Sunday, April 26, 2009
Manfred Mann: Semi-detatched Suburban Mr James
I have chosen this partly because it is a great song, partly because it is very much of its period, partly because I think I remember it from the time (the autumn of 1966, when I would have been six years old) and partly because it is time I got to grips with Manfred Mann.
Rather like the Spencer Davis Group, perhaps following a jazz tradition, the band was named after its founder, but he was not its most celebrated member. At various times Manfred Mann included the vocalists Paul Jones and Mike d'Abo (singing here), and the musicians Tom McGuinness and Jack Bruce. (This earlier posting will lead you to a recording of Jones and McGuinness discussing the British blues scene of the 1960s.)
Manfred Mann himself is an interesting figure. According to Wikipedia, he was born Manfred Lubowitz in Johannesburg in 1940. He studied classical piano at university, played jazz piano in clubs and formed South Africa's first rock group.
In 1961, strongly opposed to Apartheid (he was banned from South Africa several times), he moved to London, started writing on jazz and adopted his new name.
His group enjoyed great chart success, but he eventually tired of the pop scene and started exploring other kinds of music. He reappeared in the 1970s with Manfred Mann's Earth Band, putting out some more very good singles in an age when they were in shorter supply.