Gary James' Interview With
Manfred Mann




In the mid-1960s all the way through the late 1960s Manfred Mann could do no wrong. "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" went to number one on the charts in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. "Sha La La" went to number twelve in the U.S. and Canada and hit number three in the U.K. "Mighty Quinn" went to number one in the United Kingdom, number three in Canada and number ten in the U.S. Recently we spoke to the Mann himself, Mr. Manfred Mann.

Q - You're one of those guys who always seems to be booked. You're working all the time.

A - Well, about fifty-five days a year, year in, year out. So, it's not really all the time, but it's constant.

Q - When you're performing, you're going out as a solo artist or as a band?

A - There's five of us. It's Manfred Mann's Earth Band.

Q - When you're at these gigs, do people shout out at you, "Do Wah Diddy" or "Mighty Quinn"? And how do you handle that?

A - Well first of all, nobody shouts out "Do Wah Diddy" or "Mighty Quinn." They just listen to what we're playing. Certainly nobody comes to listen to 1960s music when they come to see us. They're particularly aware it's Manfred Mann's Earth Band and not a '60s Pop group.

Q - Does anyone ever ask you to play that material?

A - No, not really. They completely associate us with the later period. It's Manfred Mann's Earth Band. It's not Manfred Mann and the audience all know that very, very well. That's the music they've come to hear. We play mainly in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. In those places people know us from that period. They're not going back to the 1960s.

Q - Has a promoter ever approached you about doing a tour playing your hits from the 1960s.

A - We don't do that at all. It's not even in the cards. There's no way we'd do that. It's a completely different band and we don't do that at all. And no one asks us to do it. They know very well what we do.

Q - Manfred Mann was regarded as one of the more accomplished groups of the 1960s. You guys could really play your instruments. That being the case, did you like it when the girls screamed at your shows or would you have preferred they listened to your music?

A - Well, first of all, I don't think anybody likes the screaming except for the first month or so where it's sort of an ego trip of some sort. Nobody actually likes that you can't hear. The other day I saw program on The Beatles. They felt there was no point in playing when they couldn't hear what they were playing. That's why they went into the studio. They didn't enjoy doing it anymore. So, nobody really likes screaming, but basically I think you're right. It would've been better. What it was, was what it was. You just sort of accepted it for what it was. And also, I don't think we're any more musical than other people who were around. That's kind of a snobbishness that certainly I don't have as a musician. I may have come from a Jazz background as some of the guys in the band, but that didn't make us better musicians. The question is, how good are you at what you do? So, if you're in another band and you're just playing Blues and you play it very well, that doesn't mean you're less of a musician than somebody who can play some fancy chords. So, I don't think we were better musicians than anybody else at all.

Q - I was reading this story you posted online about Paul McCartney coming to your home to buy a harmonica. You were excited about meeting a Beatle. I guess in my mind, and the minds of many people, we thought you guys all knew each other. But, that wasn't the case was it? You didn't necessarily know all the guys in The Beatles or The Stones.

A - Of course not, absolutely. But some people did. I knew some people in The Rolling Stones briefly. But I didn't hang out with everybody too much anyway. I had a child at the time. I wasn't interested in hanging out at clubs, getting stoned late at night or whatever. I'm not saying everybody did that, but I didn't want to do that anyway.

Q - Your hit records were written by other people. Did anybody in Manfred Mann write their own material?

A - Yes.

Q - And what happened with that?

A - I think that although some of the guys in the band were good writers, I personally didn't feel our writing would be able to compete with really, really good writers. In other words, The Beatles were great writers. They weren't just writers. They were great writers. The Rolling Stones wrote some wonderful stuff. I didn't feel we could compete on that level with writing. It didn't bother me because when I grew up, Frank Sinatra didn't write his own songs. Oscar Peterson didn't write everything. All the Jazz people I was listening to didn't write their own stuff anyway. I never thought that was essential. It wasn't part of my background. I didn't see why you had to be a writer to be a performer. Certainly when an orchestra plays Beethoven you don't complain they didn't write their own symphony.

Q - The Beatles changed all the roles, didn't they?

A - Because they were good enough writers to do that. It's absolutely right. It's not that they changed the roles, they were great writers. Then everybody tried to imitate them. It suddenly became you had to be a writer to be a real artist. Well, that's fine if you're good enough, but a whole load of people weren't good enough.

Q - Before the name Manfred Mann was used, you were performing under the name Mann-Huggs Blues Brothers. For lack of a better word, you were discovered by Personal Manager, Ken Pitt. I'm not familiar with his name. Who else did he manage?

A - I think he managed David Bowie for awhile. I'm not sure. He wasn't a famous manager, but he's the guy we worked with.

Q - Who suggested the band's name be changed to Manfred Mann? Was it Ken Pitt or your producer, John Burgess?

A - That was John Burgess, who was a producer at E.M.I.

Q - How did life change for you in 1964 when "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" became such a hit?

A - Well, I suppose we became more successful which meant that we did more work. We toured America for the first time. We became very, very successful. However, we already were doing reasonably well in the U.K. But, "Do Wah Diddy" became an international record. It changed a lot, but it certainly didn't earn much more money. We ended up just working a lot more. Everybody asks, "What happens when you become successful?" That's what happened.

Q - Did you tour as a headliner in the U.S. or did you come over as part of a package tour?

A - I think we were a headliner at the time.

Q - You were no doubt playing theatres or maybe bigger venues.

A - Some of them were bigger. I can't recall. I don't think it was just theatres. They were bigger than that.

Q - Because the U.S. is such a big country the tour was most likely pretty extensive.

A - Well, we only did one tour of America. I just decided I never wanted to go back. I didn't enjoy it at all. I was a long way from home. At the end of the day it wasn't as if we were retiring from the proceeds and becoming wealthy people. We worked and worked and worked and came back. I was just a long way from family. I didn't see any point in going back, so I didn't go back again and I didn't go back until "Blinded By The Light".

Q - You were not only performing, but also doing a lot of press and promotion work as well.

A - That's correct. We were just being kind of like sheep, taken from place to place, given instructions to do a whole bunch of stuff. That's absolutely right.

Q - I know you didn't write "Do Wah Diddy Diddy", but why when people hear it do people think it means something that maybe it doesn't mean?

A - I have no idea. Why would I know that? To me, the lyrics are what they are. I don't think there's any meaning there as such that I'm aware of.

Q - After Manfred Mann broke up, you said, "I think you have to make fundamental decisions more than once in your life if you are going to achieve anything. Every musician makes one when he decides to give up being an insurance clerk or in some case giving up being the son of a successful printer in South Africa to come to the U.K. as a musician."

A - That's right.

Q - If you hadn't gone to the U.K., were you in line to take over your father's business?

A - Oh, absolutely. It wasn't a hugely successful business by the way. It was a very average business. I was definitely in line to take it over. Absolutely.

Official Website: www.ManfredMann.co.uk


© Gary James. All rights reserved.


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