The Manfreds in Southsea

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Back in the 60s, the one replaced the other, but now they share the stage as The Manfreds celebrate 25 years since their reformation (Kings Theatre, Southsea, October 19).

The band features original Manfred Mann frontmen Paul Jones and Mike d’Abo who each secured a string of hits with the band, Jones from 63-66 and d’Abo from 66-69. With Paul Jones’ departure in 1966 to pursue his solo career, Mike certainly joined the band at a tough time. Not many people can claim to have joined an established band and continued its success.

“But you could also look at it from the other perspective, that they had done all the spadework, all the hard work. But the record company had dropped Manfred Mann and had stuck with the solo artist. They said ‘Fine, find a replacement if you want, but we will go with Paul.’ And I think the expectation was that Manfred Mann the band would sink without trace.

“But we managed to get a record deal. The first record went top ten. The second record went to number two. Ha Ha said the Clown went to number four, and we never looked back. We ended up having more hits in Europe than before. I think a lot of the original fans dropped away, but we gained a lot of new ones.”

By then, the band had changed musically too: “When Manfred Mann started the band, they were the Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers, but the record company didn’t like that name. They wanted to be the Blues Brothers, but EMI didn’t like that either, but EMI said that they liked the name Manfred Mann. But that created a problem. It implied that Manfred Mann was the leader or that Paul Jones was Manfred Mann.

“But by the time I joined, they had become much more of a pop band. It was a tough act to follow when they had just had a number one, but we instantly became more of a pop group, and I was cast as the pop pixie and had to sing silly songs. They were all hits, but I longed to be associated with more r&b-type material, but at the end of the day Manfred Mann called the shots. My job was to keep the hits coming. We found new fans and became a pop group.”

But eventually, issues within the group came to the fore: “There were petty squabbles. Manfred and Mike wanted to get back to their jazz roots, and I wanted my songs to be taken more seriously. Come 1969 when we made our last record, we hardly did any work at all. Manfred Mann came up to me in a TV studio one day in Holland and said he wanted to go back to jazz and wanted to call it a day for the band. I said that was fine.”

Paul Jones had done three years; Mike had done three, and that was that – until, marking his 50th birthday, Tom McGuinness organised a reunion of all the bands he had ever played with – and The Manfreds took shape.

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