Biography

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Between 1964 and 1969 Manfred Mann scored three British Number One hits – plus one Number One hit in America and another seven that went Top 5 and four more that made the Top 20. In the Sixties The Manfreds popularised the songs of Bob Dylan with interpretations of Just like a Woman, If You Gotta Go Go Now and Mighty Quinn. Over this period they featured two of the finest singers on the British pop and rock scene: Paul Jones, and Mike d’Abo, both have gone on to enjoy successful and varied solo careers. Their distinctive voices added to the rich variety of Manfred Mann’s classic hits. In 1963 the band’s line-up featured Paul Jones on vocals and harmonica, Mike Vickers on guitar, flute and saxophone, Tom McGuiness on bass, Mike Hugg on drums and Manfred Mann on keyboards They set their sights on the British pop scene which was about to explode. They may have been a musically well-educated band but there was nothing sophisticated about their first hit the rowdy, frenetic 5-4-3-2-1 which they wrote for the theme song of the groundbreaking TV pop show Ready Steady Go! Boosted by its weekly exposure on the programme, the single reached Number 5 early in 1964. Their first Number One came in the summer of that year with Do Wah Diddy Diddy, written by the famous New York Brill Building song writing duo of Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry. They also found themselves in the vanguard of the British pop invasion of America alongside the Beatles and the Animals (and ahead of the Rolling Stones) as the song shot to the top of the US charts. The band then proceeded to apply their sharp musical talents to other suitable pop songs such as Sha La La (an American hit the year before for the Shirelles), the poignant Come Tomorrow and Oh No Not My Baby (written by another famous Brill Building duo, Carole King and Gerry Goffin) before turning their attention to Bob Dylan’s If You Gotta Go, Go Now which was a Number 2 hit in the UK and earned the approval of Dylan himself. In April 1966 the Manfreds notched up their second British Number One with the gorgeous, melodic Pretty Flamingo. Surprisingly it only scraped into the American Top 30 but it left a lasting impression on a teenage Bruce Springsteen who regularly played it live during the early part of his career. Pretty Flamingo was the crowning glory for the first incarnation of Manfred Mann, not least for the personality-driven voice of Paul Jones who decided to bow out on a high note. He launched a solo career and starred in the movie Privilege – playing a rock star – before becoming one of Britain’s leading experts and commentators on the blues and R&B. His departure put the group’s future in jeopardy but his replacement, the unknown public schoolboy Mike D’Abo immediately stamped his own character on the band and the hits flowed seamlessly on – Dylan’s Just Like A Woman, the quirky Semi-Detached Suburban Mr James and Ha! Ha! Said The Clown – before racking up their third UK Number One early in 1968 with Dylan’s Mighty Quinn, an anthemic masterpiece. As the Sixties drew to a close some members of the band decided to explore new musical directions and, after more Top Ten hits with My Name Is Jack, Fox On The Run and Ragamuffin Man, Manfred Mann disbanded. The other members soon found new careers as solo performers and in other bands (Tom McGuiness formed McGuinness Flint) and in composing and production. Mike D’Abo was already an accomplished songwriter, his most notable hits included Build Me Up Buttercup for the Foundations and Handbags & Gladrags, a song that was best known by Rod Stewart in the Seventies although Chris Farlowe had the original hit with it in 1967 – and the Stereophonics brought it back into the Top 5 in 2001. Former Manfred Mann members Paul Jones, Mike D’Abo, Mike Hugg and Tom McGuinness reformed as The Manfreds in 1991. Enlisting the talents of Marcus Cliffe, Simon Currie and Rob Townsend, the Manfreds live gigs bust with that quirky mix of solid gold pop, jazz and rhythm and blues that has always been their trademark.

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