OK. Hands up. Who remembers Man? Those readers who misspent their youth rolling numbers and kicking back to Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers albums certainly should. For Man were more than merely the toast of Merthyr Tydfil. They were quite the finest free-wheeling, West Coast-styled jam band the UK ever produced.
Led by the duelling guitars of Mickey Jones and Deke Leonard – and with erstwhile Rockpile and Dire Straits drummer Terry Williams always there to provide a rhythmic reality check – this bunch of amiable stoners released 12 albums on three different labels (Pye, United Artists and MCA) in a seven year career which ended officially in 1977.
Constantly on the road in the US as well as Europe, Man were absolutely at their best live – and quite surpassed themselves on the UA album Maximum Darkness recorded at London’s Roundhouse in May 1975. This was the final date of a UK tour on which they had been joined by one of their heroes, the legendary John Cippolina of Quicksilver Messenger Service fame.
Maximum… included a 13 minute version of Many Are Called, But Few Get Up – a stage favourite which had made its debut on Man’s 1971 studio LP Do You Like It Here, Are You Settling In? and was still in the set when they recorded their MCA swansong All’s Well That Ends Well, again at the Roundhouse, in 1977. Needless to say it has also featured on all the subsequent live collections which were released by the various line-ups which kept the name of Man alive prior to Jones’ untimely death from a brain tumour in 2010.
Many Are Called… unashamedly copied the structure of Quicksilver’s epochal 1967 opus Who Do You Love? by breaking down three quarters of the way through into an anarchic percussive section which then built slowly into a frenetic crescendo before the band piled back in with a barnstorming reprise of the song’s signature guitar riff.
It is this part of the song which Sky + TV chose for an ad which ran in the immediate weeks before the Olympics. Sadly there is now no You Tube link available so you’ll have to take our word for it that the film focused on how early in the morning UK athletes must get up to train in order to qualify for major events. If you’ve read Deke Leonard’s hilarious autobiography Rhinos, Winos & Lunatics (Northdown Publishing), you’ll know that nobody in the Man band got out of bed for anything if it could possibly be avoided. Which may be why they never quite achieved the fame and fortune they deserved.
Man are one of three Welsh outfits which have recently reaped the rewards of songs in TV ads over the last few weeks. Next up are Blackwood boyos Manic Street Preachers, who have been recruited by Sainsbury’s to add extra resonance to the supermarket chain’s Paralympics-sponsoring, David Beckham-fronted Here’s To Extraordinary spot by providing a special remix of Design For Life. It seems like only yesterday but it was in April 1996 that Design…, the second of the Manics’ eight top 10 hits, peaked at number 2 in the charts.
And then there’s Feeder. It’s their 2004 track Pushing The Senses, from the number 2 album of the same name, which Vauxhall has been using as the soundbed to an eye-catching film collage made up from some of the more memorable moments of their car ads gone by.
Feeder’s own history began when Newport-born Grant Nicholas (guitar) and Jon Lee (drums) first hooked up with Japanese bass player Taka Hirose in 1994. The trio soon began to make a name for themselves both at home and abroad thanks to some visceral live shows and a sound which was likened to The Police for its simplicity, Nirvana for its grungier undertones and Smashing Pumpkins for its new prog leanings.
But it was the rather more Britrock-inspired Buck Rogers, lifted from their third album Echo Park, which was to prove Feeder’s most successful release, reaching number five in the UK in 2001. RC readers may well remember that a re-recording of this track by an unsigned South Coast band James Cleaver Quintet powered up a skateboard themed Lucozade spot in September of last year.
And finally this month we move from the valleys of South Wales to the canyons of Southern California in order to shine an overdue spotlight on The Seeds. These dudes made up one of hundreds of Los Angeles beat combos who, in the mid 1960s, tried manfully to ape British Invasion R&B acts like the Rolling Stones and Van Morrison’s Them. Formed in 1964, the hard working Seeds failed to click with record buyers until, with flower power literally poking up through the pavement, they found themselves at number 36 in the Billboard charts in February 1967 with Pushin’ Too Hard – a solid-sending number which had sunk without trace when originally released nearly two years earlier on the local GNP Crescendo label.
The Seeds were an exotic crew, to say the least. They were led by the flamboyant Sky Saxon who was apt to yelp and wail in the fashion of Captain Beefheart, only in a higher register. They also boasted a Red Indian guitar player – at least he said he was and frequently wore a headband and two feathers to prove it – named Jan Savage and an organist who, like Ray Manzarek, played all the bass lines and reportedly claimed he was Beethoven reincarnated despite being christened a rather more prosaic Daryl Hooper.
Consequently The Seeds came across as weird enough to satisfy America’s growing appetite for acid rock in early 1967. Then the Summer Of Love came along and the LSD era’s big names – The Dead, The Airplane, Love and The Doors – swiftly consigned them to the bargain bin of history. Which is where they would probably have remained had Rolling Stone journalist Lenny Kaye (later Patti Smith’s bass player) not included them alongside The Electric Prunes, The Standells and The Strangeloves in his seminal Nuggets compilation, issued on Elektra in 1972.
Subtitled Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era 1965 - 1968, Nuggets proved to be nothing short of a garage band Hall Of Fame which was soon to serve as a bible for the proto-punk scene setters of London 1976.
Sadly Sky Saxon died in 2009, but the chances are he would have enjoyed hearing Pushin’… in a CGI heavy, neo-psychedelic Nike + ad about a NY dude whose regular evening jog turns into a long strange trip indeed. And he’d probably be mightily pissed off to discover that Nike took the clip off You Tube within weeks of posting it up there. Grrr.
Courtesy of Record Collector