“Doo Wah Diddy” / Manfred Mann
MAY IS BRITISH INVASION MONTH!
What WERE those lyrics? I couldn’t believe this song when I first it on the radio in mid-1964. Two measures of crunchy guitars and whomping drums, then it screeches to a halt for Paul Jones’ slovenly blues vocal to blurt out: “There she was, just a-walking down the street / Singing ‘Doo-wah-diddy, diddy-dum, diddy-doo’ / Tapping her fingers and a-shuffling her feet / Singing ‘Doo-wah-diddy, diddy-dum, diddy-doo.’” The back-up vocals chime in for the “Doo-wah diddies,” sounding raucous and sloppy, with jittery organ chords underneath. Whoever these Manfred Mann guys were, I could not deny the rawness and energy of this track, and its rocking sense of humor. I had to run right out and buy the single.
My favorite part is how it goes a cappella for that seesaw call and response between the back-ups and the lead: “She looked good / [Looked good] / She looked fine / [Looked fine] / She looked good, she looked fine, and I nearly lost my mind,” not to mention that jungle pounding on the drums every time the back-ups do their bit. Even better is the third version of this chorus: “Well I’m here / [I’m hers] / She’s mine / [She’s mine] / I’m hers, she’s mine, wedding bells are gonna chime.” Who cares if the rhymes are simple-minded? Jones sounds like he’s squirming with happiness, and it’s pretty hard not to get infected with that delirious joy.
Well, there is a narrative. In the second verse, he tell us, “Before I knew it, she was walking next to me” (singing doo-wah diddy etc., naturally), “holding my hand, just as natural as can be.” No long drawn-out courtship here; there’s a sexual revolution in progress, and this couple sees no reason to take things slow. “We walked on / [Walked on] / To my door / [My door] / We walked on to my door and we kissed a little more.” And in the third verse, “Now we’re together nearly every single day.” She’s still singing doo-wah-diddy constantly, but apparently it doesn’t get on his nerves. It MUST be love.
A primitive electric guitar riffs leads off the bridge, but what it’s really about is Paul Jones’ voice, howling and diving all over the joint: “Oh-oh oh-oo I knew we was falling in love / yes I did, so I told her all the things I was dreaming of.” And what things IS he dreaming of? Oh, come on, you know. (Actually I didn’t, not in 1964, but that didn’t stop me from getting the subtext.)
Very few British bands of that era had the musical range of Manfred Mann; these guys could go from jazz to blues to bossa nova without a hitch. But they were shrewd enough to launch themselves with a stripped-down rocker – not only that, but a stripped-down rocker with an unforgettable hook. It worked. It worked so well that they made their follow-up single the equally bouncy “Sha-La-La,” where once again, the guy gets the girl right away. (“Sha-la-la, say you love me too / Sha-la-la my love is true / We’ll spend our lives together / We’ll be happy forever.”) I bought that one too.
I had no idea there were TWO musicians in Manfred Mann who wore glasses (Tom McGuinness and Manfred Mann himself). I had no idea that Klaus Voormann (a.k.a. the guy who drew the Revolver cover) would later join Manfred Mann. All I knew was that these were two great singles. I still can’t hear them without being transported back to 1964. Need a time machine? Try Manfred Mann.