HANDBAGS and Gladrags is a song known to generations, whether it be through the 1960s Chris Farlowe hit, the familiar tones of Rod Stewart, the 2001 Stereophonics version or even as the theme tune to TV’s The Office.
And mention a Finger of Fudge to anyone of a certain age and the phrase “is just enough to give your kids a treat” is very likely to be sung back at you in return.
On the surface it may seem that the only thing these tunes have in common is that they are undeniably catchy and certainly memorable, albeit for rather different reasons.
However unlikely it may seem, the mind of the same musician came up with both. Even more unlikely is that neither is what he is best known for.
Mike d’Abo came to prominence in the 1960s as the lead vocalist of Manfred Mann, the chart-topping pop group of 5-4-3-2-1, Do Wha Diddy Diddy and Pretty Flamingo fame. He joined the group in 1966 when lead singer Paul Jones left to pursue a solo career, and hasn’t looked back since.
“Without that chance,” he says. “The rest of my career probably wouldn’t have happened. Without that moment when someone opens a door for you, things can be very different.”
D’Abo was born in Surrey in 1944, the son of a former army officer who became a stockbroker. He was educated at Harrow before going on to Cambridge. In his own words, his background was something that pointed towards a career involving “a city suit or the army”. But as a teenager he yearned to emulate his heroes – Tommy Steele, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Elvis.
His parents, aware of their son’s musical prowess, were cautiously supportive, but within certain parameters.
“My father told me I had six months to shape up in the music business or he was putting me in the army,” says D’Abo.
It was during an appearance on television with a group called Band of Angels, that d’Abo caught the eye of Manfred Mann, which led to an invitation to join the group.
Manfred Mann split in 1969, but in 1991 most of the members reformed “for one night only” as The Manfreds to celebrate guitarist Tom McGuinness’ 50th birthday. And since then have been regularly touring together.
The group has played Salisbury many times, but this year is something special. “It’s the 50th anniversary of the formation of Manfred Mann,” explains d’Abo.
And does he ever get tired of performing the hits the fans are waiting for? “Sometimes,” he laughs. “There are definitely songs I would identify with less now that I’m in my 60s than I did when I was in my 20s but as a musician, you never lose the desire to perform or the desire to please your audience.”
- The Manfreds, Salisbury City Hall, November 16, 7.30pm.