Music interview: Mike d’Abo of The Manfreds

The Manfreds

The Manfreds

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Manfred Mann was one of the most successful British pop groups of the 1960s.

In that swinging decade, they scored 14 top ten hits, including three No 1 singles. One of their biggest hits was 5-4-3-2-1, which has gone down in history as providing the theme tune to Ready, Steady Go! Others include Pretty Flamingo and Do Wah Diddy Diddy.

Now, the re-named Manfreds are back out on the road on a mammoth 34 date UK tour, playing all their biggest hits, as well as a few old favourites. This tour is especially significant, as it includes both of the original lead singers, Paul Jones and Mike d’Abo, who also wrote hits for other groups, such as Build Me Up Buttercup for The Foundations and Handbags and Gladrags for Rod Stewart.

Speaking to d’Abo the day before the band’s gig in Darlington, he says that in the Sixties, they had no idea if their songs would stand the test of time or not. “What you don’t realise, necessarily, at the time is that some records you make, make a serious imprint on people’s mind, and they associate the record with a particular memory. When my oldest son was born in 1967, there was a record called Baby Now That I’ve Found You, by The Foundations, and I associate that record with the birth of Ben, who’s now 47. Records do have an association for people, so when they see all these hits put on the poster: Fox on the Run, 5-4-3-2-1, there is still a body of people out there who remember that. They will maybe bring their grandchildren.

“We haven’t made any new hits since the sixties, but there’s still a market for it. I think we’re a good band, and we’re playing it pretty authentically with a lot of vigour, and probably singing and playing better than we were in the Sixties.”

As well as a show at the Victoria Theatre in Halifax tomorrow night, The Manfreds are also visiting Ravenscliffe High School, Calderdale’s only secondary special school, during the day. In the past, the group have performed at the school to raise funds. “Our agent, Deborah Franks, her husband died about five years ago. He was absolutely devoted to the Variety Club of Great Britain, and when he died, we made a deal with Deborah, his wife, that we would keep that long-standing tradition of supporting the Variety Club of Great Britain, and I think we were able to, with our fundraising, help them get a coach two or three years ago, which has improved the life of Ravenscliffe, and we will be visiting in the morning,” explains d’Abo.

D’Abo himself has a strong link with Yorkshire, as his mother’s family originate from the county. In fact, his family are responsible for starting the two famous Yorkshire breweries, John Smith’s and Samuel Smith’s.

The Manfreds are still playing the same venues they were playing 50 years ago and still have a very loyal following, but now, with the seven piece band all entering their seventies, will they keep going for as long as they are able? “I know some people will bop ‘til they drop”, begins d’Abo. “I certainly think Paul Jones will, and I suspect Tom McGuinness will. It’s one of those things that you don’t really know if there’s a moment you want to hang up the gloves. I suspect that I will keep going and fall into that latter category – bop ’til you drop.”

The Manfreds play at Sheffield City Hall on December 3. For details visit http://www.themanfreds.com/index.php

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