Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Now Is The Time: Manfred Mann: "If You Gotta Go Go Now"

There has been a man stalking the charts all this year; sometimes he is there himself, sometimes it's others covering his songs or being inspired to sing or write songs like him. If there is a simple divide - state vs. pirate radio - then there is another one - those who know and dig Bob Dylan, and those who don't. He isn't now (and I'm guessing wasn't then) to everyone's liking, but those who embraced his casual twangy sound and sharp lyrics could not help wanting to be him; even Lennon succumbed for a while, inspired by the sheer exuberant noise of his songs, not to mention the fact that he was usually saying something - something complex, never simple.

The Manfreds were the first UK band to cover Dylan and get him near to the top (they would get a number one with "The Mighty Quinn" a few years from now) and they have just the right blend of roughness and odd tenderness to make this work. He wants her, but not if it's going to put her off her stride; she's got to make up her mind, not him. He is happy no matter what. And that is the undercurrent here - happiness. He's poor, it's late, he's tired - but there is no Stonesy condescension or smugness, nor is he going to miss her and whine about it next day to his friends. There is - can I say this? - an American plain-speaking here that is quite refreshing and the candid way Dylan had in all songs of saying what needed to be said must have hit all UK bands and songwriters quite hard (not to mention his dress sense and general gnomic nonchalance).

I don't know if the Manfreds were the first UK band to record a Dylan song, but they were the right group to do so. Dylan's work is certainly a challenge to The Beatles (whom he has already met); they start to go more acoustic and self-reflective just as he takes up the electric mantle. This is a crossroads in pop to be sure, one that not every singer or band could step into, but once again the line has been drawn between us and them, in attitude as well as style. That attitude would soon explode, but for now all remains quiet...

No comments: