A Golden celebration for Sixties’ legends revives fond memories of Preston

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

Saturday, 31st August 2013, 8:00 am
An old photograph of Manfred Mann
An old photograph of Manfred Mann

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.

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“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?”

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!!”