Young jazz fans Manfred Mann (keyboards) and Mike Hugg (drums) first formed the Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers in 1962 and appeared on the same West London club circuit as Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated and the fledgling Rolling Stones. Subtle changes of name were to follow, but the pair stayed together for the best part of 10 years recording first for EMI’s HMV label – under the tutelage of producer John Burgess – and then for Philips’ Fontana and Vertigo imprints before a short final stint with Bronze in the early 70s.
During that time they chalked up 18 Top 20 hits including three Number Ones in the shape of Doo Wah Diddy (originally recorded by The Exciters in 1961), the sublime Pretty Flamingo (written in 1966 by US TV producer Mark Barkan) and Mighty Quinn, a song from Bob Dylan’s then unavailable Basement Tapes which was offered to them personally in 1968 by his manager Albert Grossman after they’d already scored with versions of If You Gotta Go, Go Now and Just Like A Woman. The Manfreds were also among the first to recognise the talents of one B. Springsteen as a composer, recording Blinded By The Light from his Greetings From Asbury Park debut in 1976.
But Manfred Mann were always more than just a successful pop band with a great taste in songs. They boasted a level of musicianship which set them apart from most of their peers. Graham Bond, Jack Bruce, Klaus Voorman, Mike Vickers and Tom McGuinness were among the top flight players who fought in the ranks. But it was in handsome and highly educated lead singers that Manfred Mann were truly blessed. They were first fronted by an Oxford University dropout Paul Jones, who could both belt out the blues and polish off pop with aplomb, had allegedly turned down an earlier offer from Keith Richards and Brian Jones to join the Stones, and was soon to rival Mick Jagger as one of the era’s top pinups. When Jones left for an (ill-fated) solo career in 1967 he was replaced by Mike D’Abo, a noted songwriter with Handbags And Gladrags to his credit. D’Abo was also a Varsity man – only from Cambridge this time – and perpetuated the clean cut and fresh-faced image which ultimately saw Manfred Mann being unfairly branded as a bubblegum band of little real importance. A critical reappraisal is well overdue.Image can never have been of much concern to Mohammed Rafi. He may have looked like a moustachioed Mumbai businessman, but as one of Bollywood’s premier voiceover artists – who sang well in excess of 10,000 celluloid songs during a 40 year film career which ended with his death in 1980 – Rafi never needed to be seen by his adoring Hindi-Urdu speaking public.
Heineken has picked up Jaan Pehecan Ho, a song Rafi recorded for a 1965 movie Gumnaan, to drive its madcap The Date commercial. Movie buffs may well remember this from the opening sequence (and the OST) of Ghost World, a 2001 release starring Steve Buscemi and Scarlett Johannson. Rafi’s wonderfully off-the-wall vocals apart, Jaan Pehecan Ho must be one of the biggest pieces of big beat banditry ever, complete with twisting baritone guitar lines Dick Dale fans would die for. The original Gumnaan footage – where the song is ‘performed’ by the ridiculously named Ted Lyons and His Cubs – is a wig out and a half too – and must surely have inspired the famous dancefloor sequence in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Astonishingly Jaan … doesn’t seem to be included on any of the Mohammed Rafi compilations currently available, which is something that Indian media moguls Saregama, current owners of his catalogue, should surely put right.
Going from the sublimely ridiculous to the ridiculously sublime, you won’t have to look far to find Eeh! Ah! Oh! Ooh!, one of a brace of nonsense songs recorded by The Goons – otherwise known as Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan and Harry Secombe – who revolutionised radio comedy in the 1950s and served as an inspiration for Monty Python, The Goodies and others. Originally released on Decca, Universal’s budget label Spectrum now has it and nearly a dozen others going cheap. Written by Milligan’s longterm musical collaborator Tony Carbone, Eeh! Ah! … may not have been quite in the same league as the 1956 Number Three hit The Ying Tong Song, but it certainly adds a dressing to pre-prepared salad specialist Florette’s crazily choreographed Bags Of Goodness commercial.
Which just leaves us enough space to wonder what they’re putting in the water down in the West Country nowadays. The last few weeks have seen music by three Devonshire acts making names for themselves on the TV. First up is Tavistock’s semi-acoustic indie rock heroes The Rumble Strips who add a dash of their 2007 Fallout label single Girls And Boys In Love to Baileys’ new hazelnut flavour Irish liqueur ad. A few miles down the road the town of Totnes is home not only to chillout wonkypopsters Metronomy – whose Because label- released The Look can be heard under Stephen Merchant’s voiceover on Barclays Bank’s new Ping It clip – but also to folkie Ben Howard. His recent gold status album Every Kingdom on Island has led to comparisons with late legends Nick Drake and John Martyn. Howard has one track Diamonds in Film 4’s Films For Life ad and another cut Wolves in a New Balance sports shoe spot.
Courtesy of Record Collector