Man & Friends - Christmas at the Patti

Man & Friends
Christmas at the Patti

Released 1973 on United Artists
Reviewed by Valve, 23/12/2005ce

So here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun. ‘Back into the future’ had only just be-guuu-uuuu-unnnn . . . being recorded and put together for a September release when this special limited edition 10inch double live album appeared in July 1973 priced at £1.43. Recorded at Man’s Christmas party at the Patti Pavilion in Swansea on December 19th 1972 by Vic Maile on the Pye Mobile, this is the Man band of the day having a seasonal knees up with their extended family of musical friends and relations. The party kicked off at six and finished at midnight by order of the local constabulary, although the wailing siren comes from the stage - not a waiting meat wagon, and as tends to happen at parties the hosts hardly had time to enjoy themselves after making sure everybody else’s needs were catered for.

The Flying Aces get things underway (not the actual running order on the night but it makes sense on the record) with a song written for the occasion, ‘Welcome to the Party’. This is a first appearance for the F. Aces - Martin, ex Man bassist and his lovely wife George - who gigged and recorded sporadically over the next four years, notably on Help Yourself’s 1973 Happy Days tour and freebie album, and as support act for the Man & John Cipollina shows in 75 and Hot Tuna’s stupendous gig at the Roundhouse in 76. They’re joined here, as throughout their career, by former and current members of Man (Deke on this occasion) and Help Yourself (Malcolm Morley and Dave Charles) and ‘Welcome’ imparts a sweet natured vibe to the Patti people, featuring a lovely minor-chorded descending figure (Morley’s influence? given that it’s similar in feel to a lot of what turned up on the next Help Yourself album) and a nod to the Velvet’s ‘Run, Run, Run’ in it’s buoyant chorus.

Next up, Ducks Deluxe and another first: This is the Duck’s debut recording and I’m gonna say their best, certainly their most representative. Ducks Deluxe, like most of the bands working the pub rock circuit, were best experienced live and here they are in their beery, leery pomp - Britain’s answer to the MC5 and Flamin’ Groovies. What was the question? Can we still do Chuck Berry and make it sound edgy and menacing and make everybody in the place wanna freaky dance? I guess. BLANGG!! (E chord) BLANGG!! (E chord) “Get ready to boogie!” - Sean Tyler’s gruff invitation to ‘Boogaloo Babe’, graunchy chooglin’ 12 bar rhythm and blues and if you’re passing up the chance to dance, Fine, Go get the drinks in! Dance Stance (Special note for seekers of terpsichorean detail): The ‘boogie’ is a dance for two people (unusually usually same sex). Stand facing your partner. Feet slightly apart and planted solidly on the ground, knees bent, hands on hips, then swivel the trunk from the waist throwing the elbows, first left then right, forwards and backwards. Starting leaning back a la limbo, then jerking violently forwards, head down, being sure to coordinate with your partners similar movements so your heads nod next to each other and not into each other. Sounds laughable don’t it? And you’d be sure to stand around pointing and giggling except that the dancing partners tended to be Hell’s Angels. Ducks Deluxe were definitely a greaser’s band - There was some footage of them playing off the back of a truck at a Biker’s Bash in Essex shown on the BBC mid seventies. Ex-roadies to a man - denim drainpipes, leathers, football hoolie feather cuts and hard as rusty nails. Lead guitarist (ie: he plays the little trebly ‘nick, nick’ bits at the end of each bar) Martin Belmont played the same style cherry red Gibson SG as Man’s Micky Jones (I’m not an expert - It may be a slightly different model) and it always tickled me to see the same instrument appear the size of a double bass when Micky hefted it onto his chest, but look like a ukulele when Martin, with his Frankenstein’s Monster bulk, handled it.

The next part of the evening takes the form of a nice little tribute to some of the sixties bands from whence the various members of Man sprang. The Jets (1961 Swansea) feature their founder member Plum Howells and Martin Ace along with early guitarist Deke Leonard and drummer Terry Williams, although by the time Terry had joined it was 1968 and they’d been rechristened Smokeless Zone. Plum, Joe Cocker’s road manager in another life and probably not a man to be messed with, reprimands Deke for starting the intro too slow, “We’ll be up ’ere all night!” before The Jets kick into ‘My Way’ - No! Not Paul Anka’s tuxedo’d brag-fest, the Eddie Cochran song: “Listen girl, You better hear what I say. Ah’m an easy going guy but I’ve always gotta have my way”. Pure Rock ‘n’ Roll aggression (If this number was a bloke in a pub, it’d drag you into the car park, kick seven shades of shit out of you, and THEN start an argument), and tight? It’s almost like they rehearsed! And ’scuse me with the cliches but about the rhythm section I’m gonna have to use the word muscular here. Pausing only for banter and ignoring shouted requests for ‘Ubangi Stomp’ they then pile into Hank Williams’ ‘Jambalaya’ and with Plum getting a bit of that Jerry Lee, epileptic, out-of-control-ness into his vocal and Terry’s distinctive cracks and machine gun bursts on the snare and Deke’s razor sharp guitar they take their Big Fun right off of the Bayou and on to somewhere a mess more urban. I don’t think Hank done it this a’way - The Pink Fairies might ’ave.

The nostalgia showcase continues as Plum and Deke stand down and the hardworking Terry and Martin are joined by Dave Edmunds (all the way from Cardiff) and Mickey Gee - calling themselves Plum Crazy (1968 Swansea) but probably closer to a 1970 line-up of Love Sculpture. (For further clarification / total confusion consult Deke’s ‘Man’s family jungle’ diagram on the inner sleeve of ‘Be good to yourself at least once a day’). Edmunds and Gee mess around a bit with ‘Jingle Bells’ before tearing into a breakneck ‘Run Run Rudolph’ that gallops along neck and neck with the Chuck Berry and Keith Richards versions. Terry’s good tonight inee? When he’s on a roll is there a more exciting Rock ‘n’ Roll drummer than Terry Williams? Not for me. The Eyes of Blue (1965 Neath), Man organist Phil Ryan’s first outfit, also played this part of the evening, but with Gazzy Pickford-Hopkins and John ‘Pugwash’ Weathers being elsewhere with Wild Turkey and Gentle Giant respectively, it was deemed not a representative enough line-up for inclusion on the record. Of course the missing link here is The Bystanders (1962 Merthyr Tydfil) who, with Micky Jones’ and Clive John’s Beatley/Beach Boy Californian harmonies and west coast psychedelic pop leanings, mutated into the first Man band in 1968. Hallelujah, Glory be, and phew rock ‘n’ roll. Ladies and gentlemen: Man, the thirty-eight legged groove machine* C’mon!

But first... Help Yourself: Malcolm Morley - Guitar, vocals, Richard Treece - Guitar, Paul Burton - bass, and Dave Charles - Drums, with added Deke Leonard and the world famous BJ Cole on pedal steel. And like the Quicksilver Messenger Service before them with their ‘Who Do You, When You, Where You, How Do You, Which Do You, Who Do You Love’ Bo-athon on ‘Happy Trails’, the Helps hitch a ride on those stone age Diddley beats with their own version of ‘Mona’. Help Yourself were never as confident a live band as Man but, amongst friends and with Deke cracking the whip, they absolutely storm this gig. I’ve always preferred (of the two main Man vocalists) Micky Jones’ moddish soulful wail to Deke’s rocker’s greasy snarl, but here it’s entirely suitable adding just the right mix of menace and yearning to Bo’s tale of neighbourly lust. For seconds, just in case the whole caboodle was getting a bit Hail Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll (Eddie, Chuck & Bo) for ya, Help Yourself weigh in with the high point of the evening, the monumental ‘Eddie Waring’ jam. Creeping in with a spoofy Haunted House style intro played on the squalliest cry baby wah wah pedal, guitar and bass stalk around a bit before dropping onto one of those deep and funky one chorded riffs that these bands lived for. Malcolm takes the soulful vocal and as the piece stretches and flexes all four guitarists get equal chance to shine, Richard Treece dazzling as always. This is the sound of generous musicians, totally in tune with what they’re doing and giving each other space to move around - no egotripping or prog rock wankery. As it should be. The fact that Help Yourself get twenty-four minutes on this record to Man’s eleven and a half is a testament to the communal spirit enjoyed by these wonderful musicians at this time.

And then... finally... Man who, befitting the Panto season, get fancy dressed up for the party - Photos on the inside of the sleeve show Clive John (Clint Space) as Batman, Terry Williams, handsome as hell in Police sergeants tunic, Will Youatt - Cavalier, Phil Ryan - Cowpoke and Micky Jones as Arabian knight complete with epaulettes and white plumed turban. ‘Life On The Road’ may not be Man’s most magnificent live recording - For those check the versions of ‘Spunk Rock’, ‘Many Are Called But Few Get Up’ and ‘C’mon’ on vinyl releases just before and just after this one - but it bounces along well enough to keep the party goers bopping, and Will sings (which is unusual) and Terry ROCKS (which is bloody marvellous) and then it bumps into a neat quicker paced blues shuffle and Dave Edmunds gets back up with some tired and emotional slide guitar and a local character called Stan Pfeiffer gives it some spontaneous vocals and idiot dancing (Nice one Stan), and... that’s... yer lot.

“Thank you. A Merry Christmas and a Good Night”

So - A cracking little live album containing a supremely satisfying mix of raw rock‘n’roll, boisterous R&B and spacey acid funk, a collectable, uniquely formatted item for fans, and an invaluable review of a magical decade of music and madness in South Wales.

*Man, the thirty-eight legged groove machine?

That was off the top of my head. I’ve tallied it up now and I fluked it. 38 legs! Count ’em:

Micky Jones, Deke Leonard, Clive John, Jeff Jones, Ray Williams, Martin Ace, Terry Williams, Phil Ryan, Will Youatt, Tweke Lewis, Malcolm Morley, Ken Whaley, John McKenzie, Pugwash Weathers, Rick Martinez, Bob Richards, Gareth Thorrington, George Jones and Josh Ace (Cipollina was honorary, alright?).

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