Manfred Mann’s Earth Band

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band was an English symphonic/art-rock band that released a pair of albums on Philips in 1972, followed by nine studio albums on Bronze between 1973 and 1983, plus a further pair of titles on Virgin/10 Records in the late 1980s. They are best known for the 1973 UK hit “Joybringer” (from Solar Fire) and the international hits “Spirit In the Night” and “Blinded by the Light,” a Billboard No. 1 from their 1976 album The Roaring Silence.

Earth Band was formed as a follow-through to keyboardist Manfred Mann’s two prior outfits, Manfred Mann and Chapter Three. Earth Band albums typically feature a mix of originals with reworks of compositions by noted songwriters of the TriMax era, including Ian Thomas (“The Runner”), Mike Heron (“Don’t Kill It Carol”), Mike Rudd (“I’ll Be Gone”), and Harriet Schock (“Hollywood Town”).

Members: Manfred Mann (keyboards), Mick Rogers (guitar, vocals, 1971-75, 1983-present), Chris Slade (drums, 1971-78), Colin Pattenden (bass, 1971-78), Dave Flett (guitar, 1975-78), Chris Thompson (vocals, guitar, 1975-97), Pat King (bass, 1977-82), Steve Waller (guitar, vocals, 1979-83), John Lingwood (drums, 1979-86), Shona Laing (vocals, 1981-82), Matt Irving (bass, 1981-86)


Background

South African expat keyboardist Manfred Mann assembled the Earth Band in 1971. Nine years earlier, he formed the namesake R&B/beat group Manfred Mann, which issued five albums between 1964 and 1968 and scored international hits with “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” and “Mighty Quinn.” When that band folded, Mann and longtime partner/multi-instrumentalist Mike Hugg formed brass-rockers Chapter Three, which made the 1969–70 Vertigo albums Manfred Mann Chapter Three and Volume Two.

For its first six albums, the Earth Band was a four-piece comprised of Mann and guitarist/singer Mick Rogers, bassist Colin Pattenden, and drummer Chris Slade.

The Essex-born Rogers played in the Aussie beat groups The Playboys and Procession. His ties to the Australian music scene kept Mann attuned to the new rock from Down Under, including the bands Daddy Cool and Spectrum, both originators of songs adopted by the Earth Band.

Slade hailed from Tom Jones’ backing band The Squires. Pattenden served as a sessionist for Engelbert Humperdinck and Leapy Lee. Initially, Mann’s new group didn’t have a name and were billed by default as Manfred Mann.


1971: Stepping Sideways, First Singles

The new quartet gigged and made a test-press for a proposed first album, Stepping Sideways. It features nine tracks, including “Ned Kelly,” “Ashes to the Wind,” “Ain’t No Crime,” and “Holly Holy.” Two songs, the Randy Newman cover “Living Without You” (backed with the Mann original “Tribute”), appeared as a single in June 1971 on Philips under the band name Manfred Mann.

Due to their rapid development as a unit, they shelved Stepping Sideways because they deemed its contents unrepresentative of their maturing sound. One further track from the project, the Bob Dylan cover “Please Mrs. Henry,” appeared as a Manfred Mann single in September 1971, backed with the new Mann original “Prayer.”

Mann felt the band needed a new name to distinguish itself from the ’60s Manfred Mann; a name with the word “band” to clarify that this was a democratic unit and not his backing group. He chose Earth Band, inspired by the growing ecological movement of the early 1970s.


1972: Manfred Mann’s Earth Band

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band released their self-titled debut album in January 1972 on Polydor (North America) and Philips (everywhere else). It features both sides of the 1971 singles and two additional Sideways tracks: the Dr. John cover “Jump Sturdy” and the Martin–Meskell composition “California Coastline.” The album also features a cover of Serfs guitarist Lane Tietgen (“Captain Bobby Stout”) and three new originals: Mann’s co-written interlude with Rogers (“Sloth”) and two tracks co-written with outside friend David Sadler (“Part Time Man,” “I’m Up and I’m Leaving”).

The team behind “California Coastline” also composed “Big Brass Band,” used by Fuzzy Duck on a 1971 single. Martin also collaborated with Mike Post (“The Rockford Files”) on “Nobody There at All,” recorded by Spooky Tooth on their 1970 fourth album The Last Puff.

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band was recorded at IBC and Maximum Sound Studios. The band co-produced the material with engineer Dave Hadfield (of the production team Vic & Dave), who also worked on the Chapter Three albums and Hugg’s debut solo release Somewhere. Photographer Bob Foster captured the album’s cover image, which V-shrinks the band’s nameplate within the vanishing lines of a tunnel, where the group stand silhouetted at the exit point.

Living Without You” appears on the 1972 US Polydor comp Good Vibrations along with cuts by Joe Simon, John Mayall, Mandrill, Millie Jackson, Rory Gallagher, and Slade. “Mrs. Henry” appears on the Brazilian Philips comp Hot Road with tracks by Audience (“Indian Summer”), Drama, and Hotlegs.


Glorified Magnified

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band released their second album, Glorified Magnified, in September 1972 on Philips/Polydor. It has four songs by Mann (“Meat,” “I’m Gonna Have You All,” “Our Friend George,” “Glorified Magnified”) and a co-write with Rogers (“Wind”), who contributed “Down Home.” One track, “One Way Glass,” is a co-write between Mann and outsider Peter Thomas, a collaborator on tracks by the original Manfred Mann (“Dealer Dealer,” “You’re My Girl”). Slade contributed “Look Around,” which has a lengthy instrumental jam section in E♭m.

Glorified Magnified, also features covers of Dylan (“It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”) and the Edmonds–Thompson composition “Ashes to the Wind,” originally recorded for Sideways. Hadfield and Mann co-produced the album at Maximum Sound Studios with tape op John Edwards, who also worked on the concurrent Sire release Lo & Behold by Coulson, Dean, McGuinness, Flint, a folk combo featuring onetime Manfred Mann guitarist Tom McGuinness, who produced “Baby Blue.”

Glorified Magnified debuts the spherical Earth Band logo that would appear on each studio album though 1978. It shows an illustration of planet Earth, encircled with a black ring and the words “Manfred Mann’s” with “EARTH BAND” in tilted red across the center. UK Philips copies sport a white background; US Polydor copies sport black. The inner-gates have a b&w photo collage of vintage and contemporary pics of lineups and members of various Manfred Mann iterations.

The sleeve design is credited to Bloomsbury Group, also responsible for 1971/72 album visuals for Black Sabbath (Vol 4), Beggars Opera (Pathfinder), The Peddlers (Suite London), Uriah Heep (Salisbury), and the Vertigo release Crucifix In a Horseshoe by original Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones.

Philips lifted “Meat” as a single, backed with “Glorified Magnified.”


1973: Messin’

The third album by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Messin’, appeared in June 1973 on Vertigo. Side one contains three lengthy songs: Mann’s “Cloudy Eyes,” the Mann–Rogers “Buddah,” and the ten-minute Hugg-composed title track, originally planned for a third Chapter Three album. Mann’s “Sadjoy” graces side two along with their second Dr. John cover (“Mardi Gras Day”), their third Dylan cover (“Get Your Rocks Off”), and “Black and Blue,” a song about slavery by Australian blues-rocker Chain.

Mann produced Messin’ at Maximum Sound with Edwardes, who engineered the album apart from “Sadjoy,” which marks the engineering debut of Laurence Latham, who worked on the four subsequent Earth Band albums. Musical guests include Laurie Baker (credited with machines and zoo on “Messin”’) and backing vocalists Judith Powell, Liza Strike, Ruby James, and Vicki Brown.

Messin’ has a gatefold cover designed by Peter Hignett of William Stone & Associates. It shows a gas-masked space traveler on Mars, where spherical objects float nearby and planet Earth reflects on his mouthpiece. The inner-gates are black with white credit type and a silhouetted sphere (left) opposite a distant Earth and moon. The LP labels sport the Vertigo spaceship label. This would be their only album on Vertigo.

In the US, the album was retitled Get Your Rocks Off with a re-sequenced track order that includes a John Prine cover (“Pretty Good”) in lieu of “Black and Blue.” This version sports different cover art by designer–illustrator Jack Lonshein. It has an infrared image of a woman doing yoga, overlaid with a vertical flip of the same image. The back has a photo of dancing figurines by New Jersey sculpture Norman Rabinowitz.

Vertigo lifted “Get Your Rocks Off” as a single, backed with “Sadjoy.” The a-side appears on Polydor Sampler – August ’73, a US label promo with cuts by Buckingham Nicks, Lighthouse, Rare Bird, and Roy Ayers.


“Joybringer”

In August 1973, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band released the single “Joybringer,” an adaptation of “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity” from The Planets Suite, a 1917 orchestral suite by English modernist composer Gustav Holst. The Earth Band adaptation was inspired by “Make Your Stash,” a 1972 vocal adaption of “Jupiter” by Aussie rockers Daddy Cool.

Vertigo issued “Joybringer,” backed with the Glorified Magnified track “Meat” (retitled “Can’t Eat Meat”). It reached No. 9 on the UK Singles Chart. The Earth Band mimed the song on Top of the Pops. They wanted to do an album-length adaptation of The Planets Suite for their next album, but this was vetoed by Gustav’s estate. Undaunted, they assembled a mix of originals and rearranged covers inspired by the suite.

For the UK, Europe, and Oceania, the Earth Band signed with Bronze Records, a breakoff from Vertigo founded by Uriah Heep manager Gerry Bron with a select coterie of acts (Colosseum, Juicy Lucy, Paladin, Tony Hazzard).


Solar Fire

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band released their fourth album, Solar Fire, in November 1973 on Bronze (UK) and Polydor (US). Side one features their fourth Dylan cover, a ten-minute arrangement of “Father of Day, Father of Night.” The remaining tracks are Earth Band originals, including the Mann–Rogers “Saturn, Lord of the Ring / Mercury, the Winged Messenger,” and the Slade–Rogers title track. “In the Beginning, Darkness” is a three-way collaboration and “Pluto the Dog” is a full-group composition. Mann composed the closing two-part medley “Earth: The Circle” (Part Two before Part One).

Solar Fire is the first of eleven Earth Band studio albums recorded at London’s Workhouse Studios, which Mann acquired from producer Vic Keary (Hadfield’s partner in Vic & Dave). This and the next album were engineered by John Pantry (Bee Gees, The Deviants, Parchment, Small Faces) along with Latham.

Musical guests on Solar Fire include trumpeter Paul Rutherford (Centipede, Mike Westbrook Concert Band) and sisters Irene and Doreen Chanter (formerly Birds of a Feather), a ubiquitous vocal duo with 1973/74 credits behind David Essex, John Cale, Kiki Dee, and Rod Stewart.

Solar Fire sports galactic cover imagery by designer Fin Costello, who also did 1972/73 album visuals for Argent, Budgie, Deep Purple, Esperanto, Greenslade, Nazareth, Tempest, and Trapeze. This was the Earth Band’s final album issued on Polydor in the US, where the UK non-album Vertigo single “Joybringer” appears on side two of Solar Fire in lieu of “Earth: The Circle (Part One).”

Bronze edited “Father of Day, Father of Night” to 3:04 for release as a single (backed with “Solar Fire Two,” a portion of the five-minute album track). At 9:55, the album version of “Father” is one of the Earth Band’s longest songs. Ironically, Dylan’s original (on New Morning, 1970) is the folk singer’s shortest-recorded song at 1:32.

Island Records, which distributed Bronze in Europe, included “Father” on the 1974 label comps This Is Island (Netherlands) with cuts by Cat Stevens, Jess Roden, Kevin Ayers, Roxy Music, Sparks, and The Wailers; and Sonet Og Vi Unge Præsenterer (Denmark) with the same acts plus Robert Palmer.

(The Earth Band would revisit Holst themes on their 1987 album Masque, subtitled Planets and Things.)


1974: The Good Earth

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band released their fifth album, The Good Earth, in October 1974 on Warner Bros. (North America) and Bronze (everywhere else). Side one consists of three covers: two by Aussie rockers Spectrum — the Mike Rudd compositions “Launching Place” and “I’ll Be Gone” (a 1971 Australian No. 1) — and the titular opening number “Give Me the Good Earth” (8:31), written and first recorded by Gary Wright on his 1971 second solo album Footprint.

Side two of The Good Earth features all originals, including the Mann–Rogers “Sky High” and the single “Be Not Too Hard,” a Rogers composition with words lifted from a title-sake poem by Christopher Logue. The same poem was used earlier by Donovan in one of his songs, also titled “Be Not Too Hard,” used in the 1967 British drama film Poor Cow. The second half of Good Earth is bookended by “Earth Hymn.”

The Good Earth, is housed in single sleeve designed by Linda Glover of Design Machine. It shows a cutout square of lawn beside a ribbon that states “The owner of this album is entitled to rights over one square foot of the earth situated at Llanerchyrfa in the County of Brecon, Wales in Great Britain, subject to registration on or before 31st December, 1975.” The back contains a photo that points to the hillside location. Glover designed a similar cover (sans offer) for Seasons, the 1970 second album by folksters Magna Carta.


1975: Nightingales & Bombers

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band dropped their sixth album, Nightingales & Bombers, in August 1975 on Bronze/Warner. It opens with “Spirits in the Night,” their first of three Bruce Springsteen covers drawn from his 1973 debut Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

Bronze pressings contain four tracks per side, half instrumentals, including Mann’s “Countdown” and the group-written “Crossfade” and “As Above So Below,” the latter done live in one take at Workhouse. Three additional vocal number — the originals “Time Is Right,” “Fat Nelly,” and the Joan Armatrading cover “Visionary Mountains” — appear as odd-numbered tracks. “Nelly” is Mann’s second Earth Band-era co-write with Peter Thomas.

Rogers submitted the title track, named after a BBC recording from May 19, 1942, that intended to capture the sound nightingales but inadvertently caught the sound of Royal Air Force bombers en flight to a secret raid of Mannheim, Germany.

On side two of US copies, the Dylan cover “Quit Your Lowdown Ways” appears as an additional track, recorded at the behest of Warner Bros., who felt the album needed more vocal numbers. This was the Earth Band’s fifth Dylan cover.

Nightingales & Bombers sports a simple blue–black, trace-movement cover illustration of bombs dropping like comets.

Musical guests include Doreen Chanter, Ruby James, and onetime Pye soul-pop singer Martha Smith. The Earth Band are backed by a five-piece string section that includes cellists David Boswell-Brown and Graham Elliott (both on Jon Lord‘s Gemini Suite) and Nigel Warren-Green, also heard on Voyage of the Acolyte, the 1975 debut solo album by then-Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett. Violist David Millman returned on the next album.

The single edit of “Spirits in the Night” (singular “Spirit” on North American pressings), reached No. 97 on the Billboard Hot 100.


Lineup Change, Chris Thompson Joins

A rift developed between Mann and Rogers, whose interest in Zappa and jazz-rock went beyond the band’s limits. In late 1975, Rogers left the Earth Band, which hired singer–rhythm guitarist Chris Thompson and Scottish lead guitarist Dave Flett.

Thompson (b. 1948) hailed from Ashford, Kent, England, but was raised in New Zealand, where he played in a sequence of locals bands (The Paragons, Dynasty, Mandrake) before returning to England in 1973. (Despite his NZ connection, this Chris Thompson is not the same musician as the Waihi Beach folkster who released the 1973 album Chris Thompson on Saydisc-subsidiary The Village Thing.)

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band premiered its new lineup with a fall 1975 US tour.

Meanwhile, little was heard from Rogers until 1978 when he surfaced in Aviator, a supergroup with drummer Clive Bunker (Jethro Tull, Gordon Giltrap), bassist John G. Perry (Gringo, Caravan, Quantum Jump), and reedist Jack Lancaster (Pacific Drift, Blodwyn Pig). They released the 1979/80 albums Aviator and Turbulence on Harvest. In 1980, Rogers played on Lancaster’s solo album Skinningrove Bay and guested on that year’s Earth Band album, Chance. He rejoined the Earth Band in 1984.


1976: The Roaring Silence

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band released its seventh album, The Roaring Silence, in August 27, 1976, on Bronze/Warner. It opens with their second Springsteen cover, “Blinded by the Light,” followed by “Singing the Dolphin Through,” their first of three covers by ex-Incredible String Band co-head Mike Heron. Mann composed the instrumental “Waiter, There’s a Yawn in My Ear,” a live recording with overdubs based on a riff from “Fish,” a track from the unfinished third Chapter Three album.

Side two contains two co-writes with Thomas and Pattenden: “This Side of Paradise” and “The Road to Babylon,” based on the canon “By the Waters of Babylon” by English classical composer Philip Hayes. The final two tracks are Mann–Slade co-writes: “Starbird,” based on a theme from the 1910 Firebird ballet by Russian modernist composer Igor Stravinsky; and “Questions,” derived from Impromptu in G flat Major, an 1827 piece by Austrian Romantic composer Franz Schubert.

The Roaring Silence is a self-produced effort engineered by Latham with four assistants, including ongoing Workhouse staffer Edwin Cross, who worked on the next three Earth Band albums. The studio — used by Mike Hugg for his 1975 project Hug (Neon Dream) — started to attract outside clients, including soul-rockers The Equals and the free-jazz unit Amalgam (Another Time).

Derek Wadsworth, who last worked with Mann on the second Chapter Three album, handles brass arrangements. Saxophonist Barbara Thompson guests as a soloist on “Singing the Dolphin Through.” A 12-piece choir backs Chris Thompson on “The Road to Babylon.” The album features additional backing by Kiwi pop singer Suzanne Lynch and the Chanter Sisters, who also sing on 1976 albums by Bryan Ferry and Caravan (Blind Dog at St. Dunstans).

The Roaring Silence cover shows a high-relief, peach colored carving of an ear with a gaping mouth at the auditory meatus. The design firm, Shirtsleeve Studio, also did 1975–77 covers for Steeleye Span, Uriah Heep, and Jethro Tull (Songs from the Wood).

Upon the album’s release, the Earth Band played Reading Rock ’76, a three-day event at Little John’s Farm, Reading, with A Band Called “O”, Automatic Fine Tuning, Back Door, Brand X, The Enid, Gong, Mallard, Osibisa, Sassafras, and the Sutherland Brothers & Quiver. MMEB played on day two (8/28/76) along with Camel, Colosseum II, Eddie & the Hot Rods, Moon, Pat Travers, Phil Manzanera’s 801, Rory Gallagher, and Van Der Graaf Generator.

As a single, “Blinded by the Light” (b/w “Starbird No. 2”) reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Cash Box Top Singles charts. It also reached No. 1 in Canada and No. 6 on the UK Singles Chart. Its popularity prompted the Earth Band to re-record their prior Springsteen cover, “Spirits In the Night,” with Chris Thompson on vocals. This version was added to a second, blue-cover pressing of The Roaring Silence for audiences in the US, where the single reached No. 40 in 1977.


1977: Lineup Change, “California”

“Blinded by the Light” peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 on the week of February 19, 1977. The Earth Band’s winter–spring ’77 US tour included a three-night stand at the Roxy Theatre, Hollywood (2/24–26/77) and dates with Electric Light Orchestra (3/27/77: Civic Center Arena, Charleston), Journey (4/4/77: Winterland, San Francisco), Gary Wright and Robert Palmer (4/19/77: Riverfront Coliseum, Cincinnati), and John Miles (4/25/77: Tower Theater, Upper Darby, Penn.)

The Thompson-sung remake of “Spirit In the Night” reached its peak just inside the US Top 40 on the week of June 3. That month, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band played the Open Air Festival in Germany, a two-stop event with sets in Cologne (6/17/77) and Offenbach (6/19/77), both with Lake and headliners Genesis. (A fourth slated act, Gentle Giant, cancelled both appearances.)

After six years and seven albums, Colin Pattenden left the Earth Band in 1977. They hired bassist Pat King, once of brass-rockers Trifle and recently of the two-album rock act Shanghai. As a session musician, King backed Billy Ocean on the singer’s 1976/77 hits “Love Really Hurts Without You” and “Red Light Spells Danger.”

The new Earth Band lineup debuted with the November 1977 single “California,” written by Sue Vickers, the wife of one-time Manfred Mann guitarist–saxist Mike Vickers. The b-side, “Chicago,” is credited to the entire band plus Thomas. Sessions for their upcoming album took place that fall at Workhouse.

Also during 1977, the Workhouse clientele grew with Latham-engineered recordings by Ian Dury (New Boots and Panties!!), David Bedford (Instructions for Angels), Pacific Eardrum, and the UK soul trio Chain Reaction.


1978: Watch

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band released their eighth album, Watch, in February 1978 on Bronze/Warner. It features both sides of the recent single and the medley of “Drowning on Dry Land” (Slade) and “Fish Soup” (Mann–Flett), a spacey, symphonic epic with an intense, swelling middle. The remaining tracks are from outside writers, including the Earth Band’s second Lane Teitgen pic (“Martha’s Madman”) and the opening track “Circles,” composed by one Alan Mark.

Side two is bookended by two live in-studio covers with overdubs. “Davy’s On The Road Again” was first recorded in 1971 by American singer–songwriter John Simon, who co-wrote the song with Robbie Robertson. The Earth Band’s sixth Dylan cover, “Mighty Quinn,” is the song Manfred Mann made famous a decade beforehand with vocalist Mike d’Abo. Its presence here is self-referential. Both songs were lifted as singles.

Watch was self-produced with engineers Latham, Cross, and assistant Rick Walton, who co-produced New Boots and Panties!! The Chanter Sisters provide backing vocals, as do sessions singers Kim Goody, Victy Silva, and Rhodesian expat Stevie Lange, the wife of producer/engineer Robert “Mutt” Lange, a then-emerging force on the UK studio scene with credits behind The Boomtown Rats, City Boy, Deaf School, Graham Parker & the Rumour, and Supercharge. Silva’s prior backing credits include The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and Nazareth (“Please Don’t Judas Me”).

Watch has a cover painting by Swedish artist Michael Sanz, who later did covers for Hot Salsa, 220 Volt, and Europe. When flipped, the runway is revealed to be broken and airborne. King took the member pics that form the blue-tinted photo collage on the inner-sleeve.

“Davy’s on the Road Again” reached No. 6 on the UK Singles Chart. The b-side, titled “Bouillabaisse,” is an extraction of “Fish Soup” with the reprise of “Drowning on Dry Land.” The 7″ edit of “Mighty Quinn” is backed with “Tiny,” an extract of the group-composed instrumental mid-section on the full-length album version of “Quinn.”

“Davy’s on the Road Again” appears on the 1978 K-Tel release The Stud, the soundtrack to the disco–sex drama starring Joan Collins with tracks by 10cc, Heatwave, Leo Sayer, Linda Lewis, Odyssey, Real Thing, Rose Royce, Samantha Sang, Space, and Tina Charles.


Lineup Overhaul

Thompson befriended Stevie Lange during the sessions for Watch and selected her for Night, a new band he had in the works. Meanwhile, Thompson sang the track “Thunder Child” on Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of the War of the Worlds, a 1978 rock opera adaptation of the 1897 dystopian sci-fi novel by H. G. Wells.

Flett and Slade both left the Earth Band in 1978. In late 1979, after Gary Moore abruptly left Thin Lizzy, they hired Flett for the co-lead guitarist slot opposite Scott Gorham. He took the role from temporary stand-in Midge Ure, then between stints in the Rich Kids and Ultravox. They toured Japan, where Lizzy premiered numbers for their next album, Chinatown. However, they hired Snowy White as their second guitarist after returning to the UK. Flett later became an addictions counselor.

Slade played on 1979 Chrysalis titles by Frankie Miller (Falling in Love) and former Longdancer singer–guitarist Kai Olsson (Crazy Love). On the latter, he interacted with fellow Earth Band alumni Colin Pattenden. They teamed with singer Peter Cox (later of Go West) in Terra Nova, which issued a self-titled melodic rock album in 1980 on the Swiss BB Records label.

With Slade gone, only Manfred Mann himself remained from the original Earth Band quartet that made the first six albums. He enlisted guitarist–singer Steve Waller and drummer Geoff Britton.

Waller, a veteran of the legendary Sunday jam sessions at the Half Moon on Herne Hill, had a credit sheet that included Roger Ruskin Spear, J.A.L.N. Band, and multiple titles by Gonzalez. Britton played on the debut solo album by ex-Fleetwood Mac guitarist Danny Kirwan (Second Chapter) and did stints in East of Eden, Wings, and the supergroup Rough Diamond and its followup Champion.

Meanwhile, King backed pop-punk singer Charlie Fawn on the 1979 European Hansa release Charlie Fawn, produced by Tom McGuinness and his current partner Lou Stonebridge. Most of the same cast — including bassists Mo Foster (Affinity, Fancy) and Paul Karas (Rare Bird, Stackridge) — appears on the 1980 RCA release Corporate Madness by Stonebridge McGuinness.


1979: Angel Station

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band released their ninth album, Angel Station, in March 1979 on Bronze/Warner. It features their second Mike Heron cover (“Don’t Kill It Carol”) and seventh Dylan cover (“You Angel You”). The third track, “Hollywood Town,” originates from a namesake 1974 album by American singer–songwriter Harriet Schock. The Earth Band’s glacial, rhythmically-sparse arrangement of the song is duplicated on Mann’s side two original “You Are – I Am,” which features the same descending melodic sequence in the key of B.

A dark, desolate sound pervades Mann’s “‘Belle’ of the Earth,” which sequels into the choppy, swelling postlude “Platform End.” That and the side two opener, “Angels at My Gate,” are co-writes between Earth Band members and Fingerprintz frontman Jimme O’Neill, who plays rhythm guitar on both tracks.

The ballad “Waiting for the Rain” is sourced from New York songwriter Billy Falcon, who cut the original on his 1977 Manhattan Records release Burning Rose. Mann’s closing “Resurrection,” about the merchandising of religious events, features words from a slowed, sampled sermon with references to pastor Billy Graham.

Sessions for Angel Station took place between August 1978 and January 1979 at Workhouse, where Mann produced the album with ex-Slapp Happy musician Anthony Moore, who plays guitar, synthesizer, and sequencer on select passages. Walton engineered the album in succession with Workhouse recordings by Gang of Four (Entertainment!), Raphael Ravenscroft, and This Heat. This is the first Earth Band album since 1972 with no involvement from Latham, who instead worked on Moore’s concurrent solo album Flying Doesn’t Help.

“Waiting for the Rain” features violinist Graham Preskett, also heard on albums by Gerry Rafferty (City to City), Metro (Metro), Murray Head (Say It Ain’t So), and Roger Glover (Elements). Blues singer Jo Ann Kelly trails Thompson on “You Are – I Am” with echoey “you are… you are” vocals. Backing singer Dyane Birch (Kokomo) also appears.

Angel Station features cover photography by John Shaw with design work by Martin Poole (Amii Stewart, Sally Oldfield, Trickster, Violinski). It shows a butler standing at the edge of a stairwell as a detective ascends a next round of stairs that lead to a topless vampire lady, who stands upside down on the ceiling with open wings. The name and title appear upside right and upside down. The image was inspired by M.C. Escher’s 1953 lithograph Relativity. Shaw’s photography also appears on 1979–81 albums by Barclay James Harvest, Bruford (One of a Kind), Grand Prix, Jethro Tull (A), Ph.D (Ph.D), Sad Café, and UK.

“You Angel You” appears on the 1979 US Warner comp A La Carte, a two-LP sampler with cuts by The B-52’s, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Candi Staton, Climax Blues Band, Danny O’Keefe, Duncan Browne, Nytro, Roger Voudouris, and Runner. It also appears on the EMI International comp Knuckle Sandwich with tracks by Instant Funk, Motörhead, Sniff ‘N’ Tears, Sylvester, Third World, and X-Ray Spex. “Don’t Kill It Carol” appears on the German Ariola comp Super 20 Powerplay with tracks by Eruption, the Nick Straker Band, and Promises.


Lineup Change, Chris Thompson’s Night

On the back cover of Angel Station, a handwritten note by Mann reads: “This is Chris Thompson’s last album with the Earth Band as he is forming his own band in the near future. I wish to thank him for a valuable creative and personal relationship, and wish him every success in the future.”

Despite this announcement, Thompson returned in time to partake in the Earth Band’s next album, released nineteen months after Angel Station. In the interim, he cut two albums with Night, his band with Stevie Lange and English session guitarist Robbie McIntosh, Kiwi bassist Bill Kristian, and ubiquitous beat-era pianist Nicky Hopkins. They issued the 1979/80 albums Night and Long Distance on producer Richard Perry’s Planet label. The first spawned two Billboard Top 20 hits: the Walter Egan cover “Hot Summer Nights” (No. 18) and the Carole Bayer Sager-penned “If You Remember Me” (No. 17), the latter featured in the 1979 sports drama The Champ starring Jon Voight and Ricky Schroder.

Britton left the Earth Band soon after recordings wrapped on Angel Station due to health reasons. He was replaced by drummer John Lingwood, a late-period member of Steamhammer with recent credits on albums by Alan Sorrenti and Arthur Brown. Britton resurfaced in mod-rockers The Keys, which issued multiple singles and a 1981 album on A&M.

For their next album, the Earth Band teamed with musician–producer Trevor Rabin, the mastermind behind South African art-popsters Rabbitt and the recent parent of two solo albums on Chrysalis.


1980: Chance

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band greeted the new decade with their tenth album, Chance, released in October 1980 on Bronze/Warner. It opens with the timely “Lies (Through the 80’s),” the first of three songs submitted to the band by English songwriter Denny Newman. The album also includes their third Springsteen cover (“For You”) and Mike Heron’s “Stranded,” where Mann’s additions warranted a co-credit. This song, like “Don’t Kill It Carol,” originates from Heron’s 1977 album Diamond of Dreams.

Side two contains one of two 1980 covers of “Hello, I Am Your Heart,” originated by American songwriter Dennis Linde on his 1973 second self-titled album. The Earth Band give it a low-key, lurching electronic arrangement that contrasts the upbeat girl-group take by Bette Bright, released months earlier as a single and included on her 1981 album Rhythm Breaks the Ice. The closing track, “Heart On the Street,” was sourced from Tom Gray of American new wave rockers The Brains.

Mann composed three numbers (“Adolescent Dream,” “Fritz the Blank,” “No Guarantee”) and collaborated on the album’s second track, “On the Run,” with Tony Ashton (Ashton Gardner & Dyke, Paice Ashton Lord) and songwriter Florrie Palmer, who also wrote material for Noosha Fox and Sheena Easton, including the Scottish singer’s breakout hit “9 to 5 (Morning Train)” and two additional numbers on her 1981 debut album Take My Time.

Chance was co-produced by Mann and Rabin at Workhouse between late 1979 and mid-1980. Additional recordings took place at Casa das Flores, Albufeira, Portugal. Walton engineered Chance with assistance from Latham and Cross. The three also co-engineered the 1980 Workhouse production That’s What You Get Babe by Kevin Ayers.

Rabin plays supplemental guitar along with Rogers, McIntosh, and Geoff Whitehorn (If, Crawler). Barbara Thompson returns with saxophone on “On the Run.” Birch sings backing vocals, as does one Carol Stocker, who also appears on the second Aviator album. “Stranded” and “Heart On the Street” feature the respective vocal talents of Peter Marsh (Easy Street, Blanket of Secrecy) and Willy Finlayson (Writing On the Wall, Meal Ticket).

Danish designer–painter Ole Kortzau did the minimalist beach bench visual on Chance and the open window illustration on the picture sleeve of “Lies (Through the 80’s),” released as a single with “Adolescent Dream” (titled “You’re Not My” on select pressings). The other single, “For You,” appeared with the non-album band-original “A Fool I Am.”

“Lies (Through the 80’s)” appears on Radio Active, a 1980 comp on the UK Ronco label with tracks by Gary Numan (“I Die You Die”), Genesis (“Misunderstanding”), Gillan, The Korgis, Linx, Orchestral Manoeuvres In the Dark (“Enola Gay”), The Selecter, UB40, and XTC (“Generals and Majors”).

Mann, King, Lingwood, Preskett, and Whitehorn backed singer Jimmy Hibbert (ex-Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias) on his 1980 German Logo release Heavy Duty, engineered by Latham at Workhouse.


1981: “I (Who Have Nothing)”

In 1981, King resigned from performing to focus on photography. He would later serve as the Earth Band’s lighting director. They hired Scottish bassist Matt Irving, once of Longdancer and the Decca rock act Dream Police, which issued three 1970 singles and featured singer Stuart Hamish (Average White Band) and drummer Charlie Smith (Dransfield, Blue).

On November 13, 1981, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band released the non-album single “I (Who Have Nothing),” a high-tech take on a song that originated as the 1961 Italian hit “Uno dei Tanti” by singer Joe Sentieri. It was translated by Leiber & Stroller and first popularized in the Anglosphere in 1963 by Ben E. King. The Earth Band single is backed with the group-original “Man In Jam,” credited to Mann, Irving, Lingwood, and Waller. UK/Euro Bronze copies appear in a picture sleeve graced by a goggle-lighted phantom character who reappears on all releases tied to their next album.

Due to his outspoken stance against the Apartheid regime, Mann was barred from entering his native South Africa. Despite this, Earth Band members made clandestine trips to the nation to tape recordings of African musicians for their upcoming album. Studio sessions commenced in late 1981 with work completed over the following year at Mastersounds (Sweden), Workhouse, and Underhill Studios, London.


1982: Singles 

On March 12, 1982, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band issued the first fruits of their upcoming album, “Eyes of Nostradamus,” a percussive, high-tech take on the Al Stewart epic that first appeared on the singer’s 1973 album Past Present and Future. It’s backed with the band-credited “Holiday’s End.”

Their second single from the album-in-progress, “Redemption Song,” is a cover of the Bob Marley song that first appeared on The Wailers’ 1980 album Uprising. The Earth Band’s version appeared in July 1982, backed by “Wardream,” co-written by the band and Kiwi singer–songwriter Shona Laing, who served as an auxiliary member during this period.

Their awaited eleventh studio album, Somewhere in Afrika, first appeared on Bronze in October 1982 in select Continental territories (France, Germany, Scandinavia). It includes the two preceding a-sides plus the November single “Tribal Statistics,” an uptempo synthpop number penned by Andy Qunta, an English musician–songwriter between stints with Hazel O’Connor and Icehouse. The non-album b-side, “Where Do They Send Them,” is a Mann original.


1983: Somewhere in Afrika

Somewhere in Afrika finally appeared in the UK on February 18, 1983, on Bronze. Side one features “Tribal Statistics,” “Eyes of Nostradamus,” also the Mann original “Brothers and Sisters of Azania.” Also present are two additional covers: Anthony Moore (“Third World Service”) and The Police (“Demolition Man”). The former originates from Moore’s third post-Slapp Happy album, the 1981 Do It Records release World Service.

Sting composed “Demolition Man” and first submitted it to Grace Jones, whose version preceded The Police’s own, which appears on their 1981 fourth album Ghost In the Machine. The Waller-sung version appeared weeks ahead of the UK Afrika as a fourth a-side, backed with the non-album group original “It’s Still the Same.”

Side two contains Africa Suite (8:36), comprised of four parts: “Brothers and Sisters of Africa,” “To Bantustan?” “Koze Kobenini? (How Long Must We Wait?),” and “Lalela.” Mann composed the suite with help on the shorter movements from Irving (“Koze”) and Lingwood (“Lalela”). The remainder consists of their full-length version of “Redemption Song (No Kwazulu)” (7:35) and the titular postlude “Somewhere in Africa,” based on a traditional arranged by Mann and Lingwood.

Mann produced Somewhere in Afrika, which was co-engineered by Terry Medhurst (Fingerprintz, Roger Chapman, Swans Way) and Lars Finnström (Pandora, Prana). Laing provides backing vocals along with five African singers: Rufus Sefothuma, Zanty Lekau, Chief Dawethi, Fats Mothya, and Jabu Mbalu. The last three were part of the larger Eyethu, which backed Paul Young on his debut solo album No Parlez.

Rabin plays lead guitar on “Redemption Song.” By this time, he was assembling Cinema, a project with Chris Squire and Alan White that would ultimately morph into a reformed Yes.

Poole designed the Afrika cover art with model-maker Paul Baker. The back cover presents a map of South Africa with the Bantustan homeland territories recognized over the Afrikaner jurisdictions. Tom McGuinness submitted two verses, “The City” and “Bantustan,” shown to the left of the map.

“The City” concerns Joseph, an African servant to an Afrikaner family (the Malan’s). Months have passed since he’s last seen his wife and son, who reside 500 miles away in Kwazulu. “Bantustan” concerns the son, Nelson, who anticipates his father’s return while the mother, not wanting to upset the boy, knows that Joseph won’t return for many months to come.


“Runner”

In late 1983, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band recorded “Runner,” an anthem penned by Ian Thomas and originally found on the Canadian songwriter’s 1981 album The Runner. Its lyrics were inspired by handicapped Winnipeg athlete Terry Cross and his 1980 cross-country run on behalf of cancer research. Fox completed 143 days and 3,339 miles with a prosthetic right leg before his cancer metastasized and forced him to end his quest. He succumbed to the disease on June 28, 1981 at age 22.

The Earth Band’s version first appeared on the US version of Somewhere in Afrika, released in December 1983 on Arista. This version re-sequences the UK tracklist with “Runner” and another new recording, “Rebel,” added to side one. “Tribal Statistics” appears on side two, where the titular postlude is now the prelude. “Third World Service” and “Redemption Song” are trimmed to fit the newer material. “Lalela” appears separately from Africa Suite, which clocks at 9:54 with “Brothers and Sisters of Azania” as the final part.

“Runner” is one of three covers from The Runner by high-profile acts during the 1982–83 period. Chicago covered “Chains” on their 1982 comeback album 16. That same year, Santana covered “Hold On” on their thirteenth studio album Shangó.

“Rebel” first appeared on a 1979 Chrysalis single by its writer, UK rocker Reg Laws.

The Earth Band’s “Runner” first appeared as a single on US Arista in January 1984. This marked the return of original guitarist Mick Rogers, who took the place of Waller, whose final credit is on the non-album group-written b-side “Where Do They Send Them.”

Meanwhile, Chris Thompson made his solo debut with the German Ultraphone release Out of the Night, a titular reference to his former side band. The nine-song album features eight originals, including seven co-written by Night alumnus Robbie McIntosh.


1984: Budapest (Live)

In February 1984, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band released their first live album, Budapest, taken from an April 6–7 show at Budapest Sporthalle in Hungary. The 40:51 set features all three Springsteen covers plus “Davy’s on the Road Again,” “Mighty Quinn,” “Lies (Through The 80’s),” and two numbers from Somewhere in Afrika: “Demolition Man” and “Redemption Song (No Kwazulu).”

Budapest album presents a trimmed, re-sequenced version of the actual concert. Two further numbers, “Brothers and Sisters of Africa/Where Do They Send Them” and “Don’t Kill It Carol,” appear on cassette copies of the album. A 12-track DVD version was later released of the original telecast, which captures the cartoon visuals, robots, and explosive effects of the tour.

Bronze issued “Runner” as a standalone single in the UK in March 1984, backed with the Thompson–Lingwood number “No Transkei.” This was their last release on Bronze, which folded in the mid-1980s.

“Runner” reached No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 on the week of March 24, 1984. It was used in promos for the 1984 Summer Olympics, held in Los Angeles. MTV gave high rotation to the video, which shows the band performing on a sound stage near a campfire. The song also appears in the 1984 sci-fi adventure film The Philadelphia Experiment starring Michael Paré and Nancy Allen.

Also in 1984, Irving played on Anthony Moore’s fourth solo album of songs, The Only Choice, issued on Parlophone. He left the Earth Band to join the backing band of Paul Young, staring with the singer’s 1985 release The Secret of Association.

As the Earth Band prepared their next project, Thompson released his second solo album, Radio Voices, in 1985 on Ultraphone and the Dutch CNR label. It features backing by Queen guitarist Brian May.


1986: Criminal Tango

In March 1986, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band issued a new single, “Do Anything You Wanna Do,” a Fairlight-driven take on a song originated by Eddie & the Hot Rods on their 1977 album Life On the Line. The b-side, “Crossfire,” is an instrumental credited to Mann, Rogers, and Lingwood. This was their first release on Virgin-subsidiary 10 Records.

The Earth Band’s twelfth studio album, Criminal Tango, appeared in June 1986 on 10 Records (UK, Europe, Japan, NZ, ZA). It features both sides of the pre-released single and high-tech rearrangements of songs by The Beatles (“Bulldog”), Joni Mitchell (“Banquet”), and Robert Byrne (“You Got Me Right Through the Heart”). “Killer On the Loose” is their second songs submitted by Denny Newman.

Mann co-wrote “Rescue” with Rogers and took liberties with the Garland Jeffreys song “Mystery Kids,” retitled here as “Who Are the Mystery Kids?” with a Manfred co-credit. Criminal Tango opens with the Paul Weller composition “Going Underground,” a UK No. 1 hit for The Jam in early 1980. The Earth Band’s syncopated, synth-laden arrangement of the song was lifted as a second single, backed with the non-album group-original “I Shall Be Rescued.”

Criminal Tango was mostly recorded during 1985 at Workhouse. Mann co-produced the album with Steve Forward, who worked concurrently with The Mekons spinoff Three Johns and the Visage follow-through Strange Cruise. The album was engineered by Medhurst, Pete Hammond (The Belle Stars, Musical Youth, Latin Quarter), and Stuart Barry, who also worked on The Secret of Association. Bass duties are split between Durban Betancourt-Laverde (The Movies), and Steve Kinche (Hazel O’Connor), and sessionist John Giblin (Brand X, Wilding–Bonus, Simple Minds, Peter Gabriel).

The Criminal Tango cover displays a modernist painting of hipsters playing cards at a restaurant round table. It’s placed in black framework with lower-case white fonts, credited to the design house Leisure Process, also responsible for 1985/86 album visuals for The Damned, Intimate Strangers, Love and Money, The Mission, Nik Kershaw, and Wall of Voodoo.

The group is billed on this release as “Manfred Mann’s Earth Band with Chris Thompson.” Thompson, who released his third solo album in 1986 (High Cost of Living, Atlantic), left the Earth Band after this album. Despite singing the song, he doesn’t appear in the video of “Do Anything You Wanna Do,” which intermixes clips of vintage news reels, a female dancer decked in layered mesh (new wave street style), lip-syncing kids, and the band performing in masks on a sound stage. Mann plays a keytar and mimes Thompson’s vocals.


Discography:

  • Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (1972)
  • Glorified Magnified (1972)
  • Messin’ (1973)
  • Solar Fire (1973)
  • The Good Earth (1974)
  • Nightingales & Bombers (1975)
  • The Roaring Silence (1976)
  • Watch (1978)
  • Angel Station (1979)
  • Chance (1980)
  • Somewhere in Afrika (1983)
  • Criminal Tango (1986)
  • Masque (1987)

Sources:

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