Man

TrackAlbum
Ain'’t Their FightBack Into The Future
Brother Arnold’'s
Red and White Striped Tent
2ozs Of Plastic
With A Hole In The Middle
C’'monBe Good To Yourself
At Least Once A Day
Daughter Of The FireplaceLive At The Padget Rooms, Penarth
Hard Way To DieSlow Motion
Life On The RoadBe Good To Yourself
At Least Once A Day
Many Are Called But Few Get UpMaximum Darkness
RomainMan
Scotch CornerRhinos, Winos and Lunatics
Sudden LifeRevelation

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Contributor: Rob Millis

When satirists Flanders and Swann said of the Welsh, in their Song of Patriotic Prejudice “… they sing far too loud, far too often, and fla-a-at!” they clearly hadn’t seen then-current Merthyr band, The Bystanders. Formed 1962, they notched up a handful of near-misses (including When Jesamine Goes, rather more successfully cut by The Casuals) but their impressive live harmonies led to London residencies, tackling the ambitious songs of the Beach Boys/Four Seasons vs. the usual R&B fare. But the chicken-in-a-basket circuit grew creatively frustrating and the departure of singer Vic Oakley in 1968 was the catalyst towards the album-led rock direction they sought. And they took a new name: Man.

With this new direction, they opted not for another old-school singer, instead hiring one Roger “Deke” Leonard of Llanelli; a guitarist pal from the Welsh beat circuit. Signed to Pye (under producer John Schroeder, famed for his work with Status Quo) Man cut Revelation, a concept affair with sound effects and audio collages knitted into the basic tracks: very 1969, yet the individual performances still hold. Sudden Life, a riffy shuffle with the old Bystanders harmonies peppered acapella for effect was pulled as a single.

Late 1969 saw a second LP in the can and Pye on the phone demanding a name for it. One of the band said, “… oh, for Christ’s sake, it’s only 2ozs of Plastic With A Hole In The Middle” and the endearing phrase stuck. Released on Dawn, the “progressive” wing of Pye, the psychedelic cover showed the band in lurid face paint. 2ozs bore the first influences of ‘Frisco acid rock, particularly Steve Miller and the Quicksilver Messenger Service; also of Frank Zappa on the improvisational guitar of Micky Jones. 2ozs began with Prelude/The Storm, an epic of the sea: wailing gulls, foghorns and faux orchestral sounds, all courtesy of Leonard’s Telecaster. Jones provided the rolling, watery chords and sang the central theme. Spunk Box became a concert signature tune; named by accident after a play on “punk rock” was vetoed, but Pye censored the wrong end! Closer Brother Arnold’s Red and White Striped Tent showcased fine guitar and organ.

Leonard briefly left but was back for the third LP by a very different Man. He’d been replaced by his friend Martin Ace, another Welsh beat-era veteran. With Leonard back, Ace stayed and Man became a sextet. Yet Ray Williams (bass) and Jeff Jones (drums) proved unhappy with the loose, jamming direction and were sacked; Ace switched to bass and his/Leonard’s cohort Terry Williams joined on drums. A change of label, too: Man left Pye and signed to Liberty/UA for their eponymous third LP.

Man was finished late in 1970 and released early 1971. Two lengthy pieces (Alchemist and Would The Christians Wait Five Minutes? The Lions Are Having a Draw) dominate, but three shorter songs are rewarding. Romain tells of a heavy-handed Belgian policeman in a scene where Ace intervened and was arrested; Daughter Of The Fireplace is a no-nonsense rocker from Leonard. Ace’s Country Girl, as the title suggests, was rich in harmonies and twangy guitars, akin to label pals Brinsley Schwarz, who had an identically titled cut on their latest LP too!

1971 saw greater home turf success after Melody Maker’s (late) Roy Hollingworth’s frequent praise. Fourth LP Do You Like It Here Now, Are You Settling In? (typical Welsh sarcasm to somebody who has been rooted in a place for decades) showed focus. Angel Easy, the opener, has an almost Band-like solidity in the opening verses, before opening out; Many Are Called But Few Get Up condensed their improvised performances into a pocket-size epic and remains a trademark cut. Love Your Life closed the album with a bang. One review hit the nail on the head: “Man: Off the acid and better for it”.

1972 was about change. Early on, a weary Clive John left (Man stayed a quartet for two milestones: the UA various artists concert Greasy Truckers Party alongside Hawkwind/Brinsley Schwarz and a live LP Live at The Padget Rooms, Penarth) but was back by summer, amid more wholesale change. Ace left to form a band with his wife; Williams and Jones joined a new band “Iorwerth Pritchard and the Neutrons” formed by Clive with ex-Eyes of Blue/Piblokto! organist Phil Ryan and bassist Will Youatt, which sensibly opted to be a new Man rather than start from scratch. Leonard was effectively in the cold (he signed to UA solo).

The new Man was lighter and organic; the original plan was twin keyboards (John on organ/Ryan on electric piano and synth). In the end, John reprised his old Bystanders role on guitar, leaving Ryan in charge of an arsenal of keys. Youatt proved able to write and step up as another lead vocalist and the rejigged band hit Germany by early summer.

With Dave Edmunds in the Rockfield production chair, Man cut Be Good To Yourself At Least Once A Day: four medium-length tracks, regarded by many as their finest and with an infectious, lazy feel. Opener C’mon featured Edmunds on pedal steel and stunning keyboards from Ryan; Keep On Crinting was an instrumental based on a chiming, resonant guitar from John. Side Two featured the infamous dope song Bananas and closed with the laid back shuffle Life On The Road. Two blurred live photos comprised the album covers, but inside a lovely auto-folding cartoon map of Wales was annotated with tales of the band’s fortunes, as well as birth towns of notables, current/former band members and suchlike. CD cases just ain’t the same …

Christmas in Swansea was a right old knees-up in 1972. Man, the offshoots/alumni, reformed Welsh beat groups and guitar ace guests Dave Edmunds and the late Micky Gee all took the stage at the Patti Pavilion for an extravaganza immortalized on the charmingly presented Christmas At The Patti album: two 10″ LPs in a gatefold sleeve. CD cases just ain’t … oh; I’ve done that one.

Clive John left again in 1973 as Man began Back Into The Future, their next (double) LP. Opening with the frenzied 15/8 song A Night In Dad’s Bag, they took the sound of Be Good… further dynamically; it was far less languid. Ain’t Their Fight introduced John’s eventual replacement, Alan “Tweke” Lewis, late of Wild Turkey. Sides 3-4 of Back Into The Future were live, helped by none other than the Gwalia Male Voice Choir (reprising Kennington Oval in 1972, where Man and the choir had opened for Frank Zappa). Success was thwarted by the 1973 oil crisis; records weren’t pressed in sufficient quantities to sustain chart placement (it reached 23 in the UK album chart; Man’s highest). I blame Ted Heath.

Friction arose: Ryan preferring challenging arrangements while Jones opined that Man was about the interplay of the band improvising and the founder member got his way – after a night on the piss with Deke Leonard! Christmas 1973 saw a meeting of the band; Ryan and Youatt left, forming The Neutrons (signed to UA for two albums). Tweke Lewis was sidelined and Man closed 1973 with the earlier nucleus of Micky Jones, Deke Leonard and Terry Williams in place.

Martin Ace had joined Leonard’s group Iceberg after the pair split from Man in 1972, but set on getting his own thing going once and for all, was replaced by Ken Whaley. Whaley had been in the criminally underrated Help Yourself – a North London band with a West Coast sound, who’d cut four albums on UA (Whaley present on the first and last). He’d become friends with Man during “All Good Clean Fun”, a UA records Swiss tour in 1972, were among the cast of Christmas At The Patti (augmented by Leonard and pedal steel great B.J. Cole, then of Cochise) and had been fronted by main writer/singer Malcolm Morley who, like Clive John, could turn his hand guitar or keyboards. Man now sought Whaley as bassist and also invited Morley to join. Both accepted.

Leonard by 1974 wasn’t the same guy that Man cut loose in 1972; with two solo LPs (Iceberg, Kamikaze), experience as bandleader and the sole songwriter in his project, his stock was high. Where the Deke-less Man had taken a subtler, organic sound, the Man-less Deke had (not unlike Nick Lowe and Mickey Jupp) seen value in reinstating some old-school rock and roll into his style. The 1974 Man was to be a leaner affair, starting with their first album together, Rhinos, Winos and Lunatics.

Eager to crack America, they took producer Roy Thomas Baker (I’ll say Queen and leave it there!). There were ructions – Micky Jones in particular didn’t care for him – but ultimately he delivered an accessible Man album (although an album chart position of 24 didn’t beat Back Into The Future), yet still with plenty for the old fans. Scotch Corner and Four Day Louise had the best of both worlds; Malcolm Morley contributed The Thunder & Lightning Kid with an irresistible Levon Helm-type swagger. Man were set to tour the USA supporting Hawkwind; all seemed good.

Post-tour, though, Morley left – no surprise, as he was prone to depression. He had gone by the start of recording for Slow Motion and the band were a quartet once more, Leonard forsaking his guitar and manning keyboards on an ad hoc basis.

Slow Motion divides opinion. Accessible like its predecessor, it had some highlights: Hard Way To Die opened the LP and remains strong; Day And Night featured some fine, almost Beefheartian slide/regular guitar interplay. You Don’t Like Us, on the other hand, is often criticized for the awful bee-in-a-jam-jar guitar sounds despite a great, raw vocal from Jones. Visually the album suffered from day one: the original cover was nixed by Mad magazine, featuring as it did the Mad logo altered to read Man, and their Alfred E. Neumann holding a fish, with droplets of water representing the title. The released version had but a corner of the original artwork; criminal waste as this was by the late, great Rick Griffin, the seminal Haight-Ashbury artist. Surprisingly the continuation of accessible material did not translate into larger sales, failing to make top 40 in the UK.

Man toured the USA again but (like his erstwhile Help Yourself colleague) Whaley felt the pressure and bailed out mid-tour. An emergency call saw Ace rejoin for the rest of 1975. Man played Winterland and in San Francisco met guitar hero John Cipollina, who encored with the band the next night. Elated, the band invited Cipollina to guest on their next UK tour, to which he agreed.

Reception to this was mixed, as much within the band as by punters! All have confessed that parts of the live document, Maximum Darkness, were in need of a tidy up later on. That Cipollina played lap steel with a knife stolen from a transport café didn’t help; this tale is treasured in Man folklore. Perhaps the strongest cuts were airings of the two Quicksilver tunes from the soundtrack LP for the hippie flick Revolution: Buffy Saint-Marie’s Cod’ine and the harmony-led Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.

Ace called time and thus Man sought a new bassist and decided to reinstate keyboards. Surprisingly, given the acrimony of 1973, Phil Ryan rejoined. Founder Ray Williams is said to have considered the bass slot but the choice in the end was John McKenzie of Global Village Trucking Company. His slick, funkier bass work (allied to Ryan’s keyboards and the savvy pen of Leonard) was set to build a Man to ride the times; after acts such as Little Feat proved that you could be both artistically and commercially viable. As in 1970, this fresh start was to be aired on a fresh label; they signed to MCA.

The Welsh Connection was the fruit, and sure enough it was a sharper Man. Leonard’s The Ride & The View (a concert staple thereafter prefaced with a slide guitar dual) opened the LP; perhaps Ryan’s Something Is Happening best caught the slow-burning funkier vibe they were after, though the best compromise for fans old and new was closer, Born With A Future, with the grit of Leonard in the verses and some hooky choruses from Jones and a typically inventive guitar break. It need not be said that as ever, Terry Williams shone.

Despite a third tour of the USA, this line-up was not to last. Explosive personalities, the pressure to deliver good sales and move with the times, a doleful track record of keeping any line-up intact anyway and not least a general mood that they’d ‘nearly cracked it’ once too often led first to a dissolution of the line-up – as before, Phil Ryan decided to leave, taking the bassist with him! – then a decision from the others to call it a day. Their commitment to MCA was fulfilled with All’s Well That Ends Well, a live album from their final tour, which also provided an HTV feature-length television show. Will Youatt’s post-Neutrons band Alkatraz supported, and guest Dave Edmunds made the final Roundhouse dates a fitting send off.

Leonard as the principle writer of Man unsurprisingly retained a record deal after split. He cut Before Your Very Eyes in 1979 and after a project with Sean Tyla, reconstituted Iceberg. It was an Iceberg agent who asked if there was any chance of Man getting back together …

So, in April 1983, Man played The Marquee: Leonard, Jones and Ace with former Eyes of Blue/Gentle Giant drummer John “Pugwash” Weathers. The album, Friday 13th, was released; for your author the highlights are to be found on the video of the gig called Bananas: the opening pair of Ace’s great new song Even Visionaries Go Blind and Buzzy Linhardt’s Talk About A Morning; a staple of Jones’ late 70s interim bands and a great vehicle for his voice and slide guitar.

And there we will largely leave it in detail as with reborn Man a going concern since 1983 we aren’t even half way! Suffice to say that Man went on and still do, with five new studio albums between 1992 and the present, plus sundry live CDs and DVDs. Martin Ace and Phil Ryan lead the current Man.

Terry Williams’ absence in most of post-1983 Man is inevitable: he’d joined Nick Lowe/Dave Edmunds in Rockpile after Man split in 1976, but since then names as diverse as Dire Straits, Meatloaf and B.B. King have all been eager clients of this fine skinsman, whose occasional returns to Man when available remain cherished moments by those who were lucky enough to be there.

Deke Leonard left Man in 2004 but occasionally reforms an Iceberg and has authored three books. Ready wit, a flair for just the right tale for the occasion and his knowledge of the minutiae of rock and roll, have given us the only cross-breed of Jerome K. Jerome and Pete Frame that the world has seen.

Bassists Ray Williams and Ken Whaley both sadly left us; the latter as recently as this year. Both took their rightful places on stage during the 1993 25th Anniversary “Welsh Convention” event.

Clive John cut a great solo LP (You Always Know Where You Stand With A Buzzard; most of Man/Iceberg plus Andy Fairweather-Low comprise the cast) in 1975, but in recent years was content to gig around Swansea and run a successful building firm. Clive passed away in 2011. Founder, mover/shaker of the shift away from pop, and loved by all, he will be remembered for his roaring vocals and seemingly endless hair flailing away behind his Hammond.

Micky Jones sadly died in 2010 after developing a brain tumour and complications following the surgery. He first took a sabbatical to recuperate but eventually retired for good and, unable to halt declining health, spent his last years in residential care. ‘Unique’ is a word too readily bestowed on merely competent musicians. Micky Jones was unique. A friend said to me “You’d need Jerry Garcia, Frank Zappa AND Jeff Beck to replace Micky. Two are dead and the other costs an arm and a leg.”

The Manband Archive

You’ll find Rob’s toppermost on the criminally underrated Help Yourself here. Deke Leonard’s Iceberg anyone, a top 10 Deke solo, any more for any more?

IN MEMORIAM
Ray Williams (1943-1993)
Micky Jones (1946-2010)
Clive John (1945-2011)
Ken Whaley (1946–2013)
Phil Ryan (1946–2016)
Deke Leonard (1944–2017)

TopperPost #57

9 Comments

  1. Peter Viney
    Aug 31, 2013

    It would be fairly easy to do a Bystanders list as they only made a few singles, all very collectable.

    I was relieved to see that Rob has excluded Erotica from The Revelation album. John Schroeder was head of A&R at Pye / Picadilly / Dawn and had great faith in The Bystanders and says in his autobiography he can’t believe only one of their singles, 98.6, was a hit and then only a minor #45. He has a lot to say about recording Erotica, which was banned for simulating sex, following Je t’aime’s similar venture. Apparently the BBC ban for SIMULATED sex was totally unfair, as Schroeder was adamant that they should record the real thing. As the group were unable to produce a fellow performer, Schroeder brought in a lady he knew, and they screened off two chairs and a table in the corner of the studio and put her behind the screens with Micky Jones while they ran the backing track a few times, telling Micky he must not make a single sound as they were only recording her vocalizations. He says he was amazed that Micky managed to stay silent, though “his face was flushed and his eyes unusually bright” when he emerged. Schroeder’s book is called “Sex and Violins.”

    • Rob Millis
      Aug 31, 2013

      Peter, the Erotica episode is a well known bit of info in Man circles, but like the Brinsleys’ Fillmore launch, there’s so much more to them than that so I avoided it. So Schroeder told the tale, then? Deke Leonard always refrained from going into too much detail on that one; indeed, he maintained that nobody but Jones and the girl knew exactly what methods he employed to coax that legendary vocal take from the young lady.

  2. Rob Millis
    Aug 31, 2013

    Oh yes, and Peter is correct about the Bystanders. There have been best of CDs – these might as well have been called “Everything of”!

    That said, there have been some great BBC sessions of the group, one in particular had a cover of I Am The Walrus and another had Crosby/McGuinn’s Renaissance Fair

  3. Peter Viney
    Aug 31, 2013

    Schroeder takes two pages to tell the tale. He also complains that while they could all hear, they couldn’t watch. Schroeder is something of a sleaze, though a great producer.

    Man had a bit of bad luck with labels. This carries over from other pages (Fairport), but I’m interested in the effect of budget sampler compilations on selling prog in the UK, and tracks on these compilations are what I call “virtual singles”. Pye (and their prog Dawn label) were incompetent at following Island, CBS group and EMI with these samplers, and Man didn’t even make the “Dawn Take-Away Concert” 99p sampler, which must have been very poorly distributed because it’s now rare and expensive.

    They did make United Artists “All Good Clean Fun” sampler the next year with Daughter of The Fireplace which was their 1971 single on the Liberty label (UA owned Liberty) and on the “Man” album. I know it was a live favourite and I see a later live version made the list. I always thought it somewhat generic. I saw Man in 1970, and I’m sorry to say they made zero impact on my memory live, though Mott The Hoople, very close in time are mentioned as “fantastic” in my diary … long before their Glam bit.

  4. Rob Millis
    Sep 2, 2013

    Pye was not the label for a rock band in 1968/9, no. It was different for The Kinks and Status Quo who were successful chart acts but in reality only Mungo Jerry spring to mind as a success from the Dawn label. It was mainly Trader Horne, Comus, Titus Groan etc.

    At least Liberty/UA had Canned Heat, Johnny Winter etc so I can see why Man went with them. Man, Brinsley Schwarz, Cochise were also all pop bands that changed direction; there must have been a definite decision at UA to rehabilitate competent pop acts looking to become album bands.

    I think also that Man didn’t establish themselves on the domestic front quickly enough. They were pedalling a late 60s style acid rock about eighteen months too late by the time they settled down on UA and with Terry Williams on board.

  5. Peter Viney
    Sep 2, 2013

    Pye just didn’t have interest in album bands … Mungo Jerry on Dawn were getting the hit singles.

    John Schroeder, Man’s producer quoted again:

    Louis Benjamin, the Managing Director, ran a very tight ship. The first time you met him you knew he WAS Pye Records. His almost obsessive policy, probably due to pressure from those above, namely ATV and Sir Lew Grade was ‘Money Money Money.’ That meant making lots of it as quickly as possible. Cash register and quick turnover – that was the name of the game and all that mattered, (John Schroeder, Head of A&R of Pye’s Piccadilly and Dawn labels).

    Add Francis Rosssi:
    Pye were an old-fashioned mainstream record company that liked working with acts that made hit singles. (Francis Rossi, Status Quo)

    • Rob Millis
      Sep 3, 2013

      Ah, but Pye did have Vic Maile and the mobile unit, without whom…

      I’m glad to hear that it was the 1970 Mott that delighted you so much, Peter! When you think back to that lovely Dylanesque debut, and a fair bit of Mad Shadows and Wildlife, the lure of coin and the opinions of Thin White Duke have a lot to be ashamed of, artistically.

      • Michael Heatley
        Sep 8, 2013

        I once went halfway round the M25 with John Schroeder on a mission of reuniting him with Man in a ‘This Is Your Life’ moment. The tales he came up with en route were far superior to his book, alas.

        And while I’m biased, anyone with an interest in Man should catch Deke’s Rhinos, Winos and Lunatics. It really is the ultimate sex, drugs and rock’n’roll read. After that, there are two more literary delights in store (stop plugging – Ed.).

  6. Rob Millis
    Apr 13, 2014

    Author’s embarrassed error: with hindsight, having researched and written the Help Yourself piece, I realise that Ken Whaley and Deke Leonard cannot have become friends on the All Good Clean Fun tour as Whaley was not in Help Yourself at the time. Deke lived with the Helps in 1972, however, and must have met him there either when Whaley was visiting his old band mates or when he rejoined the band. Apologies. It doesn’t really matter, I suppose.

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