#777: 5-4-3-2-1 by Manfred Mann
Peak Month: December 1964
7 weeks on Vancouver’s CFUN chart
Peak Position #6
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
CFUN Twin Pick October 24, 1964
Manfred Sepse Lubowitz was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1940. Raised in a Jewish family, Manfred studied music at the University of the Witwatersrand, and formed a rock ‘n roll band called The Vikings in 1959. Lubowitz was against the South African system of Apartheid, first introduced in 1948, and becoming entrenched and expanded under the leadership of Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd. So Manfred Lubowitz moved to Britain. He began to write for Jazz News under the pseudonym, Manfred Manne. In time he shortened his adopted surname to Mann. In 1962 he met Mike Hugg at a holiday camp at Clacton-on-Sea. They decided to start a band and named it the Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers. Hugg was born in Hampshire, England, in 1942, and had studied jazz growing up. They got a record contract in 1963.
Hugg knew another Hampshire lad named Paul Jones. Jones had been asked to join the Rolling Stones, but turned Mick Jagger and Keith Richards down. However, he said yes to Mike Hugg and joined what was now billed as Manfred Mann in late 1962. Jones was a vocalist and went on to sing lead on many of the bands biggest hits. Another musician from Hamshire was Mike Vickers. He lived in Southampton and played guitar, flute and saxophone. A bass player, Dave Richmond, joined the band in 1962 but quit in 1963. Both Manfred and Mike Hugg were excellent keyboard players. But it was decided that Hugg would become the band’s drummer.
In late 1963, Manfred Mann was asked to provide a new theme tune for the ITV pop music TV program Ready Steady Go! They responded with “5-4-3-2-1” which, aided by weekly television exposure, climbed to #5 in the UK in February 1964.
“5-4-3-2-1” is a song Manfred Mann wrote in response to a request by ITV’s Ready Steady Go! to have a new theme song. The verses refer to two battles from long ago. The first was the charge of the light brigade during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War. That fatal battle on October 25, 1854, was immortalized in Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” published six weeks after the losses were reported in the British papers. The British cavalry had been ordered to charge a well prepared Russian artillery battery. The Russians suffered no losses while the British had 156 men killed or missing, 127 wounded, 60 taken prisoner from the battle field. The mission to charge was suicidal and the British gained no military advantage at all. At the end of the day less than 100 cavalry had horses to mount, with 335 lying dead in the battlefield and many others maimed. The Russian military leaders couldn’t believe what the British cavalry were doing and they supposed the British soldiers must have been drunk.
The second verse in “5-4-3-2-1” concerns the Trojan War and the story of the Trojan Horse. The Trojan Horse is an account from the Trojan War about the trickery that the Greeks used to enter the city of Troy and win the war. After a fruitless 10-year siege, the Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse, and hid armed warriors inside. The Greeks made it appear they were giving up as their ships sailed away. The Trojans, thinking they had finally won the war, pulled the horse into their city, assuming the Greeks had given them the horse as a gift as a concession. That night the Greek warriors crept out of the horse and opened the gates for the rest of the Greek army, which had sailed back in the middle of the night. The Greeks entered and destroyed the city of Troy, ending the 10 year siege. By adding “it was the Manfreds,” the band is fusing their stardom with historical accounts to make them seem bigger than life. It’s a way of saying, “that was us,” we were the guys who actually defeated Troy. Though, under more sober consideration, one might wonder why the Manfreds would want to claim they’d charged the Russians in the Battle of Balaclava. There were other battles in British history where the outcome was more favorable.
“5-4-3-2-1” was Manfred Mann’s first single success, after two previous commercial failures. It peaked in UK charts in February, 1964, and rose to #6 on the Vancouver pop charts in December, 1964. The song made the Top 30 in Hamilton (ON) and Montreal. It didn’t chart nationally in America. However, “5-4-3-2-1” appeared on the pop charts in Vancouver after “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.” The later hit was the third Top 20 hit in the UK, but the first Top 40 hit for the band in North America. It climbed to #1 in Vancouver and was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in October 1964. “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” was actually a cover of a minor hit by The Exciters earlier in ’64.
Manfred remembers trying to adjust to stardom. “In the summers of 1964 and ’65, we played Blackpool Pier every Sunday evening. To avoid fans, we’d finish playing and dash in panic down the pier towards our waiting car, hoping to be past the front of the theatre before the audience spotted us. But it only partly worked and every week we were chased by screaming fans.”
The next hit, “Sha-La-La,” climbed to #6 in Vancouver. It was a cover of a song by The Shirelles. They would later cover the Carole King-Gerry Goffin song, “Oh, No Not My Baby,” which climbed to #11 in the UK in the spring of 1965. However, it was not a hit in North America. In the 1960’s Manfred Mann scored eight Top 40 singles in the Vancouver radio market. Of these, five climbed into the Top Ten, two more into the Top 20 and one more into the Top 40. While in the USA the band managed only two Top Ten hits and one other song, “Pretty Flamingo,” which made #29. “Pretty Flamingo” peaked at #8 in Vancouver. Their final hit in the 60’s was “The Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo),” which peaked at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 in Vancouver. Meanwhile, in the UK, Manfred Mann managed 13 charted song entries into the Top Ten.
Manfred Mann disolved as a band in 1969. Later in 1969, Mann and Hugg formed an experimental jazz band named Manfred Mann Chapter Three. (The first chapter was the Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers and the second chapter was as Manfred Mann). In 1971 their band took a new direction and they renamed it Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. In this fourth incarnation they had three Top Ten hits in the UK in the 1970’s. One of these, “Blinded By The Light,” became an international hit that topped the pop charts across North America, including in Vancouver in early 1977.
The Manfred Mann Earth Band continues to perform into their 47th year. Between January and July, 2018, the band has 25 concert dates variously in the UK, Germany, Austria, Spain, Switzerland and Holland.
March 28, 2018
Richard Webber, Whatever happened to… Manfred Mann?, Express, London, UK, October 18, 2014.
Patrick Sawyer, Letter Sheds Light on Who was to Blame for ‘Blunder’ Which Sent Light Brigade into the Valley of Death, The Telegraph, London, UK, December 10, 2016.
Last “Light Brigade” Officer Dies; Kipling Poem Discovered, New York Times, New York, NY, November 2, 1913.
Brighton, Terry. Hell Riders: The True Story of the Charge of the Light Brigade. Henry Holt and Company, New York, NY, 2004.
Manfred Mann ~ tour schedule, Manfred Mann.co.uk
For more song reviews visit the Countdown.