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Jul 06

MANFRED MANN – “Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)”

FT + Popular37 comments • 8,142 views

#244, 17th February 1968

Beginning a hot streak for mentalist bubblegum hits: I always think of this one as a children’s song, because I heard it when I was 7 or 8 and thought it was enchanting, mysterious and funny. As a grown-up I was surprised to learn it was a Bob Dylan number – of course Dylan’s own version isn’t so surprising, as the man always did a roaring trade in shaggy-dog stories. I shouldn’t be surprised either that it makes the transition to pop so well – the Basement Tape songs strike me as an attempt to make aspects of folk (tradition, allusion, intimacy) and pop (hooks, disposability, surface impact) fold into one another in a more interesting way than just doing shiny covers of old tunes. (They’re also an attempt to have some fun on holiday, of course).

This is Manfred Mann’s best number one, free of the overplayed sneering of “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” – maybe this nonsense struck more of a chord with them than that nonsense did, or they were suckered into thinking that this nonsense wasn’t, but they sound like they’re enjoying the party at least. What makes the record good though are the flute breaks and the rolling, staggering rhythm, which well suits the freewheeling invention of the lyric.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Mark G on 24 Oct 2008 #

    Gary Puckett & The Union Gap also recorded this song in 1968. The Brothers and the Sisters recorded a gospel version. A live version by the Grateful Dead was released in 2000 on Dick’s Picks, Volume 17, from a 1991 performance in Boston. Another live version by Phish was released in 1999 on Hampton Comes Alive, which was recorded on November 20 & 21, 1998 in Hampton, Virginia.

  2. 27
    Hit Mann on 27 May 2009 #

    Does anybody know about the BBC `Top of The Pops` radio show version
    of `The Mighty Quinn` made by The Manfred Mann? I have heard it, it
    is the best, but I `haven`t found out how to get it.

  3. 28
    Jesse F on 28 Jun 2009 #

    This sounds exactly like Cornershop!

  4. 29
    Dan R on 8 Sep 2009 #

    I wish it had been Lady Madonna, but this was the number 1 when I was born. It’s never seemed to me one of Dylan’s better songs, coldly riddling, rather than allusive and mercurial. He could write these songs in minutes and, if you listen to the most extended bootlegs of the Basement Tapes, he did.

  5. 30
    Waldo on 6 Nov 2009 #

    Much preferred “Ha Ha Said The Clown” and “My Name Is Jack” (which it is!) but Quinn the Inuit, as we must now call him in order to prevent a visit from PC Plod and a nicking for hate crimes, was a more than adequate kiddie singalong. It eventually became clear to me that the mighty one was just another seller of the dream who does his rounds just like the winkle man. And everybody jumps for joy. And all the pigeons run to him. But who cares? This is typical Bobby Zimmerman sustenance served up very skillfully by the Manfreds and sung heartily by children like me and by young adults of the Del Boy generation.

  6. 31
    lonepilgrim on 6 Nov 2009 #

    Listening to this the other day made me wonder if it was bob trying to do something like Yellow Submarine – a jaunty shaggy dog story (as Tom quite rightly calls it) I remember singing along to both songs as a child – and not worrying what the lyrics meant. I still don’t care.

    According to Wikipedia Inuits are a subset of Eskimos, so no need to worry Waldo

  7. 32
    Waldo on 7 Nov 2009 #

    lonepilgrim, I am grateful.

  8. 33
    Sam on 13 Sep 2010 #

    Another hit that caught the imagination of the terraces – Leicester City fans adapted it in tribute to Mike Stringfellow, ‘the Mighty String’.

  9. 34
    Billy Smart on 21 Mar 2011 #

    One of the Manfreds’ greatest singles;

    http://drunkennessofthingsbeingvarious.blogspot.com/2011/03/manfred-mann-semi-detached-suburban-mr.html

  10. 35
    hectorthebat on 7 May 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 18
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 721
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  11. 36
    flahr on 13 Oct 2016 #

    This seems like the appropriate place to mark today’s exciting pop news (either here or “It’s All In The Game”). Seems well-deserved to me.

    Murakami should fake a health scare to make them give it him next year.

  12. 37
    enitharmon on 18 Oct 2016 #

    Flahr: I’m late to the party here (I’ve spent most of the last week either in the belly of an armadillo, stripping a drunken willow or catching up on sleep) but Mr Tambourine Man would be the place, surely?

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