Wednesday, August 24, 2016

"Runner" by Manfred Mann's Earth Band

Song#:  1758
Date:  01/21/1984
Debut:  86
Peak:  22
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Rock

Pop Bits:  South African born Manfred Mann (born Manfred Lubowitz) was originally a jazz musician, but ended up forming his self-titled British pop/R&B band in 1962. As part of the British Invasion, the band would score a #1 hit in 1964 with "Do Wah Diddy Diddy." Despite getting thirteen UK Top 10's, they could only manage one other in the US when their cover of Bob Dylan's "Mighty Quinn" reached #10 in 1969. That same year, Mann decided to dissolve the band and start a new more jazz oriented outfit called Manfred Mann Chapter Three. After two unsuccessful albums, Mann made a move towards prog rock and started a new group in 1972 titled Manfred Mann's Earth Band. Their first six albums tanked in the UK, but saw a little chart action in the US. They finally scored a major hit when their cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded By the Light" hit #1 in 1976, but once again, a significant follow-up didn't happen. After three more albums, Mann decided to pay homage to his South African roots and recorded the LP Somewhere in Afrika. Released in the UK and Europe in early 1983, the conceptual album did okay despite having no charting singles. But the band's new US label, Arista, wanted a hit to push the album so two new songs were added to the US version including this single. The hit strategy worked fairly well with the song almost getting into the Top 20 and the album going to #40. Both were the band's best efforts since 1976. Unfortunately, each would also be their last charting recordings. The band initially called it a day in 1987, but has returned on several occasions since.

ReduxReview:  This one pretty much hits all the check boxes for me. Great song, terrific arrangement, solid vocals, etc. It's an exciting and mysterious song that really delivers. It's also a plus that it still sounds so good and not stuck in the 80s. I'm not sure how Mann felt about boosting the commercial potential of the album with this song, but I'm certainly glad he did. I don't think it got enough airplay back then and it still doesn't. It's a bit of a lost song that needs to be rediscovered.

ReduxRating:  9/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Like most of their US hits, this song is also a cover tune. Written by Canadian artist Ian Thomas, it served as the first single from Thomas' 1981 LP The Runner. That album featured another song that would reach the US chart via another artist. Santana got to #15 in 1982 with "Hold On."  2) Lead vocals on this song and the Earth Band's other major hit "Blinded By the Light" were done by Chris Thompson. Thompson joined the band in 1975 and initially stayed until 1986. While still in the band, Thompson would branch out and grab two Top 20 hits of his own with his band Night including the #17 "If You Remember Me" (1979). 


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