INTERVIEW: The Manfreds

A Golden celebration for the Sixties’ legends who are visiting Preston next month.

Preston’s most iconic building, the bus station, has left quite an impression on sixties’ music star Tom McGuinness.

The Manfreds guitarist was last in the city during the band’s heyday (when they were known as Manfred Mann) and is set to return on September 6 to the Charter Theatre.
But will a visit to the bus station be on the cards?

“I haven’t played in Preston for quite a while,” says Tom “but I certainly remember the bus station.
“I recall it becomes pretty windswept of a winter’s evening at 10.30 at night,” he laughs. “But I’m sure it has its fans.”

Tom started his music career alongside another 18-year-old guitarist, Eric Clapton, in The Roosters and joined Manfred Mann in 1964 – just as the band’s hit single ‘5-4-3-2-1’ began its meteoric rise up the charts and into pop folklore.

Just five years later Manfred Mann disbanded and Tom thought that was the end.
“If you had asked me when Manfred Mann split up back in 1969 did I think we would be getting back together and playing gigs 40 years later I’d have laughed at the idea,” says Tom.
“I just assumed it was like yesterday’s newspaper – to be forgotten.
“I can remember saying to the man running the show at a gig in 1965 – there were about 800 people in a ballroom to see us – that it wasn’t as crowded as it was six months earlier and he said ‘no you haven’t had a hit for three months’ and I thought, that’s it, it’s that short term.
“That put things into perspective for me so I’m astounded to find we’re still playing, still having fun, still have an audience – what’s not to enjoy?”

Tom continued to work as a songwriter, author, record and TV producer before he and his former Manfred bandmates joined together for a celebration. The Manfreds only got back together to do one gig for my 50th birthday,” he says. “We never intended to do many gigs after that.

“We hadn’t played together for 22 years before then and we really enjoyed it and then the phone started ringing with people asking us if we wanted to do anymore shows?”

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The band went on to tour Japan, Australia and Europe and have recently completed 20 dates earlier this year.
And they will continue their tour around the country right up until December 1 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Manfred Mann.

Tom says: “We’re going to be playing tracks from our very first album ‘The Five Faces of Manfred Mann’ which was in the charts for six months back in 1964.
“Lots of people out there liked that album so we thought we’d play some tracks from that as it has been re-issued, alongside the hits.”

Speaking to Tom, you get the impression that had he not been part of the 60’s music scene, he most certainly would have been a fan of his contemporaries as music knowledge simply pours out of him.

But despite his almost-encyclopedic ability to recall names and dates of some of music’s hits Tom is yet to move over to the digital age.
He says: “I haven’t downloaded anything yet, I still buy vinyl and CD’s, I’m afraid I’m very old fashioned.
“I like YouTube for seeing people I really admire, I go on there and have a look. I’m all in favour of all this new technology – anything that gets the music out there is alright by me.
“What it really comes down to is playing live.
“Obviously hit records are great and they’ve opened many doors for me over the years but it’s getting out there and playing live, communicating to the other musicians in the band and then communicating it out to the audience who feed it back to you.
“There’s nothing like it.
“But I do like to hold the product in my hand and read the sleeve notes – there’s something lovely and physical about it.
“That said, I’m constantly checking out YouTube and the iPlayer to see what I can discover.
“I started off just listening to rock and roll when I was younger and now I hear music from around the world that just knocks me out.
“You can hear music from Marley, or hear something recorded in Tennessee in 1937, or Gaelic music.
“I remain in love with music like when I was 16 years old but I think in 50 years time our children are going to be born with the hits of the last 100 years implanted in their brains.”

And Tom doesn’t even need to hear the music to appreciate it.
He recalls: “When I was younger I once caught a bus to someone’s house just because someone had given me the address of a man who had an album by blues musician Muddy Waters.
“I rang their doorbell and said ‘does someone own a Muddy Waters album here?’ and this man came to the door with it and I literally held it, looked at the front cover and said ‘thank you very much’ and left.
“I have no idea where he got it from because it was only available in America.
“Young people nowadays have all these incredible artists available to them in an instant, they have no idea,” he laughs.

And the now 71-year-old grandfather is a great advocate of enriching lives through the arts. It’s gradually beginning to dawn on my grandchildren that I was once very successful, so they’re a little intrigued by it.

He says, “arts, culture, music, all those things are as important as having a job and bread on the table.
“You would think I would make that claim because that’s how I make my living but it’s not about that it’s about opening people’s eyes and ears to the possibilities of life and entertaining and educating them.
“Without them you’re life is impoverished and local venues are so important.
“New local theatres are being opened but all too many are being closed and I would say to everyone in Preston and the are around to fight for your local entertainment venues.”

With many of the band of the 1960’s, 70’s and beyond still gigging today, clearly there is a nostalgia for audiences to
revisit their youth.
“Our longevity is down to the fact we haven’t died,” Tom laughs.
“It’s not just us,” he says, “there are so many other bands bigger and smaller than us who are still out there touring around the world like the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Ray Davies, The Searchers, everyone is out there playing because, like me, they like to play and there’s an audience there.
“That’s the astounding thing.

“My friend who lives in New York says New Yorkers describe our generation as living on ‘Sniper’s Alley’ we’re all getting picked off one by one!”
“Manfred don’t do that many gigs so grab the opportunity to see us when you can!
“See us before we die folks!!”

Two sides of Ibiza

Ibizan drug culture is in the news as two British women face trial for alleged drug smuggling. Here, I reflect on myown experiences on the island

Merely yards from a harbour overlooking the Mediterranean sea filled with luxury super yachts lies a bikini-clad girl. While the image may conjur up a supermodel relaxing aboard a film-star’s latest purchase, this girl isn’t enjoying the rays from the Spanish sunshine; she’s lying on a bench, half-naked, alone and unconscious.
Last year 600,000 British holidaymakers flocked to the hedonistic Balearic island of Ibiza along with a summer workforce of mostly teenage men and women looking to spend the season in the sunshine and maybe earn a bit of money while they did it. And while many enjoy the super clubs, hippy markets, and stunning beaches, others fall victim to the slightly seedier underbelly of Ibiza.

When I turned 24, finally out of uni and in a full time job, Ibiza caught my eye.
Admittedly I did ask the bartender to repeat himself when he asked me to hand over 12 euros for a bottle of water in the world’s largest nightclub, Privilege. I had been slightly put off by the pricey reputation that preceded my first visit, but armed with two of my best friends I took the plunge and instantly fell in love with the place. Two years later my excuse for a second visit was a hen party and last week I introduced my other half to just some of the reasons he never hears about anything but beautiful Eivissa.

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However, following the arrest of Michaella McCollum Connolly, 20, from Co Tyrone, and Melissa Reid, 19, from Lenzie, near Glasgow, who were stopped at Lima airport in Peru for allegedly smuggling £1.5m of cocaine, Ibiza’s drug culture has become a hot topic of conversation once again.

In the 1970s when the island was little more than a place for hippies to spend their holidays, there was marijuana and LSD. This was followed by ecstasy in the 90s and now, while ecstasy is still the drug of choice for many on the island, a move towards ketamine and cocaine is swiftly taking over.
Even while staying in the relatively family-friendly area of San Antonio bay, just feet away from our hotel, one of the resort’s many ‘looky looky’ men moved on from selling ‘Roy Bon’ sunglasses to whatever drug he had that day in seconds and on the beach that our hotel overlooked, empty bottles of vodka were often found washed up as if cast aside by raving pirates.

While it appears I’m not exactly selling the island paradise, the question must be asked. What is it about Ibiza that causes seemingly straight-laced men and women to go off the rails?

In July the body of a British mother-of-two was found washed up on a San Antonio beach while more recently a 24-year-old Pembrokeshire man died after falling from a balcony following a night out with friends, and a 19-year-old from the North East was seriously injured after falling from the fourth floor of a hotel.

Though many of these accidents happen to tourists trying to cram as much as possible into a one or two week break at many of the resorts, the case must be different for those working there during the May to September peak season?

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The bar tenders, club promoters and hotel staff – many of whom were from England and Eastern Europe – that I spoke to during my time there pretty much said the same thing; that if you’re looking to try something, it can be found.

One man, who did not wish to be named, spent a summer working in Ibiza when he was 25 and said drugs were pretty easy to come by on the island however he refrained from taking any himself.

He said: “If you wanted drugs, it was pretty easy to get hold of them – the ‘looky looky’ men used to ask if you wanted any “sniff”, “pills” or “weed” every time they walked past you. I met “workers” who’d gone out as I had for the full season but instead of working behind a bar for like I did, they’d be selling drugs to make a living.

“You only had to go to a gig and you’d see people dancing away with sunglasses on and pouring with sweat – it’s not rocket science to realise what they’d been up to.
“Even chilling on the beach watching the sunset with a few beers, you’d be approached and be asked if you wanted to buy any thing.”

But our worker is keen to stress that drug-related incidents don’t define the island.
He said: “People have a certain stereotype about Ibiza and, yes you can get hold of drugs, but they aren’t everywhere you look like the common myth suggests but it is an amazing, beautiful place.

“Unfortunately, the dance scene seems to have a certain stigma attached to it and so as a new generation comes to the island, they seem to think it’s the ‘cool’ thing to do as it’s what the stereotype suggests.”

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Carmen Ferrer, tourism counsellor for Ibiza Tourist Board, said: “We are aware of some isolated drug problems that can appear, however, these are punctual and mostly caused by external factors.

“In Ibiza, private companies and institutions are working together and dedicating resources to prevent any problem that might affect those who just come to enjoy vacation, which are the most part of our two million visitors each year.”