MAN – ” The Albums ” Man Belongs To Those Who Play In It.”

Posted: February 24, 2019 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Man are a rock band from South Wales whose style is a mixture of American West coast psychedelia, progressive rock, and blues. Formed in November 1968 as a reincarnation of Welsh rock harmony group ‘The Bystanders’, Man are renowned for the extended jams in their live performances

Man evolved out of The Bystanders, formed in 1962 The Bystanders included Owen Money, then known as Gerry Braden,but he was replaced by Vic Oakley, giving the classic line-up of Vic Oakley (vocals), Micky Jones (guitar), Clive John aka Clint Space (keyboards), Ray Williams (bass) and Jeff Jones (drums). By 1968 the other members wanted to change musical direction to a more psychedelic/American west-coast guitar sound, so Oakley left, to be replaced by Deke Leonard and the band changed its name to Man.

With the tribulations of the 20-odd musicians who have at various times been through Man, and dissections of their 13 official studio albums (or around 45 if you include compilations and live recordings). Not too long ago it was calculated that their had been 17 different lineups had played 7,601 gigs, travelled 1,200,000 miles, blown 161 amplifiers, crossed 330 borders in and out of 17 countries, slept with 4,163 women, smoked 16,000 packets of Rizla papers and stayed in 6,424 hotels – and had been ejected from only 32 of those. They also managed to spend more than £200 on clothes.

Until recently the one strand of consistency in this tale was lead guitarist Micky Jones, who played in every line-up of Man. Besides a tendency for members to leave and persistently return, what makes Man’s history more unique still is that the responsibility of leadership has been rotated, and at least three of their members have assumed creative control, with others standing aside or departing – and sometimes coming back. For the first few albums it fell to keyboard player/guitarist Clive John to galvanise the band, before the baton was passed on to Deke Leonard, and it is now in the hands of Martin Ace.

Man were initially signed to Pye Records, for whom they recorded their first two albums with John Schroeder producing Revelation (January 1969) and Man wanted to name their follow-up Spunk Rock, but the label flatly refused, so it was entitled 2 Ozs of Plastic with a Hole in the Middle (September 1969). Whilst mixing the second album, Deke Leonard left, and was replaced by Martin Ace.

Their manager, Barrie Marshall, obtained a new record contract with Andrew Lauder of United Artists Records, for whom the band recorded the eponymous Man (March 1971) album, which received mixed reviews. Their media break came when outperforming Soft Machine, Yes and Family at a concert in Berlin, Having appeared on the United Artists double sampler album, All Good Clean Fun (1971).

The band’s breakthrough record was Do You Like It Here Now, Are You Settling In? For all their upward mobility, a laidback attitude remained. Martin Ace can be heard slurping from a can of cider during the song Manillo, recorded at Rockfield Studios it received good reviews. Constant touring was creating internal pressures, and in January 1972, keyboardist Clive John left the band, to form ‘Iowerth Pritchard and the Neutrons‘ with Phil Ryan and Will Youatt (1950-2017).

The new four piece supported Hawkwind and Brinsley Schwarz at a charity gig at The Roundhouse on 13th February 1972, recorded and issued as “Greasy Truckers Party” (with other artists, April 1972), a limited edition double album which rapidly became a collectors’ item.United Artists’ A&R man, Andrew Lauder, persuaded them to follow this up with a live album. Live at the Padget Rooms, Penarth was recorded on 8th April 1972. It was sold at a reduced price and only 8000 copies were pressed, which sold out in a week, making it No 1 in the “budget” album chart.

The band then tried to write a new studio album, but lacked inspiration. Bassist Martin Ace left, to form ‘The Flying Aces’, with his wife George, so Micky Jones and Terry Williams sacked Leonard, and keyboardist Clive John rejoined together with his new band members, Ryan (keyboards) and Youatt (bass). The new band recorded the first of Man’s three Peel Sessions on 29th August 1972, (the others being 18th September 1973 & 31st October 1974).

They then recorded Be Good to Yourself at Least Once a Day (November 1972) which received good reviews. A party on 19th December 1972, with Dave Edmunds, Help Yourself, The Flying Aces and others, was issued as Christmas at the Patti (July 1973), a double 10″ album, which again topped the “budget” album chart, but on tour keyboardist Clive John fell out with guitarist Micky Jones, and left the band again.

The four-piece started to record Back into the Future (September 1973), but felt the need for a second guitarist, so Alan “Tweke” Lewis joined from Clive Bunker’s ‘Wild Turkey’. On 24 June 1973 they recorded the live half of this double album at Man’s spiritual London home, The Roundhouse, backed by the Gwalia Male Choir, who had previously sung with Man at The Oval, when they supported Frank Zappa. The album initially sold well, and again, this was tipped to be album that would make the band, but pressing was restricted by a lack of plastic during the oil crisis. The follow-up tour had Deke Leonard’s ‘Iceberg’ as support. During the tour, Micky Jones and Leonard discussed a new Man line-up, so when Ryan and Youatt left to form ‘The Neutrons’ in December 1973, Leonard disbanded his band Iceberg and rejoined Man along with two former members of Help Yourself; Malcolm Morley (keyboards) and Ken Whaley (bass).

Leonard was back again for 1974’s next album Rhinos, Winos and Lunatics (May 1974) was produced by Roy Thomas Baker, noted for his work with Queen, and spent 4 weeks in the UK album chart, Morley left the day before recording started on the next album Slow Motion (October 1974). Before the album was released, the band toured the UK (again with Badfinger). Leonard: “Each time we gained momentum, a break-up seemed to be just around the corner. Barry [Marshall, manager] always used to dread calls from some ghastly place in Germany saying it had happened again. But he gave us enough rope to hang ourselves – and we duly obliged on a regular basis.”

The constant line-up changes and a strong internal rivalry were also hindrances. “I’ve been sacked by every member of the Man band at some point,” Leonard volunteers cheerily, “but they always found out that they couldn’t do it without me and had to invite me back.”

Pruned to a four-piece by the departure of guitarist/keyboard player Malcolm Morley for the self-produced Slow Motion album, the band were rejoined by Ace midway through a US tour with English folkies The Strawbs. It was during this trip that they met their hero John Cipollina, the (now long-deceased) guitarist with vintage San Francisco acid-rockers Quicksilver Messenger Service, who agreed to join Man for a tour of Britain.

They returned to the US in March 1975, but the tour collapsed on the first night. A new US tour, with REO Speedwagon and Blue Öyster Cult broke up two-thirds of the way through. Additional dates were arranged, but most were cancelled when Micky Jones developed pneumonia, so the final gigs were to be at the San Francisco Winterland. These were a great success, and promoter Bill Graham paid them a bonus, and rebooked them, but bassist Ken Whaley had had enough, and left. Martin Ace flew out as a stand in, and the band met and rehearsed with John Cipollina of Quicksilver Messenger Service, who played with them at Winterland, and agreed to play a UK tour.

On this tour, the Roundhouse gig was recorded for commercial release, and although Buckley and Ellingham state that it is rumoured that Micky Jones had to over-dub Cipollina’s guitar,it was only the track “Bananas” on which his playing was replaced: “Everything on Maximum Darkness which sounds like Cipollina is Cipollina“, per Deke Leonard.The album Maximum Darkness (September 1975) Martin Ace continued as “stand in” bassist, until the end of a French tour, with Hawkwind, Gong and Magma, when he returned to the ‘Flying Aces’.

The band changed label to MCA Records, Phil Ryan rejoined on keyboards, but as no bass players they knew were available, the band had to audition for the first time in their history. Auditions went badly, until the final audition, of John McKenzie of Global Village Trucking Company, who was immediately offered the job.

They then recorded The Welsh Connection (March 1976). With Ace departing again and just two songs finished Man were in the shit. Oddly enough, given that Leonard and keyboard player Phil Ryan were jostling for control, the record ended up being a concise and reigned-in collection of songs. It was only when Ryan “threw his piano” at Leonard while preparing a follow-up that the band realised they’d run aground. “I wasn’t in the band back then, but my understanding is that everyone thought they could do a better job than everyone else,” Ace offers. During the US tour differences arose again, and on the subsequent European tour keyboardist Phil Ryan and bassist John McKenzie announced they would be leaving, and the rest of the band agreed to call it a day. The MCA record deal, however, was for three albums, but nobody was willing to contribute new material, and their attempts at covers were poor, so MCA eventually agreed to a live farewell album. All’s Well That Ends Well (November 1977) was recorded at the Roundhouse on 11th–13th December.

“We’d spent seven years either on the road or in the studio. The weight of it all had been building up,” Leonard says. On his reason for leaving Man in the spring of 2004 to revive Iceberg, Leonard deadpans simply: “I felt the need to make a futile gesture.” A frequent broadcaster on Radio Wales, his uproariously funny novels Rhinos,Winos & Lunatics and Maybe I Should’ve Stayed In Bed have both received rave reviews. The first two albums represent space rock at its best, and the latter one shows a more structured approach yet some of their finest songwriting is on that album. However, space rock fiends cannot go wrong with their original 1969-1977 run of albums.

The Albums

  • Revelation
  • 2 Ozs of Plastic with a Hole in the Middle
  • Man
  • Do You Like It Here Now, Are You Settling In?
  • Be Good to Yourself at Least Once a Day
  • Back into the Future
  • Rhinos, Winos and Lunatics
  • Slow Motion
  • The Welsh Connection
  • The Twang Dynasty
  • Call Down the Moon
  • Endangered Species
  • Undrugged
  • Diamonds and Coal
  • Kingdom of Noise
  • Greasy Truckers Party
  • Live at the Padget Rooms, Penarth
  • Christmas at the Patti
  • Back into the Future
  • Maximum Darkness
  • All’s Well That Ends Well
  • Friday 13th
  • 1998 at the Star Club
  • Down Town Live
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