Today’s music video is California and the song is performed here by the English group, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.
This video was posted to You Tube by ClassiCHardRock1
Everyone comes to their own personal appreciation of music, and it usually starts as you become a teenager. For me, this was at the end of 1963 and early 1964. The only access we had to music here in Australia in those days, and at that young age, was on the radio. My tastes in music began to settle mainly on all that wonderful music coming out of the UK led in the most part by the music from The Beatles, and to a slightly lesser extent, The Shadows. However, there was so much new music coming out a bewildering rate, as new artists, both male and female, and bands, brought out new songs, and no sooner did you like half a dozen or more of them, than there were another half a dozen or more new ones to like the following week. While still at school, there was never enough money to actually go out and buy the albums, or even the smaller Singles, so there was only the radio.
Later on, when you started work, and had your own income, you might have enough to buy the records, but even then, you stayed with what you liked, and for the rest, it was still the radio. In my case, I joined the Royal Australian Air Force, and my first records were the music I knew best, and as the wage was barely average, there was not very many of them.
Records were one thing, but having enough money to go to any actual live music concerts was another thing altogether, usually well out of reach.
Because you stayed with what you knew best, you were always comfortable with that, and there were rarely any surprises, having already heard the music on the radio. Sometimes, there was a, (usually pleasant) surprise when you heard something different on one of those albums, but that was not all that often.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in my own personal music evolution came from one of those live performance concerts. Here in Australia, it was very rare for one of the major bands to tour, and even then, concert tickets were not all that cheap. So in mid 1972, I actually attended a concert from a touring English band, and that band was Manfred Mann.
I liked their music from when the band was big, both here in Australia, and in their home, the UK. That was in the mid 1960’s, from 1963 through until 1968, and then I lost track of them. The band was pretty big really, and had four Number One hits and another dozen or so which peaked well into the Top Ten. I liked nearly all of their music, and I had one of their albums, a Best Of compilation titled The Mighty Quinn, and that single of the same name, the song originally written by Bob Dylan, was far and away their biggest Smash Hit, and was one of my favourite songs, and still is.
That concert was in 1972, and even though I had lost track of the music from Manfred Mann since late in 1968, I got hold of tickets for the concert. It was rare for a touring International Group to appear outside of the major Capital City venues, so this concert in the city where I was living, Newcastle, North of Sydney, was a rarity. Three bands played, a local band as the third act and then a band called The La De Das, and finally, the main act, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. I would say that a large proportion of the crowd were there to see the La De Das, because, at that time, they were one of the hottest bands on the Australian music scene.
I was there only to see Manfred Mann. I guess I was sort of expecting the music I knew from the mid and late 60’s, and not long after they started playing, I knew I wasn’t going to hear any of that music at all, because this band, while still led by Manfred Mann, had evolved, far and away into a different form of music. That was the major surprise I was talking about earlier, as I was expecting their ‘old’ stuff, and this new music was just so good, and so much better. The concert went for probably more than two hours, and at a time when some acts played for little more than an hour, this was indeed a really pleasant surprise. What also surprised me was Manfred Mann himself. I was becoming used to bands with a strong guitar influence, so to see all those keyboards was a bit of a revelation. Manfred stood surrounded on three sides by an array of keyboards, stacked on top of each other. These keyboards were then played through a pretty large mixing table, which luckily for me, I was standing alongside at my place in the audience, right on the aisle, and next to that mixing table, and the guy operating that huge table was working as hard as the four band members on the stage. The effects that Manfred was getting through his keyboards expanded my appreciation of music.
After that concert, I visited my record shop guy, chasing some albums by this wonderful new band, but he actually hadn’t heard of the band, and that was a first for me, knowing something about music that he didn’t. He tried to source some of their albums, but they were still not available in Australia, other than as Imports, which came with an extra premium on the price of the album.
All of that changed, but it took a while, and that change came more than three years later, in 1975, when the band had a medium hit with their cover version of the Bruce Springsteen song Spirits In The Night, which the band released on an album titled Nightingales And Bombers, an album which did come to Australia, and their first one I got hold of. Hot on the back of that song, in fact almost at the same time, that song was closely followed by another Springsteen song, Blinded By The Light, which was an even bigger hit than the earlier song. This was released on their album The Roaring Silence, and the oddity about that album release here in Australia is that it also had an added track, the earlier song Spirits In The Night.
Along with that some of their earlier albums also came to Australia, and I got hold of one of them.
Their next album they released was Watch, released in 1978. The band’s lineup had changed slightly, as their founding guitarist Mick Rogers had left, replaced on those latter two albums by Dave Flett, and a specialist vocalist Chris Thompson also joined, and added his rhythm guitar work as well, so the band was now a five piece outfit. I bought the album primarily for the wonderful live extended version of his huge earlier hit The Mighty Quinn, but as was nearly always the case, there were other songs on the album I liked as much if not more, and this song I have featured today is just one of them.
Manfred Mann was the driver of the band, and while the whole act worked as a tight unit, Manfred was the arranger and the work he did was evident in the music the band made, and that is wholly evident in the song I have featured today, California, which is taken from that 1978 album Watch. You see Chris Thompson at the start with his vocals, and then there’s a beautiful guitar solo from Dave Flett, and then a solo break on the keyboards from Manfred, and the blending of the instruments is tribute to the arranging abilities of Manfred.
The song itself, California, while arranged so well for this album, was in fact an old song from the time when the original Manfred Mann had his original band. The song was written by Sue Vickers, the wife of the bands original guitarist Mike Vickers, who was with the original band from its formation in 1962 until late in 1965, so the song itself is almost 15 years old. It was originally written almost as a ballad, and while similar here in this Manfred Mann version, it has been reworked to include the extra guitar and keyboards work.
The Manfred Mann Earth Band still tours and produces albums, now having been around in one form or another for more than 50 years longevity that can be attributed to the driving force behind the band, Manfred Mann.