Mike d'Abo recalls those heady days of the 1960s as he heads to Worthing
Pioneers of British rhythm & blues The Manfreds return for a 2018 tour with special guest Georgie Fame (Worthing Assembly Hall, October 24).
Their line-up will feature both Paul Jones, the original Manfred Mann singer, and his 1966 replacement Mike d’Abo, both of whom enjoyed a string of hits with the band.
Alongside them will be founding members Mike Hugg and Tom McGuinness who have been performing as The Manfreds since 1991.
Even after all these years, Mike d’Abo still reflects that his joining Manfred Mann was something that really oughtn’t have happened: “I suppose it was destiny that it did! I wasn’t the singer in the band. When we all left Harrow in 1962, we turned professional and called ourselves A Band of Angels.
"We made five or six records with our lead singer Johnny Gaydon, and I used to sing the harmonies. But we had a song where the band said I should sing it rather than Jonny. We did it for a TV programme which happened to have Manfred Mann on the bill, and they walked in just as we were playing back our film recording of a few minutes before.
"They saw a very large profile of me, 95 per cent of the camera shots.
"I was trying to smile and sing!
"They knew, but I didn’t, that Paul Jones had given in his notice and was seeking a solo career. Unbeknownst to me, they were looking for a replacement. Manfred took me to one side and asked me for my number under the pretext that they liked the band and could get us some work.
"He rang me a couple of days later and said ‘Let’s go out to lunch.’ I couldn’t imagine what Manfred wanted to talk to me about. I was in a quandary, but I had a girlfriend who said to me ‘He wants you to join the band!’ which is what you call women’s intuition!
“So I went along and it was Manfred and also Mike Hugg and Tom McGuinness, and by the end of the lunch they said I was contender to replace Paul Jones. But I was sworn to secrecy. I had to wait six months while they put out Pretty Flamingo.”
And then Mike was confirmed as the replacement, all done fairly “unromantically” as he recalls. He was to be paid £50 a week and his job was to keep the hits coming.
“But I knew it was what I wanted. When my girlfriend said they were looking for a replacement, I was determined to make a good impression! I joined, and we went from strength to strength.”
But it was a different band musically, Mike is quick to point out: “When I joined the band, it had been a sort of r&b band, but the times were changing and they had more of a psychedelic sound that was coming in.
"Things like Ha Ha Said The Clown reflected some of that. But I was being asked to sing pop songs, and I was feeling a bit like a pop pixie. I didn’t really want to sing those songs, but we had a formula that worked, that turned these songs into something quite quaint and quirky and charming. There were lots of little tricks of the trade, and we became very popular.”
With Paul Jones’ departure, the band had lost its record label: “Manfred with me on board had to hike around the record labels and find somebody that was interested.
"And then in some ways we were more successful than before, but we were definitely a different animal. The original Manfred Mann had been a jazz group formed by Manfred and Mike Hugg and then it was more r&b when Paul joined, and then it was different again when I was in the band.”