An Interview With Paul Jones

Posted on: 16 October 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

We look back over the band Manfred Mann's career and find out what Paul Jones is up to now.

Between 1964 and 1979 Manfred Mann scored three British Number One hits, plus two more Number One hits in America plus another seven that went Top 5 and six more that made the Top 10.

Over this period Manfred Mann’s bands featured some of the finest singers on the British pop and rock scene: Paul Jones, Mike D’Abo, Mick Rogers and Chris Thompson, all of whom have gone on to enjoy successful and varied solo careers. Their distinctive voices have all added to the rich variety of Manfred Mann’s classic hits.

South African-born Manfred Mann arrived in Britain in 1961. He was already an accomplished jazz pianist and quickly established himself on the London club circuit with drummer Mike Hugg with whom he formed the Mann Hug Blues Band. In 1963 the band was re-christened Manfred Mann and with a line-up featuring Paul Jones on vocals and harmonica, Mike Vickers on guitar, flute and saxophone, Tom McGuiness on bass and Hug they set their sights on the British pop scene which was about to explode.

Manfred Mann’s first hit was the rowdy, frenetic 5-4-3-2-1 that they wrote for the theme song of the groundbreaking TV pop show Ready Steady Go! Boosted by its weekly exposure on the programme the single reached Number 5 early in 1964.

Manfred Mann had their first Number One in the summer of that year with Do Wah Diddy Diddy Diddy, written by the famous New York Brill Building song writing duo of Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry. They also found themselves in the vanguard of the British pop invasion of America alongside the Beatles and the Animals, and ahead of the Rolling Stones, as the song shhot to the top of the US charts.

The band then proceeeded to apply their sharp musical talents to other suitable pop songs such as Sha La La, an American hit for the Shirelles, the poignant Come Tomorrow and Oh No Not My Baby, written by another famous Brill Building duo, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, before turning their attention to Bob Dylann’s If You Gotta Go, Go Now that was a Number 2 hit in the UK and earned the approval of Dylan himself.

In April 1966 Manfred Mann notched up their second British Number One with the gorgeous, melodic Pretty Flamingo. Surprisingly it only scraped into the American Top 30 but it left a lasting impression on a teenage Bruce Springsteen who regularly played it live during the early part of his career. Manfred would return the favour.

Pretty Flamingo was the crowning glory for the first incarnation of Manfred Mann, not least for the personality-driven voice of Paul Jones who decided to bow out on a high note. He launched a solo career and starred in the movie Privilege, playing a rock star, before becoming one of Britain’s leading experts and commentators on the blues and R&B, with his own show on BBC Radio 2 each Thursday.

For a long time Jones was able to do the music he liked as part of Manfred Mann, with album tracks, b-sides and live on stage, but as the 1960s went on the band's repertoire started to move away from the style he wanted.

"In the early days of the band I was the person who mainly dictated what we did, almost exclusively because I was the person who sang it, and therefore if I didn’t want to sing it I didn’t do it, but as time went by I started to find that I was having less control over what we did. That was really the reason that I left. Basically it seemed to be going more in the direction of pop and less the kind of style that I liked."

According to Jones, much of his career came about by accident.

"A lot of the things that I’ve done have happened not because I’ve thought, oh I’d like to try that next, but rather because people just rung me up and said how would you like to do so-and-so. That’s really how the acting came about."

His departure put the group’s future in jeopardy but his replacement, the unknown public schoolboy Mike D’Abo immediately stamped his own character on the band and the hits flowed seamlessly on - Dylan’s Just Like A Woman, the quirky Semi-Detached Suburban Mr Jones and Ha! Ha! Said The Clown - before racking up their third UK Number One early in 1968 with Dylan’s Mighty Quinn, an anthemic masterpiece that astonishingly Dylan never released himself. There were more Top Ten hits with My Name Is Jack, Fox On The Run and Ragamuffin Man.

Because Jones was so busy with his own career, he didn't find it strange listening to his old band having hits with someone else.

"I didn’t really pay them much attention and they probably didn’t pay me much either, we were two separate entities."

Jones spent most of the 1970s making his living as an actor, and at the end of the decade started a band called the Blues Band.

"That’s still going 27 plus years later, and the Manfreds have been back together for something like 12 years now."

The ManfredsThe Manfreds are Paul Jones, Mike D’Abo and Tom McGuinness, who have banded together. They perform all the 1960s hits, as well as a lot of the music that they used to do on b-sides and album tracks.

"Of late we’ve brought in a lot of that sort of material because we just love playing that kind of stuff. When we started we were really jazz musicians and blues musicians and so music of that kind was our repertoire, and because we do love that stuff we’ve started to play it again."

Jones actually enjoys working with his "replacement" Mike D'Abo.

"Now that the band’s back together both singers are in it and we enjoy that, because Mike plays keyboards for me, and I play harmonica for him, and we both do backing vocals on each other’s songs. It works out great, it’s not at all difficult."

Jones enjoys being part of a band.

"Being a solo artist you tend to control what you do, but being in a band you have to submerge and submit some of the time, and that’s not a bad thing, I actually enjoy it."

The Manfreds have done a major tour most years in the last 10 years, and Jones describes being on stage as one of the best bits. Fans will be able to see the group this autumn.

"We go to Australia and European countries as well, but the main thing is working in Britain, where we do a tour of around 40 major cities. It’s not every autumn but it’s most years. This coming autumn we will be starting in the first week in October and finishing in the first week in December and we shall have Chris Farlowe guesting with us and Maggie Bell - who used to sing with Stone The Crows - so they will sing with us and then there will be a finale at the end where we all sing together, D’Abo, me, Tom McGuiness, Farlowe and Bell."

Jones is also busy touring with the Blues Band.

"The Blues Band is regularly on the road and we’re taking up most of the time between now and the beginning of October touring as we usually do, to civic theatres and occasionally at this time of year festivals, usually abroad, so we’ll be going to France, Germany, Scandanavia and places like that and doing big open air gigs - in the sunshine I hope!"

Jones has plenty lined up, with some other concerts, and more acting.

"I sing with Chris Parker from time to time and we’ve got a couple of gigs coming up in a month’s time, with the Chris Parker Band. Then I'll be playing a smallish part in a movie in about two months’ time, which I’m kind of looking forward to. It takes a bit of juggling!"

Fans can also now listen to all the hits of Manfred Mann, one of the most popular and successful bands of the sixties and seventies, with the album The World Of Mann - The Very Best Of Manfred Mann & Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, a double 36 track CD set, released by Universal Music TV.

The release of this unique album marks the first time that Manfred Mann’s illustrious, hit-laden career has been fully documented by a single release. The World Of Mann offers a unique insight into the stylish pop perfected by Manfred Mann and his group in the Sixties alongside the progressive rock pioneered in the Seventies by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.

As the sixties drew to a close Manfred and Mike Hugg decided to explore new musical directions and disbanded Manfred Mann. The other members soon found new careers in other bands - Tom McGuiness formed McGuinness Flint - or in production. Mike D’Abo was already an accomplished songwriter and the first CD of The World Of Mann ends with Mike’s own version of Handbags & Gladrags, a song that was best known by Rod Stewart in the seventies although Chris Farlowe had the original hit with it in 1967, and the Stereophonics brought it back into the Top 5 in 2001.

Manfred and Mike Hugg meanwhile embarked on a brief “anti-pop” career with the self-explanatory Chapter Three, a jazz-rock ensemble complete with a five-piece brass section. that was wilfully uncommercial but musically rewarding. After two albums Mike Hugg decided to pursue a career composing soundtracks which notably included Up The Junction.

A revived Manfred re-entered the commercial fray once more with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, a powerful progressive rock group formed in 1971 featuring singer/guitarist Mick Rogers, bassist Colin Pattenden and drummer Chris Slade.

They toured Europe and America extensively, building up their reputation via albums and gigs before breaking into the British Top Ten in 1973 with Joybringer, a song that was based on one of the tunes from composer Gustav Holst’s suite, The Planets.

Shortly before Mick Rogers left Manfred Mann’s Earth Band in 1976 they scored a minor hit with a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Spirit In The Night taken from his little known debut album. With new singer Chris Thompson on board Manfred took another song from Springsteen’s first album, Blinded By The Light, that rocketed to the top of the American charts in February 1977. Ironically Springsteen’s own single version had flopped dismally.

The World Of Mann brings together a cavalcade of memorable hits like 5-4-3-2-1, Do Wah Diddy Diddy, If You’ve Gotta Go Go Now, Pretty Flamingo, Semi-Detached Suburban Mr Jones, Mighty Quinn, Blinded By The Light, Davy’s On The Road Again and many more.

You can purchase The World Of Mann - The Very Best Of Manfred Mann & Manfred Mann’s Earth Band at all good record stores, or online at Amazon.

Interview by Cherry Butler


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