David Dodd 2:33 a.m., May 19
Manfred Mann's Earth Band
Best known for their covers, Manfred and his Earth Band first charted with their 1964 cover of the cloyingly/annoyingly pop rendition of “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” by the Exciters. Thirteen years later the Earth Band would create one of the most memorable and misheard lyrics of the seventies. Seemingly an endorsement for feminine hygienic products, “Blinded by the Light” became known as “that song about the douche.” And the douche wasn't Manfred or even Bruce Springsteen who originally penned the song. Instead, “Blinded by the Light” was the title track on Springsteen's first album with the E-Street band: “Greeting from Ashbury Park.” The record failed to chart anything other than Springsteen's new-found ability to cash in using his denim vest and un-worked hands. The line actually sung by Manfred and Springclean is “revved up like a deuce.” Filtered through America’s mass unconsciousness, the line becomes “wrapped up like a douche.”
It is however through a serious approach that finds Glorified Magnified as the bands awakening and transformative record. 1972 saw the band moving away from their R&B home (though they still had some of their stuff in the basement and came home to do their laundry) and settling into progressive rock tendencies.
The real eye-separating moments come from the absurd and almost Zappaesque explorations into the ridiculous and unconventional. “Meat” marks the opening of the record as well as the high-watermark of Glorified Magnified. Towering and with childlike simplicity, the guitars on “Meat” echo, pulse, and lull above Manfred's voice. Largely instrumental and oddly constructed, the piece careens from Manfred's scolding: “You don't take life / But the cat take life / Jump, now turn around / Who wrong? You wrong / What you gonna do son / Jump, now turn around,” to a deliberate back and forth of guitar licks. Slowly now the disintegration comes through the speakers. The guitars noodle, the synthesizers synth, and Manfred's jingoistic slogan on vegetarianism? returns through a distorted and pre-recorded track. Then it all fades out, which is the trademark of being unable/unwilling to write an appropriate coda.
The B-side opens after a few through-away-tracks with “Down Home,” a by the numbers (I, IV, V) blues number that doesn't cause much of a stir in the listener's frontal cortex.
The next course is what? More covers. That's right. That's rock's bread and sexual butter. Don't reinvent the wheel just put a new spin on it and dole it out by the wooden spoonful. Dylan's (Zimmerman's) famous “It's All Over Now Baby Blue” from his 1965 album “Bringing it All Back Home,” gets re-imagined (slightly) by the gang with little success or dazzle before leading into the eponymous “Glorified Magnified.”
As far as being proto-anything, the Earth Band is not. Their mixture of Blues, R & B, Rock, and semi-prog-rock, is nothing more than a dilution of the ingredients. Yet when the band expands into a kaleidoscopic haze of discord that rises, falls, waxes and wanes – only to emerge the borderline skronk at a recognizable juncture, does the band approach majestic silver seas.
There are numerous examples of misheard lyrics contained in the annals of rock music. “Bad Moon Rising” from Creedence Clearwater Revival's 1969 album Green River, has the line “there's a bad moon on the rise” which is frequently garbled into “there's a bathroom on the right. Perhaps most famous is the homosexual rendering of The Jimi Henrdix Experience's 1967 song Purple Haze. Here the line “excuse me while I kiss the sky,” becomes 'scuse me while I plant one on this guy over here. The common thread here? A base rendering of already vapid lyrics that were likely first heard through tiny transistor radios rather than polyphonic high-fidelity home stereos. These mishearings have become so prolific that the term mondegreen has been applied to them.
Duck calls and fragmentation place the Earth band in some aspects under Zappa's Motherly wing. However, none of Zappa and his Mother's nonsense parodies are present.
Coined by Escondido resident and legendary music reviewist, Lester Bangs, it is used to define a-tonal or non-musical music. In Bang's 1981article “A Reasonable Guide to Horrible Music” he reaches back as far as Blue Cheer's crud album “Vincebus Eruptum” or more knowingly the outro/ending to the Beatles “Helter Skelter” as early examples of skronk. “Look at it this way” Lester writes “there are many here among us for whom the life force is best represented by the livid twitching of one tortured nerve, or even a full-scale anxiety attack. I do not subscribe to this point of view 100%, but I understand it, have lived it. Thus the shriek, the caterwaul, the chainsaw gnarlgnashing, the yowl and the whizz that decapitates may be reheard by the adventurous or emotionally damaged as mellifluous bursts of unarguable affirmation.” It may be of some use to know that he was portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman in the film “Almost Famous.”