The Manfreds with Paul Jones are among the Sunday attractions at Chichester’s new Priory Park Festival (July 8, 9, 10) – a return for Paul to a city where he starred on the stage.
“I have played at the CFT,” he recalls. “It was 1977, and it was the Queen’s 25th anniversary, and they staged a historical pageant directed by Keith Michell called In Order of Appearance. There were all the kings and queens, and I was George III!”
It’s his musical talents, however, which bring Paul back now in a celebration of his work with the Manfreds, with whom he goes right back to the start through various names, including Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers.
“We were called The Blues Brothers when we auditioned for EMI, and they said they wanted to call us Manfred Mann from now on. We said ‘You can’t do that!’ They said ‘Yes, we can!’”
But then again, it was an era when anyone could do anything: “The 60s were exciting, definitely. I suppose I have a slightly-different view point now because of all the extra maturity, and believe me there has been a lot of that!
“But it was exciting, and partly it was exciting because we believed we were breaking the mould. And to a considerable extent, we were because the band was primarily influenced by jazz and blues, the music of black America.
“What we were doing was importing the music of black America into white Britain, and that was odd. But it was also important, and it worked.
“I am reluctant to blanket-condemn everything that had happened before, but there was a certain ‘bland acceptability-to-your-parents quality’ before that. If I mention any names, it will sound as if I am criticising them, and I don’t want to do that. But they were giving very filtered versions of the music – and jazz was never like that, blues was never like that…”
As for their own success, things started slightly slowly: “We had a couple of singles that didn’t really do anything, but there was a chap who worked at Rediffusion TV, and he got in touch saying he wanted to speak to Manfred about doing the theme tune for Ready Steady Go! It turned out he had liked the previous two singles even though they hadn’t done much. The first one was instrumental, and the second one was vocals and based on the music of Bo Didley.
“They said they wanted the harmonica. They wanted a piece of music that was a certain per cent instrumental, especially at the beginning before the vocal started, and the other thing was that it had to have a countdown. By the time they had told us that, they had pretty much written 5-4-3-2-1! Manfred and Mike Hugg and I went away and came up with it pretty quickly, and after that things moved on quickly.”
Not so long after that, Paul was launching into his solo career: “Only a couple of nights ago, a chap came up to me in the interval of a Manfreds gig and said he had always wanted to ask why I left the band. I told him I left for the same reason I joined: it was the next thing to do! I also say, though it is slightly less true, is that I was motivated by the desire to be called Paul for once. People kept calling me Manfred!”
The band were concerned inevitably, fearing it would be the end of them once Paul had gone: “But I told them ‘It is me who is taking the chance. You are the ones with the established brand!’”
Tickets for Priory Park Festival are on sale from www.chichesterlive.co.uk or in person from the Festival box office, Cloisters Shop, Cathedral Cloisters, Chichester, PO18 1PX (open Monday-Saturday 10am-5pm) or 01243 813595.
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