And what do I mean by the Lucky Generation? Those of us lucky enough to be able to see the songs we grew up to in the 60s as teenagers and young adults, still being performed today by (mostly) the original artists. I doubt this will happen again.
And who are The Manfreds? (All these names very confusing, especially to us old folks).
Firstly, Manfred Mann was a band formed by Manfred himself, firstly as a jazz combo. Then they decided to make hits. Pop hits, with a touch of soul, and a touch of blues. Smorgasbord.
From the original Manfred Mann survive Paul Jones, the “voice” who sang from inception through to 1966, when he left to almost become part of Cream, then a solo singer, then an actor, also a fine harmonica player.
Tom McGuinness on guitar, subsequently the founder of McGuinness Flint, with Hughie Flint (the drummer in the Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton in 1966), Bennie Gallagher and Graeme Lyle and subsequently the great R & B 80s combo, The Blues Band (also with Paul Jones). Mike D’Abo, the singer/songwriter/keyboardist who replaced Paul Jones in 1966. Mike Hugg on piano, and Rob Townsend (from the seminal rock band Family and also The Blues Band) on drums.
For some reason, and I can’t find out why, neither Mike Hugg or Rob Townsend were on this tour, but we also have Simon Currie on sax, Marcus Cliffe on bass, and a great drummer whose name I lazily didn’t get (apologies to the drummer). (We found out later that the drummer was, in fact, Frank Tontoh from the Afrobeat band Osibisa, thanks to reader Richard Segedin for this juicy detail! - Ed)
So, what we have in front of us on stage is a combination of rock royalty and pedigree session guys who bring us the Manfred Mann 60’s rock, pop, soul and rhythm & blues. An integral, if a relatively minor ingredient of the British Invasion of the USA, but a big part of the Australasian 60s scene.
There was always a Manfred Mann song in the NZ charts in those days. Or should I say songs by Manfred Mann but written by others. Because for the most part, this band, like many of the early British bands were interpreters rather than creators. Paul Jones found the songs, Manfred Mann made them poppy and simple. Of course there were songs they wrote, and I’ll come back to Mike D’Abo in a moment, but as the hits roll out across the Bruce Mason theatre we are reminded that Doo Wah Diddy is a Barry/Greenwich song and Oh, No, Not My Baby is Goffin/King and that Manfred Mann were also fine Dylan interpreters, with Just Like A Woman, If You Gotta Go, Go Now and The Mighty Quinn.
As one would expect from musicians who have been plying their trade for over 50 years, these guys are pros, with Paul and Mike D'Abo alternating vocals reflecting those songs they actually sang in the originals. The voices stack up. Paul sounds ageless, Mike a little less so, although he does indicate there are frogs at work. Actually, in some songs the frogs do work, turning his voice raspy and soulful. And it doesn’t matter, even if the sound in the first half is a little hollow, a little tinny. The PA is small, but after all, this is a 60’s sound. The second half is much much better, someone has turned something on, but let me stress no one is concerned. It’s the songs they have come out to hear, and they will sound good on a boombox!!
We get Sons & Lovers, a Paul Jones solo hit, we get a couple of great McGuinness Flint songs which we have almost, but not quite forgotten, with Tom singing. We get the Herbie Hancock classic Watermelon Man medleyed with (I’ve been a) Bad Bad Boy. And we get a couple of classic Mike D’Abo songs, which we have forgotten were Mike D’Abo songs. Who knew, or remembered, that Mike wrote Handbags & Gladrags, the greatest Rod Stewart song ever (yes, ever) and also covered by Chris Farlowe and more recently the Stereophonics? Theme song from TV-sitcom, The Office.
And, less meritoriously in my humble view, who knew that Mike also co-wrote Build Me Up Buttercup for the Foundations? (I say that because this song was the one which never went away as I lay in my teenage bed, transistor radio glued to my ear, surfing the airwaves, stealing songs from the night).
And finally, worthy of mention was a reminder that we were in the presence of two-fifths of The Blues Band as they grooved through Smokestack Lightning.
A perfectly nostalgic night. I hope they don’t mean it when they say farewell...
- One In The Middle
- Ha Ha! Said the Clown
- Sha La La
- Fox On The Run ( with a bit of Average White Band thrown in)
- Malt & Barley (McGuinness Flint)
- Watermelon Man/ Bad Bad Boy
- Just Like A Woman
- Oh No, Not My Baby
- Semi-detached Suburban Mr James
- Smokestack Lightning
- Ragamuffin Man
- Sons & Lovers
- Handbags & Gladrags
- Pretty Flamingo
- My Name Is Jack
- Come Tomorrow
- Build Me Up Buttercup
- Dead & Gone (McGuinness Flint)
- Mighty Quinn
- Do Wah Diddy Diddy
- If You Gotta Go, Go Now