The Wokingham Paper

Put on your handbags and gladrags – Manfred Mann are coming to town

Manfred Mann
Manfred Mann

There’s a debt that Ricky Gervais owed Manfred Mann – just another good day at the office for Mike D’Abo. JAMES HASTINGS explains

MIKE D’ABO always looks forward to a gig in Berkshire – he knows he’ll get a good cup of coffee.

The former singer with Manfred Mann says a strong cup of the black stuff helps him on the drive home.

“By the time I leave a gig, it might be around 3am so I need a coffee by then,” he explains.

“There always seems to be a place open in Berkshire where the coffee is still fresh at that time in the morning. In other counties, I’ll drive for miles without finding a place open, but not Berkshire.”

When it comes to music, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to pigeon hole Mike D’Abo.

In 1966, he took over from Paul Jones as the frontman of  Manfred Mann.

He started in explosive fashion with the hit song, Semi-Detached Suburban Mr James. This was quickly followed by other songs including, Ha Ha Said the Clown, My Name is Jack and the Dylan-penned number one hit, Mighty Quinn.

“I heard Bob Dylan say in an interview that of all the people who recorded his music, he preferred Manfred Mann’s versions. That is quite a compliment,” smiles Mike.

Over the years, Mike has written a host of top songs such as Build Me Up, Buttercup and Handbags and Gladrags, which was covered by Rod Stewart, The Stereophonics and used as the theme song for the BBC comedy, The Office.

Mike also wrote music for the Peter Sellers film, There’s A Girl in My Soup, and played Herod on the first recording of Jesus Christ Superstar.

“I also auditioned for the role of Goldie Hawn’s boyfriend in that movie but the producer said he wanted me to focus on the music, so I did. Sad to say, I never got to kiss Goldie,” laughs Mike.

“I remember having lunch with Peter Sellers and the artist, Francis Bacon. It was quite an event as Peter was on a mix of medication and alcohol as he could get quite morose, while Francis was always a wild character, but it was a lunch I won’t forget.”

Mike will join Paul Jones and another 60s legend, Georgie Fame, on a UK wide tour with a performance at Reading’s Hexagon Theatre in November.

“Paul and I have been doing gigs since 1992 and its always great,” explains Mike.

“We do a mix of Manfred songs from his stint and mine with a special guest, this time the great Georgie Fame.

“The audience is usually a mix of fans from the 60s, as well as young people who have heard our music on radio or from their parents.”

Mike will include his much-admired song, Handbags and Gladrags which he wrote for Chris Farlowe. He is delighted it has been covered by so many artists including Englebert Humperdinck.

“I was happy it was chosen for The Office but no one at the BBC actually told me,” he said.

“I phone them and they asked ‘who are you’ and I said I was the guy who wrote the song. They said ‘no you’re not, Rod Stewart wrote it.’

“Ricky Gervais phoned me to say he chose it because it was the saddest song he has ever heard and felt it fitted in with the character, David Brent.

“I’m often asked how I came to write it and what is it about. I have to say the words and music were a bit of divine inspiration. They just seemed to flow.

“As for its meaning, well, I think really good songs, really good lyrics, are those that the listener’s imagination decides for themselves.

“I didn’t sing it myself because my voice back in the 60s wasn’t suitable for it but I always perform it now.”

He says he’s looking forward to returning to Reading.

“There’s always a good crowd there so it will be quite a gig.”

One thing’s for sure, whatever time it finishes, at least Mike knows he can get a good cup of coffee for the drive home.

The Manfred 2018 Tour, will be at The Hexagon on November 30. For more details or tickets, call 0118 960 6060 or log on to www.readingarts.com

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