are doing a cracking job, which I know from all the feedback I get, it is appreciated by the band and the fans. Keep up the good work and you may get another Sunday roast.
How did you get to be interested in Manfred's music and how big has been the impact on your life? I bet there are some good stories out there. In my case I regret it all started during one of those long hot summers we used to get every year, 1964 to be exact. You would probably find if you checked back now that the summer 1964 had the highest rain fall and lowest temperatures since records began. Anyway, there was this band named after the keyboard player heading for a No.1 and I loved the song - 'Do Wah Diddy Diddy'. My sister fancied the singer I didn't fancy any of them and didn't even buy the record! I regret to say we had it recorded on reel to reel tape from Alan Freemans' 'Pick of the Pops'. I did buy the next one and the next. I bought at least one in the bargain basement bin and stole my sisters copy of 'The One in the Middle' EP. This still has pride of place in my collection because it's the only thing I ever stole from her! I ended up getting most of the records and I did like the hits. I don't think that the hits, good though they were, would have maintained an interest over four decades. It was the blues and the jazz that got into my soul. Before I knew it I was looking for other blues and jazz artists. Some of these were far better at it than the Manfred's, some had probably inspired Hugg and Mann in the first place.
As Manfred moved away from pop into jazz and rock I moved with him. The music I was buying changed to more modern rock jazz artists although I was also discovering the likes of Graham Bond, Alexis Corner and other pioneers of British blues and jazz. I became a big fan of a group called Colosseum lead by one of the worlds greatest drummers Jon Hiseman. They created an almost unique blend of jazz rock as good now as it ever was. I don't think I say that because I live in the past, I just like what I like, new or old. I later became a big fan of Hiseman's wife, Barbara Thompson long before Manfred started to use her talents. I think I have always loved music and am without doubt frustrated by my own inability to play or make music myself. It is probably one of the most important aspects of my life. There were other influences. I loved the music of The George Mitchell Minstrels in those far of days better known as the Black and White Minstrels. It never crossed my mind black people might be offended by white guys blacking up to try to capture just a little of the magic of their music. I loved Gilbert and Sullivan, probably because my parents did. I think a jazz rock comic opera would be wonderful. For now we will content ourselves with Jasper Carrott as 'Co Co' in the 'Mikado' at the end of August. I can't however get away from the fact that 'Do Wah Diddy' was the start of my musical awareness. Mike Hugg introduced me to the vibes, Mike Vickers to the Sax, Paul Jones to the harmonica and Manfred to jazz piano and organ.
Something strange is happening now. My son Thomas who is almost fifteen has been slightly over-exposed for a lad of such tender age to the music of MMEB. He is still proud of the day he attended a rehearsal without the offered ear plugs! Over the years we have listened to lots of different music. My sister, who no longer fancies Paul Jones, encourages classical and even opera, and it is Carol's dream that he will play violin or piano in a world famous orchestra. Tom however has the bug. Tom has got jazz. I am told by those who know about these things that he is good too. He sounds good to me but I'm his Dad. He plays piano in a big band, swing band and a jazz quartet, as well as backing rock guitarists. His improvisation is wonderful to hear, he feels the music. He said recently that when playing classical stuff he has to work very hard to get it right, but given a jazz piece his fingers seem to know where to go. There have been many influences such as Robbie's Swing album and like I did with Manfred checking out the source material such as Frank, Dean and Sammy. He is the first to admit however that one of the culprits is a certain South African keyboard player who notwithstanding a few well chosen words of encouragement now and again, has over the years listened to hundreds of piano, organ, and Moog solos.
Then there is all the fun I have had answering questions, writing this stuff, compiling albums out on the road. I like it when Manfred and his band are innovating, or at least experimenting, taking risks. I am so looking forward to Manfreds next album. It may be great, it may not. It will be different, and who knows it may send me off exploring a whole new strand of music like Plains Music did. Check out Jan Garbarek if you already haven't. I wonder just how many families have been so affected by one simple pop hit. 'Do Wah Diddy Diddy' has a lot to answer for whether it was raining or not that year.
Yawn Hot News August 2002
I had a quite lengthy chat with Manfred today, the objective being to update you all on what is going on. There is in fact quite a lot going on at the moment so here is some news on the new album, change in the band, The Workhouse and Blinded by the Light. There is also the box but I won't give that or the four CDs or the never before heard tracks like Lead Me To Water, To the Limit, Summer In The City, Dirty City, Better Place.........a plug again until I have a release date which I don't yet. You will just have to look forward a bit longer to hearing Chapter III do Messin' (its so good) or The Earth Band before they were the Earth Band..
What we all want to hear most is the new album. Manfred is finding it very difficult playing so many gigs and getting the album finished. It is particularly frustrating for me because I have heard bits and really liked it. It is very different. Most of the tracks are based around classical themes. Manfred said it was about three quarters finished but wasn't sure when he would finish it.
Most of you will know that Manfred is moving to a as yet unnamed Studio by the river. He is not sure if he will retain the Workhouse name or give the new place a new name. He is also not sure when he will move to the new place, however The Workhouse is likely to survive for another nine months or so. If any one wishes to visit before then and see the place then if you let me or Nigel know we will try and organise a few visits when there is nothing going on there.
Pete May and some of you may know this already is leaving MMEB at least for the time being at the end of August. He is due to go on tour with Cliff Richard. His place will be taken by Geoff Dunn a well known and much in demand drummer who has played with such artists as Roger Chapman and Joe Cocker. I am sure you will all join me in wishing Pete well and giving Geoff a big cheer when you get to see the Band.
Funk Star Delux who I think are described as a funk jazz dance band have reworked Blinded by the Light with both Chris and Manfred on vocals and also featuring a Manfred keyboard solo. This sounds a big project. Manfred was off, I think he said to Denmark (but I haven't written it down so I could be wrong) to make the video. I have no dates for this as yet but it sounds like we could have a hit record again, Manfred is considering doing something with Sexual Jealousy with Funk Star Delux as well. In any case he is reworking this song for the new album.
And that is about it. There are supposed to be some UK gigs and I forgot to ask Manfred about his rumoured guest appearance on keyboards for Uriah Heep. You will just have to log on next time.
Blinded By The Light - Rhine in Flames 2002
18 months on from my last MMEB gig and the withdrawal symptoms were definitely setting in, especially while sitting here updating the website. Then an invitation from Reinhard and Erika Dahms, a gig in Cologne and a chance to meet up with some of the fan family. Plans were made, revised, ripped up and re-planned. Despite having said I'd never do it again, the coach tickets were booked, train connections checked and a pillow purchased. Then it was time to be off, lunchtime Thursday (only 24 hours to go - to get there, not till the gig!). This was never going to be trains, planes and automobiles, just lots of coaches, a ferry and a train thrown in.
Lunchtime Friday, and there is Reinhard to meet me off the train at Duren, great to see a friendly face and a chance to stretch my legs. A quick drive and we're at Hotel Dahms with the executive suite ready for me. Over the next 8 hours the rest of the weekend guests arrive. Great to meet up with Uschi, Iris, Angela, Wil, Christian and Heiko again and Ben for the first time. Of course getting this many Earth Band fans together the topic of conversation soon turns to the band and a late night is guaranteed.
Next day and its into Cologne. 500,000 people are expected and the city is busy with parking spaces at a premium but we eventually manage to park close to the venue.
The venue is an open air stage on the banks of the Rhine, almost opposite the Dom. Not as large as I'd expected (perhaps space for 2-3,000 people) it was still an experience for me, my first open air MMEB gig (after 27 years), after all we don't often get the weather in the UK and open air concerts tend to be the mega-concerts such as Glastonbury. Time for a drink, a snack and a look round Cologne. What a beautiful city, the Dom in particular is spectacular (Andy the station is next door and would keep you quiet for hours).
Then back to the venue, Reinhard's employer's are sponsoring the gig and he's managed to get hold of VIP tickets. Fantastic, a chance to speak to the crew and the band and catch up with news. Whilst in there the sky darkens and starts to look threatening and perhaps an hour before the gig it starts to rain. Then good news, the dark clouds slide past and the rain eases (stopping just as the gig is about to start). Apparently the dark clouds moved off towards Frankfurt where local flooding occurred! A close escape. Outside I meet Annette, nice to put a face to the name at last and also Roland.
Then its time for the gig, the keyboards look a little strange without the Moog balanced on top. The set was no surprise (I'd already seen the setlist), I'll Give You, Shelter, Martha, Times. The most noticeable thing is the sound, guitar, keyboards and vocals all well balanced and Manfred getting some wonderful sounds out of the Hammond. Mick is also in fine form. Steve seems to be really enjoying himself and there's some great bass in Martha.
Then Dancing, a new song live for me, it works really well and the instrumental in the middle is excellent. Then Carol - again something new for me with the re-start towards the end. Steve's bass is well to the fore here. Pete is playing well also. Then Father, the duel in the middle between Mick and Manfred is fantastic and the absence of the moog is not noticed. Then Demolition Man, She Was and Blinded. This really gets the crowd going as they recognise this Earth Band standard (would be lovely to hear the long version again though). Then the band are back for their encores. Davy (again instantly recognised), Redemption Song and finally Might Quinn. All too soon its over - 1 hour 40 mins of pure pleasure (and it stayed dry).
Then back into the VIP area - it is free beer after all and a proper chance to talk to the crew and the band and catch up on news. Rhein-Energie were doing us proud. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to speak and hopefully the UK gigs will happen this autumn and we can do it again.
About 10:30 with another band on stage, all of a sudden everyone has a lighted sparkler in their hands, amazing, on both banks of the Rhine all you can see in both directions are sparklers - really impressive. Then at 11:00 the fireworks, all set to music and definitely the best display I've ever seen.
Finally its all over and its back to the car and then Hotel Dahms. Exhausted its time for an 'early/late' night. Iris and Angela sorry I missed you next morning - I don't know how you manage it. Then sadly it's time to travel back, farewells to everyone as in two's they leave with plans exchanged to do it again. Last to go are myself and Uschi, travelling in opposite directions at the station, waved off by Reinhard and Erika. 24 hours back (but at least I slept most of the way back this time).
Reinhard and Erika, thanks for your wonderful German hospitality and for organising the VIP tickets, to everyone else, it was great to meet you all again. To Annette, I may walk next time, I reckon it would only take me a month.
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - October 2002
After all the news I gave you last month what more can I tell you? Well there's good news and bad (well slighly disappointing) news:
Well the good new is that the Funk Star Deluxe/Manfred thing with a new keyboard solo thrown in as baggage in Denmark went into the charts at number 2. If you live in Denmark you will know that already.
Also on the good news front there is to be an 'Ultimate Best Of' album released. Not another 'Best Of' I hear you scream! Well as a matter of fact yes, but with a difference because for the first time ever CD1 is sixties and CD2 Earth Band. CD1 will include as a clever move Dhabi's version of his Handbags and Gladrags a huge hit just recently for the Stereophonic. The Funk Star Deluxe reworking of Blinded may feature on CD2 as well as possibly a couple of live tracks.
Then there is the DVD, not sure when but amongst the goodies on this will be some of the Budapest stuff.
As well as the Wednesday. Thursday and Friday night U.K. gigs in November, The Brook at Southampton has been added on the Saturday.
On the subject of bad news, the Boxed Set, which I may have mentioned once or twice will not be out until the New Year so as to make way for the 'Ultimate Best Of'. Still all good things are worth the wait and if this isn't worth it I give in.
The Boxed Set
CD1 includes Chapter III's version of Mike Hugg's 'Messing Up the Land' along with a couple of other previously unheard Chapter III tunes, one of which will also be familiar to MMEB fans. Then you get all the 'Stepping Sideways' stuff, including three previously unheard songs not to mention a kind of country Blues take on 'Mrs. Henry' and a much longer 'Jump Sturdy'. There is a totally different version of 'Ashes to the Wind' as well. There is just one unheard track on CD2 and two on CD3, all songs you have not heard MMEB do. Amongst these is a Mick Rogers song sung by Chris called 'Better Place'. This was the only useable unreleased song sung by the wonderful C.T. that we could find. CD4 is my favourite containing loads of stuff from the 90's through to last year.
Andy's Compilation (for personal consumption)
So I did this compilation just for me and just for fun the other day. It is all because of this jazz thing going on in our house just at the moment. I took bits of Manfred Mann jazz from the 60's the 70's even the 90's and put it onto one CD. Nothing clever in that I know except that it works suprisingly well. It could also get some of you out there discovering new depths or not as the case may be. So here it is your Do It Yourself album. All you need is to buy all the source albums you don't already own, a CD writer if you haven't got one and half an hour later you will have a cool jazz album to play in the car/bath/late at night with the lights turned down.
I open with 'Hymn from Jupiter'and the album Masque. This is good because it combines Manfred's trade mark moog style with lots of jazz and rock undertones around a classical theme. Manfred became famous for doing this with 'Joybringer' and has always loved to treat classical themes to a jazz or rock influence. Much of the new stuff he is doing now is around this idea although very different from 'Hymn'. The short theme from 'Up the Junction' works well next with some nice jazz organ to a strong brass section. I don't think Manfred uses organ enough as a lead nowadays. I always remember the pre moog solos at Chapter III concerts. So loud and so exciting. 'My Generation' the famous WHO song now reworked I think rather well by Oasis (well they did a storming version of it on Top of the Pops a couple of weeks ago) is next. Interesting mid sixties take on the band and a good example of how different the music they wanted to play was from what they were known for. To put it into context 'Pretty Flamingo' was number 1 and Paul Jones had worked out his notice. Jack Bruce on of the most famous bass players of the last few decades arranged this and a few other covers of well know hits. 'I've Got you Babe', 'Still I'm Sad' and so on. All were strong examples of the new brass section that gave the band a kind of Mann Hugg Blues Brothers look again. All were jazz and gave Manfred and Mike Hugg a chance to shine. Manfred mostly on organ and Mike on drums and vibes. Here I include earlier jazz like the wonderful 'Bare Hugg' with the brilliant Mike Vickers doing a Rowland Kirk and therefore almost Tullesque flute solo.
Mike was also a great sax player and he and Mike Hugg did a jazz thing together a few years ago which as far as I know is still to seethe light of day. 'Autumn Leaves' creeps forward in time to Klaus Voorman of Beatles and Plastic Ono Band flavour. More covers, some unreleased until a year or three ago, this time wilder and looser and this time the bands first ever bass player Dave Richmond back on double Bass. I loved these sessions because they sound like they are having so much fun. 'Mann in a Jam' sneaks into all this as it is the 80's equivalent of the sixties B side. For some reason I missed out Chapter III but included two tracks from 'Plains Music', both on the box set to proof how much I love them. 'Salmon Fishing' with some great piano and 'Instrumedicine Song' which is I think the most perfect thing Manfred has ever done and yet so simple. 'For Adults Only' fits so well with these tracks and then there is 'As Above So Below' and the 'Yawn' itself. I admit it, sooner or later much as I love organ and especially piano now and again, I need to hear some Moog. So there is the idea it makes into a very good album to play in the car. It is surprising to some, very Manfred and great fun and makes a nice change. You may find you discover or rediscover new things about Manfred's music. If you have done a good for fun compilation let us know about it and why it ended up the way it did.
It is a small world you know. My daughter came back from her primary school the other day with the autograph of a man who had come in to show the kids percussion and drums. He told them he had been on Top of the Pops and toured the world with many bands. She couldn't remember his name of course but came home the next night with the information. It was a guy called Geoff Britain she told me. So guess who has Geoff's autograph now!
See you next time or maybe at Dudley next month.
MMEB- Our private story
Karin & Thomas Sonntag's Story
It was in 1979, I had been a 15 years old teenager and we started to visit rock concerts and dance parties. My friends in our "gang" were all very interested in the development of rock music, and there was a lot of good music at this time on the radio! We listened to everything we could get - Deep Purple, AC DC, Uriah Heep, Led Zeppelin, The Stones, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Peter Gabriel and - Manfred Mann`s Earth Band. It was the time Angel Station was released, and 'The Roaring Silence' and 'Watch' were still on the radio too, and so even we in the former G.D.R. knew the lyrics of most of these great songs.
We tried everything to get the Western German radio stations at home - and we were so lucky to live not so far away from the German borderline, so we could listen to most of the stations in a good quality. You could really forget about our own stations here in the Eastern part of Germany. They had to play about 60 % of G.D.R.-music, and most of that was crap and not what we wanted to listen to! To buy a record of a good band in the shop was nearly impossible to us - they had not been available there, and you needed really good relationships to get them anyway from the west. So the radio was our only chance...
And there was a cover-band named "Zoe" playing in our area. They had been very good and they played a lot of such stuff like Supertramp, Uriah Heep and MMEB. We saw them a lot of times on stage, and that was the time I got some favourite songs - Mighty Quinn, Davy, You Angel You, For You... It was just OUR music, we loved it and sang it, but, to be honest, I did not know who were the members of the original Earth Band or other details.
Then came that cold and dark November evening I will never forget. I had just left the sitting room where my parents were watching the TV news again and again on several channels - how boring! So I returned to my bed room and turned the radio on - it was 8 p.m. and time for "Pop nach Acht" on Bayern 3, moderated by Thomas Gottschalk At the end of the 70ties to us one of the best radio programs. He always had some very good songs there and my cassette recorder was always in readiness during that one hour... Today, after a few other songs, he said now he had chosen one of his own favourites, called 'Father Of Day'. I heard only "Manfred Mann`s Earth Band" and jumped to the recorder - I did not know that song before. Because our cover band had never played it, and it was normally too long and that`s why it was not so often on the radio. But what a song! It was of course the old Solar Fire version, and I knew from the first minutes - I got a new personal favourite song now. I was not any longer interested in the rest of Gottschalk`s radio program, I put the headphones on and listened to the tape again and again. One hour later I got a fright - my mother had touched me to tell me that it was time for bed - I had been so far away in this moment and had forgotten everything around me...
I still cannot describe what is so special to me in that song, it is just a prayer which expresses what I feel (you should know I do not believe in any god). Not so much the lyrics which are really not very complicated, but what a music, what an arrangement and what a guitar! That song went with me all the following years, I listened to it many hundred times and it was (and it is) always like a corner I could flee to when I felt down.
Four years later I met Thomas, he was a very nice guy, we liked each other and married later- and we have the same taste of music. He had already in the G.D.R. a lot of good records at home,
including the Solar Fire! He knows all the details about the bands much better than I do and I`m still learning from him :-) We enjoy it very much to have the same interests.
And in 1997 the dream became true - I saw in Jena a poster: MMEB will play in Reinstädt, only 30 km from our home! I could not believe it. We had heard they had broken up in the late 80ties or early 90ties! (You see the problem of the bad promotion - they had been on tour again for years and nobody knew it.) When I came home with the tickets Tom was excited. We were very busy trying to see all the good bands now live (no chance in the former G.D.R), and now we would see MMEB. The question to me was - Father live on stage or not? I did not believe it... The concert day came and a terrible rain, too. I lost the motivation when I looked out of the window but Tom said - Come with me or I drive alone. (!?!) I never heard something like this from him before - okay, let`s go. Or better let`s swim - the Open Air area was completely flooded, it rained and rained, I was freezing and my mood was going to be very bad. During the gig of the support band there came three guys around selling MMEB- T shirts. So we bought from Ian our very first T-Shirts only because it was so cold there!
The rain stopped, but I did not want to leave the dry corner at the very last point of the place, 200 m far from the stage. The Earth Band appeared on stage, Intro, Shelter, sang by Noel, then came Chris for Martha out. Oh yes, great music, indeed! My mood was already much better and I forgot the wet shoes and the cold. Tom next to me danced and sang and wanted to get closer to the stage - then we heard the first chords of Father and we needed just 2 mins to get through all those 3000 people to the second row! We stood there in all that mud but it did not matter to us. It was fantastic! Although I though in the first moment: What had they done with that song? The live version is so different to the studio one but I like it live more - it has even more power and the guitar is unbelievable. The gig went over me like a thunderstorm - it was over before I could understand what had happened there on stage. I only knew - I had never before listened to such a perfect live music, to such wonderful and creative solos. If you had ever learned to play an instrument you can confirm how many hours you have to practise to let a song work well, and that band there on stage played their music so fresh and with such an easiness and lots of solos, born in the moment and still perfect! It was just outstanding, and when we left the area one thing was sure to us - we have to see them again! And again and again, because we never get the same solo a second time in the same way... :-)
Meanwhile a lot of concerts, but it is still as great as at the very first gig. And when now sometimes someone of the band finds some kind personal words for us at a gig I still fear to wake up and it was only a dream... This is MMEB, live and in colour, and they speak with us and we enjoy our little job at the merchandising so much. We hope the band will still go on for many many years and we can do so, too. They are live much better than everything we heard on record or CD. And there is already the next version of Father ready to go, a modern one on Mick`s solo album. Another great version of a song which really influenced my life.
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - December 2002
There was this EP an import from France with an unreleased song on it and being an import it was expensive. For those of you aware of my incurable interest in railways the EP had the added bonus of a picture of the national transport museum when it was at Clapham rather than York. There was however a chance to see the band play live if an extra night in London can be wangled. It would mean of course not spending money on silly overpriced EP's. So that evening me and my mate Mark set out into the London suburbs to find Eltham Teachers Training College and see our heroes live for the first time.A couple of weeks ago I was at the Stables (what a nice venue ) and The Robin ( what a ... ) for what seems like my millionth gig. It was great to meet up with good friends from home and abroad some of whom I only get to see when there are gigs on.
It was also nice to see everyone in the band and crew and meet the new drummer. If I was absolutely honest which of course I am not, I was looking forward to the gig less than looking forward to catching up with old friends. You see back in the sixties although the D'Abo fronted version of Manfred Mann was the least effective as a live band, they were doing something new at least to me. They spent most of the evening belting out old blues and rock and role classics such as Nitty Gritty, Fever, Hound Dog and Hoochie Coochie Man. Even the hit single Just Like A Woman had been rearranged to fit the style as had Paul McCartney's She's A Woman. Summertime was pure jazz. Manfred Mann Chapter III were so prog (screaming brass sections) rock that they should have been a disaster live. The twice I saw this band in Liverpool and Manchester the sell out crowds were mad for it. The organ solos were just great loud, moody and so commanding.
I need say little of MMEB in the 70's 80's or 90's because most of you know better than I do what a great selection of live bands Manfred has had since 1971 but hell I will anyway. People ask me often what my favourite bit of MMEB was. The answer was always an easy one, now. In the early 70's it was the first band with that powerful combination of Colin and Chris Slade driving the whole thing along so that Manfred and Mick could overlay their innovative and exciting soloing. Looking back now, maybe it was a little self indulgent but it is still great stuff. Turn the volume up settle back and enjoy. It doesn't all work because this band was breaking new ground, experimenting, taking risks without the rule book that had put some restraints onto Chapter III. Then along came Chris and Dave and despite the loss of Mick Rogers, we had Manfred's best band yet. Well it seemed like that then anyway. Lots of people thought so, 'cause they had big hits and two big selling albums. We got the films at live shows. "When is Manfred going to bring the films back?", I am often asked. He has talked about it. The problem is to do it now like then would be very expensive of course. I remember in Germany once a support band using some kind of back projection which was very effective. Manfred was interested to find out more, so you never know.
The Steve Waller period was my favourite. Whilst it was happening and I still think Manfred did some of his best recording work during this time with albums like 'Chance' and one of my all time favourite albums 'Somewhere in Afrika'. I loved Waller's live performance filled with warmth, humour, showmanship and great musical ability. He was complimented by some of the best players like John Lingwood and Pat King. Listening to a bootleg of a live show from that time is still very good for you and no more criminal than calling 'Budapest' a live album ! In the early 80's Manfreds moog solos reached the point of true greatness. If a mini moog can reach ultimate pleasure then it happened on some of those Martha solos..wow... check it out.
When you get chance to buy the box, you will find two live tracks from 1993. Now this is my favourite band. How could it fail. The wonderful new singer, so much jazz , so much soul - Mr Noel McCalla, Clive Bunker of not only Jethro Tull but classic rock album 'Aqualung' on drums how could it fail. These are two stunning recordings oozing atmosphere with once again great keyboards and guitar from the two originals still pushing things to the limit. These two recordings alone should make 2003 a good year for you (unless the box doesn't come out until 2004. Come on we have always had to be patient! )
My favorite MMEB of all must be the one that hit the road following the release of the first studio album for something like one hundred years. Here we have something very special. The voice of MMEB joining forces with the old singer and the new singer giving a front line that includes three of the best vocalists in rock music at the time. I do not think I am exaggerating. Chris, Noel and Mick singing together wow. It doesn't stop there. John Trotter ranks for me as one of the best drummers in the bands history,whilst the quiet unassuming Mr Kinch now a veteran of some ten years with the band and always a very good bass player changed his image to become a great visual part of the act as well as an even better bass player. We even got a live album that sounded like a live album and is brilliant if you didn't know. Ironically the year after the 'Mann Alive' album was recorded, the band still experimenting, still innovating sounded quite different live, even more exciting and dare I say it even better. Come to think of it that would be my favourite tour or at least it was then.
My long standing interest in Manfred is hidden somewhere in the above ramblings. He has always made sure he has some of the best players in the business around him, both live and in the studio. He has turned his back on nostalgia (as I slowly drift deeper into my fifties there is a little devil inside me saying go on Manfred chuck a couple of real oldies in) I was lucky enough, it must be two years ago now to hear a few short bits from the music he is working on now and I was excited for me and for everybody waiting for the next album and for him because it was new, different and dare I say it again innovative.
So who is my favourite band. Well the current MMEB is made up of many of the great players already mentioned and after the initial shock the new drummer could be the best yet. Geoff hits them harder than anyone before him. He has a distinctive style like the best drummers before him and almost alone has freshened up the bands live sound. That is a great achievement when the set has changed so little in the last couple of years. I would like to see some of Manfred's new music being aired live next year. It would be so exciting to see this band start to innovate and experiment like the previous ones. So OK I am 52 next year and I think Noel could do a cracking version of Come Tomorrow, or Fox on the Run and what about Mick doing a very heavy version of Capt Bobby Stout. There is nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia as long as it can also be new. I think that's why I mostly listen to jazz nowadays. Its familiar and comfortable like well warn slippers, but good jazz is never the same, so at the same time it challenges you. would love Manfred to do another jazz album on the lines of 'Plains Music'.
A bit like an MMEB gig you might say. The same old set for those of us who know the band well is probably OK. The familiar, changed round and still challenging. Having said that I can't help the feeling the band must be getting bored with the same stuff night after night. All of this is very subjective of course.
I would never want the band to stop playing Martha, Redemption Song or Quinn. Everybody will have different views, so to please everyone you would probably end up with the same set or a much longer one.
I did enjoy the shows and they are always different. What was great for me was how well Manfred was playing. The moog solos were as good if not better than anything I've heard. He is playing so well at the moment. It is partly I gather because his keyboards are so well set up at present. The newest keyboard plays through the mini moog producing the trade mark Manfred sound we have known and loved for so long. Oh no I'm getting nostalgic again ...help
Help is or will be at hand with the release of the first ever true crossover collection. 'Evolution' (this was the first working title for the box - by the way only Barry Winton didn't like it) is two CDs and a DVD and should be out now but hey this is a Manfred Mann album so now is in fact Feb 2003'ish. The box by the way is out in 'the spring' but which year is still secret. Anyway back to 'Evolution' which has been delayed by a few minor art work problems. I guess this is the ultimate Best Of album with all the hits. What makes it different is things start in the 60's when Manfred Mann had a long stream of hits before moving on disc 2 to the MMEB years. I understand bonus tracks are included along with a DVD containing both sixties and Earth Band material. If you are not familiar with the sixties stuff or think you don't like it then mark these words.
I could waffle on about this being the commercial front to a very clever and innovative band and not representative of what they were about. The R & B, the Jazz not to mention the great songwriting of people like Jones, Hugg, and D'Abo for example, or the great soloing by Manfred, Mike Hugg's vibes or Mike Vicker's saxophone and flute. These are the things that got me into Manfred Mann in the sixties, but for most people it was the hits like Do Wah Diddy Diddy, Pretty Flamingo and Loads more that made the name Manfred Mann famous world wide. That is what you get on CD1 and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. You will be hard pressed to find a better collection of pop songs anywhere. It is not easy to produce a classic rock track ten minutes or more long. To say what you have to say in less than three minutes and get a sizeable chunk of the worlds population to go out and buy it is even more of a challenge. Manfred always was and still is good at this. Some of the recent singles would have succeed with airplay.
Here is a chance to keep your MMEB collection up to date and discover or rediscover what cracking good pop records came out in the sixties. This was always going to be the first crossover album hence the Box hopefully released hot on the heels of Evolution starts with Chapter III.
So two exciting releases next year and with the box lots of stuff you 'ain't heard.
I was recently sent a copy of an album by a group called 'Orange Heart' The Jazz Label altrisuoni, Cat. Log No. AS 126, this group is made up of: Michele Walther, Matthias Gubler, Fuzian Jenny which I think you would agree is an unusual line up. This is without a doubt a jazz album, but don't let it put you off at all, it is unusual, moody and atmospheric and I for one really enjoyed it. The Manfred connection is track 6 'Earth The Circle - Part 2' done in Orange Hearts own style, excellent stuff.
If for some reason you haven't got Chris Thompson's recent album or the new Mick Rogers album they would make a couple of excellent late stocking fillas!
The band will be out touring next year and I hope to get out to Europe, which I failed to do in 2002 due to work commitments.
You must also promise to have a fantastic Christmas. Hope you get everything you ask for. Carol and I wish everyone out there a fantastic 2003 and who knows we may bump into you somewhere at a gig.
Andy & Carol
Earth Band - The Picture Sleeves
Original article by Graeme Yates (appeared in Platform End Issue 7 - Summer 1995) - Sleeve images from Jorg Fedders
Single releases in Britain continued to lack picture sleeves long after they routinely appeared in Europe. Earth Band 7" singles remained in white or company sleeves until 'Lies (Through the 80's)' in 1980, although 'Don't Kill It Carol' was issued on picture disc the previous year. The second single from 'Chance', 'For You', reverted to a white sleeve, but all subsequent releases had picture sleeves. It is therefore of interest to consider picture sleeves around the world for both the differences in sleeve design between countries and also the release of tracks not featured on single in Britain. Some are more collectable than others, but many of the Dutch and German releases are relatively easy to find. The more interesting sleeves feature group pictures and art sleeves, though some like the German 'Living Without You', are unexciting, merely being coloured lettering on a dark background. Like many Philips releases around Europe, it features pictures of other label releases on the back. The French version however has an early group photo taken with a typical grey wall backdrop. Chris Slade has hair, Manfred a Chapter III type beard and Mick and Colin Pattenden both look very young.
'Mrs Henry', was still credited to Manfred Mann (sans earth Band), with the German issue having a strange one eyed art sleeve. By contrast, the Dutch issue has a close-up picture of Manfred from a period when few photos exist.
'Get Your Rocks Off', has a relaxed feel to it on the Dutch sleeve with the band grouped around dustbins which seem to have been used by someone with little idea that rubbish is meant to go in the bin. The German sleeve shows a denim-clad band walking against a street backdrop by which time Colin has developed noticeable sideburns.
The French 'Joybringer', is colourful with the band clearly expecting a heatwave apart from Colin who thinks the next gig is in Siberia. The German release has a rare live shot which also adorns both sides of the Italian sleeve, albeit with different artwork.
'Father Of Day, Father Of Night', has the same group picture on both German and Dutch sleeves, but with different artwork and the Earth Band logo makes its first appearance on the Dutch copy. 'Be Not Too Hard', also features a group shot.
One of my favourite sleeves for its mass of colour and period costumes is the German 'Spirits In The Night', which has a live shot taken from 'The Music Shop'. Italian and Dutch copies are different again featuring four intrepid aviators bedecked in headgear.
Ears & Scarf
'Blinded By The Light', was housed in the same 'ear' sleeve in Germany and Holland, though the Portuguese and Italian copies both feature Manfred and Chris Thompson with one large ear each but different headings. The American promo has a plain sleeve with lyrics on it and the Japanese release shows the band in relaxed mood with Thompson sporting an oversized scarf. The German 'Questions', has a shot taken from the same session as the Portuguese and Italian 'Blinded' sleeve, but the back begins the trend of promoting various albums. The reissued 'Spirits In The Night' with Thompson on vocals was housed in a space type sleeve. The Dutch 'California' depicts a badlands type hillside and was followed by 'Mighty Quinn' which has the heads from the inner cover of 'Watch' on its frontcover. There are very dark pictures of all previous albums on the back as indeed there are on the German version, the front of which shows band members with a 'Watch' cloud scene projected onto them. This was the first picture sleeve I ever stumbled across at a Record Fair. 'Davy's On The Road Again', has an attractive blue 'Watch' cover whereas the German version features the ubiquitous wall as a backdrop. The Dutch 'You Angel You', has a sad black angel on an unexciting sea of blue, with Germany choosing a colourful 'Angel Station' front cover complete with Earth Band logo (and it really is a good logo isn't it?).
A 'B' Side
But things hot up for 'Don't Kill It Carol'. A sepia shot shows cuddly band members on Holland's sleeve whereas Germany was treated to two releases. The sleeves are the same except one tells you it features 'Blinded By The Light' and the other 'You Are, I Am' as the 'B' side. The catalogue number is the same. Why there were two releases I don't know, although Germany also enjoyed a 12" which had the album version of 'Carol' and 'You Are, I Am' on the flipside. Answers on a postcard... 'Lies (Through The 80's)' in Germany was basically the same as Britain's first picture sleeve 7" except it has the lyrics on the reverse cover. This is of note as many of us bought 'Chance' when it was first issued not realising we'd been diddled out of a lyric inner. I do like 'For You' though, which lists the 36 European tour dates on the back, has Manfred in a deck chair and colour shots of all album covers.
Somewhere on 7"
It is at this point that we move into the last phase of Earth band picture sleeves. Bronze now issued picture sleeves in Britain and differences between countries are less marked generally. For some such as 'I (Who Have Nothing)', and 'Redemption Song', there are no differences. 'Eyes Of Nostradamus' was not issued in Germany (or elsewhere?), but 'Tribal Statistics' saw the light of day in Germany with 'Demolition Man' as its flip and a different back cover featuring the parent album. Furthermore, 'Tribal Statistics' reappeared when the non-British 7" 'Third World Service' was released to coincide with the 'Somewhere In Europe' tour. This is an interesting single, with tour dates on the reverse and both tracks differing from otherwise available versions. At this time, a bootleg 33rpm 7" emerged in France allegedly recorded in Brussels. It went under the hideous title 'Somewhere In The Land Of Wet Lips And Big Tits.' It was a limited edition (no more than 9,999, but maybe fewer). The sound quality is not all it could be, but tracks are listed as 'Pretty Flamingo', 'Mighty Quinn', 'Eastbound Train', 'Step By Step', 'Davy's On The Road Again' and 'Grande Finale'. This is an exaggeration, but is intriguing and rare.
'Runner' varies in that Germany had a larger picture of the athletes than Britain and France. I always remember the NME slating Bronze for the lack of imagination given to the sleeve design, but as they say, any publicity is good publicity. The releases from 'Criminal Tango' were basically the same apart from their catalogue numbers, although 'Who Are The Mystery Kids' was issued as a limited edition tour single in Sweden (Crossfire was on the flip side). 'Geronimo's Cadillac' from 'Masque', benefited from a special radio mix of under 3 minutes length in Germany which merited an 'ACHTUNG' sticker. Also, unlike Britain it appeared on 12". There are some other releases from Asia which are unusual, though their status as official releases is unclear. A colourful EP lists 'Father Of day, Father Of Night Part 1', on one side with 'Part II' and 'Solar Fire' on the flip. The lead guitarist is some unknown called 'Mike Rogers!' A similar EP has 'In The Beginning' c/w 'Solar Fire' and 'Pluto The Dog'. Another pairs 'Give Me The Good Earth' with 'Earth Hymn' sports the parent album cover on the front. These releases are hard to find, and although all three are on different labels, they all feature the same type-set on the reverse.
This article is not meant to be exhaustive (though you may be exhausted having read it). Other variations exist out there somewhere for you to find. I do however think that they show how decision making and marketing have changed, becoming more centralised and how casual group shots have been replaced by art sleeves and shots based around album covers. Nevertheless, it all makes for added interest and I've not mentioned the weird Dutch sleeve for Chapter III's 'Happy Being Me' or 'Plains Music' releases. Of course, anybody wishing to add, subtract or chat about sleeves generally should submit these to the message board or the webmaster.
The Nifty Fifties - Part 1
I think most people will tell you that the music that was around when they were teenagers (or even earlier) was the music that influenced them the most. For me that was certainly the case and I am talking about the 50s. Manfred has always said that he thinks people always remember the music that was happening when they first had sex. Well I was about ten when I first heard the wonderful Elvis record 'Hound Dog' so I'm not sure where that leaves me, although Manfred never mentioned if he meant having sex with another person, so I guess anything is possible. The great thing about the fifties was that everything in music terms was new, when you heard a rock n' roll record for the first time you could never say "oh, I've heard that before" because there had never been anything like it before. When I first heard Scotty Moore's guitar solo on "Hound Dog", I wondered what the hell it was, I couldn't figure it out and even today it still gets me. The Elvis 50s CD Box Set was bought for me as a present from the Earth Band and I carry that around with me on tour so I can listen and still learn, as well as of course loads of other stuff like Peter Gabriel, Prodigy and some Jeff Beck, but my 50s rock n 'roll is fantastic.
I heard and read interviews with people like Beck, Clapton and Cliff Richard and they were kicked into gear by the same stuff. Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee, Buddy Holly and of course Elvis. I will never forget seeing the first picture of Presley, not only was his music great but the look of the guy was amazing, the clothes, the duck-tail hair with the quiff, we all wanted to be Elvis and to this day the image of him still lives. I could never understand why people, when they impersonate Elvis, always do the horrible 70s image of the cloak and belt etc, but I guess its easier to look bloated then how he did in the 50s. I think Shaky Stevens captured his vibe great and made it his own. Cliff Richard saw the same piece of film on TV that I did, it was Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show doing "Heartbreak Hotel"
It didn't take long before some British rockers emerged and although they were copying what was happening in the states, there were some pretty good stuff around. Although he didn't take long to become a "family entertainer" (I would rather use the word "naf" to describe it), Tommy Steele did some good stuff like 'Rock with the Caveman' and his band the Steelemen were all studio musicians but really had a great feel and sounded very much like Bill Haley's Comets. I think the first British record to have the most authentic sounds and feel of American Rock and Roll was Cliff Richard's 'Move it' – great guitar and great rockabilly type vocals from Cliff.
British Rock n Roll was really captured a couple of years later on TV by a programme called "Six Five Special". The great TV producer Jack Good really produced on TV the feeling of what was happening in England but it was the States where all the ideas and sounds were coming from.
The feeling from the records was great, I remember seeing Bill Haley at the cinema and when he started up the whole place was rocking and its true, people were dancing in the aisles, it was an exciting time and I was truly hooked. Where I was born in Dovercourt (a coastal town in Essex), we were lucky in having two very important places, one was the newsagents by the train station and the owner used to get all these wonderful American magazines and comics and I was able to check up on what was happening in the States regarding the music and movies and of course any pics of the American rockers were great and I will never forget seeing the first Elvis mag, well man that was great. The other important place was of course the local record store.
I will never forget that place, and it was amazing that the owner (Mr Tumilty) also used to get all the rock n roll stuff, so I was in heaven.
I remember every Saturday rushing down to the shop to see what new records had been delivered during the week and I never came home empty-handed.
Of course Teddy Boys were the happening thing and most of my friends were teds, but not of a violent nature, just the look. I remember a famous shop window that we all used to stand in front of, it wasn't a great shop, in fact I can't even remember what it sold, it was just one of these window that was great for checking out your hair, very important I can tell you! In part two of this, I will explain how I started playing an what it was really like to play at that time, and yes folks I can remember all of it.
Memories of Steve Waller (1988 – 1991)
After doing a search for Waller I chanced upon your web site and read the Tribute to Steve Waller. I didn't know Waller personally but I saw him enough times over three years from 1988 to give a taster of what this man was about.
My brother and I used to see lots of bands on the south London pub circuit for both fun and material for our first band and after a double booking of a blues band called Hot Club we went to see Waller instead for the first time.
The pub was called the Southampton next to Surbiton station (RIP) and the first thing we noticed that is was full to bursting. After squeezing to the front Waller started the set with Peter Stroud (bass) and Glen Le Fleur (Drums). Don¹t remember much about this first gig but my brother and I watched with mouths open. This was special. He could sing, entertain and was the most original guitarist I had seen . It was at that point I realised I couldn't play the guitar. What I do remember about my first time was the crowd shouting for Mighty Quinn which I didn't realise the significance of. A raunchy reggae version with a sing along for the crowd, Waller saying with delicate sarcasm 'I wish my mother could see this', and a fast and furious ending.
This was Waller all over. Whatever song he choose to perform at that time he altered it. His imagination was second to none. Nearly all the bands on the circuit did the same set over and over. Waller always provided us with something new to admire. This being the case I couldn't stop going to see him.
Moments of brilliance that stand out were hearing for the first time 'The Clapping Song', 'I Can't Stand The Rain', 'I Feel Good', 'Walking In The Sun', 'Morning Dew', 'Streets Of London' and many more, all sounding nothing like the originals; just better. The most important thing he showed me was that music takes itself far too seriously. His George Formby classic 'Fanlight Fanny' and his northern miner version of 'Big Bad John' was both hilarious and brilliant. In his 'Money's Getting Cheaper' rendition he would do a B. B. King imitation that was far from flattering 'To play the blues in C you have to play C a lot!'
He once sang 'Purple Haze' with the voice of George from Rainbow. What made this even funnier and a little weird was that he had the puppet, and to see that was unforgettable. He was back at Herne Hill with his jam session on Sunday lunch times and everybody wanted to be on stage with him. I did two, although I don't think he was that impressed. To add insult to injury he thought my brother Martin Loftus was an excellent bassist.
During these three years he lost his drivers licence joked about his equity card as he had just appeared in Paper Mask as a pianist feigning a heart attack.
He seemed to disappear in 1991 and with great regret I never saw him again. I have some old tapes recorded on a Sony D3 of three and a half sets. I listen to them still. In my mind they don¹t sound like a sad old rocker who lost his way. He sounds like a genius.
Anthony J Loftus. 30 Nov 2002
MMEB UK Tour 2002
All photo's - Thanks to Wil Lauwen
The first MMEB gigs in the UK for 2 years (you Germans don't know how lucky you are) and a chance to see the latest line-up over 4 nights (yes I was one of the sad souls who went to all 4 gigs). Months of planning, hotels booked etc.. and then it was time to go.
Joined by friends from Germany, Holland and the far reaches of the UK over the 4 days a wonderful week was in prospect.
The Stables - Milton Keynes
The Stables at Milton Keynes was a new venue for all of us. The Stables is a modern, purpose built theatre holding around 400 people built apparently by John Dankworth and Cleo Laine. It's one of the most civilised venues I've ever seen Earth Band play and for many of us (at least since their re-emergence in the 90's) the novelty was to watch MMEB while seated. An almost capacity audience were in for a treat.
The usual set was played (with Castles making a welcome return - not having been played earlier in the summer apparently) but the band were playing with a new found vigour. The immediate impression was how loudly Geoff manages to hit those drums, I've seen a few bands in my time and I can't recall any drummer making quite so much noise from what is quite a small drum set. He also seems to play a bit faster than say Pete or Richard, but that might be my imagination. The thing is he does seem to drive the band on with the other members responding. The crowd were enthusiastic but also very polite and as Manfred spotted, perhaps a number had turned up expecting to hear Pretty Flamingo or Do Wah Diddy Diddy. Teasing them they got a full 3 seconds just before Quinn.
Interestingly talking to a chap next to me who attends many concerts at The Stables, he was absolutely amazed at how good MMEB were. Absolutely in the top ranks were his comments. I guess we've always known this - but its great to hear it from an independent source as well isn't it.
The Robin - Dudley
Next day, a familiar venue, the Robin is one of Earth Band's 2 regular UK stops. For Reinhard, Erika, Wil, Ben and Uschi a new experience, a real English dump! Now don't get me wrong, as a music venue the hall has a great atmosphere and an enthusiastic and knowledgeable crowd. But the pub part is like something out of the 1950's - maybe the last time it was decorated.
Prior to arriving at the Robin, we had taken in one of the Black Country's most unusual tourist destinations, The Crooked House pub a few miles down the road. The great thing about the Crooked House is that you don't have to drink to get the effect, simply standing in one of the pub's rooms is enough to make you feel dizzy. In one of the rooms you can even make a golf ball roll uphill (well OK its an optical illusion - but the effect is amazing).
Back to The Robin, the gig was the 'usual' set but as ever with Earth Band no two performances are ever the same. Listening to Geoff's drums again they really fit with the band. Manfred's solos were definitely the best I've heard for a while and the rest of the band were on form. The crowd as always at The Robin were very enthusiastic and loud.
There was a suggestion that this might be the last gig at The Robin (1) as a supermarket was to be developed on the site - there was work going on while we were there in the car park. Does anyone know if this is true?
Chiddingfold Blues Club (Uschi's 100th)
Now Chiddingfold was somewhere new for me, not really quite sure what to expect but someone had described it to me as a scout hut. In fact Chiddingfold (the place) is a very attractive little village about 15 miles south of Guildford. The hall is well hidden, a handwritten sign being the only pointer to it. The best way to describe the hall is as a community centre (I don't know how that translates in German) with a small stage at the end of the hall.
Now the Chiddingfold gig was a special occasion, our very good friend Uschi was celebrating her 100th MMEB gig and we were hoping it was going to be special. Paul (The Pink Panther) had created some special badges (thanks Paul), Annette had designed a special commemorative T-Shirt and the band and crew signed a small guitar for Uschi. The usual set ensued, and again the crowd were very enthusiastic. The band just rocked, really enjoying the atmosphere (which was rather on the warm side). Definitely the best gig of the four with all the members of the band on form, but as always sadly over too soon.
The Brook - Southampton
The last gig was at that other stalwart venue of the MMEB UK tours, The Brook. Prior to going to The Brook we had taken in the naval dockyard at Portsmouth and visited HMS Victory, Warrior and The Mary Rose plus the Christmas Fair which they had put on specially for us (honest).
The Brook is a lovely venue, again on the small side but unlike The Robin for instance, it is nicely maintained and the beer is wonderful. As always the same set but another fine performance. As at The Stables, chatting to a couple afterwards who had been to every gig at the Brook that week were simply blown away by MMEB comparing them as a Premier Division band against the other lower division bands they had seen both that week and previously.
So what sticks in the mind? Well the band are clearly playing at the top of their form, as Andy would say, this is definitely my favourite line-up (for now anyway). Manfred has not played this well for some time and the moog has definitely returned stronger. Also its noticeable that Manfred is taking a more leading role than say 2-3 years ago when Mick was more to the fore. Mick himself was playing as well as ever. Geoff as has already been noted elsewhere seems to have fitted in well into the band and his style certainly adds something. Noel was also in fine form and singing as well as ever. Steve's playing in the engine room was as solid as ever, oh yes and Ian really has mastered the keyboard for She Was.
The other thing is the chance to meet up with all the friends I've made through MMEB over the years. In no particular order great to meet Graeme, Lois, Terry, Linda, Alan, Anne, Barry, Graeme (The Beaver), Graham, Andy, Carol, John, Reinhard, Erika, Wil, Ben, Uschi, Annette (cool bananas), Helen, Steve, Bryan and Dave. Apologies if I've missed anyone, the memory is not what it was.
And 2003, well here's hoping that the band make it back to the UK for some more gigs. The reaction of those people we spoke to who either hadn't seen the band before, or not for a number of years was that they would definitely be back and perhaps with some regular gigs a larger audience could be built. Here's hoping.
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - March 2003
Nigel is at it again nagging me to write another Yawn. So what can I tell you. My son is into Muse who I think are really good and atmospheric. They can be quite heavy at times and there is some nice piano. Some of the other stuff he is listening to is not quite as good, because it lacks some form of keyboards. I love lead guitar and I also love sax, flute jazz trumpet but there has to be keyboards. Its good to listen to new music though and for that reason I am so looking forward to Manfred finishing the next album. It's ages since I heard anything from it. Certainly the very early mixes I heard had the same freshness and a newness that I get from good interesting and different new bands. Only its always a bit special when its something new by Manfred.
The first time I heard certain new Manfred music still sticks in my mind. Either because it was at least very different or because it was so good.. I remember being very excited with the Chapter III albums. Although not a particularly good album I will always remember the first time I heard the first Earth Band album. It is interesting now to hear in retrospect what that album might have sounded like (Stepping Sideways) had the band not evolved quicker than the recording process. This album was born out of a gentle country rock feel which you will hear for yourselves when the box set finally escapes. Other albums also stick my mind. This is all down to individual taste of course. Some will remember when they first gave Solar Fire a spin. I remember in particular Nightingales and Bombers having a particular effect on me. Afrika also grabbed me, but then so did the Barbara Thompson sax solo on 'Dolphin'. Much of what I liked came out of doing something different. I am sure there are modern bands doing things like 'War Dream' to great acclaim. I doubt many will not remember the first electrifying live gig. One hundred or less in an old cinema blown away by something new and different. Whilst the band worried that things were not going to well, audiences were overwhelmed by the same European tour in 1983. Again there was a lot going on that was new and exciting. I suppose what I am trying to say is we need this new album now I can't be the only one who has taken an interest in this mans music because it is constantly changing. I am as nostalgic as the next man. Shit I play with steam trains and collect old episodes of the Avengers. How much more nostalgic can a person be? I also am passionate about future development of world transport and enjoy many programs and films born out of the stuff like the Avengers but new and different. Nostalgia is OK but it is dangerous if you stop looking forwards altogether.
Evolution is a bargain and superbly packaged and if you ain't got yourself a copy then you should. You will get a nice set of nostalgic 60's hits and they were bloody good at it. The MMEB stuff you mostly have but as a bonus there is the DVD with amongst other goodies - the Funk Star video which is good fun plus a lengthy interview with Manfred. The quality on a couple of tracks is perhaps a little poor but worth it on rarity value. As I said before the whole thing is excellent value and its good to see lesser record shops stocking a Manfred record again. This CD was not aimed particularly at the big fans - You will get the box and I will not bore you all with that again. Nigel says I can't review it either!
What we all want most though is the new album. Last time I talked to people it was going well and could even be finished later this year. Retrospective stuff is good to have and I am really excited about the box, although CD 4 contains a lot of resent stuff from the 90's. I wanted to call it "We Have No Past - 30 years of Hits ,Bits And Outtakes". That was because the music is constantly evolving and changing. Actually its a great past but I suppose what I am trying to say is it is always nice to believe there is still something even greater to come. With Manfred I will go on believing this no matter how long we have to wait.
Good listening folks
A couple of weeks ago a few questions were raised on the message board, Andy has indicated the answer to some of them below, here are the rest as best we can answer them:
Q . Will Funkstar Deluxe's version of 'Blinded By The Light' be released?
A. Funkstar Deluxe is a Universal artist and as such it's entirely their decision as to when and where they decide to release 'Blinded'.
Q. Will Chapter III Vol 3 be released?
A . Most of the tracks from the Vol 3 album will be included in the 4Cd Boxed set when it's released.
Q. When will the 4 CD Boxed set be released?
A . It'll be out later this year, the exact date of release has not been decided yet.
Q. How is the new album doing?
A . Manfred is still working on it and as soon as there is any news, we'll of course announce it.
Manfred Mann Story Teller - "The One About Leslie"!
The classic and beautiful Hammond organ was in front of me, an absolutely lovely gleaming wooden Hammond C3. It was 1966 backstage at an open air festival. We had specified that this Hammond should be supplied and here it was. We should have been happy and satisfied but we were furious and angry, we were due to go on stage in 45 minutes and the organ was useless to us, it may as well not have been supplied, "Why?" you may well ask well the answer is that although the name Hammond is the brand name associated with the classic Jazz/Blues organ sound, and which most of you would instantly recognise and instantly respond to, your response, is created mainly by the rotating box and speaker device which is called 'a Leslie speaker', usually referred to as a 'Leslie' and as I stood there all those years ago, my disappointment and anger was caused by the fact that the promoter had supplied a Hammond Speaker, and not the 'Leslie' specified so carefully in the contract.
"I will not perform unless I have a Leslie", I announced, "You have not complied with the contract, unless I have a Leslie there will be no performance".
"Are you serious?", he asked, with a somewhat surprised and shocked look on his face, looking at me as if I was crazy.
"Bloody right I am", I replied angrily.
I was in fact truly angry, the speaker he'd supplied was horrible, and instead of sounding, funcky, mean and groovy, I would sound like a dreadful cheap cinema organist. Nevertheless, the look on the promoter's face when he asked me if I was serious when I said I wanted a 'Leslie', was one of someone who had looked into the ultimate pit of human degradation and evil, and who's perception of the world, previously taken for granted had forever altered for the worst.
He went off on the impossible mission which I didn't truly expect him to fulfil, certainly not in the 45 minutes available to him. We stood around, disappointed at the situation, waiting and waiting, as the earth turned around the sun, and finally the promoter once again stood in front of me, had he managed to find a 'Leslie' surely not. He looked a broken man. I said "Well did you find a Leslie?", he looked sad, a man broken in an immoral and unfair universe.
"Yes", he replied quietly. "Great, where is it?", I replied.
"Manfred" he said quietly, and then as if offering an innocent as a sacrifice to some primeval gods, he pointed to a young girl at his side and said, "Manfred, this is Lesley!"
From Gladrags to riches
To coincide with the release of Evolution of Mann which of course includes Mike D'Abo's version of Handbags and Gladrags here is an article from the Sunday Express dated Feb 8, 2003. Thanks to Alan and Ann Brown for suggesting this.
With the rediscovery of his Sixties hit the spotlight is at last back on Mike 'Abo - by Chris Goodman
There are prerequisites for rock stardom… such as talent, good looks, a voracious appetite for sin and a penchant for living fast and dying in time for the re-release of your back catalogue.
When Mike D'Abo joined Manfred Mann in 1966, though, he was a gent thrust into the excesses of the Sixties rock 'n' roll revolution. But his deep moral streak helped him write one of the most famous songs of the rock canon – Handbags and Gladrags.
It is ironic that despite the legend of Sixties liberation, songs upholding traditional values are some of the period's most enduring features.
"I knew it was a social comment," says D'Abo. "The moral of the song is saying to a teenage girl that the way to happiness is not being trendy. There are deeper values."
Originally sung by Chris Farlowe, Handbags and Gladrags was made famous by Rod Stewart. It was revived by the Stereophonics in 2000, then used as the theme tune to the TV comedy series The Office.
D'Abo can hardly keep up since the song took on a life of its own but his own rock 'n' roll career has returned as he prepares to star with Gerry Marsden in the rock tribute tour Reelinabdrockin.
Manfred Mann, originally a jazz ensemble, developed into an R&B/ pop outfit with the arrival of singer Paul Jones. After nine Top 10 hits Jones left to go solo in 1966. Needing a new frontman, the group spotted D'Abo in A band Of Angels – and chose him over Rod Stewart.
A sensitive young man educated at Harrow and Cambridge, the Sixties lifestyle was alien to D'Abo. "It was a culture shock," says the 58-year-old. "I felt green and was surprised by people's behaviour – their rudeness, their selfish actions. I was brought up to behave nicely. Until then I'd been going round in tweed jackets.
And it caused consternation in his traditional family. "I was moving in pop circles bringing disgrace to the good family name," D'Abo recalls. "It took a while to get the balance tight between being true to my values and being able to express myself in pop."
D'Abo promised the song Handbags and Gladrags to R&B singer Chris Farlowe and it went to No33 in 1967. But it was already in demand. "The same week, Rod Stewart came round to the house to discuss songs. Stupidly I played him Handbags and Gladrags and he said, 'I have to record it'.
"I had promised it to Chris but I told Rod that if he ever got an album deal, we would do it then."
A year later, Stewart had his album deal and came back to claim the track. "He arrived at 6pm and the studio was booked for 10 o'clock the next morning. We stayed up writing flute, oboe, French horn and string parts and booking musicians – not an easy task at 12 hours' notice. At 10am we went into the studio and did it in one take.
In 1971, Maggie May made Rod Stewart a star and Handbags and Gladrags became a favourite of his.
D'Abo had song writing success with Build Me Up Buttercup, a hit for The Foundations in 1968, but after leaving Manfred Mann in 1969 his solo career never really took off. However, his advertising jingles such as Finger of Fudge proved to be enduring.
Then, in 2000, D'Abo heard that the Stereophonics were including Handbags and Gladrags in their repetoire. When The Office appeared a year later using yet another version recorded by the BBC, Mike had an idea.
"I rang the Stereophonics' manager because I thought it would be a good for them to put it out as a single. I told him that I wrote Handbags and Gladrags. He said, 'No you didn't, it's a Rod Stewart song'. Anyway, he accepted my case and told me the Stereophonics had just recorded my song. Then a company rang asking if they could use my own version on a Christmas album called The Office Party."
Handbags and Gladrags renewed success has encouraged D'Abo to reconsider his song writing efforts. "I found fame but not fortune," he points out. "Then I was in the wilderness for long periods, which involved a lot of soul-searching."
Now the only problem is that the publishing company which owns Handbags and Gladrags (and pay D'Abo his royalties) are slow.
"I had to tell them about the Sterophonics and The Office," he reveals. "Eventually they catch up and the money goes to them, then they hand out my share later. But let's just say that this year is going to be better than many."
If you'd like to know a bit more about Mike - here is a link to his website.
Colin Pattenden Creates a Buzzzzzzzzzzz!!
Colin Pattenden, who was bass player and founder member of Manfred Mann's Earth Band, back in 1971 made a guest appearance on the popular BBC2 quiz show "Never Mind The Buzzcocks" on Monday, 17th March.
Colin appeared in The Identity Parade round of the show hosted by Mark Lamarr, during which the audience is shown clips of famous anything between 10 and 30 years ago. The teams – who've not seen
the clips – have to pick the correct band member from a line up of 5 people – one genuine, and four actors.
Colin was volunteered for his "Never Mind The Buzzcocks" appearance by an acquaintance working at the BBC. "It was enormous fun" he commented after being outed by the team led by Phil Jupitus!
Colin these days is Managing Director of CP Sound, the Staines-based, audio and lighting design and installation company, but still finds time to play bass with The Nashville Teens and The Jackie Lynton Band. His company works at designing, specifying and installing sound and lighting systems across all areas of the commercial entertainment and leisure industries. Colin believes his experience as a musician has been a great advantage and contributor to his success as a Sound Designer and Audio Consultant – whether designing a system for a top restaurant, a major nightclub, an office block or a complex industrial plant.
(Thanks to Roger Chapman for the photo's and information).
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - June 2003
Something is going very wrong. Nigel is off out swanning it up in Europe, enjoying a certain Manfred Mann's Earth Band, whilst I am stuck here at home bashing away at cobbling something together for everyone.
I suppose there is no point sulking so I might as well just get on with it. To start with, have all you 60's fans found the DVD EP yet? I am sure you probably have. It has four D'Abo hits on it plus pop up versions and is nice for the collection. They are old Beat Club recordings and the quality isn't great. I would have preferred Nitty Gritty and Hound Dog myself, (not Beat Club) I know, still there is no pleasing everyone. It is very good value and nice to have, even if you are an ardent MMEB fan since it gives a good flavour of what went on before.
There are one or two more sixties compilations around and I note with interest that web sites like MVC and Amazon are well stocked with Manfred CD's if you are short of anything or one slipped through without you knowing. Check it out.
Nothing to do with MMEB but I found the Colosseum reunion DVD out on Angel Airways njpdvd605. I have banged on about how great this band is and what a great drummer Jon Hiseman is enough, but this is better than even I expected. What you would all give for an MMEB DVD like this. The concert on this DVD was in fact a TV show and MMEB did some good TV shows in Germany over the last couple of years or so, so why can't there be an MMEB one?
I do agree with my old mate Barry Winton that it would also be nice if the BBC would show or someone release the Whistle Test stuff on DVD. It all still exists and is as follows:
- My Friend George
- The Good Earth
- Captain Bobby Stout
- and I think one more from the Good Earth.
Add the Top of the Pops stuff and you have a good DVD. Anyone remember the first colour me pop predecessor to Whistle Test which featured Manfred Mann doing things like Vicars Daughter and a long jazz thing called Golden Flower? That was all Manfred.
Enough of all this nostalgia. I had a chat with Manfred the other day to check on what's new. The trouble is you probably know all the gossip already.
The new album is now going well and Manfred hopes to have it finished by the end of the year and is hoping to release it sometime early next year. He told me that most of the tracks were pretty well finished but perhaps needed some final mixing or editing. He is working with a few German actors who will be adding their voices to on some of the tracks. He hopes to do the final mixes in France in the summer. It will be a moody and atmospheric album and as I have said before different from what has gone before.
Once complete Manfred will look at including a couple of things from it in the live set. I hope to be able to bring you more news on this in a month or so.
Live there was a new (old song ) due to be added with a complex new arrangement and this will probably still happen.
Most exciting news from my perspective is the planned jazz project which Manfred has planned in-between Earth Band commitments. The idea is to take some very well know rock songs and change them. This will not be mellow jazz like Plains Music, but will be instrumental. The plan is to take this out on the road next year and Manfred is in conversation with at least one highly respected musician who may become involved in the project. All this is very much in the early planning stage and may take some time to come to fruition.
That's about it folks. I have to get this to Nigel before he sends the boys round to beat me. I still have no idea when the box set is due. The CDs are mastered and most of CD1 and 4 is filled with mouth wateringly unheard material so hopefully you will be able to buy it soon.
Until then have a good June and who knows I may make it over to Germany or somewhere in Europe myself when Nigel isn't looking.
All the best.
Manfred Mann Story Teller – The One About Steve Waller
Steve Waller had a characteristic, that many people have, but Steve had 500 times more than anyone else I've ever met.
Steve was a Giggler a laughter of huge and infectious proportions.
I remember quite clearly a number of incidents. The most ridiculous and surreal happened at a railway station in Germany. We were at the bottom of an escalator, mid-morning, and Steve started giggling and laughing. At the sight of Steve losing control of himself, most of the local people stared with a degree of apprehension, because someone was breaking the calm and sober atmosphere of the railway platform, where people gather quietly going about their business, with emotions under control, and Steve was breaking that mood.
They looked at him, and then avoided looking at him, but Steve's laughter just gathered pace, fuelled, if anything by the respectable atmosphere around him. He just went on and on, till he could not even stand up, he was falling all over the place, even falling on his suitcases. I began to notice that the local sober Deutsch citizens started laughing along with Steve, (it was impossible not to), this just went on and on until the whole place was in hysterics. When Steve had almost worn himself out, and finally got his suitcase on the escalator, he turned and waved to the people, and they all waved back, as if they were saying goodbye to an old friend. It really was an amazing thing to see. The power of laughter. The Power of Steve's laughter.
One other thing I wanted to say is that the very best music that Steve ever played was always in rehearsal. I was always slightly disappointed, at the gigs. I really am not quite sure why this was, or indeed if I am right about this, but it is what I remember!
Many of you may never of heard of Terra Nova. For a brief period at the end of the the 70's and the start of the 80's this short lived group offered the promise of a 'new Earth Band'.
Following the release of Watch and the at the end of the band's last US tour, Manfred dissolved the band (later reforming with a new line-up for Angel Station). Chris Slade left the band at this time (1978) and together with Colin Pattenden who had left the Earth Band after 'Roaring Silence' and the subsequent tours formed their own band - Terra Nova. Joining Chris (drums) and Colin (bass guitar) were Pete Cox (vocals), Chris West (lead guitar) and finally Roy Shipston (keyboards). Roy was invited to join the band at a time when the other four members were already in place.
Colin and Chris were the financial driving force and of course the engine room. Chris West was the musical driving force with much of the material the band produced being written either by Chris (West) or Chris and Pete Cox.
There were suggestions at the time that the new band would also use the Earth Band name, something Manfred apparently wasn't bothered about. However Bronze records opposed the suggestion and it was Chris Slade who came up with the name Terra Nova (New Earth!).
The band played a few warm-up gigs in England, then toured Germany, Holland and also the UK as support to The Scorpions. A studio album was also recorded, the eponymous Terra Nova. This was set up by Chris Slade and Colin Pattenden and was recorded at the Rock City studios in Shepperton. When playing live they included a number of Earth Band tracks in their live set.
However lack of commercial success soon led to the band starting to break up. Roy Shipston left for other projects and eventually the other band members moved onto other things. Whilst Terra Nova
were short lived, the band members have crossed tracks with both current and ex-Earth Band members at various times in their careers. Roy Shipston played with Chris Thompson and the Islands (with
Robbie McIntosh) in the 80's and has played with Geoff Dunn for 20 years in their band, First Light. First Light were first formed in the 1980's, recorded an album, toured North America. A couple
of years ago they reformed and are in the process of recording a new album which is nearing completion. If you are in London, keep an eye open, they can be caught on the pub scene in London. Pete
Cox on leaving Terra Nova moved on to join the hugely successful Go West.
If you can get hold of the album (although it's not easy), it's well worth a listen being a 'missing' part of the EarthBand's family tree.
Thanks to Roy Shipston for his input to this article.
Interview with Noel McCalla (Part 2)
Don't panic! Part 1 of this interview appears in the Platform End Archive
By Andy Taylor
This interview first appeared in Platform End No 4 (Spring 1994)
Andy Presumably you knew that Earth Band had quite a big following, and that you would have to stand up and sing in front of a lot of people, did that make you at all nervous at first?
Noel It did at first, yeah. I knew Chris, he had sung on the first solo album he did backing vocals with Stevie Lang and Vicky Brown who he was working with at the time. I knew Chris was a good singer, although I knew I was as good as he was, and like I hoped that would be enough of an acceptance for anyone who came to see us, plus people who came to see the band, all they want is to hear songs as they recognise them. Some say they don't miss Chris, others enjoyed Chris because he played guitar and I don't. Nobody's said it's terrible get someone else! That's the way Earth Band are progressing now.
Andy I missed out the bit you have been warmly accepted by even the most die-hard Earth Band fan, people believe you've breathed new life into the old songs.
Noel It's different isn't it, bring out the same guys, might not be as exciting it's true, adds a sparkle of interest again.
Andy Certainly did for me. For sometime now you have been locked away here recording this famous new album, the legendary new album. As vocalist you play an important part, as everybody does but people tend to notice vocals, how do you see this album working out from your point of view?
Noel It's going slowly, Richard has played a good part, Richard Burgess helped to level out a bit more. You can see conclusions, end of horizon. Now with Richard around its kinda taking pressure off Manfred a bit. He can go away and think about other things. Richard is there learning what Manfred likes, dislikes, how to get the job done well. Given me a bit of optimism, after singing the songs over and over again and thinking, how differently can I sing this? The thing is I would sound different, there's always something to be gained from singing the songs over and over 'cos the voice sounds better on another day or is better for the song but you've got to know when to stop to be able to have someone to say good enough, Richard says good, could be better. It's not so easy for Manfred to do that being too close to it. Now Richard is there he can say that's tidy, that's good, that's fine, everything can be better. (At this, an unnamed bass guitar player starts to take the piss and is quickly disciplined returning to the fat volume, witty one liners for bass players he had been reading).
Steve (Who is not going to give up) He doesn't antagonise as much.
Andy So is it taking shape, have you a feel for what its going to be like?
Noel No not really don't hear the tracks all the time, once we've worked on one we kinda move onto another, so we loose the run of tracks, some are finished.
Steve But I bet they'll be changed.
Noel Once he's got the album in front of him and he knows how many tracks to go on it, he can say right 10 tracks on this, now he can start to juggle them around.
Steve I think the day before it's out it'll change.
Noel Once songs are put side by side we can look at the continuity, because at the moment we are looking at tracks very separately. Once tracks are in some sort of running order, and then we listen to them again and think shit that needs to sound different.
(Helpful Bass player) There's about 30 mixes of each track!
Noel Yeah, there's loads and loads of mixes.
Noel It's getting closer. We are trying not to do too many gigs so we can get it finished. It's now got to the point where the band does need another album. The compilation is doing well, it's helped us do this section of gigs, but we can't keep on doing it. The times right now for the new stuff.
Andy We are constantly being asked - when is the album coming out?
Noel I would like to think by about Spring next year.
Andy And then the big tour?
Noel Well it depends on the strength of the album again, as big as we can make. Definitely an introductory tour so people know we are out and about. Hopefully up and down London and those places, people don't really get to see the band, especially America but you can only do those sorts of gigs if the album does well.
My thanks to Noel for giving up his time to talk to me and to out invited special guest, demon chess ace Steve Kinch.
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - October 2004
'2006' in 2004
I have had the chance to have a couple of long chats with Manfred over the last two weeks, culminating in a trip to the Waterworks. The new studio, although smaller than the old 'Workhouse', is lovely, with a superb view across the Thames. Ian Tompson mixed some of the excellent new Jools Holland/Tom Jones album here. It is a matter of opinion I know, but it is a much more pleasant environment than the Old Kent Road. I spent ages with Manfred's binoculars, watching a cormorant trying to devour a fish. The fish in question was not only far too big for the bird, but was equally determined not to be swallowed.
The conversations with Manfred have, not surprisingly, been dominated by two events, the forthcoming release of a brand new studio album and the cancellation of some concerts with Uriah Heep.
Now I don't want to get off to a bad start with anyone, so perhaps I shouldn't mention how little I wanted MMEB to do these gigs. As far as I am concerned Manfred should not be supporting anyone. That out of the way, I understand and sympathise with all the fans of both bands who must be gutted that MMEB have been pulled from these gigs. I can't comment on how or why it happened yet. I do know that some people have spent loads of money as well, mainly because MMEB were playing, so are seriously out of pocket. I can't claim that anything as bad as that happened to me, but I do kind of know how you feel.
I was very disappointed when the Mann/ Jon Hiseman collaboration came to nothing. Both are musicians I have always had a special respect for, so collaboration would have been very interesting for me. The reason it never happened was very different from the Heep situation, but the musicians involved were not in anyway to blame, exactly as this time. This brings me to the point of these ramblings. I have never before known Manfred to be so hurt by the reaction of a small number of fans.
As he says himself, its OK to criticise the music, the album cover or anything he has control over. He had no control over this, so why have a go? If you are one of them, make sure you turn up for the Glasgow gig, if it happens. Manfred told me that MMEB are still playing, providing there are no hitches with venue etc, purely so as not to let anyone down. Economically it makes absolutely no sense at all. It will cost Manfred himself money to do this gig. Everyone else is on seriously reduced money. How many bands do you know who would go all the way up to Scotland for one small gig, just so as not to let down their fans.
Stop Press: 11 Oct Sadly since Andy wrote this the Glasgow gig has been cancelled due to circumstances beyond the band's control.
Lots to review this month. As well as the brilliant '2006' Helen sent me copies of four of the Fontana albums from the 1960's. If you remember I raved about the Japanese imports of one or two of these in a previous Yawn. Now we have UK versions of some of these old albums at long last with even better packaging and I urge everyone to buy themselves a set of what is available so far.
So that's just about it for this month. I can't think of anything else to say about '2006'. It has definitely been worth waiting for. I find myself wanting to listen to it again and again. I don't remember feeling like that about studio stuff very often. Even Manfred admits that this is one album he can actually listen to. If you can't stand waiting until the end of the month, don't forget, if you go onto German Amazon, you can listen to a short sample from each track.
Which reminds me. Can I also offer my congratulations to everyone involved in the new look for our official web site . Doesn't it look great?
My thanks to Manfred for giving me so much of his valuable time, to talk about the album and other stuff. I hope you all enjoy '2006' as much as I have. I will be very surprised if you don't. How about an album called 1066 for the outtakes!
All the best Andy Taylor
Manfred Mann '2006' Now
Manfred Mann in interview with Andy Taylor
Lets talk about '2006'. This, of course, is the first studio album since 1996 and 'Soft Vengeance'. So why call it '2006' when it has in fact only taken eight years to make and not ten.
"It's just a stupid thing to do," Manfred explained. "It looks wrong and yet it's only slightly out."
So with that now crystal clear I asked why it was Manfred Mann '2006' featuring Manfred Mann's Earth Band
"Some of the tracks reflect my personal taste and not that of the band." He told me. "
Manfred wanted this to be his album and like other good albums over the years, it very much is, his album. Some of the tracks were recorded live in the studio, without rehearsal, and this gives the album a very nice groove. The first thing you might notice is he has visited certain things again.
'Mars' for example gets a very different treatment. Many of you will have heard the live version of this. Then there is 'Sexual Jealousy' again.
"I always felt I hadn't done 'Jealousy' credit. I spent weeks and weeks trying to do a new version, but it didn't work so I threw it out. Then just before we finished the album I did it again with Dean Heart and just got the right mood. It was good for me, my favourite thing on the album. Barbara Thompson has a great sax solo on it. It's possible we might do a version of Jealousy live."
So how did he set about making this album?
Manfred explained that they got together some very strong classical themes and wrote songs over them. They borrowed from composers such as Rimsky Korsakov and Gustav Holst. Part of the thinking behind this was that Manfred does not consider himself to be a very good writer. He also finds it more and more difficult to find new songs to interpret. By using the classical themes this gave him strong enough material to work with.
'Demons and Dragons' is two songs. One he heard on a Jimmy Nail TV series, which was once also part of the instrumental interlude, 'Marche Slave'. The other part comes from The Super Furry Animals. There is also a very nice; 'Dragons' reprise, to finish the album on which Manfred plays a very nice organ solo. Manfred agrees enthusiastically;
"I learnt after 40 years that the volume control is not for volume it's for accent, DUH."
'Monkmann' another track recorded early uses samples by a group of Russian Monks, who call themselves Art Chorale. They also appear on 'Mars' and 'Get Me Out Of This'. 'Monkmann' has its origins in a Russian medieval folk song and was at one time eleven minutes long.
One of my favourite tracks on the album is 'Frog'. Like many good tracks over the years it is interesting how 'Frog' came about.
"We had this Russian Orthodox theme which we called Easter Overture, over which I wrote a song."
"There is no time to stand and stare" (Manfred plays a bit on his keyboard rig and sings along. I'm afraid to say it sounded rather good too! And the chorus went "I don't care about the future." We spent ages on it and it just didn't work. But I loved the theme and just couldn't throw it away. So Dean tried singing the song and Noel also did it and it still didn't work. Then, I tried to speak the words and that just sounded suicidal. So I thought why not tell my Frog joke. I made it all sound a bit ancient and mystical and used a kind of James Bond style mix of Easter Overture . Mick plays a fantastic guitar solo in the middle. He plays really well on the whole album."
'Down in Mexico' started out as a pop song and once again there are many versions. I got the distinct impression however that much of the music that ended up not considered good enough to be included on the album was what took the time. At one point Manfred told me he had wasted two years with various producers, getting too far away from the original feel. Effectively he had to go back to earlier mixes and start again.
Talking about the difficulties in finishing the album, Manfred gave me a list of old chestnuts that clearly irritate him.
Old Chestnut 1: People say stuff is over produced. "Everyone who works with me knows I try to keep it as simple as possible. As little as possible often works, it often sounds neater and cleaner, but sometimes when you put more on it sounds better. There is no simple rule"
Old Chestnut 2: You really ought to do it quickly. "Perhaps I'm just not that good. An album lasts for ever and I have to live with it."
Manfred does concede however, that some good stuff does get left off along the way. We talked briefly about a song called 'India', which he agrees had a nice theme. Once again a great deal of time was spent on in the studio.
"Somehow it wasn't quite good enough or perhaps it just didn't fit."
'Independent Woman' is perhaps one of the most unusual tracks to find on a Manfred Mann album. This is another track Manfred did lots of versions of. He has always loved the rap.
"Dean sang it to start with as a demo", Manfred explained. "It sounded good so we kept it. Almost by accident, it has a classical theme, this time Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto".
I told Manfred I liked 'Independent Woman' but wasn't sure why.
"It has that universal pop quality," he explained. "which is hard to pin down. Some songs have it. Like 'Girls just want to have fun' and 'Locomotion'. Anyway I like it and it's my album."
I also told him I didn't quite understand it!
"You don't need to understand it Andy," I was firmly told.
Manfred is working on a single version of 'Independent Woman' for the New Year.
I asked about Thomas D's involvement on the album. Manfred went to Thomas D's studio in Cologne to record his contributions to the album. His German rap has been included on the UK release, but some versions may not include it on 'Independent Woman' or even on 'Demons'. Thomas D will not be on the single. There are apparently about three versions of '2006', the German release, Scandinavian and World versions. There is very little difference between each version, other than the inclusion or exclusion of Thomas D, however it should keep the real collectors busy.
As I have already mentioned, some of the tracks were recorded live by MMEB. There is some great singing by Noel and the return of Chris on lead vocals on 'Two Friends'. His familiar voice is also noticeable on other tracks. This for me then feels very much like a proper Earth Band album, in the same way that 'Chance' and 'Afrika' did. The main songs, are interspersed with some nice short instrumental tracks, some of these taken from earlier songs that didn't, for some reason, work. Perhaps because Manfred chose to go back to the unrehearsed takes for some of the tracks it has a very live feel. Manfred argues strongly that I am wrong and very misguided, however I remain convinced that particularly on some of the more recent albums, they were better about a year or two before they finally escaped. I mention 'Masque', 'Tango' and 'Vengeance' in my defence.
I do not get that feeling with '2006'. Despite the length of time it has taken Manfred to finish, it sounds to me to be fresh, modern and easy to listen to. There are lots of interesting things going on, and although instantly likeable, the album becomes better and better the more you listen to it.
Whilst I am certain there is some good stuff lying about on the cutting room floor, (Something else Manfred vigorously denies) I would have been very pleased with the finished album, if I had put the final track list together. For me it's also about the right length for a CD, I find that albums are often too long these days, resulting in the listener losing the feel of an album and ending up with just a collection of songs. I am a great believer in bands putting out the outtakes for the serious fans as a separate album instead. I will try my hardest to persuade Manfred to do this, but I wouldn't hold your breath. The trouble is he doesn't believe a lot of the stuff that didn't make it, is good enough.
'Soft Vengeance' although there are some really good tracks on it, felt a little safe for my taste, whereas I feel a lot of experimentation has gone into this album. Manfred seems to have found a good balance between a traditional MMEB album and something a bit new and different. That is one of the biggest reasons no doubt why it has taken so long. As well as a live and spontaneous feel, the album uses drum machines and drum loops to great effect.
If I had one very minor criticism, one or two fades are a bit sudden to me. I asked Manfred if they would play more of it live. He said they had tried 'Demons and Dragons' and it just didn't work. Noel might however do an acoustic version of it live. I must admit I was disappointed about this. What has happened to the days when the new album got featured a lot on tour? What makes it worse is that so much of this album is crying out to be played live. 'Monkmann', would be a great opener. They could all come on stage in monk's habits. 'Down in Mexico', 'Jealousy', 'Demons', 'Get Me Out Of Here', 'Mars' and 'Two Friends' all screaming to be given the live treatment.
'Marche Slave' could be a new intro to 'Blinded'. If I am allowed to dream just for a minute I imagine 'Frog' playing to a film of a man not unlike Manfred to look at, rowing his old boat across an ancient lake with a cute cartoon frog for company. In short, to a fool like me, this album more than a lot of others lends itself to being played live. It has that kind of atmosphere. Perhaps that is why I am so pleased with it. Even 'Independent Woman', not an obvious live track, would sound great coming in on tape at the end of the show.
'2006' is likely to be the last album of its type from Manfred. He is finding it more and more difficult, he says, to make albums like this. If it isn't going to change the fortune of the band then he wonders what the point is.
"I'm a keyboard player, I don't sing, so the whole thing is a bit hit and miss"
He has enjoyed working with Dean Hart though, so it is possible, if unlikely that he may have a change of heart.
For now he is working on some instrumental stuff. He played us a little bit of a very famous tune on the piano and it sounded really good. It did not sound very much like the famous tune in question, which I think, is the whole idea. I am not sure how long this is going to take but at least we still have new stuff to look forward to.
Then there is a TV show coming up with Chris Thompson. The plan is to do 'Davy', but Manfred has two minutes to fill leading up to the main song. So we watch him practice and build backing tracks around 'Do Wah Diddy' and 'Pretty Flamingo' with just a little hint of 'Quinn', over which he plays some serious keyboard solos.
I am going to regret telling everyone this next bit I just know I am. One of the high spots of our visit to the Waterworks was when he got one of the old and more battered Mini Moogs out. Somehow as good as he had been sounding on other keyboards that afternoon, an extra little ingredient fell back into place and we were treated to some serious Moog soloing. He explained for my son Thomas's benefit, because he is much brighter than me, that the old Moog is very limiting. In laymen's terms I think you need three hands to get the best out of one of these things and only two on modern keyboards. Anyway that makes no real sense to me because it sounded sublime and I have decided that the only reason it is hard to tell Manfred's newer keyboards, is because of his distinctive style.
So I left the Waterworks even more in love with the Moog and humming 'Do Wah Diddy'. Oh well, I suppose nothing changes that much. That's kind of where I came in.
Not Quite Overnight Sensations - Part 4
The future of MMEB was looking very prosperous indeed. Chris Thompson was fronting his own band 'Filthy McNasty' as a side-line project and secured a residency at The Bridge House pub, East London. Thompson's unique set of pipes had rewarded him with a steady flow of new admirers such as the late Rory Gallagher and future Iron Maiden front man Bruce Dickenson. Thompson's new band boasted the hugely under rated co-vocalist Stevie Laing, keyboard player Nicky Hopkins – the only musician who can claim to have guested with The Beatles, The Who and The Stones (not a bad track record) – and red hot guitarist Robbie MacIntosh (more about him later). In addition to all this Chris Thompson also toured and guested on Elton John's 'Single Man' tour and album.
February saw the release of the eagerly awaited new album 'Watch', which, in my opinion rates as the very best, post Mick Rogers Earth Band offering. It is an album of memorable songs and
outstanding playing from beginning to end. In fact 'Watch' was so popular amongst the fans that the entire second side of the album is still a high point of the live set today. In
Germany 'Watch' was the Earth Band's biggest selling album of all, reaching an impressive chart position of number two and shifting over a million copies, one behind Saturday Night Fever!
Once again, a highly memorable UK tour followed, complete with visuals. I only managed to make four gigs as I had pre-booked an extended holiday. However, upon my return I was thrilled to bits to discover that my boys had another Top 10 hit under their belt with 'Davy's On The Road Again'. Nothing could physically stun me more than when I bought the Melody Maker at the airport, and seeing the headlines in the news pages, 'MANN'S EARTH BAND SPLIT', and retaining just singer, Chris Thompson. I could not believe my eyes! Surely this could not be true – there must be some horrible mistake! Reading on with disbelief, I found that those axed were Pat King (who was later re-instated), Dave Flett and Chris Slade. An Earth Band without Chris Slade would be like a bird without wings, and Dave Flett who fitted in so brilliantly, gone forever, never to return, was a devastating blow. After all, two such important band members seemed like a huge task to replace. Could they ever be replaced? Yes, it was Mick Rogers' scenario all over again! (Sob Sob).
Fortunately for me, it wasn't long before two new comers were recruited. Geoff Britton, an adequate drummer and an able sax player, although more renowned as a martial arts and karate
expert, was eventually brought in to replace Chris Slade. Geoff had a good credibility, and had previously bashed the skins for prog rockers 'Gun', 'East Of Eden' (who had supported Chapter
III on tour), 'Rock and Rollers', 'The Wild Angels' and a short lived spell with 'Wings'. He performed on the Earth Band's ninth studio album entitled 'Angel Station'. Sadly however a
re-occurring illness prevented him from meeting the band's scheduled touring commitments and the reliable John Lingwood shortly replaced him. Wembley born John had turned down a career as a
professional footballer in order to become a full time musician. He had an impressive list of session work under his belt, having performed in the London production of Hair, and also with
70's progsters, 'Steamhammer', and the god of hellfire himself, Arthur Brown.
In 1983 I avidly remember going to The Workhouse, Manfred's secretary, Jane Curtis had called to inform me that Manfred had a rather large pile of albums that he was disposing of and enquired whether I would be interested in having a shift through them. I jumped at the opportunity! Upon my arrival, I think some crafty bugger had cherry picked through them, as the majority of ones on offer were South African releases and meant that little or nothing to me. However, upon entering into Studio One, where John was busy mixing 'Budapest Live', he looked at me and said in a rather cynical tone of voice, 'I bet you don't know much about rock music apart from Manfred Mann, do you Barry?" The cheek of the man! I rather sheepishly offered John a challenge of our knowledge of the rock music scene (no bets!). I asked Jane to referee a friendly contest between John and myself. To say the least I got more than just a small delight of pleasure in thrashing the drummer (mercilessly!), and answering every question he threw at me with ease, leaving him virtually dumbfounded! The last laugh was on him, when I put my arm around him with genuine affection and said, "Better luck next time, Johnny Boy", and gleefully left the studio with a big smile of supreme victory on my face. I was very glad that John and I shared a mutual admiration for the early 70's hugely under rated band 'Patto'!
Chris Thompson had handed in his resignation and was to make the forthcoming album 'Angel Station' his final with MMEB. What was needed at this stage was to find a worthy successor.
Manfred was recommended to check out a popular South London circuit musician – a singer and guitarist – at the Half Moon pub, Herne Hill. He went by the name of Steve Waller, who had a
growly, bluesy style and was a natural born comedian, showman and entertainer. Waller was indeed the right man for the job. One quick audition and it was all settled. Manfred's
original intention was to tour with Waller and Thompson, combine the duo of vocalists and guitarists to alternate the leads. It was Manfred's wishes to eventually move Waller up to the
front line following Thompson's eventual departure. Sadly this was not to be, as Waller was more than just fond of a tipple of gin.
I have to be very honest here – although I felt that Steve was a colourful figure and was very entertaining live, I did not however, rate him as much musically as his two predecessors. On a heartfelt personal note, Steve was the most wonderful person who has a heart the size of the Empire State Building. I stayed in touch with him long after his MMEB days, seeing him perform virtually very week at the Father Red Cap pub in South London. I well remember celebrating my 25th birthday. He decorated the stage with balloons, presented me with a magnum of champagne, and made an excellent speech, for which I will always be eternally grateful.
I anxiously awaited to hear the enigmatic 'Angel Station' album, and hate to admit that for the first time I was slightly disappointed, finding the material different and less rockier than anything they had previously submitted to vinyl. My initial reaction was "UM…!!! Not sure about this one". However I readily admit it steadily grew on me after several listens. Incidentally, this very publication was taken after the short instrumental which closes side one.
The first time I saw the new lime up was at a low key warm up at the Queen Mary's College. It was a monumental come back performance. My faith in MMEB was immediately restored (not that it was ever really lost).
I managed to make every date on the official UK tour! At the opening night at Bristol Colston Hall, I met Manfred's business manager Dave Clarke backstage, who very kindly drove me back to London. A third party joined us, an American singer who was especially flown over to check out the band in order to fill in for the shortly-to-depart Chris Thompson. His name was Huey Lewis, I was informed the band were having problems with Steve Waller's over fondness for a beverage which resulted with him being given the big 'E' at the end of the tour. Although it was thought Huey Lewis was very good, he was not proven suitable for the Earth Band.
For the first time MMEB were down to a trio of Mann, King and Lingwood. The application list for the vacant vocalist position was alarming. Although the best they had so far seen was Huey Lewis and he was offered the job, he declined in order to start his own band, 'The News'. Paul Young, Brian Johnson (later with AC/DC), ex Atomic Rooster and Cactus vocalist Pete French all tried their luck and failed. Eventually to give every would be hopeful a fair crack of the whip, an advert was placed in the Melody Maker, and they received literally hundreds of demo tapes. Fortunately Thompson and Waller both returned as guest musicians, plus a further array of session singers and guest musicians who contributed towards Manfred's next project.
To be continued….
First 2006, Now back to 1966 - I am not the biggest fan of the Fontana years of Manfred Mann. The group went from being quite a serious blues/ jazz band, who also made pop records, to a band who made pop records and sometimes reverted to a bit of jazz and blues. In the Jones era, they seemed to pull off hit records without looking slightly embarrassed about it. In the Jones years they at least looked as if that was what they wanted to be doing, even if it wasn't.
So why buy these albums? Well the answer is that not only is the packaging really nice, but the music is for the most part surprisingly good.
'As Is', I reviewed the other month, but I challenge anyone to put this CD on to play a few times and then not be humming tracks like, 'Trouble and Tea' and 'Superstitious Guy' for weeks after. This is a collection of some really good pop tunes, penned in most cases by Mike Hugg or Mike D'Abo.
There is a wonderful bluesy song, 'As Long As I Have your Loving' and a typical short jazz instrumental 'Autumn Leaves'. 'Dealer Dealer' was later borrowed for a while by MMEB in the early days. This arrangement was later
All Fontana Re-Issues available via the on-line shop.
used on the first album track 'Prayer' on the first album.
'Up The Junction', was the music from the film of that name. It has some nice Jazz stuff mixed with a handful of typical D'Abo sung pop tunes. The title track is a moody and magnificent epic featuring both D'Abo and Hugg. Whilst 'As is' and 'Garvey' have the complete albums in stereo and mono, this album has lots of bonus tracks, all of which were never released back in the sixties. Notable amongst these is the first attempt at the Bob Dylan song 'Mrs Henry'. Hopefully you will get yet another very different version of this when the box set is released hopefully sometime next year.
The biggest surprise for me was 'Mighty Garvey', which has three cleverly different and humorous versions of the same song 'Happy Families', performed by Manfred Mann as Ed or Edwin Garvey. This album reminds the listener that we were in a period of imaginative and creative pop albums, spawned by the incredible 'Sgt Peppers'. (They come from my city mate.)
'Garvey', thus has some of the best self-penned songs by Mike Hugg, Mike D'Abo and Tom McGuiness, you are ever likely to hear. If you liked 'Handbags and Gladrags', check out 'Vicars Daughter', 'Every Day Another Hair Turns Grey', 'Cupids Town' and 'Harry The One Man Band'. There are plenty of songs here as deserving of being all time classics as 'Handbags' is. Incidentally the only track not penned by a band member other than a couple of hits is 'Big Betty', which was also performed by MMEB in the early days. A recording exists of this, from an early appearance on the John Peel show.
The last of the four CDs is 'Mannerisms', which has all the Fontana hits and B-sides, plus a couple of rarities from a French EP. All the albums have gatefold covers and separate song sheets. The front cover being the most commonly used, with the exception of 'As Is' where it is the Transport Museum cover. Inside each album displays an alternative cover. 'Mighty Garvey' for example, becomes the USA version, 'The Mighty Quinn', whilst the better known cloister cover, is on the inside of 'As Is'.
They have chosen not to reissue 'What A Mann', which is a shame for a completist. This was one of three albums put out in 1968 and was on a budget label called Fontana Special. The Japanese version has loads of jazz bonus tracks.
All involved are to be congratulated for getting these albums out in Europe. Let's hope they eventually complete they set.
"X-tra Fun" in Oslo
"On 2 April 2004, MMEB will be performing in Oslo!"
Following this e-mail message reaching them last winter, four German MMEB fans had the idea to travel to Oslo with their own 10-m sailing boat in order to see the band play. Two of them had already attended the MMEB concert in Aarhus/ Denmark in May 2003, also travelling there by sailing boat.
However, going from Germany to Oslo by the above-mentioned boat usually means an 8-day-journey; the return journey up to 10 days, depending on the wind direction and force. Definitely too many days to take leave for four family men! Thus, they all decided to sail by day and night without any breaks, making the trip to Oslo within 3 or 4 days, taking into account the frequently very cold and uncomfortable Skagerrak weather in March.
On 27 March, they started off. Due to the most favourable wind and weather conditions, the "X-tra Fun" made the journey to the snowy Oslo fjord direct and non-stop within 60 hours. Therefore, the crew had enough time to visit the city centre of Oslo before going to the concert.
Needless to say, the concert itself at the Oslo Rockefellerhall was a very special and impressive experience, considering the extraordinary journey. As another highlight, the crew were invited to a photographer's session with all the MMEB members following their sound check on stage.
The next day, the four "X-tra Fun" crew members started their homeward journey, covering 400 nautical miles. However due to a Skagerrak storm, they were forced to stay another day at a harbour in the Oslofjord – a good opportunity to have their own musical session! Although due to this incident, the journey back to Germany was delayed for one day, the four family men succeeded to get back to their families in due time for Easter.
They are already prepared to go about their next adventure with MMEB, wherever it will take them by boat!
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - January 2005
A New Year Yawn In Your Ear
Happy New Year to everyone, let's hope it is another good one. Christmas flew past again in a mist of too much food, drink and goodwill. We had a great time I think, hope everyone out there did.
Just before Christmas, Manfred and Chris did the big German TV show. No doubt loads of you saw it. Sadly I haven't had the chance as yet! A special friend of ours did play me the 'Davy' solo over the phone and as best as I could judge, through this less than ideal medium, it sounded absolutely fantastic. There were lots of good people on the show, including another personnel favourite of my own, Ian Anderson. Manfred and Chris got an unexpected encore; I am told on good authority that nobody else did! They did a short version of 'Quinn', but as far as I can make out no sign of the 'Do Wah Diddy' backing track. I look forward to seeing this soon. Also over in Germany I missed a big radio interview by Manfred, even though I was given web sites and everything. It would seem there is a lot of interest there at the moment probably because of the new album, '2006', which is proving to be very popular.
Speaking of the new album, I would like now to shamelessly plug a few things that might be of interest.
Firstly and most importantly, let's look at '2006'. This seems to have gone down very well indeed with the vast majority of people I have spoken to. This majority seemed to agree with my view that this is by far the most innovating and refreshing album; Manfred has done for a very long time. For my money I would go as far as to say that this album stands alongside other classic Manfred offerings such as 'Plains Music', 'Solar Fire', 'Watch', 'Nightingales and Bombers' and my own personnel favourite, 'Somewhere in Afrika'.
MMEB have always been at their best live. Whilst it is not easy to point a finger at a bad album, many of the albums did not perhaps quite measure up to the live experience. I will never forget my disappointment when I acquired my copy of the supposed live album, 'Budapest' to find no unedited live versions of the 'Africa Suite' and one shortened moog solo! Don't misunderstand me, 'Budapest' is a great way of hearing some of Earth Band's best live stuff, if you just want the hits, but not if you want the solos. John Lingwood told me that the reason for all the messing about was that it just wasn't that good.
I suppose it is in the end all a matter of taste, which album or which tour we like best. Quite rightly if you asked the same question to all the fans, you would get many different answers. I do sometimes wonder however if musicians, (I am saddled with a couple at home here.) are the best people to judge their own music. I am anything but a musician myself, although I would have loved to be one and I know what I like. All too often a musician will play something that sounds so very good; only for me then to be told that it is in fact shit! You have no defence because they know what they are talking about and you don't!
This may come as another shock, but an incredibly small minority, dared to disagree with my opinion of 2006! (How dare they!) Even Manfred likes it, which is high praise indeed. I was quite shocked that some of this tiny minority had not even got the album yet. What has happened to the days we banged on the record shop door the day of release boys?
Interestingly, I found that these were usually the same people, bored with the live thing. As you know I have some sympathy with the view that there should be more changes live, however please don't let that put you off '2006'. The live show may be perhaps a little safe, (I honestly don't know, because I haven't had chance to see one in almost a year and a lot can change.) If it is, the album 2006 most certainly isn't. This is a classic Manfred Mann album. There is so much that is comfortingly familiar about this album. The style you will recognise from previous work; there is however much that you won't. This could be another reason why it is not to everyone's taste of course.
What I used to look forward to after a new album was how the band would go about doing them live. This was often very different to the album treatment. (I'm dreaming of the 'Africa Suite' again!) I wish they would do that now, so much of this album screams out to be played live. As I said before, I haven't seen the band live for ages so maybe they are and nobody's bothered to tell me yet.
Anyway I still can't stop playing 2006. It is a great album. Tell your friends about it.
A plug for old pal Barry, who was featured in the December issue of the magazine, Record Collector. The Earthman chose 'Solar Fire' as one of the best albums ever and he should no. His own record collection runs to thousands. What Barry doesn't know about Rock Music probably isn't worth knowing.
A plug for one of my other favourite bands Colosseum who I understand are doing UK gigs in February and March., including London, Milton Keynes and the North East, but of course not the North West, hell no. Why should us Merseysiders get any good music? The Manfred connection, if you need one to catch such a great outfit, is the wonderful sax player from various albums including Plains Music and 2006, Barbara Thompson. On a very sad note Barry Winton tells me that the legendary Colosseum sax player Dick Heckstall Smith has passed away. No Manfred connection here, (could make one if you really wanted). Just someone who has and will continue to bring me and many others, a great deal of enjoyment.
A plug for Paul Jones and Dave Kelly, who are doing a two-man show and actually are coming to Merseyside. Thanks guys, at least somebody remember the future City of Culture. They are playing at a nice little venue called Pacific Road in Birkenhead. They are the two front men from the excellent Blues Band, so this should be a very good show. Paul is then back on tour with the Manfreds.
Noel has an album out and it is very good. Thanks to everyone but Noel for telling me this! With a voice like this man has, you can't really go wrong so this is another must for your CD collections.
Last but by no means least, a first plug for my own first novel called 'The Pirate of Heffen'. If you like ghost, hell demons and the battle of good against evil not to mention a very sexy lady pirate, I am hoping you will like this. Should be out on Amazon sometime in late summer. I will try to keep you informed.
So what have we to look forward to in 2005? Well there are lots of gigs in Europe, although at the time of writing none in the U.K. Whatever your private view is regarding the set, they are still one of the best live bands out there and I can't help but wonder just how much longer it will carry on. Who knows things might start to happen with the Box Set. I have heard talk of another DVD, and then there is Manfred's other project still happening I understand.
The truth is if you had told me in 1964 when I bought my first Manfred Mann record that I would still be looking forward to knew and exciting things in 2005, I probably would not have believed you.
Have a good year. Andy
Chapter III Advert
Thanks to Jens Goetske
Not Quite Overnight Sensations Part 5
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 'Thunderchild' on Jeff Wayne's multi-platinum selling
concept album 'War Of the Worlds', about Martians invading our planet charted in virtually every country on the globe, thus giving him the prestigious honour of being voted one of Britain's
Secondly, Mann himself was co-opted as a fellow at 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 the 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 this to its predecessor, finding its 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 album 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 questions 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 needed any further assistance I should call The Workhouse, (I already did anyway!)
The two warm up dates were at Bracknell and Hatfield, with two end of tour 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 was 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 24 years ago,. Also managed were tours by such artists as Europe, Elkie Brooks, Joan Armatrading and Toto. His replacement, Matt Irving was shortly drafted in. A multi talented musician who played keyboards as well as bass, he was recommended by Steve Waller who had 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 1979 when Dave received the prestigious honour to tour Japan with Thin Lizzy, and can be heard on their Life album. With this revamped 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 (written 1997 Ed). 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 his distaste for apartheid. Upon hearing 'Somewhere in Afrika', for the first time, I really wasn't quite sure what to make of it ll, 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 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 1981-83 the Earth Band 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 main man Roger Waters.
Steve Waller returned to the South London pub circuit I 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). (Sadly Steve Waller passed away in 2000, a tribute to him can be found with his biography) .
If there was ever 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 to be annoying. In fact I would quite honestly say that Budapest may be eventually written into our rock history books as one of the most unlive albums of all time! (Eat your hearts out Humble Pie, Grand Funk Railroad and Deep Purple.)
With Waller and Irving now departed the coast was clear for the welcome return of our old friend Mick Rogers. Mick had been in the musical wilderness for several years. His band, Aviator with future MMEB drummer and ex-Jethro Tull skins man Clive Bunker, had commercially failed and disbanded, following the release of a pair of worthwhile albums for EMI's Harvest label. Mick eventually replaced Tom McGuiness in The Dave Keely 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 re-introduced myself at the Marquee club at a DKB gig, he appeared to be chuffed to bits that someone had remembered him so well, bought me a drink and promptly gave me his telephone number (which I'm sure he has regretted ever since). No sooner had Mick re-joined his former colleagues than the re-vamped 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 number 20 on the American charts. Things were indeed looking on the up and up!
Andy Qunta's Story
Imagine - you're an Earth Band fan, now draw up a list of things you'd like to achieve:
Write a song which MMEB record?
Play support to MMEB?
Play with MMEB?
Write songs with and play with Chris Thompson's band?
Andy Qunta has achieved all these, now read on in Andy's own words…
The first connection I had with Manfred was round about 1972-73. My brother Tony and I had a band called Factory (a year or two later Steve Kinch joined us!). We bought a PA system from an ad in Melody Maker, which turned out to have belonged to Manfred Mann Chapter 3. We used it for a few years, and left the MMC3 stencils on it, along with the Factory ones. In the summer of '73 we supported MMEB at a show in Brighton. I had only just become aware of them really, because Joybringer was a big hit at the time, and I really liked it. (Funnily enough, I don't think they played it that night!) I remember briefly chatting outside with Mick Rogers, and of course we nodded politely to Manfred, Colin and Chris Slade during the course of the evening. I went and saw them play in my hometown of Hastings a short while later, so I suppose I liked them!
I really became a huge fan when I heard side 2 of 'The Good Earth', at someone's house, while Factory were on tour in Holland in '75. From then on I bought all the albums, and learnt a lot about playing keyboards, and especially the Mini Moog, by listening to Manfred. In the summer of '76, I was working for a swimming pool company, and was on my way to pick up materials, when I first heard 'Blinded' on the radio. For the first and only time in my life, I had to pull over and stop. I was so knocked out I didn't have enough concentration left to drive at the same time! Although I had liked Mick's singing, I was very impressed with the new guy!
Tony, Steve and I formed a new band, more progressive, and with a definite MMEB influence (in MY songs anyway!). We sent tapes to all the record companies, and the only one really interested, during those Punk days, was Bronze, who had MMEB and Uriah Heep (another of my faves). We got invited to the Bronze Records Christmas Party, in '77. We met lots of heroes like Ken Henlsey from Heep, but the highlight for me was being introduced to Manfred. He said "Oh, you're the guy who's been listening to me!" Correctly or not, I took it as a great compliment!
Having noticed that MMEB did a lot of other people's songs, I developed a burning ambition to write a song for them. I sent several tapes of our band Head On, doing whatever songs I had written which had been influenced by MMEB. Nothing happened. While I was playing with Hazel O'Connor, our monitor engineer told me he knew Chris Thompson, and that he had side-band called Filthy McNasty, who played at the Bridge House pub in London. Naturally I went down there, and thought it was amazing that the Great One would play in a pub! Fabulous!
Then when I did a tour with Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel in '81, our roadies were none other than Davie Phee and Edwin Cross, who I knew from the Angel Station album (tea with or without toasted cheese!). Wow, they were celebs to me! They told me to keep sending songs to Manfred as he listens to them all. I don't know if that is true, but it was encouraging to hear!
After the tour I decided to try writing something more Eighties and less prog-rock, obviously not with MMEB in mind at this time. I had a book on my shelf called Statistics, and I thought it would be a good title for a song. I wrote most of the lyrics first, which is unusual for me. Then I came up with some music that sounded like a mixture between Ultravox and Kim Wilde's 'Kids in America'. Thought I had a good song. Went into a friend's garage/studio and came out with a pretty good demo. Decided it was so good I would send it to Manfred, even though I didn't think it was Earth Band style. I walked to the Workhouse late one night from a gig I was doing a mile or so away, and put it through the letter box. Put it out of my mind.
Three months later Manfred called and asked for the sheet music for Statistics! I wrote it out ASAP and got it over to him. He said they were trying it out! I knew Steve Waller through my brother Tony who jammed with him sometimes. He would give me reports on the recording of the new album every month or so. He would say "Still doing Statistics!" for about 3 months it seemed. Finally Manfred called and said it was nearly finished, and would I come over and discuss the publishing arrangements etc.
When I got to the Workhouse, I walked along the corridor to Manfred's office, and what did I hear on my way? I heard MMEB, with Chris Thompson singing my song! An unbelievable moment in my life! If my memory serves, Manfred told me he had listened to 300 songs trying to find one more for Somewhere In Afrika! Wow! That's when I found out they were doing a kinda concept album about the apartheid system in South Africa. Statistics was now called Tribal Statistics, and there was some chanting of the names of tribes added to it. I imagine that Manfred was then surprised to learn from me that my father was South African - from the Xhosa tribe! One of the names chanted in the song (and others on the album). Life's a funny thing sometimes!
In early October '82, the day before I left for Australia to join Icehouse, I finally heard the finished version of Tribal Statistics, in the Bronze Publishing office (can't remember the guy's name in there - but he was very nice and I stayed in touch with him for quite a while). It was fantastic, and I still think so!
Here's a couple of things about it you might like to know. The lyrics of the second verse were changed by Manfred to fit the concept (I don't remember now what my lyrics were). Also he left out a couple of lines that I had as a lead-up to the chorus. ("Behind the door in secret places, the files are up to date. You don't know just who is watching, lying there in wait"). The song sounds great without that bit, so I don't miss it. Also, I recently came to the conclusion that there is a keyboard melody in there that reminds me very much of something in Hollywood Town/ You Are I Am. If so, at least I gave it back to the person I took it from!
In Dec '82 I was in Auckland while touring New Zealand with Icehouse. There was a guy from our record company there called Dave, who knew Chris Thompson. One night, at our after-show party, he
told me that Chris had just flown in to town, and was jamming with a band at another club! We hurried over there in time to see Chris do a couple of songs, then we went backstage and Dave
introduced me to him. Very exciting! Chris told me 'Somewhere in Afrika' was already in the Top Ten of the album charts in Germany. (I had not heard the album yet - I only had the single of
'Tribal Statistics'. Yes, not JUST an album track!) Chris also suggested we write some songs together. That sounded like a good idea to me, although it took almost two years before that actually
I saw Manfred at the Workhouse now and then during this time. He was always lots of fun! Very exciting talking to him about things like keyboards and royalties! (Amazing to get paid as well!) Finally Chris and I started writing songs in between tours etc. It was no problem coming up with ideas. The problem for me was that everything he sang sounded incredible, so I wasn't sure if the song was great, or just his voice! I think it was somewhere around this time that I played a gig with Chris somewhere in London. John Lingwood also played, and Geoff Whitehorn and Dave Flett were the guitarists. I don't remember it too well, but I know it was fun!
In the summer of '85, Chris told me the Earth Band were going to audition for a new bass player. I immediately mentioned my friend Steve Kinch. I had thought for years he would be ideal for MMEB, but that was just as likely to happen as me writing a song for them! Then - a most amazing offer! Chris said that Manfred was really busy with other things, and didn't really have time to do the auditions, so would I fill in on keyboards! Would I! I get to play keyboards with MMEB! You can imagine what a thrill that was! I spent 3 days in a rehearsal studio playing with Chris Thompson, Mick Rogers and John Lingwood. We played 'Blinded', 'Davy', 'Quinn' and lots of other classics, while different bass players came in and out. I must admit I thought Steve was the best, which I expected, but I didn't know what the others (who actually had a vote!) would think. Of course, I had given Steve as much help as I could, making sure he had tapes of all the songs etc. However, he really worked hard, so he was well-prepared, and he played great and fitted in perfectly. Anyway, he got the job, and 19 years later, he's still doing it! I guess he worked out OK! Cheers, Steve!
Around Christmas '85, Chris and I were in his studio, thinking of what to write next. Chris had an idea he wanted to do something with lots of percussion, and lots of vocalists, like a choir or something. We thought it should be a song about peace and harmony etc. Anyway, I helped him fiddle around with the drum machine, and out popped this rhythm, with hand claps out front. Sounded good! Then I played some slow chords on the keyboard, and Chris joined in on bass. It sounded so good we kept playing the same thing for a couple of hours or so. Then we called our friend Maggie Ryder, and told her we had a great piece, but couldn't think of where to go next with it. She came over and we quickly finished the track. Then we (well mostly Chris and Maggie!) came up with melodies and put them all together. Sounded really good! We got worried about the lyrics though. We knew what sort of thing we wanted but we didn't want to blow it. Then Chris ran in to Keith Reid, lyricist from Procul Harum, and he agreed to help. We all thought 'You're The Voice' was pretty special, and it's been great watching it's success, which still continues with dozens of versions all over the world.
After I left Icehouse in mid-'88, I came to LA to record a solo album, 'Legend In A Loungeroom'. Half the songs were written with Chris, so it was a little daunting singing songs he had sung on our demos! Anyway, I finished it and it sounded pretty good, but unfortunately there was some legal problems and it was never released. Or actually it was released in Europe later, but I didn't know about it at the time! Anyway, I have now, as of June '04, remastered it with 2 extra songs, and brand new artwork, and it is available on my website - www.andyqunta.com. Please visit my loungeroom at that address! Lotsa good stuff there! By the way, the CD artwork and website are the work of my girlfriend, Teresa Stein, who I met through Chris. She designed and maintains the gig page on his website, manages his mailing list, and does assorted photography and graphic design for him. I asked her if she would design a website for me. Apparently that is a pretty good line! Also, I now have a great website and CD cover! Thanks Teresa! Thanks Chris! Thanks MMEB - it's all because of you!
After moving to LA I had bit less contact with MMEB and Chris, but I was still talking to Steve on a regular basis to stay in touch, and I still do. Then about 5 years ago, Chris moved over here,
and lives about 50 miles away from me, which is nothing in Southern California (How are we doing out in California? It could be
the money - no, it could be the sun - that's more like it!). Now I have been playing keyboards with the Chris Thompson Band for the last 2-3 years, whenever Chris's busy schedule allows. It's really good fun, and we get great reviews! Also, Chris and I have written more songs. One of them, 'Do It For Love', is on his incredible new CD, 'Rediscovery', along with a new version of 'You're The Voice'.
Another MMEB connection for me occurred a couple of years ago, when a mutual friend introduced me to Harriet Schock, who wrote 'Hollywood Town'. She is a very well respected songwriter in LA, and was nominated for a Grammy for 'Ain't No Way To Treat A Lady', Helen Reddy's hit. Harriet and I wrote a really good song which I hope to do on my next CD. By the way, I heard her original version of 'Hollywood Town', and it's really good, but very different. Actually she told me her publisher told her she should sit down before he played her the MMEB version! Manfred, of course, is the greatest arranger of songs in rock history in my opinion. He doesn't just do a song, he recreates it. Springsteen's a genius writer, but have you ever heard his 'For You', or 'Blinded', compared with MMEB? I rest my case!
It's very exciting to be a fan of a band, and then be able to have all kinds of connections and involvement with them. I have been really lucky. Apart from the great music, Manfred is very genuine and generous, and that goes for all the members MMEB. I will always be a fan, and I hope I continue to have connections with them.
(Thanks to Andy for writing this article).
Interested in Andy's solo album 'Legend In A Loungeroom'? Visit Andy's Website at www.andyqunta.com
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - May 2005
A boxed off yawn in your E mail.
Well at long last I can tell you that the box I have been whining on about for the last two or three years, is about to be released. I have not yet read the final proofs, or checked the artwork, but Helen tells me that I will be able to, sometime in early May (with release now planned sometime in June). (This is almost as exciting as Doctor Who being back!) Mind you she didn't say which May!
It is hard to believe that this project started almost five years ago when I met with Steve and Helen in a pizza house at the Elephant and Castle. A year or two later and pretty well on schedule, Ian Tompson had mastered the four CDs. All the notes and pictures had been put into a rough design format and sent to the professionals to be done properly.
Then came all the delays.:
Firstly came the compilation album Evolution. I had at one time planned to call the box that. But absolutely nobody, including me liked it! Evolution was aimed at the non-fan and was required at that time for commercial reasons. It's worth having for the DVD and brilliant cover alone. It could have represented the 'Ultimate Best Of', but sadly the choice of tracks on the two CDs was not particularly inspiring, resulting in one or two important tracks being left off.
This does not really matter as most of it has been done before anyway. Another good reason for owning a copy for your collection is because this album is unique. It is to date the only one to include both 60's and Earth Band music. Steve and I talked about doing a Dylan songs album, spanning Manfred's entire career, which I would love to do. Now the box is at last happening, maybe we will get to do that as well one day.
The next delay, which I minded much less, was to make way for the superb and innovative '2006'. As I have observed before this is Manfred's best studio work in a long time. It is a well crafted album full of strong music with a couple of tracks crying out to be put out as singles.
If I get my way (which I probably won't) the box will be called 'We Have No Past', I liked this title because as well as clearly not being true, it sums up Manfred, who even now does not like to look back, listen to or discuss his back catalogue. In an odd way it is why I liked the various different incarnations of Earth Band. It was always changing, moving forward and trying different things. My title would have been subtitled 30 years of MMEB. 'Thirty three years of MMEB' does not have the same ring to it! (Ed. As you'll hear when you finally get your hands on the album, 'We Have No Past' is also a reference to a line in one of the previously unheard songs on the set – very clever Andy!).
(Ed. Since writing this, the title has been confirmed as 'Odds And Sods (Mis-Takes and Out-Takes)' a title Manfred himself has chosen).
So to the set itself: (for the full track listing see Odds & Sods)
CD 1 is called In the Beginning (or at least it was last time I looked.) In some ways this is the most exciting of the four CDs. It is largely made up of music that until a very short time ago was thought to have gone forever. Here you have three tracks from the aborted Manfred Mann Chapter III Volume 3 including Mike Hugg's 'Messin' up the Land.'
The Chapter III tracks are followed by much of the unreleased 'Stepping Sideways' album (which pre-dated the eponymous first album), which I hate to point, out would have been one hell of a good debut album, if admittedly not all that representative of what they were doing live. Mind you I don't think any album really was until 'Messin' and 'Solar Fire' anyway. So this first CD contains some of the rarest and most sought of Manfred recordings ever unearthed and no, I do not think I am exaggerating! It is also fascinating to hear how the old Chapter III was slowly evolving into a cross between Mike Hugg's early solo work and the future Earth Band.
CD2 is my attempt to churn out some of the better known stuff in a more imaginative way. We forget how big Manfred got to be in the States, so I have taken this as my theme. As well as a few US only releases I have been able to include 'Summer in the City', recorded for use on a US version of Masque but never released.
CD3 'Brothers and Sisters' features many of the diverse collection of vocalists we have enjoyed over the years. Whilst most of the songs here are familiar to you there are two gems hidden away on this CD. Unreleased Chris Thompson tracks were hard to find. 'Better Place' written by Mick Rogers was one of the few I unearthed. (Forgive the pun and possible alternative title!) The other is a rare gem indeed, being one of the songs from the sessions on which Gary Dyson sang. He is also on 'Summer in the City'. At the finish of this CD is 'Martha's Madman', one of my personal favourites, sung by Chris, Mick and Noel. What an incredible and unbeatable combination of vocalists that was.
CD4 is the one I am most pleased with. This starts with the studio version of 'Instrumedicine Song', for me a perfect recording, which could not be bettered no matter how many alternative mixes I found. From this point onwards, not one track here has ever been released before. There are studio tracks from 'Plains Music', 'Soft Vengeance' and '2006' sessions. There are a number of live tracks including the two most breathtakingly good live takes ever from 1993. The first of these is 'Pleasure and Pain', the other 'Dirty City,' both recorded in the days when Clive Bunker was on drums.
Doing the box set must represent one of the high points of my involvement with Manfred and the fan club. There have been many others I am sure and I may talk about a few of them in a future Yawn. This project is very special however. Manfred let me explore the Workhouse for material. Ian Tompson not only produced and engineered the whole thing, but was always around to help and advise. I probably shouldn't tell you the next bit but hell I'm going to anyway.
It helps to know, if you don't already that a DAT is a very small digital tape. In the studio there would be a shoebox full of these things, just for one song. There in the shoebox were countless slightly different versions of that particular song to choose from. We also went through loads of live versions of some songs to choose the one we wanted to go on. Big Moog fan though I am I would still have preferred a piano solo version of 'Castles', but you can't have everything.
So it was quite a long process if an enjoyable one, listening to everything. Then I was left to decide what should go on and what shouldn't. Ian gave good council, but I still hung on to a few things I badly wanted on the finished version.
At last we had a rough version that sounded like it would work. After a bit more fine tuning of the tracks included and the running order, it was all sent to Manfred for his approval. After a nail biting few days Manfred came back with just a couple of changes. There was a mix he didn't like (neither did I.). This was changed for a better one, although still not the one I really wanted. He also asked us to leave off a live version of 'Quinn', because he felt it had been done too often. Apart from these minor changes the box was left very much as I wanted it.
To further illustrate his support for the project and his desire to make sure that his fans get something really good, Manfred recently sent an unreleased track from the last album called 'Hillbrow', to bring the story right up to date. In the meantime Helen and co have given me buckets of help to get all the notes right. I have a tendency (which I strongly deny) to repeat myself, apparently and I repeat myself apparently, which I strongly deny!
Sadly there is very little left of the earlier years because of the studio fire. Almost nothing survives pre Tango, and many masters were destroyed. It was a magic moment when I received the catalogue of Manfred's stuff from the U.S. studio. I must have looked through it a couple of times at least before the penny dropped. First amongst the list of familiar songs were the 'Stepping Sideways' tracks. The Chapter III tracks were even more difficult to spot straight away. Even then I couldn't believe it. There was another of those long waits until we got the stuff sent over to listen to. I was expecting a note back saying that they had thrown out the tapes a month ago.
Lots of people out there sent me clippings and other information to include in the notes. I found out a few very interesting things, whilst putting the book together. I hope they haven't been edited out! Anyway I know you have waited a very long time for this (so have I), I just hope you all thing it has been worth the wait.
Farewell to Ian Tompson
Some of you may not know his name (where have you been) but will have undoubtedly seen Ian if you have been to an MMEB live gig in the past 15 years. Ian has been Manfred's keyboard technician, tour manager, record producer and many other things over this time. In mid April Ian 'retired' from life with the EarthBand to pursue his own career, setting up his own studio and working with Jools Holland. Ian has been a great help over all this time and he will be missed by the band and fan club alike. We all wish him well for the future.
Good listening. Now did I mention the follow up DVD?
Odds & Sods - Mis-takes & Out-takes (30 Years of Manfred Mann's Earth Band)
CD2 Hollywood Town
CD3 Brothers And Sisters
CD4 To The Limit
Thanks to Geoff Dunn
When Geoff isn't playing with the Earth Band, he is playing with his own band First Light. To find out more, read on...
First Light came out of an early meeting of myself and guitarist Ronnie Johnson in 1979 when I was around 18 years old. I was playing a gig at The Cricketers Oval and Ronnie sat in. We hit it off musically straight away and dominated the rest of the gig, I was so busy enjoying myself that I didn't see the P45 fluttering down!
Being without a gig it was decided that we should have our own band and play what and how we liked, (some of my influences include:- Mahavishnu Orchestra, Herbie Hancock,Return to Forever, Keith
Jarret, Steelly Dan, Pat Metheny Group, Frank Zappa. Some of Ronnies inflences:- Ravel, Mitchell, Zappa, Elgar, Coltrane, Davis, Beatles, Bacharach, Webb, etc) and so the band was born in one of
its early guises (Geoff Dunn/Ronnie Johnson Group). We were not officially called First Light until about 1984. (Through the 80's members included:-Keyboards- Earl Appleton and Paul Honey, on
Bass- Rob Rawlinson, Rob Burns, Greg Harewood (who was on "How the Land Lies" and toured the US & Canada). Also on the US tour we were joined on vocals by Paul Williams (Tempest, Allan
Holdsworth, Juicy Lucy))
Later on Roy Shipston joined, known amongst Earth Band fans from his association with Chris Slade and Colin Pattenden in the group Terra Nova. Roy also worked in the Chris Thompson Band.
The first album "How the land lies" was recorded at Scorpio sound (1985), engineered by Ray Hendrickson (Marc Bolan, Supertramp, Streetwalkers, Mick Ronson, Fripp & Eno, Jack Bruce, Steve Harley, Carl Palmer, Pete Sinfield, Ginger Baker, Neil Diamond), and Produced by Mike Paxman (Judie Tzuke, Status Quo).
When released it began to get some rave reviews and we were invited to play in the US and Canada, and were received very well by both radio and press (see below).
Throughout the nineties other commitments meant that myself and Ronnie were too busy to give the band enough time to keep the ball rolling, both of us doing long stints with Van Morrison, but the
need was obviously there to resurrect FL because towards the end of the 90's we started doing some gigs again and writing new material. I suppose we had matured a great deal with the amount
of experience and musical exposure during extensive tours and recordings playing with all sorts of Leg-ends. And so the new project "Field Day" took shape, recorded over the last 3-4 years.
During this period we toured extensively with other artists and it transpired that both Ronnie and I had been round the world twice during the making of the record. We gathered various soundbites and anecdotes from our travels. This the starting point for the concept of 'the day'.
When you get the chance produce your own record, you are afforded certain luxuries that a commercial company would not necessarily grant you. We had been long time fans of Jan Erik Kongshaug's work for the ECM label, so when the opportunity came for him to mix the recordings in Oslo, we grabbed it with both hands. We feel the results are for all to hear.
Some Quotes from the Press
The award winning instrumental quartet — formed by Ronnie Johnson (guitar), Geoff Dunn (drums) and keyboard player Roy Shipston — reformed in 1999 when their debut album How The Land Lies was re-released in America. It originally won the Critics' Choice Prize in US magazine Guitar as one of the best 10 albums of the year.
Guitar Player International described How The Land Lies as "one of the best progressive-fusion albums in a long time". And Cymbiosis Magazine (USA) said it was "High quality music that doesn't give in to the urges of the commercial beast". The album was also voted critics choice in 'Guitar Magazine'.
FiRST LiGHT have toured the States and Canada, including appearances at the Montreal Jazz Festival and Vancouver Mountain Fest. In London, they have performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Capital Jazz Festival and several times at Ronnie Scott's Club.
The wide range of influences in FiRST LiGHT's material gives their music an almost 'cinematic' identity, which is punctuated by their tremendous sense of dynamics. Their new album "Field Day" is optimism to behold!
For more information about First Lght, visit their website at www.firstlightmusic.net
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - September 2005
So the famous boxed set is out at last and doesn't it look great. It must be five years or more a go that the very nice Mr Fernie took me for a Pizza somewhere in the Elephant and Castle . I knew he was going to con me into something yet again and I wasn't going to be disappointed. The idea of having complete freedom, (well almost!) to compile a four CD boxed set was exciting. Who out there has never had a go at compiling their own best of for their favourite band or composer?
It was even mentioned at the discussion stage that I could include the odd unreleased track here and there subject to Manfred's approval. So where to begin; I had been privileged over the years to listen to a few tracks, that didn't make it on to the final album. I was also fortunate from the start to have Ian Tompson helping me. Ian is both a brilliant engineer, but also understood quickly what I was trying to do and gave me loads of help, council and encouragement along the way.
Part of the story of "Odds and Sods" goes back even further. As most of you know, because it is the stuff of legends, two unreleased albums were burnt to ash in the fire at the Workhouse back in the Eighties. The same fire also destroyed most of the masters for all the released albums, singles and probably other interesting mis-takes . It was for this reason, as I have explained many times before, that in some cases, vinyl recordings were used on the re-masters. Some copies of the masters were recovered from Europe and the States, which led to the record company using an unusual edit of 'Black and Blue' on the re-mastered "Messin". I quite like little quirks like this, but I know a small number of you don't.
Anyway whilst scrambling around the world trying to find these masters and anything useable as a bonus track, we came upon the impossible. Sat in a vault at Polymedia in the States were the legendary "Chapter III Volume 3" and "Stepping Sideways". I will never forget reading through their catalogue of Manfred's stuff they sent me, the penny suddenly dropping. Even then I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
Then I had to wait for what felt an eternity whilst the record company acquired copies of the missing music. I remember playing them very nervously. This was Manfred Mann that I had long accepted none of us would ever here.
I am still not certain why they had the stuff. So excited was I by this find that I almost missed a handful of interesting mono tracks from Chapter II volume 1 and remain indebted to young Greg Russo for spotting them, hiding there. I knew that if I could get permission some of the Chapter III and all the Stepping Sideways tracks had to be in the box.
This brings me to the other significant thing about "Odds and Sods", which I think most of you probably already know. Manfred is quite rightly extremely protective of his music. He has never let, unfinished or rough mixes go onto records before with the exception of a couple of things on the re-masters. The reason for this is that Manfred has always argued that if it were good enough, it would be on the album anyway. This is the reason for the title. My own title 'We Have No Past, Thirty Years of MMEB' is probably no better. So from the start of the project I was fully aware that we might quite easily end up with four CDs of back catalogue. That was never my intention! Despite these reservations Manfred let me spend a couple of days exploring shoeboxes full of DATs with Ian to find possible material.
My first plan was to have a live CD, a CD of unreleased studio stuff, a CD of the more unusual released material and one featuring the Holy Grail of Manfred Mann recordings. I had at one stage planned to have an unreleased version of Masque on one CD. Gradually however, playing around with the material I had available the CDs in about the form you have them now, took shape.
Many different considerations went into the final version. Ian 's valuable council as to what I might get away with and what I definitely wouldn't. I also had to pay heed to what the record company wanted. Although they were happy for me to use live material, they didn't particularly like the idea of a live CD, as "Mann Alive" hadn't been out that long at the time.
Inevitably when compiling albums like this, the final content was also strongly influenced by what Ian and I liked. We may have found a rare and unusual recording but dumped it back in the box, because neither of us liked it. Interestingly I don't think we once argued over a choice of track, although perhaps a couple of times over the choice of mix. Lets face it; no two people would have ended up with the same final track listing.
At last we had rough copies made of our final listings for the four CDs, which were sent to Steve who once he had decided he was happy, were forwarded to Manfred for final approval. There was a week or two of silence . Ian and I had confidently expected to loose a few tracks. To our surprise and delight Manfred gave us his approval. Ian was asked to edit a song, find a different mix for another and we were also asked to leave off a live version of "Quinn", otherwise this was almost the final version, you now have.
From the great feedback I have had I think most of you understand that from the outset I wanted each CD to stand up as an album in its own right. CD1 is self-explanatory, CD2 was done on the basis that I thought the record company wanted the big hits and I tried to find a slightly different angle to this. CD3 ended up celebrating all the different vocalists Manfred has had over the years and some great music again. Hidden away here is a little gem called 'All Through the Night'. This was recorded in between the "Masque" album and "Plains Music" during a period when frankly Manfred was becoming disillusioned with pop music.
Then there is CD4. What I tried to do here was create a bonus Earth Band album using material that had never been released before.
The booklet took ages to do, (Please remember I also work for a living!) I like to think that I am not a train spotter, (well actually I am!) but I wanted to try to get some information that hasn't been published before. I am indebted to people all over the world for sending me info and press cuttings that all helped in writing the booklet. Space restrictions inevitably meant that some of it did not make it into the final book, and I hope to put a few bits into my next Yawn.
As you all know the set was delayed for various reasons by a couple of years or more. The good news being that Manfred offered a further unreleased track from his last recordings to bring the fourth CD bang up to date. Towards the end of this long journey I convinced myself it was all going to be a bit disappointing. I had even seen proofs of the final artwork.
So when at last, a copy dropped through my letterbox I was completely over the moon. It looks and feels fantastic and is better than I had ever expected. There are always disappointments especially when you spend a lot of time working on something, but I have no disappointments here. I was made up with it, as they say in Liverpool.
The unsung heroine of all this should get a very big mention here, because only through Helen's hard work, determination and dedication, have you ended up with this fantastic set. I know there were times she felt like giving up on it, but she never did. It would be nice if you all gave her a big thank you.
Also remember to give Manfred a big thank you for letting this collection make it into the shops. In the end this is his way of thanking you all for your support over the years and what a thank you. I was reading some of the comments on the message board the other day, a place I confess I do not go very often, because I am either wound up or end up feeling very sorry for someone.
For almost all of us, this is one set that could have no negatives. A CD of brand new music, just when you thought you had another six or seven years to wait! And if that isn't enough a CD containing an hour or more of music that up to a couple of years ago, we had all believed to be lost forever. This is Manfred Mann music we thought we would never hear and even when it was rediscovered we still had to have Manfred's blessing before it could be released. Let's face it I have no illusions as to my part in all of this. It could have come on a plain disc shoved in an old brown envelope and this for all of us fans would have been a truly special moment. Don't you feel just a little bit sorry for the guy who as found there is ten minutes free space on the CD? How easy it is to miss such a very special moment.
Andy Taylor (P A Taylor)
P S Having spent many years promoting Manfred's music, I hope he will forgive a little plug for my new book. 'The Pirate of Heffen' which came out on August 1st and is quite a large book. Filed under science-fiction/fantasy and written by P A Taylor. (Told you I was a train spotter!). It is the story of a beautiful and sexy pirate girl, called Prudence Fairweather. With the help of a young scholar from England, and a motley group of friends, she must try and save her world from a terrible evil. Set against the tropical islands of Heffen, it is a swashbuckling, whodunit, ghostly, fantasy love story. In other words a bit of everything I love to write about. Most of all it is about the ongoing struggle of good and evil.
'The Pirate of Heffen' takes place on a world remarkably similar to this one, about two hundred years ago. It can only be a matter of time before it happens here on our world. Perhaps it already is.
The new book, Part one of 'The Chronicles of Prudence Fairweather' is available on Amazon (including Amazon in Germany guys!) as well as both WH Smith on line and Tesco's on Line. Please, please go buy a copy and tell all your friends to buy it too. Part two 'Efulric the Apprentice' will be out next year.
See you soon, best wishes and happy listening, Andy.
New Band Photo - There's a new Group photo taken by official band photographer Paul Bossenmeir. (see Tour Archive 2013)
Shona Laing - Thanks to Lisa from Auckland (New Zealand). Lisa has been to a number of Shona's concerts during the 90s and she is as good live as on album. Lisa advises that Shona is writing again and is planning on releasing any new singles on the net, so they will be available to us all to hear.
Reviews from Feedback Fanzine
As living proof of how intelligent (no pun intended) members of the MENSA Rock Special Interest group are, here are the reviews they have published in their latest magazine (Feedback Fanzine). Many thanks to its editor Kev Rowland for passing this on.
Manfred Mann's Earth Band are probably ignored by many people in the UK these days, which is real shame as over the years they have released some great albums and 'Angel Station' is a case in point. As well as Manfred himself and the incredible Chris Thompson (surely one of our most easily recognisable and talented singers), this was the line-up that featured Steve Waller. After Steve left MMEB he could often be found playing in London with Glen Le Fleur (Gerry Rafferty etc) and Peter Stroud (Toyah, Roger Chapman etc). Each Sunday lunchtime was a gig with friends and often featured Poli Palmer from Family. I met him many times, and myself and some friends recorded one of his gigs with a mobile eight track studio. Listening to this album again brings back many fond memories. It starts (and in this case ends with bonuses) with two of their hit singles in the voicebox driven "Don't Kill It Carol". Steve and Chris's voices combined really well, Steve providing the lower register and Chris the higher in one of my favourite MMEB songs. I haven't heard Mike heron's original but I would be interested as I can't believe that it sounded anything like this.
Although Manfred is a good writer, it is probably for his adaptations and arrangements of other's material that the band are best known and next up is another song by Bob Dylan, someone whose material he had been covering as far back as the Sixties. Jangly and crashing guitars, this is dominated by the vocals and then some simple but incredibly powerful keyboards, as Manfred moves away from and back to the theme using different instruments and tones.
It is of no surprise that the rest of the album couldn't live totally up to the opening, but there are still some other fine songs here to be found. "Hollywood Town" is reflective and emotional, and allows Chris to show again what a fine singer he is, while "Belle" Of The Earth is typical Manfred with a strong arrangement which again concentrates on bringing Chris to the fore as it turns into belting AOR rocker. How about the too short instrumental "Platform End"? This is Steve's showcase, the band hanging on behind him as he screws up his face, looks to the ceiling and lets his stubby fingers talk for him (he had the smallest hands I have ever seen on a professional guitarist – with his beard and whole demeanour I always felt that he was a full-size dwarf that had walked out of the pages of a fantasy book). Easily one of their strongest studio albums, this 1979 has been remastered by Rob Corich so the sound of course is superb.
When 'Budapest' came out I bought it on pre-recorded cassette. I then played it so much that I actually wore it out (one of only two that ever happened to me with, the other being Sad Café 'Live', wonder if that is out on CD?). With some live albums one has to wonder what on earth the band were playing at, but this has to be one of the great lost live albums as I am sure that many are not aware of it, as if they were then they would have bought it. Only Manfred Chris and Steve were still there from 'Angel Station', but with another two strong albums in 'Chance' and 'Somewhere In Afrika' (which never got the plaudits it deserved, years before 'Graceland') this was a band that were cooking and in front of an Eastern European crowd this was one classic after another.
Since I bought this album (through MMEB's excellent website www.manfredmann.com ) it has been resident in the
player next to the new PC while I have been trying to sort the house out, so much so that Hannah has been playing it a great deal and MMEB now have a new 12 year old fan. Pick a favourite? Get
real, when I say classic after classic I mean it. Whichever song I am playing is the one I like most with "Spirits In The Night" guaranteed to get me singing each time, Steve Waller proving yet
again why he was known as "Demolition Man" (Sting could never have thought that his song could have so much power), or the pure passion and emotion of "For You". But even if you do not know these
(and you should), you will recognise the simple held-down chords that get a reaction from the crowd as they sing along to "Davy's On The Road Again". By the time the bass line hits the crowd are
clapping in time, then Steve crunches in and the whole thing bounces. MMEB were/are a rock band with great vocals and enough experience to know what works, and boy does this work!
Of course no live album could be there without the Boss's best known cover, "Blinded By The Light", which will probably always be the song that people think of when they think of MMEB and while it may not be my personal favourite, there is something about it that makes it work so well. The simple repeated piano chords along with Chris' vocals and the rock element is, just, right. The last song on the original album was the only from Manfred's past life, "Mighty Quinn". When Steve played solo this was one of the few MMEB numbers in his set (of course he always had to play "Demolition Man"), and even now I can 'see' him and Peter in the middle of the stage staring at each other as they built this song to a climax as it just went faster and faster. This might not be up to that standard but is a mighty fine way to finish the album. There are three bonus numbers, one of which was recorded by a later line-up, the superb "Runner", plus two that originally appeared only on the cassette, "No Transkei" and a crunching "Don't Kill It Carol". Steve and Chris at their best.
And that was it, at least for me. Although I loved 'Budapest' for some reason I didn't get any more MMEB albums. I followed Steve Waller around London, and even went to see MMEB in Guildford
where I was mightily impressed by 'new' singer Noel McCalla and also by the fact that ex-Tull drummer Clive Bunker was pounding the skins, but still didn't investigate 'Criminal Tango', 'Masque'
or any of the other albums. Looks like I have some catching up to do. 'Soft Vengeance' was originally released in 1996, and although it had been recorded over a period of four years it had only
benefited from it. Joining Manfred for this release was original guitarist Mick Rogers, while Chris Thompson was also back joining Noel McCalla as a two voice vocal assault. Clive Bunker and
David Farmer provided the drums while Steve Kinch filled the bass role.
This album has everything that one would want from a MMEB album, in fact it has more than I could ever have hoped for. While Chris has long been known as one of our finest singers, Noel is much less widely known which is nothing short of criminal as he has a great Seal-type style that allows him to happily take the lead or to accompany Chris as required. Of course the musicianship is inspired, but again it is the choice of covers along with originals that makes this such a delight. Sara came in while I was playing it and sat transfixed on the floor to their version of "Nothing Ever Happens". I have always liked the Del Amitri song, but here it takes on new life as the song builds and builds to become something that is far greater than before. It becomes an all encompassing powering rock number with two singers striving to produce the best that they can and the fact that this wasn't a major hit is much more an indictment on radio airplay than it is on the quality of the song.
Having only just rediscovered the joys of 'Budapest' you can imagine my delight at discovering that there was also available a double CD with the same line-up as 'Soft' apart from new drummer
John Trotter. With two singers this was a band out to have fun and please a lot of fans. Initially the tour was only recorded for Manfred's own archives, but when the decision was taken to
release an album it meant listening to every gig to decide on the best version of each song – it may not be from just one show but there are no overdubs. It would be easy to compare the songs on
this album with 'Budapest' but that wouldn't be fair as I literally played that to death. Yes, I often prefer the versions on the former but that is because I played it so much. But, the piano
and vocal version of "For You" has a restrained power that is greater than many rock outs, it is simple but complex, gentle and lulling yet also dynamic and strident. It is also nice to hear a
ten minute version of "Father Of Day, Father Of Night" which over twenty years on is still full of power.
Of course they have to play "Demolition Man", it was one of their hits in Europe, but even though they have changed the setting to move it away from their own version this just doesn't cut it although Noel does sing a fine version – he isn't Steve. It may be far more soulful but I loved the original sweaty rocker that it used to be. "Nothing Ever Happens" is also on here and to give you some idea again of the strength of the set list this is number eight on disc one, followed by "She Was", "Blinded By The Light" and "Davy's On The Road Again". Of the two this is going to be the better value for money as it has two discs and in its' own right is a damn fine album, it just isn't 'Budapest' that's all.
Released at the end of 2004, '2006' has been released by Manfred Mann, but he doesn't view this as a MMEB album even though all of the band are involved. That is because he feels that some of the
songs just don't fit in with the normal MMEB feel, and that it wouldn't be fair to call it that. He goes as far as to state who plays on each track and whether he feels that it is Manfred Mann
'06 or MMEB. I am not sure if I totally agree with this way of doing it, as opener "Demons and Dragons" would have graced any of the MMEB albums, and features vocals from both Noel and Chris with
guitars from Mick. Yes, there is rap on here as well, but this is a powering commercial rock number that hits all the spots with the rap section definitely adding to MMEB instead of taking it
away altogether. Noel has a great clear voice and to hear him singing against an acoustic guitar is a delight while Chris seems to relish being able to come in with the histrionics and
When I first played this album I was delighted to hear so many different styles, all bound together in a sound that is so obviously Manfred Mann but being keen to experiment and move out of the comfort zone. "The History Of Sexual Jealousy Parts 17 To 24" brings together rock with choral singing, jazz style sax and some female spoken parts that combine to make a superbly complex and complicated number that is so immediate and relevant. His take on the theme from Holst's "Mars" is another example of a performer who still wants to experiment and move his music along.
Manfred has been producing some of the finest music around for over forty years now, these albums alone span over twenty-five years, but he isn't content to rest on his past and is still out there playing live (although sadly currently in Europe and not in the UK) as well as releasing music that people should be buying because it is good music, not from an artist long past his sell by date like many of his contemporaries from all of those years ago.
For details on gigs, albums (quicker and cheaper than from Amazon) then visit the site at www.manfredmann.com . Everybody should have some MMEB in their collection.
As Andy mentioned in his Yawn, not only has he successfully managed to get the Odds & Sods 4 CD set out, he also has his first book published. If you are a Science Fantasy fan why not give it a try - it's available on Amazon worldwide now. If you enjoy it, the second instalment is due out next year.
The precis of the book is shown on the back cover below. By the way I can't work out if Andy is trying to look like Manfred or Terry Pratchett in that hat - what do you think?
One of the amazing things about putting this website together is the various e-mails I receive from all over the world in connection with the band. Sometimes these are enquiries about booking the band, several every month about the use of 'douche' in the lyrics for Blinded By The Light and occasionally a real gem with something unusual which is of interest to all of us.
When the band played Israel in May 2004, one of the Israeli fans who saw the band was Maria Kireev (25) - pictured below with Noel. Here is the portrait she produced of Manfred. Thanks also to Yan Berzak (Maria's boyfriend) for passing this onto us
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - February 2006
The First Yawn of 2006
First of all Happy New Year everyone, or should I say happy already quite old year. I can't believe its February already! We haven't had too great a start. One of our dogs Harry died suddenly on New Year's Day. I went down with the worst flu ever, although others described it as a bad cold. (I was trying to work out when I last had contact with any birds!) The Taxman seems to think he should have most of my money, and we haven't seen sunshine for about a month.
As if to cheer my spirits, half way through this desperately miserable month, I found a flyer on Lime St station proclaiming the Blues Band were playing at Pacific Road, a fine little venue in Birkenhead, little more than ten of fifteen minutes from the Taylor homestead. I have always thought this would be a great venue for MMEB, pretty central for all UK fans (and bloody convenient for me.)
I have mentioned before how much I admire the Blues Band, who come far closer to what you would have got for your money if you had gone to see the Manfreds back in the sixties. Rhythm and Blues is timeless music, so the Blues band also always sounds fresh and exciting. If you still haven't checked out some of the very early Manfred stuff, trust me and try it. The Five faces of Manfred Mann, is a good starting point. Find me a better album for 1964 if you can!
So did the Blues Band live up to my expectations I hear you cry. Well how should I know? The flyer simply told me they had performed the night before, so I had missed the show! I told you January was a bad month.
Some nice things have happened. As I write these notes Manfred has just made a brief TV appearance on the program 'Classic Albums' discussing Jack Bruce's short period as a member of Manfred Mann in 1966.
On Carol's birthday, we got Billy, a new Border collie pup, who I regret to report is very naughty. Late in the month I received samples of the Japanese MMEB albums to check out. These are absolutely wonderful miniatures of the old albums. The ones that had gatefold sleeves have had these reproduced beautifully. Inner sleeves are also exact replicas. You also get sleeve notes in Japanese, which are obviously not as good as the brilliant sleeve notes what I wrote. (They probably would be if I could read Japanese.) Each album has well chosen bonus tracks.
Obviously you are buying these albums mostly for the packaging. There is nothing new here. The quality of the re-mastering sounds very good to me, although I probably should point out that I do not have the state of the art technology some of you out there obviously have. No doubt somebody will find hiss and drop out somewhere. (Incidentally if you want to see an example of re-mastering at its very best check out Doctor Who 'The Beginning' DVD as against a previously released video version of the pilot episode, 'An Unearthly Child'. It shows you what really can be done nowadays. The difference is quite incredible.)
The Japanese Messin has the full version of Black and Blue unlike the European version. This very much to the credit of those involved, tells you that they just haven't copied what has gone before.
I think it is possible now to have every Manfred album, from 'Five Faces' up to 'Budapest' in miniatures of their old 12-inch form. That is the HMV albums, 'Five Faces', 'Mann Made', 'Soul of Mann' and 'Mann Made Hits'. The Fontana albums have also been released, 'As Is' and 'Mighty Garvey', plus the budget album 'What A Mann' and a best of. I think 'Up the Junction' is also available, although I haven't seen it in that form yet.
Also from the sixties you should still be able to track down a four CD set made up of perfect replicas of the Ascot/United Artists releases for the U.S. market. With the two wonderful Chapter III albums and the MMEB ones you could build up a very nice collection of mini replicas. For the more serious collectors I also have the rather odd Mike Vickers's album, Wish I Was A Group Again in this form. I also have a card cover version of Best of the Re-Masters, which I compiled a few years ago. This was done as a promotional disc. Although not an album there was also a nice card cover for the single Sikelele, and a promo for a sixties best of. There are no doubt others you can tell me about. Please do, because I'm a sucker for this kind of thing. Comes of being born a train spotter, I fear.
So what can we look forward to in 2006? Well the big project is to do a DVD. This is in its early stages of development, so I can't promise you will actually see it in 2006, if ever. Remember how long you waited for a few odds and sods, although I hope you all agree it was very much worth the wait. The DVD is another exciting project. The idea is to put together archive footage hunted down from all over the world. I will tell you more as soon as I can. There is also talk of doing a live DVD from Germany, although nothing has been decided yet.
Earth Band is due back on the road in the spring after quite a long break.
I have had good feedback from German friends to the Manfred/Chris shows in Germany last December. As I understand it, they did 'Blinded', 'Davy', 'Quinn' and an instrumental version of 'Do Wah Diddy' and of course went down a storm. I am told that in previous years a live CD has been released of one of the nights, although I have no idea if this will happen this year.
Lastly, it was good to hear from Michael Sanz recently. Michael for those of you who don't know was responsible for the brilliant Watch cover design. He has sent me some interesting photos, which I will pass on to Nigel who can hopefully make them available to everyone. These include a Citroen 2CV, with Michael's painting copied onto the back! There is also an oil painting he sold to Manfred in 1977, the guy who modelled for the cover artwork and a photo of the two original canvases. Thanks to Michael for sending me these.
See you soon
Regards Andy Taylor
P S. Please keep telling people about my new novel, 'The Pirate of Heffen'. Thanks to all of you who have bought a copy. If you haven't bought a copy yet please do. Amazon is the best place. I have been getting great feedback so far, although I suppose you might just be being nice.
We've all read on the message board about the adventures of the Vikings over the past few years. Here are some of their photo's (Thanks to Snorre Nyeggen).
More Reviews from Feedback Fanzine
Here are some more reviews published in the latest edition of the Feedback Fanzine. Many thanks to its editor Kev Rowland for passing these on.
MANFRED MANN'S EARTH BAND WATCH
Following on from the success of 'The Roaring Silence', there was always going to be a lot of pressure on MMEB for the follow-up, and although at the time it didn't gain the critical response that they would have liked or the sales the thought that it deserved it has continued to sell through the career so that it is now their most popular album. Manfred again had Chris Thompson as his singer, Dave Flett on guitars, Chris Slade on drums and new bassist Pat King. Chris was, as always, in very fine voice and his accapella introduction to "Chicago Institute" is extremely powerful as it leads into a bass-driven number. The album release was preceded by the dreamy "California" and listening to it now it does sound as if it was recorded some ten years earlier than it was, but it is still a fine piece. Two songs on the album were recorded on tour, and then overdubbed in the studio, and it would be unthinkable for the band to ever play a gig even now without them. "Davy's On The Road Again" was written by John Simon and Robbie Robertson, but it is this version that everyone knows. It was a huge hit in the UK but strangely not in the US. The other song was re-recorded by MMEB some ten years after it was a number one for Manfred, but here it is far more powerful and "Mighty Quinn" is revitalised. Overall a very complete album that is still fun to play 27 years after it was initially released. As with 'Chance' it has been remastered by Rob Corich and there are bonus tracks and good sleeve notes.
MANFRED MANN'S EARTH BAND CHANCE
'Chance' was the follow-up to 'Angel Station', itself the follow-up to 'Watch', but this album has less of a 'band' feel to it. Manfred retained the services of Pat King and Chris Slade's replacement John Lingwood, but Chris Thompson only sang on the first three numbers as Manfred brought in extra singers. Likewise Dave Flett's replacement, Steve Waller, also saw his role somewhat diminished as there were four other guitarists on the album, including producer Trevor Rabin (Yes etc). To my ears this means that the album is somewhat disjointed, although there are some fine moments on it. It opens in fine style with a wonderful take on "Lies (Through The 80's)" where Chris is joined on vocals by Carol Stocker, but it is "For You" that is the standout song. Although it isn't as powerful as it is in a live environment this still captures the emotion and tragedy, with strong performances from all involved, including a fine use of fretless bass. "Stranded", with vocals from Peter Marsh is another number that again shows how Manfred can put together arrangements that make a song commercial yet melodic and rocking at the same time, but overall I think that lack of band feel pulls me to one of the previous two releases as opposed to this.
MANFRED MANN'S EARTH BAND MIS-TAKES AND OUT-TAKES
It is always nice to be able to review something that has obviously been a labour of love, and that is the case with this MMEB compilation. It has been put together as a book, with two CDs on both the inside front and inside rear cover and a 28 glossy book in between. This is not a set for the average punter; it has been designed for the MMEB fan to provide them with a trip through the long career of the band and provide them with some 'new' material along the way. Of the 54 songs on this set, 24 are previously unavailable versions and another three were only released in the States. It doesn't even include all of the hits that the band had in the UK, as both "You Angel You" and "Don't Kill It Carol" are noticeable by their absence, but if you just want the hits then you can instead pick up 'The Evolution Of Manfred Mann' which of course also includes his pre-MMEB singles. But this set isn't about providing yet another compilation, but something that provides value for money that every fan will want to have and on that level succeeds very well indeed. With a detailed history of the band, and some wonderful asides (I love the story of Steve Waller – something I can certainly imagine him doing), the booklet itself is well worth reading for the fan, and of course it also details where each track has been taken from and the history etc. If you are a fan of MMEB then this set is indispensable. Available from www.manfredmann.com for £19.99+VAT
Getting down to Earth
From UK magazine late 70's
NOT so long ago, Joe Public had heard the word stereo but wasn't at all sure what it meant. Nowadays a stereo record player is as much part of the home as the fridge and the cooker.
But stereo didn't stop at the home. As soon as it became commercially feasible, musical instrument manufacturers developed stereo guitars and keyboards, splitting up the sound of the instruments via the pick-ups and playing the sound through the standard twin speaker setup, positioned at either side of the stage. A gimmick or worthwhile technical progress? As with record players, it took some time for the new instruments to become accepted, and there were problems - the cost, lack of flexibility and vague stereo image were just some.
Now a new stereo pick-up has been invented, which its maker, Mark Griffiths, claims has solved most of the difficulties. - Mark has been working on his project for the last year with Manfred Mann, who has been using the techniques the two have developed on his new album with the Earth Band, to be released "some time in February." But Mark started out on his own before approaching. Manfred, after trying out split-sound Shergold Marathon bass in a music shop in London.
"'At the time I owned, a Fender Precision, but I immediately liked the feel and the action of the woodwork of the guitar, which was frankly 100 per cent better made than my 1975 Precision. The split sound was amazing for the funky music that I was playing at the time, so I bought it there and then. The next time I played with my band the sound that was so beautiful in the shop just fell flat in comparison with the projection of my Fender - the downfall of all English pick-ups seems to be lack of projection. That left me with only one solution - to put the Precision pick-ups on the other bass. I made up a new scratch-plate and changed the tone control for a double-ganged one, as, with the Shergold design, there was no tone variation available when one switched to stereo. This arrangement did the trick and gave the bass good projection combined with a good, fast action.
Mark then turned his mind to the problem of designing a pick-up that would give a true stereo image spreading across the whole of the stage, as opposed to simple separation, without the need for complicated and ex-pensive electronics. "I was very fortunate in achieving results at my first attempt. I ripped the Fender pick-ups out of the Shergold and replaced them with a pair of matching Vox bass' pick-ups mounted adjacently. I angled them in opposite directions, connected them to the existing wiring and plugged the guitar hopefully; into my stereo."
Almost to his surprise, it worked beautifully. The string came out of the left speaker, the A string from a third of the distance away from the speaker; the D string from two-thirds and the G stung from the right hand speaker. "With the pick-ups in the bass position on the guitar body, they were also sensitive to any bending of the strings on the higher frets, giving me more control at my fingertips on the instrument I was playing, so I could move the note I was playing across the stereo image."
From there, Mark went to Stephen Delft, well known from his work making and repairing instruments, who gave him advice on patenting his innovation, and it was after this that Mark introduced Manfred Mann to the device and the two worked together at Manfred's studio in London's Old Kent Road.
"In the time that has passed, I've developed and put into practice some alternative ideas that have stemmed from the original concept. Manfred is now using a Fender Rhodes piano that produced consecutive pairs of notes from alternative sides of a stereo set-up, and Dave Flett of the Earth Band can also be heard (on the new album) using a Fender Strat that plays consecutive strings from alternative sides (1,2 and 5 from the left and 2,4 and 6 from the right."
"That's particularly effective with lead guitar lines when bending notes. The note being bent can start on the right hand side of the stereo and move across to the left and with ultra-light strings some notes can start on the right, move to the left and return to the right again!"
"I'm using a Fender Precision in Claire Hammill's band Transporter, which incorporates alternate string stereo with precision pick-ups, and Precision mono."
One of the main advantages of Mark's invention is the relatively small amount of work needed to convert a guitar to stereo ,and the fact that the alteration makes very little difference to the instruments controls.
"The Fender Rhodes has an extra two-way mono/stereo switch mounted alongside the existing controls and the Fender Strat remains the same apart from the substitution of a Gibson Humbucker in the bass position. The Fender Precision has an extra three-way Strat-type switch and a pair of Fender Jazz Bass pick-ups added in the bass position, but the volume and tone controls operate as standard. All the instruments operate normally in mono with one amp."
Manfred, busy mixing his album, took a few minutes off to demonstrate the piano and describe its advantages over conventional ones.
"The problem about things like this is that when you're told about them, you tend to think its just a gimmick, but when you actually start using it, it's much more than that. I find it incredibly useful in the studio, particularly the complete separation. That doesn't require any explanation, its immediately obvious, whereas Mark had to tell me what was going on when he played the spreading effect for the first time. One of the main advantages I've found is that it gives a much cleaner sound, as well as creating two separate sources, basically because you are using one amp for three strings instead of six, or half of the piano's notes instead of all of them. The piano can be arranged in any configuration. It doesn't have to be consecutive notes as I've got mine, but you have to have an equal number of notes on both sides. Changing the configuration is very easy, just a matter of soldering the pick-ups to different keys."
Mark hopes to be able eventually to convert guitars on a production line basis, thus cutting costs. At the moment he estimates that a custom conversion would cost about £60 for most instruments and the process is completely reversible if the owner is dissatisfied.
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - June 2006
Something very strange has just happened. Stop me if you don't get this, but I can go into a shop in Birkenhead, or even Liscard in Wallasey and buy a Manfred Mann's Earth Band album. Some of our lucky and totally spoilt friends from over in Germany or Scandinavia somewhere are probably wondering exactly what am I going on about this time. Has this poor sad man, author of the 'Yawn' and self-confessed train spotter (see 'The Real Angel Station'), finally ended his days in an institute? (One in Chicago perhaps?) This is all very hard for me so soon after Doctor Who becoming such a hit again. They'll be bringing back steam trains next!
I am not talking here you understand about one of the big music stores. Even these have relatively sparse offerings when it comes to Manfred Mann. If they have anything in stock, more often than not its one of the budget price sixties albums. Not only could I nip out today and buy the 'World of Mann' from our local Woolworth's or Asda supermarket, but they also have loads of copies, out on display mixing with all the other current hit albums. I think perhaps you should sit down for the next bit. New in at number 20 in the album chart in W H Smith and Asda, where it is also album of the week, or at least it is in Liscard. Woolworth's went one better placing it at number 19. Who cares, because whichever way you look at it that is a top twenty hit and in the United Kingdom, where sadly music that isn't considered cool, doesn't get played. One of our coolest TV and radio presenters, Jonathon Ross, played the D'Abo 'Mighty Quinn' on Saturday on his radio show. It sounded great and at the end Jonathon proudly announced that was Manfred Mann before he got his Earth Band. A significant remark to me, having lived in a country for so long where Manfred's name can so often be associated to Jones and D'Abo and very little else. (Update:' World of Mann' entered the BBC UK album chart at No 24 last night - 11/6/06)
So what is this album that has put both 'Do Wah Diddy' and 'Blinded' back in the top twenty after all these years. (The official UK charts will be announced later today). This is on
the face of it yet another compilation released by Universal called 'The World of Mann.' It is being TV advertised and although I haven't seen the advert yet a friend of mine has.
Apparently the advert's proud boast is for the first time on CD! I think this reference is to an alum titled The Best of Manfred Mann and Manfred Mann's Earth Band, so whilst those who own
a copy of Evolution might want to argue the claim, technically it didn't claim to be the very best of, 'World of Mann' does.
I remember once arguing in this very column that if you tasked ten people with the task of compiling an album for a particular artist you would get ten different albums. One man's meat is another Mann's poison! That said the people at Universal have done a pretty good job with this. The sixties bit is easy peasie. Almost all the sixties hits in the order they appeared, seventeen of them to be exact. Not exactly rocket science. They have missed off 'You Gave Me Somebody to Love', which was put out by HMV after Jones had left and the band had signed to Fontana but was still a hit. For even bigger nitpickers, they haven't included 'So Long Dad' which must have been a hit somewhere! This is not to be honest, a great loss, whereas it would have been nice to have had the evocative 'Up the Junction' included.
Like the Evolution set, they have included Mike D'Abos 'Handbags and Gladrags', which is a very good idea, but makes you wonder why they couldn't have included, 'Whatever Happened to the Likely
Lads' theme or even Mc Guinness Flint's 'When I'm Dead and Gone? It is odd that Manfred Mann only ever recorded 'Handbags' for the radio. One day I will persuade someone to release
that! Finally on CD1 a big pat on the back to the compilers for remembering 'The One in the Middle' title track of one of the few EPs (extended play) to ever get into the UK top ten.
It would be extremely churlish and uncharitable for me to mention that whilst the title track was very popular, the reason people broke the rules and bought this record in such ridiculous numbers
was largely because of Manfred's brilliant interpretation of the Bob Dylan song, 'With God on Our Side.' Did I say easy peasie? OK so perhaps this isn't the very best of, just some of
the best of, but its still nice to hear all of those hit records one after the other.
Those of you who just don't skip my ramblings on the sixties, will also know that most of the time this band wasn't about its hit records, good though they were. It was also about blues, jazz and some pretty good song writing from time to time. The thing is, this CD, or for that matter CD2, should not be judged from a fan's perspective. It isn't aimed at fans. They will already own dozens of identical recordings of 'Come Tomorrow', or three hundred live bootleg versions of 'Blinded', most of which sound like they have been recorded on a bad telephone line, inside a toilet, whilst it was flushing.
This record is for Joe Public and it would appear that Joe Public is buying. This is great news, because when they realise how good these bands were and are, some of them will be tempted to buy other things or even check out MMEB live. Thankfully here in the UK, people may at last get a chance to do that now later this year.
CD2 is the Earth Band stuff. Once again I honestly believe this has been compiled with some care and thought and not just slung together as compilations of this nature can so often be. Once again there are few surprises, because this is 'The Very Best Of!' I do get the feeling however that it was compiled by a bit of a fan, cause with MMEB the choices are not so immediately apparent once you've covered the obvious top ten hits. So it is very nice to see tracks like 'Questions' and 'Father of Day' included. If I had been involved I would have gone in date order to match CD1 but that's just me. On the other hand it is such a shame they have not included at least one of the singles from Plains Music. Perhaps for me, this is the one unforgivable error, on this compilation. (Just think how many copies of that brilliant album would have been sold, if Joe Public had got to hear just one song!) On the positive side I was absolutely thrilled to see 'Demons and Dragons' included.
Here is a set then that takes us on a very long musical journey from '54321' to 'Demons'. Although even CD2 concentrates on the commercial or popular front of Manfred Mann, meaning you get little blues or jazz as such, there is still a strong feel starting on '54321' that is still there today. This is a feel, which makes Manfred's music quite unique. It is only when you hear something like this that you realise why some forty-three years later the name of Manfred Mann can still be found in the charts.
I have always believed that Manfred has missed out a bit over the years. His decision to stop touring in the UK after Angel Station didn't help. I remember meeting a guy at Manchester at Noel's second gig with the band, who asked me where the band had been hiding since 1979. It was then I realised that whilst fans will travel to see their favourite band, good old Joe Public will go see what is on locally.
Then there is the question of street cred and cool. In my opinion far lesser bands than MMEB go on shows like Jools Holland, here in the UK. Here they are treated with undeserved adoration, because, what they lack in musicianship is made up for in street cred and cool. (Sometimes it feels like the Kings new cloths!)
From now on I shall cheer myself up by wondering just how many of them will still have hit albums in forty something years time, cool or not! As for 'The World of Mann?' Well hats off to Universal for doing it, and advertising it on TV. I know that you have all these tracks already but go on, treat yourselves, buy a copy. It is not expensive, is nicely packaged and free of those inevitable liner notes by some chap from the Pool. It has been very nicely done and very much deserves our support.
Speaking of 'Best Ofs,' Steve and Helen have absolutely forbidden me from talking about the Best of DVD, which of course is just a figment of my imagination anyway. I am as a result unable to mention live Eskimos in Australia from 1972, or some very Plain video I didn't know existed. Some of you may have a poor quality colour Budapest with a censored Martha moog solo. Now the black and white of this is that I hate censorship and love moog solos. Hands up if you remember the cartoons by the way? Incidentally my wife Carol (probably in league with Steve and Helen) is threatening to kill this section, despite me begging her not to, odd because she has always been my Angel.
If I weren't imagining all of this, which as I emphasised before, I am, there would still be the long process of clearing material for use, which could easily go wrong. Thankfully the tedious and very skilful business of doing that would fall to good old Steve. It would be down to him, not me thankfully, to get to the meat of the problem and bring some joy, for you. Anyway if it ever happened, it would be blindingly good, I'm sure you would agree. I lie here, no more than I did a couple of decades ago, father. (Is it me or has it got dark already dad?) I fear I may have said too much already and will have to do a runner, put out an SOS even. Perhaps I will just go have a lie down. Anyone know where I can get a can of Instant Sex by the way?
Perhaps I will see you at a UK gig soon. Powerful stuff that instant sex!
Best wishes Andy Taylor
Sitting on a slice of the Good Earth
Weekend Telegraph Saturday September 23, 1995 - (Thanks to Keith Sheen)
Twenty years ago Manfred Mann (left) brought out an album which entitled every purchaser to a square foot of land in the upper reaches of a Welsh mountain. Roger Dobson finds out what happened to it.
It was the late summer of 1975 and a green revolution was sweeping the country. The United States had recently pulled out of Vietnam, the Ecology Party had just been formed, Friends of the Earth
was celebrating its fourth birthday and in a small office in London's Old Kent Road Manfred Mann and his band were drawing up a complicated plan to give away part of a Welsh moor.
While other albums in the environmentally friendly, post-flower-power era came with free gifts including paper flowers and peace balloons and song sheets made of recyclable paper, Manfred Mann's Earth Band decided to buy part of the upper reaches of a Welsh mountain and divide the land into parcels of one square foot.
Their album, The Good Earth, came out in September 1975. Its cover showed a square foot of turf, complete with wild flowers, snails and fungi. Each copy carried a seal with the message: "The owner of this album is entitled to rights over one square foot of the earth situated at Llanfrechfa in the County of Brecon, Wales, Great Britain, subject to registration by December 31, 1975."
It is not known how many album-buyers have formally registered their claim to land or been to see the little bit of Britain they acquired in their youth. Over the past 20 years the area has been visited by the occasional middle-aged tourist. The 20th anniversary of the album's release is expected to increase the number of visitors - Andy Taylor, who runs the Manfred Mann fan club, finally made it there earlier this month.
But they face a problem: it is more than 1,OOOft up in remote moorland in Powys and extremely difficult to find.
A few clues were provided by Tom Proctor of the Economic Forestry group, which sold the land to the band's company, Petbrook. In a note to album-buyers he wrote: "The land is near the head of the Irfon valley and is particularly wild and desolate with rocky crags overshadowing the single-track road. The road is one of the ancient drove-roads along which cattle were driven from the coastal plains of Cardiganshire through the Welsh hills to the markets of London."
It was, he said, purple moorland abounding with wildlife and frequented by the red kite, hawks and buzzards. For those wanting more detailed instructions, maps and pictures were kept at The Workhouse Studio in the Old Kent Road.
The precise location is in fact on a 10-acre unfenced field bordering common land several miles from the nearest huddle of buildings at Abergwesyn, near Llanwrtyd Wells.
"It is remote and I can't now remember how we came to buy that particular piece of land, it just seems to have happened;" says Manfred Mann, who is still based in the Old Kent Road. "I do recall that we only paid a few hundred pounds for it. We thought it was a good idea and we wanted to give people a bit of land that was going to be untouched and it looks as though we found the right piece of land."
The idea generated much enthusiasm in the United States. Band member Mick Rogers, who never actually got to see the land, says: "We did a tour of America and there was a lot of interest. I don't think anyone had ever done that kind of thing before or since. We didn't do it to sell the album; we just thought it would be nice for people to have.
"I think someone just suggested we find out if we could legally give away a bit of land.
Someone went up to take a look and saw a lot of sheep and bought it. The band member who knew where it was was Chris Slade, our drummer, who came from Wales, and is now with AC/DC.
.The album cover was a real legal document and everyone owned rights to a bit of land. Why the land was in Wales, I don't know. Maybe it was because it was the cheapest bit of land we could get."
Local farmers say the area is occasionally visited. Richard Davies says: "We all knew about it at the time and you do see a few people about but you can't tell whether they are those who have got a bit of land or not. It is now open land grazed by sheep."
Roger Thrupp, secretary of the Abergwesyn Commoners' Association, whose common borders the land, recalls that there was other celebrity interest at the time, too: at one point Diana Dors owned land in the same area.
Tony Emmerson, who in 1975 was with the Economic Forestry group, now Tilhill Economic Forestry, says: "We sold land to their company and they put the deeds on the back of the LP. After that we never heard any more about it. It was a piece of land surplus to our requirements but you get quite a spectacular view from there down the valley and people do visit the area."
Andy Taylor still treasures the album-and the concept. "It was a great idea, not a gimmick," he says. "It was saying that this is a bit of beautiful land where the birds can fly over, where animals can live and flowers grow, without being polluted or killed.
"It was the good earth and the message that came with the land was: `Let's not completely ruin our countryside'. Here at least is land that will be safe. And it seems to have worked. It is still remote and spectacular and unpolluted.
The Real Angel Station
Many of you will already know that Andy Taylor is a bit of a 'train spotter' (when not compiling MMEB CD's or writing sci-fantasy books), but I bet you didn't know that he has the Real 'Angel Station' in his back garden. So for the train spotter in all of you, here is Andy's railway ..... and the real Angel Station.
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - October 2006
Some of you will have just enjoyed one or more of the UK gigs. UK MMEB gigs are as rare as hen's teeth, nowadays so I was glad to make it to the Stables at Milton Keynes. This is a smallish
modern all seated venue. There were a few old faces amongst the road crew at the sound check on the Sunday afternoon. I had not seen Chris for donkey's years whilst Ian Tompson was temporarily
back in charge of Manfred's keyboard rig. I know nothing about keyboard rigs whatsoever (except they're expensive!) so it is probably a vast improvement on what has gone before. I didn't think it
looked as good, and when Manfred was sitting down; he tended to be lost from view. Perhaps he wanted it that way.
Some of his keyboard playing at the sound check sounded really good, despite a few technical problems. In the end during the show the keyboards were not loud enough for me. The show was as familiar as ever (hard to believe, I hadn't seen them play live for a couple of years or more.) I know I am probably just being perverse, but as well as so wanting the set to change, I also would like them to go back to the instrumental opening. I'm afraid you just can't please some people! Spirits is in my view an awful and unexciting track to open with at the best of times. With relatively little new, I got the feeling that sometimes the band were trying too hard to find something different to say, with the music. Having said that, it isn't too long into the set before you begin to remember what a great band this is. Martha was as good as ever. It is full of atmosphere, drive, excitement and anarchy many modern bands would find difficult to capture. Carol still works well and Demolition Man was brilliant. On the other hand, they have almost given up on Blinded, which gets shorter and shorter. Even the lovely moog build and chopsticks solo have gone now.
It was a packed house and a very enthusiastic audience. They loved Mick, who was as a showman at his very best, milking the appreciative crowd for everything he could get. They loved every second of it. Mick did a clever solo before Father and the instrumental For You, one of the few things new to me, was good enough to make you cry, brilliant Mick. Only problem for me was the guitar tended to dominate a little too much, because the keyboards were too quiet. Manfred was soloing well. Another new part for me was the solo before Blinded, full of mood and atmosphere. The Davy solo was particularly good. I just wonder why sometimes, when something gets into a groove like that did, they can't just go with it and see where it takes them. Perhaps I'm listening to too much jazz nowadays.
A special mention for Demon's and Dragons, the only song from '2006' featured in the set. What happened to the superb Mars I wonder? Demons which is a really nice song, is a great showcase for Noel McCalla, reminding everyone as if they needed to be, just what an incredible voice the man has. I also loved the interplay on stage between Noel and Steve who as usual provided great support. At the end MMEB got a standing ovation from a packed house. I thought they looked slightly surprised to be getting such a rapturous reception. Having not played together for a while, and also suffering from various equipment problems, perhaps they weren't expecting it to go so well.
I managed to catch up with Manfred for a very brief chat. With it being the first gig for a while things were a little fraught. He told me that MMEB would be continuing to tour for the foreseeable future. His next project will be an instrumental album. He went on to tell me that it would not however be a jazz album. The nearest he could think to describe it, was 'Funk Rock' The idea is to take some very, very well know songs and do instrumental arrangements of them. There is a lot of stuff written down now, and a few things on computer. Manfred has yet to decide on the musicians for this project. He has already done some work with a well known jazz violinist. When I asked which famous songs they would be attempting, he mentioned Queen's 'We Will Rock You' and The Beach Boys 'Good Vibrations.'
It is nice to hear that he is back in touch with Mike Hugg. Mike of course was c- founder of the Mann Hugg Blues Brothers who later became Manfred Mann. Mike as well as working with sixties band The Manfreds has been recording some jazz stuff with Mike Vickers. I will do my best to get to here it before my next Yawn, so I can give it a big plug on here. These are two seriously good musicians as I might have mentioned before. Manfred does not completely rule out working with Mike again one day although I don't think he will be doing the Manfreds thing!
I met up with (Graeme The Beaver) Yates as well as my old mate John Arkle at Milton Keynes. I haven't seen either of them in a long time. That is what is so good about all this all the friends I have made. Graeme drew my attention to a Chris Thompson interview, which if you haven't read already has some interesting stuff in there.
I didn't get to chat to Mick on the night, but he phoned me for a chat after I got home. He is very busy at present on other projects as well as MMEB. He was going to send me a list, because I am none to sure what I can tell you about and what I can't.
I am also working with Steve and Nigel on a Best of DVD. Hopefully you won't have to wait too much longer for this. I promise you it is absolutely wonderful. There will be lots of stuff you have never seen before as well as master standard copies of more familiar material. We have some of the old cartoons in particular 'Instant Sex' for those of you old enough to remember. We have footage from the very early days of MMEB right up to more recent line-ups.
One of the highlights is 'Martha's Madman' from Budapest. Yes I know that anybody who is even half an MMEB fan will have a ropey version of Budapest. None of you will however have the black and white version with an incredible unedited moog solo. A solo I might add to end all moog solos. Tremble with anticipation my friends.
When we did the boxed set, limited space meant that my liner notes had to be cut down to fit. I did a lot of research for that project and ironically it was mostly the new stuff that got lost in the final edit. Nigel and I are looking at the possibility of putting some of this on the web site, so watch this space.
My own second novel 'The Chronicles of Prudence Fairweather' Part 2 'Efulric the Apprentice' is out now. I got some great feed back of some of you guys for the first book. Thanks for your support. I've even had good reviews from a couple of English teachers and a Librarian, which I didn't expect! You can buy both books on Amazon. Just type Prudence Fairweather in the book section and they should come up.
Sorry if I missed you at Milton Keynes. See you next time.
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - February 2007
A Belated Yawn In Your New Year!
A slightly belated happy New Year to everyone who still reads this rubbish and even all you miserable sods that gave up on me years ago.
It is now 43 years since I bought my first Manfred Mann record! For those wondering which one it was actually 'Sha La La'. Because my father had a reel to reel tape contraption, I had taped 'Do Wah Diddy' off the radio show Pick of the Pops, (or rather my sister had, honestly officer!) so it was a while before I owned a copy. So you see illegal downloading of music was already a problem even then!
Just whilst I am on the subject of Pick of the Pops, can we have a moment of silence for Alan (Fluff) Freeman, who died just recently? Fluff as a DJ probably did just as much in his own distinctive way to promote popular music as the legendary scouser John Peel. I don't know if you guys in mainland Europe even know who I'm talking about. Freeman ran the official chart show here for a long time, complete with his very distinctive and familiar countdown music. He went on to do amongst other things a prog rock show on the radio where he used classical music as his jingles between songs. He also did Top of the Pops in the early days and was a familiar face on TV. Even if you have never heard of him I promise you he helped to shape popular music in the sixties and often played Manfred's stuff and said nice things about them.
There is not a great deal happening at this time of the year. The sky has been grey since the turn of the year by us. Sometimes it rains and sometimes it rains and we have sixty mile an hour winds. One way to cheer up is to enjoy close the curtains sit back and enjoy the new DVD. I honestly don't remember ever having it so good. When I think back to the years of famine. An album every two or three years if you were lucky, a tour every two or three years if you were very lucky! A live album that didn't sound a bit like the concerts it was taken from and absolutely no UK TV coverage. (Well some things never change.) In contrast in the last few years we have had a good live album, a studio album a boxed set including loads of unheard stuff, not least the lost recordings from the end of Chapter III and the start of MMEB. We have had a live DVD and now an Earth Band Best of DVD.
The DVD was not easy to do. All credit to everyone involved especially Nigel and Steve who literally trawled the world for suitable material. We also had enormous help from fans in Europe and Australia, so we still have some fantastic stuff you ain't seen yet! As you can imagine pulling all this stuff together and turning it to a nice imaginatively packaged DVD in time for Christmas was about as an impossible task as you can give anyone. So spare a thought for Helen who seems to get better and better at not just doing the impossible but doing it brilliantly.
Whilst I am ranting on about this, here is another thought. It would have been very easy just to put together a bunch of videos and like magic have a DVD. Having been starved of such luxuries for so long few fans would have complained. That is not what has happened. It was Nigel who had the vision of incorporating some of the now legendary cartoons onto the DVD. Before any professional got involved Nigel was painstakingly constructing mock-ups. There was a time last year when if a day went by without another DVD cartoon/music mock-up didn't drop through my letterbox. I still have his first stab at 'Martha' where the synch between music, band and cartoon is about a verse out. (We should give that as a prize Nigel!)
The end result you see on the DVD might have had the professional treatment but it is all down to Nigel's efforts. Then there is 'Martha'. Most record companies would have refused to let me mess with that for the sake of a moog solo. Steve let me stick the black and white version, I have had for a long time, into the mix so now you have got probably one of the best moog solos, I have heard recorded. There is one on a Dominion bootleg from 1981 which is even better, but we don't promote bootlegs round here.
Everybody knows that I like Moog solos. I think that this DVD showcases Manfred's moog playing more than any release ever before!
Incidentally again in my opinion the live tracks from the first band, will give you no help whatsoever in winning an argument with Barry Winton who as always insisted they were the best MMEB ever. It is a reminder of how important to Manfred and Mick's brilliant soloing a good engine room is! There are other lovely moments on the DVD. Although I am always tempted to head for the live stuff there is some wonderful stuff early on. 'Joybringer' I hadn't seen before until we were putting this together or the two Plains Music tracks, which are brilliant videos. There are only a couple of minor quality issues, which on a DVD, which spans thirty-five odd years is quite and achievement in itself. Like the re-masters and the boxed set it is difficult to find the original masters for a lot of the stuff. In most cases they probably don't exists anymore.
So what next? Well there is talk of two or three more MMEB DVDs, although I have no idea when. There will be more live shows this year and as far as I know they are playing 'Captain Bobby Stout' again. I would love to see a sixties DVD now to a similar high standard to the MMEB one, but I have not heard of any plan to do this. I am also hoping that Manfred will progress his new recording project during 2007 and give us something brand new to look forward to. One thing is for sure, as I said before we never had it so good, long may that continue.
All the best
Memories of The Bridge House E16 – Chris Thompson
Terry Murphy was (and still is) the owner of The Bridge House in the east end of London. Terry has a book out around Easter this year recalling his time at The Bridge House where a number of major artists have played over the years. Here are his recollections of Chris Thompson's time playing there with Filty McNasty.
Thanks to Terence Murphy
To be a top hit record maker in the sixties, battling it out with the Beatles, Stones etc and continuing through until now you have got to be considered, as an all time great - that is what Manfred Mann is, an all time Great musician and band leader.
I have not seen him for over 10 years, but you can bet he has not changed one little bit. Well like all of us a little older maybe. I met him for the first time in the 70's at my pub the 'Bridge House' in Canning Town E16, where we put on gigs every night. He became a regular especially when he was looking for new faces for his band. He discovered Steve Waller. Willie Finlayson, Matt Irvine, Stevie Lange, Dave Edwards, Allan Coates, Robbie McKintosh and many more who would later play for him. And for this he and I have to thank Chris Thompson.
I was in my office above the pub, when the phone rang. "Hi, this is Manfred Mann's agent Neal Warnock, Chris Thompson the lead vocalist in the band, would like to play some gigs at the Bridge House". I thought this has got to be a wind up, stars like him do not play pub gigs in the East End of London. So I went along with it, "Oh yeah, I am a little busy at the moment, can you give me your number, I`ll ring you back, Okay?" Now I am thinking, could it be true, I had spoken to a Chris Thompson a few weeks ago, he had came down to sing a few songs with a regular band of ours called 'Screemer', who later changed their name to 'Zaine Griff', who`s real name was Glen Mickleson. Chris had said that he was playing here soon. Now was this Manfred's vocalist or someone with the same name? So now I ring back, it is Manfred's agent. He tells me that Chris want to keep his voice in tune, while he is off the road with Manfred (as I am talking I keep thinking great, but I will not be able to pay the fee he wants.) I said "well he can have every Wednesday, (this was the quietest night of the week), what about his fee?" He said, "I will get Chris to call you sort it out with him". I thought to my self, 'agents, feeling you out to see how much you will pay'. Anyway Chris rings the next day, I told him how pleased I was that he wanted to play at our pub. I also told him that we did not charge on the door, so I would not be able to pay very much. He said "that's okay, I do not want any money." I could not believe it, here is a guy, with 'Blinded By The Light" in the charts, who wants to play for no fee. I was at this time paying £20.00 a gig, I was expecting him to ask for at least £100.00. He added rather than using rehearsal studios, he would rather pay me to play a live gig. Now this really did sound like a wind up. But I went along with it.
We made all the arrangements, time of arrival, 2 x 45 minute sets, 15 minutes rest in between the 2 sets. I said "well I will pay for the P.A.", he said "no I will fetch my own". Remember this was 1977 and a pint of lager would cost you 30 pence, today the average is £2.50, so the 30p is 8 times dearer now. I said I will give you £30.00 a gig, (£240.00 at today's rate), he said give it to the band, okay Chris. He was probably paying them as well.
The agent, Neal Warnock had said that we could not advertise using Manfred's name, we could use Chris Thompson's name, but only inside the pub. I was not allowed to say Manfred Mann's lead vocalist. So there was no advertising for the gig, apart from word of mouth.
So for me the big day arrives, I am introduced to Colin Barton, the P.A and sound man who is first to arrive with his crew. I had employed a few more extra staff, expecting a very busy night. Chris and the band arrived early, set up had a rehearsal and sound check. I open up the pub at 7pm and waited for the crowds to pour in, no such luck, it was not busy at all. The band Chris had formed (or found), had its own lead singer who shared the songs with Chris and a lot of the songs were new and being tried out for the first time. They were terrible; it ended up a disaster of a night. And they did not get any better until 4 weeks later. Chris brought his own friends in and took over all the vocals, we never saw the original singer again. Chris had got his New Zealand mates Bill Kristian on bass and Mike Walker on keyboards to come over. Ron Telemacque was on Drums. Within the next 2 weeks the Bridge House was half full and 1 month later almost packed. Geoff Whitehorn would arrive to play guitar and the duels between him and Chris were great. It was our high noon with guitars. This proved to me that it's not the venues that pull the crowds, it's the artists. The venue is very important; because the customers check out who is playing, and if they like what they read, they come down to see them.
That's what pubs like the Bridge House did best, Charlie Watts did the same when he played the Bridge House with his band 'Rocket 88', when he was off the road with the 'Rolling Stones', built the crowd up. As did Paul Jones' 'Blues Band' who also had a old Manfred favourite Tom McGuinness on guitar. Paul and Tom formed this band after a jam session at the Bridge House. They also played their first gig here with the 'Blues Band'. New bands like 'Depeche Mode', 'Café Racers' (later 'Dire Straits'), 'Iron Maiden', 'The Look', 'Wasted Youth', even Punk bands like 'The Dammed' and 'Cockney Rejects' had to build the audience up.
Within the year Chris Thompson was an all time favourite, bringing other star names in. Stevie Lange joined him on vocals, Huey Lewis was always there to play harp and sing (Huey would later audition for the Earth Band), as were members of 'The Eagles', 'Doobie Brothers', 'Taj Mahal' and 'Crawler'. It became the place to be. Chris Thompson had opened the door to pub rock and others followed.
The next big surprise was when Colin Barton, came up with the idea of recording the band live, he had spoken to Chris and he would, if I was up for it, produce the album. I said "rather than record one band lets do a week of bands", so 'Live a Week at the Bridge E16' was born. We recorded 6 bands, Chris who had named his band, 'Filthy McNasty', 'Remus Down Boulevard', Gerry McAvoy's Jam (Gerry was Rory Gallagher's bass player and this band featured another MMEB future member, Steve Waller), 'Jackie Lynton', 'The Roll Ups' and 'The Sprinkler's, who we dropped. They had won a TV show called 'New Faces', and were too busy to mix the tracks. Chris did a wonderful job producing the album, his recording of 'Filthy McNasty', represent the only tracks he released under that name, so they are rarities. He later changed their name to 'Night' and they toured America where they had a top 20 hit with 'Hot Summer Nights".
Chris now lives in America, with his son Daniel who has a voice like his fathers, (well he can not be as good as that), he is also a keen Rugby player. Chris comes to Europe for a few months of the year touring with a band called 'The SAS Band'. We have a link to his web site on ours www.thebridgehouseE16.com . Have a look at his C.V., its unbelievable, and while you are there you can still buy the 'Live a Week At The Bridge E16' CD from our web shop.
Chris Thompson is a not only a great Rock Star, he is a great man. We have kept in touch all this time and this Christmas 2006, he has just sent me a pile of CD's including his very latest release - Time Line (Rediscovery). He is in New Zealand for the next month visiting his friends and family, he never forgets anyone, a true sign of greatness
Terence Murphy (Terry)
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - July 2007
A Lazy (And Wet) Summer Afternoon Yawn In Your Ear
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. www.prudencefairweather.com
I understand Manfred is back in a studio recording and will try and find out some more about what he's up to for the next Yawn.
Last, another quick mention for my son Thom. He is studying classical music at the royal Northern and probably spends far too much time playing jazz. Until very recently he has had almost no formal teaching on the jazz side. Manfred kindly spent a day with him a year or so ago helping him to develop his improvisational skills.
Unfortunately we missed the last RNCM big band concert, but I am very proud to report that my son won the prize for best improvisation. He rang me up, slightly drunk, having bought half the band a drink out of his prize money, to tell me how amazing it all was, but couldn't understand how such clever people hadn't heard the mistakes! That's musicians for you. They are just never happy. Trouble is you give the rest of us so much enjoyment. The world would be a much darker place without you and us mere mortals love your mistakes not to mention your outtakes.
Catch up with you all soon.
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - November 2007
When it comes to musicians who have been around a long time, I am sure each of us has a favourite time from within their chosen maestro's long and illustrious career. It may not be when they were at their most popular, or most successful in terms of commercial success and there will always be many different reasons for certain times being more special than others.
I think I have four special times in terms of my interest in Manfred's music, which is not to say I hated everything else. It is interesting with music. Some things you loved at the time it was made, but not so much in retrospect, some is, well just ok. Some you love not so much because it's brilliant music, but because of the memories it brings flooding back every time you hear it played on the radio.
I have probably already documented the four great periods for me, two of which I am going to pay particular attention to this time as they are the focus of two major new releases.
The first as anyone who as stumbled across my rambling in the past will know is the EMI years, 1963-1966. This is represented by a very clever four cd set entitled 'Down the Road Apiece' subtitled 'Their EMI recordings 1963-1966'. Now I have not listened to any of this stuff in a good while so here was the first big test. Would my memories of those years, when I first discovered pop music, blues and jazz all neatly packaged in one band prove to be mistaken, or was the first Manfred Mann simply brilliant?
First of all I will take care of the album itself. For what for some of us is a very special part of Manfred's career, the packaging is a little disappointing. It is just a fat plastic box into which is stuffed four packed cds and a booklet with the same front cover and a handful of pictures inside, only two of which I have never seen before. What did strike me however was how good this band looked in photographs. Maybe I am biased, but they would look as cool now as they did back then. There was just something about these five guys that looked good. They would not look out of place in Jonathon Ross's green room on next weeks show.
The booklet is written by Tom Mc Guinness, who had joined the band to replaced bass player Dave Richmond in late 1963, even though he was a blues guitarist. Back in those days Tom was famous for writing off the wall sleeve notes, which I for one loved. My Wise Owl liner notes on Plain Talking were strongly influence by Tom's funny, witty and sarcastic liner notes from the early years. Here however he has decided to write a serious and sadly rather bland account of the EMI years.
Once again we are reminded how awful it was that the band was named after just one of its members, whilst the funny Burt Bacharach story always told at Manfred's expense whoever tells it seems a lot funnier when it is Manfred relating the tale. He does cover some interesting points, very well, but sadly there is little new for the more discerning fans of this period. The usual excuse is that the compilation is aimed at the casual buyer not the fan. In this case I fear this would be a poor defence. There have been plenty of compilations for the casual buyers; this one is for the fans. I suppose it is all down to expense, but I can't help feeling the booklet could have been more substantial and the packaging much better.
What is truly brilliant as far as this compilation is concerned is that it contains as far as I can tell, (without months of tedious research) every EMI recording which survives. Even more inspired is to put the tracks in chronological order from when they were recorded. Now this I did find a very interesting part of the booklet. All tracks are listed with the day they were recorded. So ok I'm a self confessed train spotter, but some of these songs are like old friends to me.
Also of interest is the listing of a number of tracks for which no tapes could be found. Now there's a challenge for someone. I bet they're gathering dust somewhere!
At this point I can hear Manfred, smugly telling me he has often told me so, but the quality of the material not released at the time is mostly very poor. In the case of the demos towards the end of cd4 frankly this does not matter, these early recording are fascinating to listen to. My only slight quibble is that I have been the proud owner of a copy of these tapes for many years and now everyone has got them! Is that selfish? There is in fact very little else on this collection that has not been released before, even the unreleased stuff has, if you see what I mean.
One interesting addition is an alternative version of 'One in the Middle.' Tom explains that this was from a TV competition show. Now, I remember this and remember being gutted when they got disqualified. As I remember it they had played the track on another radio show, but had not yet released it. I did not remember how different the words were.
This could have been a very special release, but even in the form presented I would strongly commend it to people. I found it a little shocking that all the HMV recordings fit onto four cds. Having listened to the music does this period remain one which is special to me?
I think most of the time this band were absolutely brilliant. There is of course that slightly schizophrenic feel to the music. Much of it is blues with strong jazz undertones, but this is mixed in with tracks that are pure pop. It is however only the most poppy of these songs that sound particularly dated. The band are tight the soloing from Mann, Hugg, Vickers and Mc Guinness, often inspired and the one in the middle, Paul Jones commands your attention with dynamic vocals and some of the best mouth harp you will ever get to hear. He has the almost unique ability to be almost as charismatic on record, as he is live on stage.
I never saw this band live. I imagine they were brilliant. Tom says in his sleeve notes that much of the earlier stuff here were tracks they performed live. Even when I saw the band a few years later with D'Abo in the middle they were sill hammering out heavy blues songs live, a far cry from the pretty little pop songs the general public recognised the name Manfred Mann for. You can already tell on the later recordings in this collection that the bands recording output was beginning to become more pop, although to counter this came the instrumentals arranged by Jack Bruce.
This music is probably special to me because it was a special period of my life and it brings back so many happy as well as a few sad memories from those times. However Manfred Mann did much more than that. Somewhere between 1963 and 1966, they introduced me to jazz for a start and to the blues, two forms of music I have loved ever since. You could even argue that my son who wasn't born until 1987 owes his passion for music and in particular jazz to those early recordings.
Mike Vickers introduced me to saxophone and flute. Thanks to him I went on to discoverer many other great sax players. It's probably thanks to him and maybe Rowland Kirk that I became a big Jethro Tull fan. Mike Hugg introduced vibes into my life and Paul Jones the harmonica and my love of a little showmanship from the band's front man. Tom, back in those days was one of my favourites. He could play a mean blues guitar solo and if you can catch the Blues Band on their forthcoming tour he still can.
Despite the bands rather intellectual tag, Tom never seemed to take himself or anyone else for that matter too seriously. I don't know what it was about Manfred that caught my imagination. I loved his keyboard playing and I loved his eccentricity. I loved his geekish look and did my best to copy it, although I couldn't grow a beard at the time to save my life. Still I must have been the only kid who wanted to wear glasses. I also sensed even then that he gave much more to that band than just his name. The great Burt Bacharach may have got it right at the time, Manfred does not play on the song 'Little Red Book of Winners' and wow can't you tell! It is the most dated and least Manfred Mann track on the album and was never released in the UK during the sixties. Now that tells you something.
If I haven't persuaded you in the past to check out the EMI years, then please, please, please go do it now. Start from around track 5 or 6 on cd1 turn the volume up high, make sure you got plenty of bass and let it go. I promise you, you will be wondering what you have been missing all these years. If you think you know all about this stuff trust me and do the same thing. For me it was like reuniting with old friends, and yet also very different. The recordings are mostly of a very high standard and sometimes, if you close your eyes nice and tight, you feel like they are actually in the room playing live, especially for you all the way from the early 1960's. This is probably the closest I will ever get to a ride in the Tardis.
So I liked Chapter III and I think I know the other person who did. (Only joking) but the next special time for me and many, many others was the first MMEB, one of the most fantastic bands to walk out onto a stage in my humble opinion and there was only four of them. There are brilliant examples of this band on the last DVD.
For these ramblings our time machine moves us on to the period 1979-1983 and the 'Somewhere in Europe' tour. For me this was MMEB at its very best. We had just gone through the period where the band had enjoyed huge commercial success and at the same time manage to look much like any other good rock band. Dave Flett sounded like a great rock guitarist and he also looked liked a great rock guitarist. On the other hand Steve Waller looked like Steve Waller! Like the much missed Mick Rogers he also had a distinctive way of playing that was instantly recognisable.
Add to this Chris Thompson singing and playing guitar at the very top of his game and Manfred in some of the golden years of the moog solo, and it is easy to understand why this one of my favourite periods. They had not long released one of the best studio albums Manfred has ever made in my opinion, 'Somewhere in Afrika' but they also were touring with a very long set packed with brilliant arrangements of classic songs. Not only was the music brilliant, but we had the films, the scary heads, robot and the exploding PA. In terms of a total live experience the Somewhere in Europe tour was unbeatable. Now after all these years a complete (well almost) and mostly unedited copy of one of the concerts in Budapest has been released on DVD.
Let's start as we did with the EMI cds by reviewing the package. The cover is exactly the same as the album cover from the 1984 released live album. I would have done exactly the same had I been in charge of this, so full points so far. Inside is a beautiful miniature reprint of the 1983 tour brochure. This is an inspired idea and is far more than most DVDs give you. It was a nice program to start with, the best ever produced for the band in my opinion and even if you have the original it is nice to have the new version which is a faithful reproduction, although it comes with the added bonus of some well researched notes by Nigel Stanworth.
The quality is good considering the age of the film. Whilst a band like Floyd for example might have spent loads of money cleaning up the negatives it would not have been cost effective for an MMEB album. To be honest I am not convinced that in this case it would have greatly benefited this, as the whole concert captures well the atmosphere of those three nights in Budapest.
The only odd thing about this DVD and this is not a criticism, is that Davy is missing. Those of you who have got hold of the heavily edited version that has been doing the rounds for many years will know that Davy is on that, so it was filmed. My only minor criticism is the lack of extras. I don't think this matters for die hard fans because this is a must have anyway. My concern are reviewers in the main stream press who are obsessed with extras on DVDs and may give this excellent offering a negative review, just because it has no extras.
So does Budapest live up to my memories of these great times? The short answer is yes. It is a brilliant example of a band at the top of their game. There are other tracks missing of course, most notably The Eyes of Nostradamus. I was not at Budapest but was at the Dominion in London for the end of that tour, where some of the live album was recorded. I would imagine the sets were very similar. However the amazing live version of Africa Suite is here in all its glory as well as Steve's unforgettable performance of Demolition Man. I shan't even mention the two moog solos included, except to point out that Martha is now in full colour.
As I said before, this is a must have for anyone who likes this band. For all the true MMEB fans back in 1984 reeling with disappointment at the Budapest album, it would have been far beyond our wildest dreams that one day we would own and be able to listen to and watch unedited versions of most of the concert. My thanks to everyone involved in this project for making it possible.
Added to all this the 1967 instrumental 'Sweet Pea' is going out at regular intervals on British telly as the music to a series of Norwich Union adverts. It is a catchy little number, so perhaps the record company should consider giving it a go.
Moving on I did my best to find out what was going on with the next album. Manfred kindly e mailed me from Berlin recently in reply to my enquiry. He said he was in Berlin recording with a trumpet player for the next album. He said he is really into the new project, but hasn't got much to tell me as he doesn't like talking about stuff until it is finished. I will bring you more news as soon as I have some.
Before I close, don't forget to check out the Blues Bands website for tour dates. If you haven't seen Paul Jones, Tom McGuiness, Dave Kelly and the rest of them live then you should. Just got our tickets today and Birkenhead was almost sold out.
Finally I was flicking around the channels the other night when I came across two naked women making love. For some reason and this I'm certain will surprise everyone, I paused to check out the scene. This became very bizarre indeed. The blonde was suddenly dead, whist the other girl climbed naked into a bath before slitting her wrists! Cut to rolling waves and then to a well known American actor playing trumpet in a jazz band. Next to him (with lines to say!) was Manfred. So what was the film? See you next time.
Earlier this year I was contacted by Nanstein Olaussen from Tromso, Norway regarding an Earth Band tribute band he is putting together. Here are some details from Nanstein himself:"We are still at the rehearsal stage yet, but we are hoping to start playing later this year. We are:
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - June 2008
A Cultural Yawn in Your Ear
The sun is shining. A client postponed his appointment so off with the suit and on with the shorts. I could go out and catch some sun, play with the trains, bang a piano concerto on the iPod or perhaps some Michael Brecker, but oh no, Nigel has just reminded me that it is a very long time since the last Yawn, so I'm stuck inside in a darkened room, typing like mad. Fear is a terrible thing.
I feel a bit of a fraud because I seem to have done little on the Manfred front for such a long time. I haven't listened to an album or a live concert in what seems like ages. Occasionally though, my mind drifts back to the summer of 1997. MMEB were playing a motor cycle festival somewhere in Germany and I was lucky enough to be on the road with them. We had lost Noel, and Mick's guitar had no strings on it but that was all reasonably normal.
Noel is extremely good at getting lost. He probably doesn't realise, but it is a special skill. I remember being with them in Germany just before Christmas one year. All the crew had gone ahead to the next gig and I had been charged with one simple job. Make sure the band get there in time to play. All we had to do was take a train to Frankfurt and changed to another train which would take us to our final destination.
We had time to kill at Frankfurt. Manfred and I sipped mulled wine by one of the Christmas stalls on the station whilst having a highly cultural conversation on the origins of Christmas. The debate was around the theory that modern Christmas tradition has far more to do with Charles Dickens and Prince Albert than Jesus. At the same time we were both keeping a watchful eye on Noel just in case he simply vanished into thin air.
At last we got on to the train. One final count, everyone was there and I could relax. Ian Tompson who always seems such a nice chap, had threatened me with a long slow death should I fail in this simple task. Then just as the train picked up speed as we moved out of the station, Noel stepped out of the carriage!
Anyway back to the bike festival in 1997. MMEB were at the very top of their game. The music was fresh, vibrant, exciting and sometimes a little experimental. Since 1972 they had probably been one of the best live bands in the world. In 1997 they were simply awesome.
When the band unexpectedly reformed in the early nineties, I could not believe we were getting a second chance, and what a second chance it was to be. There will always be the cynics who believe that all the best times are in the past. The new band with Noel McCalla on vocals captured both the nostalgia of the old order and the excitement of something new, and something different. The set was a carefully thought out mix of old stuff and songs new, at least to this band.
Mick was even better than he used to be, if indeed that was possible, Steve Kinch stamped his authority on the bass, and the legendary Clive Bunker from Jethro Tull and Aqualung, added to a strong rhythm section. Best of all we got to hear some Moog solos again. If you had told me then that it could get better still, I just wouldn't have believed you. Even now I reckon 'Dirty City' and 'Pleasure and Pain', from CD4 of the box, are amongst the best live recordings I have ever heard from any band. These two tracks just ooze atmosphere all over the place. You can see the lights, feel the heat. You are there in the middle of an enthusiastic crowd, every time you listen. The band is tight and the music never fails to move.
Impossible though it seemed, they went on getting better and better. Chris Thompson returned and for a brief moment in time, there was a rock band touring Europe with three of the finest rock
I was not pleased at first when I heard that Chris was coming back. This was not because I don't like Chris. I think he's absolutely brilliant. Without a doubt Chris is one of the all time great and sadly hugely underrated rock singers of our time. It was just that at the time I felt MMEB had moved on and CT's return was unfair on the new boy and just would not work. I could not have been more wrong, if I had taken a course in how to be more wrong. What an incredible combination of talent that was.
I remember spending a happy weekend with my son Thomas, who would be about nine at the time, in a rehearsal studio somewhere in London, whilst the band prepared for the European tour to promote 'Soft Vengeance'. There was a good vibe within the band.
Since the Millennium the set has changed little. Even when the excellent '2006' finally escaped the studio, only 'Mars' and a semi acoustic version of 'Demons' ever got the live treatment as far as I know. Manfred is right. People going to a gig once in awhile will want to hear most of the stuff they play anyway. There is nothing worse than going to see your favourite band and not hearing all the live classics.
That being said, one of the things I loved and still love about Manfred as a musician is that he constantly looks forward, pushing out new ideas, taking risks, never standing still and yet to me MMEB seems in recent times to have become frozen in time. For most fans that is probably no bad thing. Nostalgia is a huge part of our lives, a condition I promise you that gets worse as we get older and let's be honest one of the reasons an MMEB concert is there for many of us is to bring back all those happy memories. Music is a powerful tool for evoking previous chapters in our lives.
Fans of any band or long running cult TV show will always have a personal favourite time, almost always set firmly in the past. Some MMEB fans will hold an unwavering belief that the first band was the best, others will insist the period around the 'Roaring Silence /Watch' band with Dave Flett was. I have in the past, droned on about how wonderful the 'Somewhere in Afrika' tour was. Often this can be as much to do with an association with happy times in our lives, as it is to do with the music.
It's also about moods. Sometimes I will dig out the terrible Philips cassette of a Chapter III gig recorded in Manchester in about 1969, in front of a surprisingly enthusiastic audience. The organ solos opening 'Travelling Lady' and 'Quinn' are powerful stuff. Then I start to wonder why Manfred doesn't play more organ these days and start to listen to organ solos from the 'Five Faces of Manfred Mann'. On another day I go back to a jazz mood.
The thing is am I falling into the trap I mentioned earlier. Are all my best bits in the past? The answer is I don't think I am. The thing about Manfred's past is there have been best bits all over the place.
The band has a new drummer. It is farewell to Geoff Dunn a thoroughly nice guy and without question an extremely accomplished drummer. I have always known he was very good. I once even played some stuff to a brilliant drummer at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), who confirmed that Geoff was a fine and technically excellent percussionist. You see as far as MMEB is concerned for some reason, it has never worked brilliantly for me and not being a musician, I could never explain why. Manfred's comments on the web interview perhaps offer an explanation for my misgivings. Whatever our own individual views may be, I'm sure you will all join me in wishing Geoff all the best for the future.
I do know he had a big following out there who will be very sad he's gone. I am confident they will argue that my ramblings are more rubbish than usual and on this occasion they are probably right. The thing is change is never easy. I can remember being gutted on hearing the news of some personnel changes over the years. Even the record company didn't think Paul Jones could be replaced and how wrong were they? I was gutted when Mick left. I kept reminding anyone else who cared that they needed two blokes to replace him. Bit if Mick hadn't left back then, perhaps we would never have got to hear the voice, Chris Thompson. How bad would that have been?
The point is whether you like it or not Earth Band has changed again. I find that very exciting. Change now and again is a very good thing. Change opens up new opportunities. For the first time in quite a while, we don't know quite what to expect. Early feedback from fans, who have been lucky enough to see the new line up, is very exciting. Of course I understand completely that it can't possibly get any better than it was in the past, best live band and all that, or can it? I have long since learnt that this little band is full of surprises. Everyone has their favourite moment in time. It is so easy and also fun to spend time looking back at past glories. It's even more fun to be able to look forward again.
We have other things to look forward to as well. I'm not sure how much I'm supposed to mention here, so if this bit is blank you will know exactly just how little that was!
First of all we have the new album. For me this is the most exciting thing and all the signs are it could be out this year. Please don't hunt me down and take revenge if it isn't. From what I can gather, this is very much a Manfred solo album although various familiar faces may contribute in the end. It started out as a kind of jazz instrumental thing, but that was a long time ago and now it's grown into something different. I personally can't wait.
I can't pretend I didn't have mixed feelings about the Status Quo gigs. If I'm honest the idea of my band being special guests and not the main act doesn't fit comfortably. However listening to
the Manfred web interview is interesting. What it does mean is that a hell of a lot of people in the UK are going to get to see this band and as Manfred points out, many will suddenly realise how
bloody good they are. Who knows the British media might even take notice at long last.
Behind the scene Steve and Helen continue to work very hard to bring archive material out. I hope you guys and girls out there realise just how incredibly indebted we are to these two. A few years ago all this would have been an impossible dream. We didn't even have a good live album, never mind DVDs.
Next up will be the 'Watch DVD'. I did drop a big clue in the last Yawn, although that was so long ago you probably don't remember. The DVD will be made up from the footage the band filmed to promote the album at the time. From what I have seen the quality is really good, taken from a master copy. On top of this, there is an excellent and insightful interview with Manfred by our very own Mr Stanworth, which throws up a few things I didn't know. There is talk of another incredibly, unbelievably exciting bonus, but as it is not yet confirmed I can say no more. The possible release for the Watch DVD is late 2008, but (there's always a but!) as you all know, this could easily get pushed back. Steve has another equally exciting DVD lined up for 2009.
So what has been going on musically in my life if I haven't been doing much Earth Band? Well thanks to a special friend, I just enjoyed watching Paul McCartney banging out all the old Beatle's classics a week or so ago at Anfield, and it was absolutely brilliant. For goodness sake, I used to walk down Penny Lane every night when the record was out. For my money, 'Live and Let Die' is the best Bond theme ever. The atmosphere was electric and the famous Anfield football ground was in fine voice. I enjoyed the Zootons very much and the Kaiser Chiefs were all right. I do really like some of their stuff. There was no doubt that night that Liverpool was the capital of culture. For those who watched the reality TV show, Peter Kay introduced Paul by pointing out that Britain really does have talent.
And speaking of culture my sister was sixty and had a party which turned out to be a concert. Stevie Jennings-Adams from the RNCM sings beautifully in various jazz bands for which my son plays piano. She is really an opera singer and performed songs from many different operas, accompanied by Thomas on the piano. She also talked passionately about the pieces she performed. I did manage to sneak their beautiful version of 'Somewhere over the Rainbow' in amongst all the culture. I have seen this version reduce grown men to tears it is so moving.
If you like some classical piano (No I ain't going to plug my boy for once) check out Sophie Cashell, who also played at the party. Sophie is amazing. She won the television show Classical Star last year, and has an album out in October. Incidentally whilst on the subject of what is broadly known as classical music, and having listened to quite a lot recently, I am amazed at how many of these so called classical composers have stolen stuff from Manfred!
Thomas also has a new jazz thing going, just sax and piano which is surprisingly good. Last but by no means least I have another round of concerts to look forward to, culminating in the Royal Northern College of Music Big Band with Colin Towns. Check out his big band version of 'I am the Walrus' when you have a minute. Now that's culture.
Incidentally we now have a large concert venue in Liverpool, The Arena and thanks to another special friend I am going to see Queen there in October.
For now I think I may go and listen to a bit of MMEB, probably that brilliant moog solo from 1981 with the amazing climax, even better than the one on the Budapest DVD and that is saying something. (First heard that when we were driving home from York in a black BMW after a very happy family day out.) Or I might listen to some of the African stuff, (My first marriage was on the rocks. I found great comfort sat in a bean bag with headphones on listening to this wonderful album. It was my import copy, found quite by chance in Penny Lane records months before its UK release.)
Or maybe having downed a glass or two of a very smooth red wine, perhaps I am mellow enough enjoy the simple beauty of 'Plains Music'. (Plains has the odd effect of helping you to feel happy and content and at peace with the world.) Sometimes when nobody is looking I even play all the old hits from the sixties. Some happy and some sad memories come flooding back.
I was in Anglesey with my best friend Mark when 'Do Wah Didi Diddy' was number 1. My mother was very ill when 'Just like a Woman' came out; Mike D'Abo's first outing with the band. Jonathon King brought out the same song at the same time and I hated him for it. I remember the house in Doncaster where I played the Manfred Mann single 'Living Without You', trying to work out if this was a step backwards or a step forwards. I probably thought it was backwards if I'm honest. Manfred was going to call the album 'Stepping Sideways.' Now in retrospect we can see it was the beginning of a mammoth step forwards.
Music is a wonderful thing and I know I could not live without it. As far as Manfred is concerned, there is already so much to choose from, and so many memories to unleash. The great thing is that it still keeps on coming, just keeps getting better and better and remember, we are living today, tomorrow's memories. Nothing lasts forever. Enjoy it whilst you can. Happy listening and I will try to do the next yawn a bit quicker, promise. Obviously it won't be as good as they used to be!
Andy Taylor from somewhere in the European Capital of Culture June 2008
PS There is a fabulous little venue in Birkenhead called Pacific Road. We saw the Blues Band there a few months ago. It would be a great venue for MMEB and that would bring some real culture to Merseyside in 2008. Well I can dream can't I?
Solar Fire (Mann LP006)
Reproduced with gatefold sleeve, this is a vast improvement on the Bronze re-issues of later years. The inner sleeve is also reproduced with lyrics. 'Joybringer' is included as a bonus track on the end of side 2.
The Roaring Silence (Mann LP009)
Reproduced in the classic flesh coloured sleeve, this album includes 'Spirits I The Night' as the bonus track on the end of side 2.
Watch (Mann LP010)
Reproduced with the original cover and inner sleeve, this album includes 'Bouillabaisse' as the bonus track on the end of side 2.
Budapest (Mann P014)
Reproduced with the original cover and inner sleeve, this album includes 'Runner' as the bonus track on the end of side 2.
All sound fantastic, reminding me of the debate which took place when CD's first came out, the sound is richer and warmer (at least to my ears), something I'd forgotten about after all these years of listening to CD's.
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - January 2009
A Yawn in your (new y)ear
Just days before Christmas, Ebenezer Scrooge, disguised ever so cunningly as me, got to see the ghosts of Manfred past and came ever so close to glimpsing a few ghosts from the future.
I wasn't planning to go to any of the 'Quo' gigs, for lots of different reasons. For a start, surprise, surprise, there was as usual, no Liverpool gig or even a Manchester one, meaning I would have to travel to Birmingham or Sheffield. Then there was Status Quo. Sorry Quo fans, please, please, please forgive me, but I have never been big on Quo, although I quite like their song and the way they vary the words so much, is ever so clever. Sadly their presence offered absolutely no incentive, to travel such a long distances. The next reason was our much loved MMEB. It is a long way to go for a fifty minute set and well for me, there was another tiny problem.
Let me go on by saying that MMEB have continued to be one of the best live rock bands out there. The trouble is, and this is only my opinion, but when MMEB are at their very best, I actually think they are the best live rock band out there! Trouble is, for me they just have not been at their very best for a while now.
Before you all gang up and hunt me down, remember it's only my opinion and I know nothing. The audience certainly did not agree, the last time I saw them play live, because they got a standing ovation for goodness sake. That was at The Stables in Milton Keynes.
There was one other huge, massive, humungous reason I planned to stay at home this time. I passionately hated the idea of my band (sorry, I mean our band) playing support to any other band. I don't just mean Quo either. I saw Queen and Paul McCartney last year. Both were brilliant, no they were bloody fantastic, but listen, if we are talking live rock music, MMEB playing at their very best would have effortlessly blown them both away.
You see when you have been lucky enough to see MMEB in any of its manifestations, playing at their very best, then you have the measurement from which to judge any other rock band. Earth Band set the mark. Think I have finally gone mad? Well I am prepared to bet lots of you out there do the same. You see, over the years we have been spoilt with good quality sound, good material and above all superb musicianship. Many more famous bands struggle to even get the sound right.
Of course I understood all the arguments for doing the gigs with 'Quo'. I actually know how wrong I am feeling the way I do. After all, the tour has given MMEB invaluable exposure in the UK. I like to think I am a man of principles. However despite my moral high ground, it took very little arm twisting to change my mind! My expectations of the gig remained extremely low, but I was excited about seeing everybody again. (I have made so many fantastic friends, thanks to my involvement with MMEB.) So on Wednesday the 17th December, I boarded a train across the Pennines for Sheffield.
So let us first discover the ghosts of rock music past. MMEB came on stage and simply blew me and the rest of a packed Sheffield arena away. This was MMEB at their absolute best; better than best, all the magic back and bucket loads more. The sound was crystal clear and absolutely perfect and they were louder too. The world's best live rock band was back.
As I mentioned before, the set was short, restricted to around fifty minutes, but it was perfectly structured. 'Captain Bobby Stout' is a brilliant opener and I just love the new arrangement. Manfred's keyboard playing was as good as I've ever heard him play, (1968 to date!!!). He has a new keyboard and told me later, that it has taken him a while to get the sound, as he wanted it. It may not be a Moog, but it was producing some wonderful Moog like sounds.
'Castles' came next and Mick was on fine form. He was obviously enjoying himself and played brilliantly. There is nobody else I know who can make you smile, laugh out loud, or break your heart, in one short emotional roller coaster of a guitar solo. Then there is Steve on bass. He has just got better and better over the years, and just when you think he's got so good, that it is impossible for him to get any better, somehow he does.
Noel has got to be one of the best vocalists in any rock band. Again his vocals were stunning and he charmed the huge audience. He handled the sudden power cut, towards the end of 'Blinded', with a mix of good humour and professionalism. The band endeared themselves to an initially disinterested Sheffield crowd with a blistering demonstration of classic rock. 'Castles' was quickly followed by 'Martha', 'Blinded', 'Redemption Song', 'Davy' with a little 'Do Wah Diddy' thrown in, and of course 'Quinn. As a result of those fifty minutes, Sheffield gave Manfred Mann's Earth Band a standing ovation.
So why are they playing at the very top of their game again? Remember what I said before, I know nothing, but for me a lot of the reason, rests firmly on the shoulders of Jimmy Copley, the band's new drummer. Earth Band has always been a demanding gig for any drummer (I remember John Trotter explaining that to me one night, and Richard Marcangelo's hands bleeding after one of his first gigs.) There have been some bloody good drummers, over the years.
Jimmy in the engine room made everything sound sharp, new, fresh and exciting. Most importantly, the energy so vital to this band, is back. Jimmy and Steve make up a partnership, as good as any from the band's illustrious past, freeing up Mick and Manfred to bounce off each other and play their socks off.
A couple of hardened Quo fans sat just behind me were obviously shocked at how good this band was. I suspect most of the people in Sheffield arena that night were not expecting that. So if you thought this band might just be past its best, then you are oh so very wrong. If you didn't go to one of the Quo gigs for any reason, you missed the best MMEB of the decade, so far and some of the best ever. Reports coming in, from other concerts, tell a very similar story. There was a fantastic buzz backstage too. Even the band were pleased with their performance and that is saying something.
Now let's examine the ghost of Manfred's future. I am, as always, excited about his next project. We all look forward to the next album. I know he is going into new territory with this one. On the Thursday morning, he offered to play me a few tracks, providing I promised to keep it all under my hat, for just a little longer. Of course I gave my word and my lips are sealed. Still, it would be nice, if I could at least tell you how excited you should now be, only frustratingly I can't.
We sat down with Manfred's laptop. You can imagine how excited I was. I always am when there is something new to be heard. Every single track came up, file not found! So I'm afraid the ghost of the future escaped me for now. I am also still unable to tell you when it will be released. About six tracks claim to be finished, but I'm not convinced anything is ever quite finished.
'Watch' the DVD
Since I last wrote a Yawn, there have been two significant DVD releases. The first is 'Watch the DVD'. Older fans like me, may have seen poor quality copies of the band miming to the 'Watch' album, presumably made to promote the album at the time. Despite the miming, this is a brilliant set of tracks, now also with excellent quality sound and picture. 'Watch' was one of MMEB's best and biggest selling albums and the DVD adds another dimension. Most of the album was filmed, although for some reason the classic 'Martha's Madman' which made its debut here was omitted. The record company have gone to the trouble of adding 'Martha', using the famous, slightly blood thirsty cartoon from the live show as a backdrop. 'Blinded by the Light' was included in the filmed set, although of course not from the 'Watch' album. As well as 'Blinded' you get 'Chicago', 'Davy', 'California', 'Circles' and 'Quinn'. The bonus is extracts from a live concert from 1979. The quality might not be quite as good as the main feature, but it is a million times better than any of the bootleg versions I have seen over the years. It features an early appearance of Steve Waller, in the band and shows of many of the cartoons, MMEB were famous for at that time.
The packaging is inspired. The cover is a picture of Manfred now, with the classic 'Watch' artwork reflected in his glasses. Inside you will find a reproduction of the tour brochure from the 'Watch' tour, complete with some new sleeve notes from our very own Nigel Stanworth. Although Steve, Nigel and Helen (who probably did most of the work) are kind enough to thank me on the cover, I had absolutely nothing to do with this release, which means I can say without any bias that it is absolutely brilliant, by far the best DVD release yet. If you had told me a few years ago we would have four brilliant DVDs available, I wouldn't have believed you. MMEB fans have never had it so good. Steve, Helen and Nigel have done a fantastic job and deserve our thanks.
The other DVD is 'The Manfreds Live at the Fisher Theatre Sold Out'. I have not always been kind about the Manfreds in the past. I love sixties Manfred Mann and have from time to time ranted on about it here in the hope of encouraging people to try it. The trouble with the Manfreds, is that despite having far more and much better preserved original members than most sixties revival bands, the Manfreds have always persisted in reviving something, which never quite existed. Manfred Mann even at the peak of their sixties success, played their hits reluctantly, jazz and blues with great relish.
Having said all that, you will be surprised when I tell you that this DVD is actually very good. True it is a wander into the nostalgic world of all the old Manfred hits. It even finds the space for spin off hits from Paul Jones, McGuinness Flint and Mike Hugg. They play them really well here and there is bags of atmosphere. Some familiar tunes have refreshingly new arrangements. Simon Currie on saxophone is a welcome addition and despite the non-stop hits, individuals do get a chance to show off what fantastic musicians they all are.
We have the talented piano player Mike Hugg (he mostly played drums and vibes in the sixties), brilliant drummer Rob Townsend, who like Paul and Tom is also in the Blues Band. Paul is still for me one of the best blues singers and harmonica players ever to come out of this small island. Tom plays a mean blues guitar and D'Abo as well as being such a good songwriter, can rock with the best of them. Marcus Cliffe provides able support on bass.
With such a strong line-up it is inevitable that now and again there is a glimpse of just how great they were, when playing stuff like 'Watermelon Man' and 'I'm Your Kingpin'. There is also the feeling of so many lost opportunities, represented by Mike D'Abo's wonderful 'Handbags and Gladrags', made famous again recently by the Sterophonics and TV show, The Office. This song was never released by Manfred Mann, although they did perform it on television and radio at the time. D'Abo sings it beautifully here. I can't help thinking that a combination of the name Manfred Mann and that song, would have produced a huge hit, long before the Sterophonics excellent version.
As I grow older, I find I become more and more nostalgic, so it is good to hear the old hits again, sounding as fresh as ever. Manfred Mann were good at finding hit records and as you will gather from this concert, they had lots and lots of them.
The packaging complete with booklet is very nice indeed. Once again Nigel provides some excellent and informative notes. This DVD is a very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. I can highly recommend it to anyone, even if you only have the tiniest interest in the sixties. The thing is most of the old Manfred Mann music, sounds as fresh now, as it did forty plus odd years ago. If you don't believe me, buy a copy and see for yourself.
We continue to live in exciting times. Steve has another exciting DVD release lined up for 2009 with a brilliant bonus track and who knows, Manfred may release his new album, sometime this year! The band are sounding fantastic. If that's not enough, I have heard whispers of other exciting things for the future. The great thing is, I can still be surprised, even now in 2009.
To everyone out there have a fantastic 2009. See you at a gig somewhere soon.
Andy Taylor January 2009.
Watch The DVD
Early November 2008 saw the release of the 4th official Earth Band DVD, 'Watch The DVD'. When back in 2005 I was invited to help research the 'Unearthed - Best Of' DVD, the footage which I had first seen in Rumbelows in St.Helens in 1978 immediately came to mind. This was of course the video promo film which had been put together for the launch of Watch. For my life I can never understand why I didn't ask the record shop if I could have the video when they had finished with it (I did end up with a number of extra covers for Watch as there was a big display stand as well). Given the promo footage included a significant number of MMEB tracks it seemed to offer a quick win for the 'Best Of' DVD at a time when we weren't sure what else we would be able to locate. However was there a decent copy of the Watch footage available? Whilst other footage (with the assistance of other fans) turned up at TV stations across the world, the Watch footage couldn't be found. Then Steve Fernie managed to locate a master copy at EMI's famous Abbey Road studios. I was lucky enough to be able to go with Steve to Abbey Road to pick up the tape (Steve had worked there some years ago for EMI) and managed to get a tour including the studios.
With the tape secured and the availability of more footage than we had initially expected, it became clear that 'Watch The DVD' as a project should be added to the list of possible releases. To see this video in its pristine state after all these years was exciting and now it was a case of working out what to do about the missing tracks, 'Drowning' and 'Martha'.
The animated films used on 'Unearthed' had been an attempt to represent the well remembered films the band used to such great effect during the late 70's and early 80's. Two which 'we had
to have' were 'Instant Sex' by Bob Godfrey (of Roobarb' fame) and 'The Beard' by Ian Emes . Having met up with Ian (who also did the famous Pink Floyd Dark Side Of The Moon' animation) to
get hold of 'The Beard', he was an obvious choice to see if the had anything which might accompany 'Drowning'. The resultant animation can be seen on the DVD. This was not created for
this DVD but the silhouetted figure certainly has the same choice of headgear as Manfred. The choice for 'Martha' was in many ways harder and then obvious. Various ideas were
considered - was there any live footage we could use? What animation would fit? In the end the answer was to return to 'The Beard'. The full animation is some 12 minutes long, here a
9 minute plus edit is used which allows more of this dark film to be seen and enjoyed.
The order of the tracks is determined by 'Davy' having the opening titles over its start and 'Blinded' having the closing credits. Between those the track order from the CD is followed.
That took care of the 'Watch' footage, now what else could be added? The original intention had been to issue a DVD/ CD combination but ion review this would have seen many buyers paying for a CD they already owned and this idea was shelved. Any material from the Watch era is incredibly hard to come by. While the earlier and later tours are all represented with audio bootlegs and TV appearances, Watch (which was released at the bands most commercially successful period) is marked by a complete absence of anything - other than the video already described above. About 12 months ago I was contacted by Jacob Hastedt who had a copy of a TV concert recorded in Austria in 1979, which was subsequently posted over to have a look at. On checking this was one of the segments we had identified in the initial research and we already had the contact details for this. Steve contacted ORF TV in Austria and the footage was sent over. Although from the 1979 'Angel Station' tour it does follow on from the 'Watch' material in a number of respects. Firstly it shows the evolution of the lineup following the split at the end of the Watch tour. Secondly it includes live versions of some of the 'Watch' tracks and finally it provided more evidence of the animation's in their original context. Adding this film as bonus material again allows the fans to see first rate footage that had previously been available only as black and white grainy footage. The 'Ohne Maulkorb' film is approx. 25 minutes long and includes live tracks, and some short interview clips with Manfred.
To finish off an interview also seemed like a good idea, the chance to ask Manfred about his recollections of the Watch tour and era would round off the DVD nicely. So in May this year I was lucky enough to film three interviews at Manfred's house in London. The first you have already seen as it was specially filmed for the last Yawn. The second relates to 'Watch' and is on this DVD, the final one relates to the 'Then & Now' project and relates to the bands tour of Australia in 1972 (and you should get to see that later this year).
So there you have it, 'Watch The DVD'. The cover photo incidentally was shot at the interview session in May by Luke Weall who also did the 'Unearthed' and 'Budapest' DVD covers and artwork. It pays 'homage' to the original Watch design but cleverly updates it with a current photo of Manfred.
The Manfreds Sold Out
November also saw the release of the 'Sold Out' DVD from The Manfreds. Filmed at The Fisher Theatre in Bungay, Suffolk in November 2007, it is the first DVD from the band. The theatre was hired for three days to allow The Manfreds to film one day, The Blues Band the second day, both before a live audience. The third day was used to shoot additional angles and some interviews. The audience was limited to 160 each evening to accommodate the cameras.
The Manfreds set includes all the famous sixties hits and provides an intimate concert experience. Also included are about half an hours interviews with the band talking about the 60's and how the band developed. I was also lucky enough to be invited to write the sleeve notes for this DVD and this led to lunch with Tom McGuinness and Mike Hugg to discuss the notes and get some additional information. This led to corrections to a number of the items in the notes but does mean they are historically accurate and include some information not written down (as far as I can tell) before.
If you are a fan of the 60's band as well as The Earth Band this comes highly recommended.
Incidentally the title has caused confusion on a number of occasions, if you see it somewhere and it says its Sold Out, its the title and they may well have some left!
The Blues Band DVD
Although I haven't (yet) seen this footage, two DVD's of The Blues Band are also due out shortly. Filmed at the same time as the Manfreds DVD above one I believe includes a setlist which sees the The Blues Band returning to their earlier material for the first time in a number of years. If of similar quality to The Manfreds material (which it should be) this should also be well worth getting hold of.
'Then & Now'
Planned for release in 2009 (no idea when before you ask), 'Then & Now' is intended to show the earliest days of the Earth Band and the 'present day' band together in one package. While researching 'Unearthed' it became clear that ABC TV in Australia had footage that we were interested in. Some of this was used on 'Unearthed' but more interestingly they held a 1972 concert - surely the earliest footage of Earth Band that we were likely to find. However there was a problem, whilst they knew they had it, they were still in the process of cataloguing their collection and couldn't find it, despite the best efforts of Oz based MMEB fan Mick Maloney who was in constant dialogue with them. Then out of the blue and again demonstrating the power of the Internet, I was contacted by a research doctor at Melbourne University, asking if I had any details regarding an Australian blues singer (Wendy Saddington) who had supported the band during one of their tours. I didn't, but passed him onto Mick (who lived 4 miles away!) and in return he provided a catalogue which identified where the Earth Band tape was located in ABC's archive! (and probably saved ABC some work).
The footage is a black & white TV show filmed at The University of New South Wales and consisting of four tracks, 'I'm Gonna Have You All', 'Black & Blue', 'Captain Bobby Stout' and 'Mighty Quinn'. Whilst you will have to wait to see this, I can guarantee you will be blown away by it. At the time the concert was filmed, just the first album had been released. Accompanying the footage is a TV interview from the same tour (filmed separately). There is also an even earlier Oz clip on the DVD but you'll have to wait to see what that is.
The 'Now' element of the DVD is likely to be a 60 minute recording from the Burg Herzberg concert that 'Mighty Quinn' on 'Unearthed' came from. Nicely shot by the Rockpalast team this is an excellent film which rounds out the DVD package nicely.
One to look forward to for 2009.
A Yawn in Your E-Mail - October 2009
A Yawn from the heart
(Or the Yawn that's taken longest to write in the history of Yawns)
The first part of these notes dates back to March/April. I was trying to find a way of thanking everyone for their kindness during my illness. It is of course sentimental hogwash (it was worse before I edited it) but I think it has its heart in the write place. I just could not seem to finish it (or anything else for that matter) or bring myself to send it to Nigel at the time, so please accept my apologies for taking so long to say thanks.
I wonder how many know the film 'It's A Wonderful Life'. It is very old and stars the wonderful actor James Stewart. If you have never seen the movie than I strongly urge you to hunt down a copy and watch it. It is about a very ordinary guy in a small American town. It could be about any one of us. This man like all of us has dreams and ambition. Life unfortunately has an irritating habit of getting in the way of some of our dreams. Inevitably as we grow older, this can sometimes make us feel unfulfilled in some ways.
If things then go terribly wrong, (we have all surely experienced bad times in our lives) sadness, sometimes even despair can overcome a person. In the film our hero reaches the point of total despair, angrily telling his guardian angel that he wished he had never been born. So desperate to save him, so he can earn his wings, the angel gives him his wish and our hero gets to see how his small part of the world would have got on without him. The answer of course is that this very ordinary, small town man had made an enormous impact on the world. Not just in the small town where he lived, but much, much bigger. The world was a lot poorer without him.
I have been banging on about this movie to people for donkey's years and even before my episode earlier this year, I always found it a profoundly moving film. Whilst I have been lucky enough never to experience the depths of despair, when you are feeling a little down, it reminds you of your small but important contribution to this world, which is very uplifting.
You don't have to be in the depth of despair to get this movie. All you have to do is imagine how your world would change without you, and suddenly comes the realisation of just how important we all are every single one of us.
For me, following my heart attack, I got to experience that 'Wonderful Life' thing first hand. I started getting messages of encouragement, kind words, offers of help, from friends, acquaintances, even from people I hardly know. For example, business clients, who couldn't possibly care less about me, were ringing my secretary Joan every day to find out how I was doing!
Then there was you lot, you wonderful shower of reprobates that makes up the MMEB family, spread rather appropriately when you consider the bands logo, all over the world. So many cards and messages and stuff on the website wishing me well. I have banged on before about how many friends I have made over the years, I never realised quite how many there are of you!
When I first started doing the old paper version of Platform End what seems a lifetime ago, Manfred gave me a very sound bit of advice, which was to avoid in jokes and stuff like that which could so easily alienate the casual reader. It made good sense to me at the time and I have tried to stay true to that advice ever since. But then common fellas, I died in January so to hell with it surly I'm entitled to be bad just this once!
Let us start with our Aussie correspondent Mick Maloney, who sadly I have never had chance to meet. Nobody, but nobody could fail to pick out Mick's card in a month of Australian Sundays. In amongst all the other cards depicting pretty flowers, cuddly animals and funny cartoons, is a very, very, very curvy Australian nurse asking 'Are you ready for your sponge bath sir?' (I assume she's an Aussie cause wonderful as my nurses were, none of them looked like this one!)
Nice one Mick and thanks for your kind words in the chat room. You have been one of the great helpers, over the years and there is still fascinating info you've sent me in the past, remaining unpublished, some of which got cut from my notes for the Mis-takes set which was a shame. Maybe one day Nigel can put the full version on line.
Apparently there was so much interest and concern for my well being that it prompted a phone call from Ian Tompson. Many of you will know Ian. He's the ugly one, who keeps Manfred's rig working amongst countless other jobs he's done over the years such as recording engineer, tour manager, producer and all round genius.
Ian insisted I removed my oxygen mask long enough to agree to sign a load of spare copies of 'Plain Talking' (Andy Taylor in conversation with some rock legend.) He said he was sorry to disturb me, but he had been worried for sometime about disposing of the remaining CDs as they were only worth a few pennies at the most. He wondered if just in case I didn't make it, I could sign a few dozen copies for him. He reckoned they might almost double in value!
Actually it was Ian who posted the news of my illness, and then went to a good deal of trouble to keep everyone informed of my progress, but I mustn't mention this, for fear of ruining his image. Worse still I can't thank him for all he did, cause that would be far to silly and sentimental. Still just as long as he knows I would be very happy to have a few more friends, as horrible as him, that should do the trick for now.
Now there is another small matter that needs addressing. I cannot believe that whilst I was still weak and extremely vulnerable, an argument should rage on line as to which football team I support! Nigel Stanworth and Terry Strong support Everton. In an act of unquestionable devotion and friendship, I once took Terry Strong to see Everton play. I know less than nothing about football but took comfort in the obvious fact that it was still considerably more than either of the teams playing that day knew!
My son Thomas went through a phase, when if I didn't like football, we had nothing else to talk about. Out of this came the Tranmere Rovers thing. Now you would think an Everton supporter would not be over critical of another man's choice of team. I find myself constantly reminding Nigel that Liverpool has a trophy room, Everton a small cabinet! The harsh truth is my friends; I don't really support any team, which I realise makes me very odd and probably in need of some serious psychiatric help. So to have a debate going on as I lay in my hospital bed helpless and unable to answer for myself was a little disturbing.
I met the main culprit of this outrage, young Tor a perfectly nice chap I had thought, and nothing like a football hooligan to look at, at a famous sixties band's convention. My excuse for being there, one of my best friends is a big, big fan of the Hollies; I'm not certain what Tor's excuse was. Still I can't talk. I went for an MRI scan a month ago. (I am horribly claustrophobic) I fully intended to take some meaningful Manfred, or even some of my son's stuff to listen to. In the end I had Abba and they alone got me through the ordeal. Worse still I love Mama Mia too! I do need help. To be fair the Hollies do a pretty a good show and back in those days still had Alan Clarke as lead singer, who is my friend's all time favourite singer ever in the history of ever. I still treasure the moment Graeme 'the Beaver' Yates told him he thought the band were quite good, let down only by the terrible singer.
Whilst I'm breaking rules and indulging myself, one last little story. Many years ago, somebody asked me to write a letter to Record Collector, so I did. There were a few replies, three of which were special, because they were the beginning of new friendships, two of which I will mention here. There is the wonderful Graeme Yates, who as you may gather I like to call 'the Beaver', because he could turn up at the village jumble sale and find a priceless rare record. He can smell them a mile off. Graeme has sent me loads of music over the years and he sent some interesting stuff for me to listen to whilst I was recuperating. This included original versions of some of Manfred's covers which I had not heard before.
Then there is John 'the Oracle' Arkle and his lady Jean Pegg. We don't speak that often these days, but that is because when we do, the call can last a good few hours. Like Graeme he has become a very special friend as well as godfather to my little (five foot eleven!) daughter. (I think she's grown some more since I wrote this) As always, John has helped to keep me smiling and he is old enough to remember the sixties as well as MMEB. Most of you are far too young.
There are loads more of you out there but if I mentioned everyone it would be like reading a phone book. What I really want to do is just say thank you to everyone. I'm well on the way to a full recovery now, although I'm still taking it easy. (Some might say I always did!)
I have absolutely no news and even less gossip. I know there are lots of exciting things planned over the next year or so. Steve Fernie and Helen are doing a fantastic job and there are some more interesting releases, still in the planning stage.
I hope you will forgive the self indulgent nature of this offering.
I wrote the above ages ago, when in an emotionally unbalanced state and rewrote it a few times and for some reason never sent it to Nigel. Everything felt a bit odd, a bit awkward. If you are reading it now then I have finally sent it, if not Nigel has wisely binned it, and all you need to know is that it was my best attempt at thanking everyone for their kindness when I was ill and how much it contributed to my recovery. Yes even the football, actually especially the football!
So what of the gossip I don't have?
John Arkle and I remember and I suspect Tor might too and a handful of others, the shocking and traumatic day when we discovered Paul was leaving. Paul Jones. PP Pond the one in the middle. Almost everyone accepted that Manfred Mann (the band) was doomed. The media wrote them off, the record company put their money with the one in the middle and let's be honest folks, us young fans were gutted. There never was, nor ever will be a blues shouter or harmonica player to match Paul Jones. Check out the two new Blues Band DVDs if you don't believe me.
It is they say, never over until the fat lady sings. Mike D'Abo stepped into Paul's shoes and the hits just kept on coming. I like change, it can often be tinged with sadness, but it also freshens things up, makes everything more exciting. I don't know how many of our European friends are familiar with Doctor Who. Every now and again he regenerates into a completely different person. It is about to happen again this Christmas for the tenth time. Most are very sad to see the tenth Doctor leave. He's been brilliant. Nevertheless the fans are excited to meet the eleventh incarnation.
So Noel has decided to move on. I have not had chance yet to talk to him about his decision. He had a bit of an episode himself last year, but has I am told made a full recovery. I am delighted to report that all the gossip I have heard from within the band, tells me that this split is totally amicable. Noel had the difficult, if not impossible task of taking over from the legendary Chris Thompson, another amazing singer. Manfred can sure pick them. Some of you may remember that magical year or so around 1996/7 when the band boasted Chris, Noel and Mick on vocals.
Noel established himself almost effortlessly, as the one in the middle and will be as difficult an act to follow as those who went before him. It goes without saying that he has a wonderfully rich, mellow and soulful voice, oozing emotion. He brought new meaning to some of the Earth Band standards, making them sound fresh again. It was not just Noel's beautiful voice that won over the most discerning fans, it was Noel himself. Both on stage and off stage he possessed the rare ability to reach out to his audience. Noel has an infectious personality. He is also perhaps just a tiny bit mad!
The first time I ever joined the band on the road back in 1993 Noel had narrowly missed being arrested at a customs point because he had mislaid his passport. A few years later the tour bus left our hotel and was heading across a narrow winding pass towards a big festival gig. We had gone about twenty-five kilometers when somebody asked where Noel was! It was quickly established that he was not on the bus. There was no mobile phone signal and no room to turn the coach round. So we arrived at our destination, a disused airfield in the middle of nowhere without our singer. Security was tight and included a police escort though a huge aircraft into the festival site where ten thousand or more Hells Angels waited patiently for the headline act to arrive. Somehow Noel found his way and in the end the show was a huge success.
A few years later I was again out in Germany. Ian Tompson was by this time tour manager as well as keyboard tech. I can't remember now where we were going that day (Ian can). The crew had to go on ahead with the truck so Ian asked me to make sure the band got safely to the next venue. It was a simple task he told me! We had to catch a train to Frankfurt, where we would need to change to a train for our destination. Even I could not mess so simple a job.
We got to Frankfurt where we had about an hour to kill before our connection. It was Christmas and Germany seems to take Christmas as seriously as it takes beer fests. Manfred and I stood under a festive tree, by a Christmas stall on the station forecourt, drinking hot mulled wine and discussing the origins of Christmas. Fascinating though our deliberations were I was constantly keeping my eye on the others, who had gone off to explore various parts of the station. I could not imagine Ian being particularly forgiving if I lost half the band.
As we got close to departure I rounded everybody up. Modern Christmas, we had decided was mostly down to Prince Albert and Charles Dickens, with a sprinkling of paganism. Poor Jesus hardly gets a look in, even though it's supposed to be his birthday.
I managed to find everyone and guided them to our train. We all boarded with plenty of time to spare. Finally the whistle blew and our train slowly began to pull out of the station. Just as it began to gather speed, Noel stepped off the train! Desperate situations require desperate measures. Our train was going quite fast now. Still I could not imagine the conversation with Ian going particularly well. "I'm so sorry Ian but I've lost Noel." I stepped off the train grabbed Noel and pushed him back on, managing to jump back on just as we cleared the platform.
I will genuinely miss you Noel. You have always been one of a kind and just to have got to know you a little, as a showman, a singer, the man from planet Noel, as a loving family man and above all as a true musician has been very special indeed. I know that I speak on behalf of every MMEB fan out there when I say a big thank you for the past 18 odd years and wish you well in whatever you do next.
I hear there is even a very slight chance we may see Noel make the odd appearance with MMEB again, one day.
By the time you read these notes you should all know the identity of the new singer. From the whispers I have heard, we are about to embark upon an exciting new phase in the history of MMEB. If I am honest, a couple of years ago I honestly thought we had reached the end of the road, creatively, if not literally speaking. Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be jumping on a train to Southampton in October 2009 to witness the start of yet another new chapter in this incredible and seemingly indestructible band. Perhaps I'll see you there, hope so.
Andy Taylor March to October 2009!
Great to see this project is almost in the shops (at the time of writing). It was one of the ideas thrown around a number of times after the initial Unearthed DVD was released and hopefully it will be well received. The tracks/ concerts chosen are largely down to the quality of the recordings - no one wants to pay for a recording which is not up to the mark, no matter how dedicated a fan they are. And the CD should contain something worth listening to. Despite a fairly large collection of bootlegs, many simply didn't pass muster, even I have only listened to them once. The end result is a set which includes some tracks for the first time (Hello, Hello) and which misses some of the constants which have been played at every gig (Blinded and Quinn). Of course some tracks appear multiple times and here the fun is seeing how the band have shaped and bent the arrangements over time. As the notes say, they are not for the audiophile, if you want perfect stereo sound and Dolby effects then you may be disappointed. However they are the best of the rest and when seen from that perspective I hope you enjoy them.
Thanks to Mick Maloney
While researching the material for the Australian element of the upcoming 'Then & Now' DVD a number of articles from that period were found by long time Melbourne based fan, Mick Maloney. Some of these are planned to be used within the comprehensive notes which accompany the package. However others not used are reproduced here as we continue the 'back to the beginning' theme of this newsletter.
Manfred Mann came back to earth
Last night's performance at the Albert Hall, Launceston worked a complete change in Manfred Mann.
Before they went on stage, all members of the Earth Band seemed tense. Mann, looking satanic in a long swirling black cloak, prowled moodily around, saying little and looking extremely unapproachable.
He refused to give interviews until everyone had heard the band.
The La De Das finished a bracket of excellent rocky tunes, marred only by the bad acoustics, and the stage was set for Manfred Mann's Earth Band.
With few dramatics, the band walked on stage and plugged in.
The bracket began with slow pre-taped music.
The group stood motionless. Mann rigidly at attention, as the lights played over their faces and sparkled on the polished surfaces of their instruments.
Suddenly the group exploded into action. Mann wearing green and blue leather jacket, looked for all the world like a gigantic, multi-coloured beetle as he flayed his keyboards.
He controlled everything, his synthesizer and organs seeming to create solid wedges of sound.
About half way through their hour and a half, the uneasiness seemed to have disappeared.
Colin Pattenden on bass and drummer Chris Slade egged one another on and on and smiles began to flash across the stage.
Then "We would like to finish with a song that I used to play in 1967 when II was a pop star," Mann quipped.
The hall reverberated to the familiar strains of "Mighty Quinn."
The simple introduction to the last number probably sums up Manfred man today.
He is no longer a pop star but a serious musician with an incredible stage presence and sense of the dramatic.
His abruptness disappeared after the show.
"I don't mind talking about the past now you've seen the performance."
He seemed to enjoy talking about himself and most of all his music.
Asked about the reported incidents on his last tour here, he confirmed. "We did have some trouble, I strained my ankle coming down stairs. It was terrible - I had to go home straight away."
His dedication to his music is obvious.
"I'm really not interested where music as a whole is heading. I just play what we play - I don't bother where everyone else is going."
Mann has been here before, as has Mick Rogers, the lead guitarist who played in Procession and Bulldog while living here.
The Earth Band's itinerary when it leaves Australia after approximately 25 performances here includes a week in Britain and a tour of Germany and Denmark.
It is a pity for local groups badly needing international bands to set an example that Launceston will probably be left out of future tours. The size of the audience last night was disappointing.
Perhaps the Earth Band was not the best for Launceston's first international visit - and the acoustics in the Albert Hall could not have been worse.
One of the band's road managers said it was the worst place they had played in years.
Happy Birthday Manfred
Did anyone happen to catch Doctor Who confidential earlier this year? It is a program made entirely for sad people like me, who are written off as harmless lunatics. More than a million of us harmless lunatics tune in most weeks. Each episode dissects the preceding episode of Doctor Who in microscopic detail. Imagine the excitement of the fan boy in me, when one week the episode was entitled 'Blinded by the Light'. Even after the show was long over, I remained motionless, staring at my telly in disbelief. You can't call something that and not play the song, can you? Well BBC Wales believe you can, not so much as a couple of bars, or a hint of chopsticks. Not even the Springsteen version. I swore I would never watch such a silly show again and didn't, well not until the next episode anyway. Imagine my surprise when half way through they played part of a well known Chapter III song! I wouldn't mind only I checked and checked again, and the episode was definitely not called 'One Way Glass'! Anyway let's be honest, we have much, much more important things to discuss.
It is his 70th birthday in October 2010 you know and I am not ashamed to say that I am amongst his biggest fans. I have been a huge fan since those brilliant early days back in the so called swinging sixties. It was way back then that he began to innovate and influence all those around him, as well as being a vital part of a band who released a string of unforgettable, classic hit records. It is no secret that for me he is one of the most brilliant musicians ever to grace this planet. Without a doubt he helped change the shape of popular music forever. He also helped changed our attitude to other things such as racial harmony, love and war. Hard to think John Lennon would have been seventy this month.
Oh sorry you thought….? Do you know I'd completely forgotten? Of course he's 70 this month too? Gosh he really doesn't look it does he? Not only that but last time I heard him tickling the old ivories if anything he sounded better than ever. Still much as it is hard to believe Manfred Mann is indeed seventy years young later this October and I hope he realises how old that makes me feel!
So joking aside it may surprise you to know that I don't consider Manfred to be one of the most brilliant musicians in the world today. I doubt he would claim to have changed the face of popular music forever. So what is so special about this man? Let's face it there has to be something special, when you consider I bought my first Manfred Mann record in 1964 and I'm still banging on about him 46 years later.
In celebration of this birthday milestone I thought I would like to put forward a few thoughts about Manfred's music and a few about the man himself. I should remind you that I am no musician. I have been fortunate enough to get to know Manfred a little over the last twenty years or so. We have always got on very well. I would go as far as to say that if I hadn't been a fan, and he Manfred, we would probably have ended up the very best of friends.
That is not to say that Manfred does not respect and value his fans, he cares for us all very much. I have seen many examples of that over the last few years. The trouble is that beneath a bit of well deserved rock and role ego, he is a shy self effacing man who fiercely guards his privacy. What is more he really doesn't get what all the fuss is about. In a nutshell he doesn't understand why he has such a surprisingly large following. He probably thinks we are all as mad as a box of frogs. In my case it is of course absolutely true.
Manfred is the master of the put down, revels in intellectual argument, which he invariably wins, but would try never to hurt anyone's feelings on something of importance to them. He commands incredible loyalty from those around him. On the other hand it has to said that he is not exactly brilliant with journalists, especially if they are less than genuine. He earned a terrible reputation for being difficult to interview, way, way back in the 60's. It was claimed at the time there were many one eared journalists around, to prove it.
Most of this can be put down to his wicked sense of humour and trust me at times it can be very wicked. The trouble is Manfred doesn't take himself that seriously a lot of the time. The average journo probably found this very hard to understand and they just didn't get the humour. Another reason the media have always been a little unhappy with Manfred, is because he does not do any of those really cool rock and roll things. He has never nearly died from a drug overdose, or gone through a dark and suicidal period of alcohol abuse that brought him to the brink of destruction. In fact in the immortal words from Stanley Holloway's famous Albert and the Lion monologue, 'Nothing to laugh at, at all'! According to the media, people much prefer stories like that, even if there is no talent involved. Sadly they are probably right. Has Britain really got talent and what exactly is the X factor?
On the other hand if you are genuine in what you are trying to do, or you share a common interest, then you will be allowed a glimpse of a very private man. Manfred is passionate about many things, from the wild life of Africa to collapsing bicycles.
Amongst my own favourite memories of time spent with Manfred was the night we sped across Germany in the back of the fire chief's fire tender, blue lights flashing sirens wailing. I may have imagined this, but I could swear even the traffic lights changed for us! I suppose that is the service you get when you travel with a much loved rock and roll legend. We passed the time having an intellectual argument, which I lost of course! Both the fire chief and the drivers were big fans, as were most of the 4000 people crammed into a big marquee earlier that night.
Another fire station in Germany phoned me at home one day, out of the blue. They were having a big 100 year celebration and MMEB were playing. They wanted to know what they could buy Manfred as a memento of the night. As if I would know! Still, it serves as just one of many thousands of examples of how much this man is loved.
During one intellectual debate on board the tour bus Manfred was in the process of destroying my very best argument, when my mobile phone went off.
'Saved by the bell, Endy," he said, with a wry smile. As I said, wicked sense of humour!
Sharing time with Manfred is never dull. He reads an incredible amount and is full of sometimes useful and often totally useless information.
When my son Thomas was about five or six he sat with him in the Workhouse, showing him how he could make music on a computer.
'Endy, there's a dead baby in reception' (Our daughter Jenni was fast asleep)
He continued to encourage Tom in his interest in music. He still does. We went to the rehearsals for the Soft Vengeance tour and Tom who would be about nine just soaked in the atmosphere. A few years later Tom spent a day with Manfred at his Greenwich studio. Tom is now a professional musician having got a first in classical piano at Manchester RNCM and is now studying jazz piano at Trinity College in London. I wonder how many more people have been inspired and encouraged by Manfred over the years. I bet there are loads. It would be good to hear from some of you. Enough of being nice, this reminds of an example of Manfred at his most horrid and of two personal magic moments.
In the very early days of my involvement with fan club and stuff, I went to the Workhouse one day. I was there to interview Noel and Mick for Platform End. I was also due to have a short chat with Manfred and was for some unaccountable reason quite nervous. Well he is a rock and roll legend. As I have said many times before, it is a bit like visiting your favourite old school master, the one who was very strict and scary, but taught you more than all the other teachers put together.
When I got to the studio the band were rehearsing upstairs and I would have given my right arm to go up and watch. A few minutes later they all came down. I was warmly greeted by all except Manfred who laughed and said
"What a shame you didn't come earlier Endy you just missed us playing and I'm going now." I was gutted!
Manfred disappeared, laughing at my obvious disappointment! I got on with interviewing Mick and then Noel, thinking he may be a legend, but does he have to be so miserable as to rub salt in the wound. Just as I was finishing my interview with Noel he put his head round the door.
"Look Endy I really want to go home now, so if you want to hear us play can we get on with it now?"
So we come to magic moment number 1, when I found myself squashed into a room no bigger than your average sitting room, listening to the band play Demolition Man. Wow, no wonder Carol says I'm going deaf!
I have always been in love with the mini moog and since Manfred has moved on from this fine but admittedly limiting instrument, we have had many arguments over the old moog versa the various replacements, most of which we won't be surprised to know I lost! There was one occasion at a sound check in Milton Keynes when Manfred challenged me to identify the Moog against its replacement and I was bang on right. You might argue I had a fifty percent chance of getting it right anyway, but for me that was still leaving too much to chance. Ian Tompson was stood behind Manfred signalling to me which was the Moog. I am not sure if Manfred ever realised that! (Sorry Ian, not)
This leads me to magic moment number two, which took place at Manfred's Greenwich studio. We were upstairs, where his keyboard rig was set up, Manfred, me and my son Tom. Once again we somehow got on to the thorny subject of the old mini Moog and Manfred fetched one from a cupboard and he and Tom put it on a stool, dusted it off, wired it in to the rig and began to play. Instantly the room filled with the magical sound that has become Manfred's trademark. It was just brilliant and just for a moment even Manfred seemed to find new respect for his venerable if outdated Moog.
Manfred is also a story teller. You have probably read some of his stories on line whilst we put others in Platform End when it was a proper magazine (well almost anyway) I have been lucky enough to listen to him telling some of these diverse tales. Many were stories from his early years in South Africa, such as the friendship between his Grandmother and her black servant. He tells tales of shocking events that open the listener's eyes into just how terrible apartheid in South Africa was and how evil racism is. Sometimes his stories are incredibly sad, often very funny, often both. He also loves telling jokes as well, although most of Manfred's jokes are stories too, like the one about the talking frog, on the last album! Actually, I think that story is typical of Manfred's sense of humour, if perhaps a lot cleaner than some I've heard!
It is impossible for me to tell you much about Manfred's first seventy years that you don't already know. The early years have been reasonably well documented by both me and many others. He was a jazz musician when he arrived in the UK and met up with other like minded people. He did some teaching and played piano in bars to pay the bills. It was the combination of jazz and blues that led to the Mann Hugg Blues Brothers and to the pop group Manfred Mann. It would be interesting to see what Manfred and Mike Hugg would come up with if they collaborated again after all these years.
In the early years Manfred Mann produced some of the most exciting music out there. (Please check out the Five Faces of Manfred Mann if you already haven't). Later the band moved more towards pure pop covering other people's songs. Although Manfred was to become well known and highly respected for his interpretation of other peoples stuff in the 70's and 80's in the sixties bands like the Beatles, The Who and the Rolling Stones were mostly writing their own stuff.
What is perhaps more surprising is that Manfred Mann had some brilliant song writers around him, like the aforementioned Mike Hugg, Paul Jones and of course Mike D'Abo. Mike D'Abo's 'Handbags and Gladrags' has become an all time classic and yet Manfred Mann never put it on record. I am hoping one day to get the BBC sessions version released to rectify that.
Some of Manfred Mann's hits from that period still remain amongst the finest pop songs ever recorded. The trouble was you had to look behind the hits, to hear some of the interesting stuff Manfred was doing in those days and few could be bothered. Since Earth Band was formed in 1971 this band has gone though many changes of style and personnel. This was the point of the new band. After the constraints of the pop years and of the Chapter III period, Earth Band offered Manfred the freedom to do pretty much whatever he wanted.
Manfred told me recently that some of the stuff he had recorded was definitely not Earth Band. I found myself wondering exactly what Earth Band is exactly. It is true that playing live, there are certain things expected of any band. Equally, I never heard anyone complain when 'Medicine Song' was included as part of the set. Surely what makes MMEB so good is that it can be almost anything it wants to be. Look at the contrast between Solar Fire and Masque both dealing with a similar subject.
Finding the Good Earth
Thanks to Michael Jennings
One of the questions that gets asked from time to time is hillside which has our square feet of land on it - "where is the Good Earth"? Despite the fact that Platform Enders have been there, the BBC have filmed it and Manfred (presumably) holds the deeds for it, we've never been able to get definitive directions until now. Thanks for the persistence of Michael Jennings and the wonders of Google Street View here are the definitive directions to 'The Good Earth':
From Llanwrtyd Wells on the A483 you take the road to Abergwesyn. Abergwesyn is a village of just a few houses and farms. Once there you take the road signposted Tregaron and wander up there for a few miles. The road twists and turns and before long you are travelling up the side of the Irfon valley. Up the end of the valley is a building nestling in some trees on the right before the road crosses the river. The Hill is the one on your right before the building, and before the forestry commission track.
52 deg 11' 06.39" N
3 deg 41' 54.59" W
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