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Posted: 2008 11-04
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Springsteen with a little funk, please

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band were a fantastic hipster’s secret, this jazz/funk/snappy riff-thick rock n roll band from England that had a small secret fraternity of fans in North America until that stupid Roaring Silence album came out and Blinded By The Light became a monster hit and the whole thing was ruined.  And to top it off, everybody thought they were this pop band because of the single, which was just HUGE and made the guy a zillion dollars which he used to fund his mad music experiments for the rest of time.

But here’s where the circle comes back to the cool:  even though the song was played next to Captain & Tennille on car radios, the band was next to the Grateful Dead in concert.

So there’s this grand prank where the 45-singles-buying crowd innocently went into a Manfred Mann show expecting the poppy Do Wah Diddy Diddy guy but getting the BeeGeebers knocked out of them by this jazz / funk / improv rock combo.  Few bands ever had a defining hit that sounded less like the group than these guys did.  Okay, maybe Kiss with Beth, but that’s about it.

So, they earn their way onto the Midnight Special based on their #1 hit.  And then this is the version they do.  It’s so funny, brilliant, cool.  A classic musical bait-and-switch by a classic music brain.

THIS is Blinded By The Light.  That hit you heard was just make-up and mirrors.

The guy takes a happy but forgettable acoustic summer love song by Bruce Springsteen, rearranges it as a 3-minute synthesizer pop hit and it becomes the 17th biggest selling song of 1977.  And then he takes that simple pop song and rearranges it as a 7 minute live rock anthem.  How can you not love this guy?

The classically trained Mann regularly incorporates famous or contemporary symphonic music into songs, and in Blinded you can hear him play with Chopsticks!

Do Not Miss — the fabulous counterpoint singing in the climax.  It’s the whole reason Mann wanted to do the song in the first place — just to play around with the vocals at the end!  What a nut.  There’s something very Zappa about this guy’s eccentric and eclectic musical mind.

And then there’s this — I had all six Manfred Mann’s Earth Band albums before this song ever came out.  And in the mid-70s, where are you ever gonna see this obscure band from England that never comes to North America?  Nowhere.  So when they were on Midnight Special it was beyond great.  Although sadly, it was before VCRs.  But I was massively advanced for the time and had a cassette recorder with an external microphone and figured out where to position it from the TV speaker to get maximum saturation without distortion.  I played that badboy 50 million times till the cassette totally wore out. 

When Blinded came out and was a huge hit, people would say how good it was and how happy they were that this band I was madly into for was finally a hit, and I was like, Nooooo! I couldn’t STAND that radio song!  It sounded like all the other Foreigner crap of the time.  But when ya saw this — there was no bubblegum business pop band here.

 

For the second and even wilder song of their only American TV appearance, check them out covering another Springsteen song from Asbury Park right here.


Left to right:   Dave Flett, lead guitar;  Colin Pattenden, bass;  Chris Slade, drums & vocals;  Chris Thompson lead vocals, rhythm guitar;  Manfred Mann keyboards, vocals.

 

YouTube Uploader: Mark Graham
Mark Graham

Manfred Mann - Blinded by the Light
Midnight Special 1975

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