22
Aug 05

MANFRED MANN – “Pretty Flamingo”

Popular18 comments • 2,734 views

#214, 7th May 1966

The girl in the song – a flash of colour in everyday guy-land – maps onto the flamingo metaphor itself, that odd flutter of inspiration in a heavy-handed song. The image of the flamingo-girl gives the song a hook and title but not a center: she’s untouchable, and the singer can only even imagine her as ‘his’ in the context of other guys’ envy. That gives the track a little bit of pathos which the lumbering arrangement does its best to waste – the woodwind in particular sounds forced and clumsy, and you can imagine the flamingo strutting disdainfully on by.

5

Comments

  1. 1
    Andrew Hickey on 22 Aug 2005 #

    I always liked this song, but the lyrics are frankly ridiculous – “On our block, all of the guys call her flamingo, because her hair is like the sun and her eyes are like the sky”

    As far as I’m aware, two of the attributes that in flamingoes are noticeable by their absence are shiny blonde hair and blue eyes. Also, I can’t imagine any woman actually being anything other than horribly insulted by being compared to a flamingo at all. They’re rather ridiculous-looking creatures…

    Paul Jones’ vocal *almost* saves the lyric though…

  2. 2
    Marcello on 23 Aug 2005 #

    Also the last single the Manfreds recorded with Paul Jones on vocals. Jack Bruce played bass on the track, so there’s a very flimsy link to Escalator Over The Hill there.

    Writer was Mark Barkan, perhaps better known as the subsequent author of the Banana Splits theme.

  3. 3
    Lena on 24 Aug 2005 #

    And the Banana Splits theme always reminds me of “Buffalo Soldier” which some of you may regard as a bad thing.

    I’ve never heard this song, but if Jack Bruce plays on it, okay with me. Obv. I have to catch up on Escalator Over The Hill!

  4. 4
    Marcello on 25 Aug 2005 #

    Here’s a good start

  5. 5
    lena on 26 Aug 2005 #

    Thanks!

  6. 6
    Alan Connor on 29 Aug 2005 #

    I suppose it is pretty bad. I’ve always loved it, though. It reminds me, for reasons elusive, of the Casuals’ “Jesamine” (hey, ace bass there, too!).

    Resurrection Watch: Talent shows again — Darius did a version for that NME One Love covers record in 2002. Los Mustang did a Spanish version, Gene Pitney, The Queers and The Huxton Creepers stuck to English, and Rod did one on A Night On The Town.

    The Boss used to make quite a meal of “Pretty Flamingo” in concert (a return for “Blinded By The Light”?), taking it over 10, 11, 12 minutes, and improvising speaky bits about how he was going to use a private detective to find his lost love.

    In what will surely and hopefully be their only mention on Popular, Cud did a sort-of version (“Pink Flamingo”) on Asquarius. (I realise that may be taken more as a challenge than a truth.)

    And let us not forget Iggy Pop and Rolf Harris. Not together, heartbreakingly.

    Surely it’s been used in adverts for dainty things, maybe shoes or hairspray?

    Sigh. I’m guessing that the next time I hear it, I’ll be distracted by the image of a flamingo in a dress that clings so tight.

  7. 7
    Anonymous on 1 Sep 2005 #

    Just looking back through the last 6 FT entries and it was a pretty lame time for Brit Pop. We saw Day Tripper & Keep On Runnin in May but then had 6 weeks of basic crap and novelty songs.
    Of the lot , I think probably ” Flamingo” is the best of bunch.
    Dusty always struck me as a bit over the top , all time.
    Let’s hope we something better soon…..and give this lively !

  8. 8
    Marcello on 2 Sep 2005 #

    We’re just about to enter a reasonably purple patch…

  9. 9
    Anonymous on 2 Sep 2005 #

    Looking forward to it.

    Thanks , Marcello for the link to the “Escalator Over The Hill ” article of yours.
    I’m gonna have to get a copy of that.

    Just had an interesting summer pastime. There is a book called ” Kind of Blue ” about tha making of the classic album of the same name by Miles Davis.
    To read the book and listen to the album was a real eye-opener for me as jazz has not always been my strongest suit.
    SO I’m in jazz mode/modality now and could just about listen to anything, except maybe Cher

    Brian in Canada

  10. 10
    Keith on 3 Oct 2005 #

    The girl is like a flamingo because she has one leg, like the bloke from Jethro Tull.

    Mann’s Earth Band are a vast improvement, though I still like this one.

  11. 13
    Billy Smart on 4 Dec 2011 #

    TOTPWatch: Manfred Mann performed Pretty Flamingo on Top Of The Pops on five occasions;

    21 April 1966. Also in the studio that week were; Cilla Black, Crispian St Peters, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Rolling Stones and The Seekers. Pete Murray was the host.

    28 April 1966. Also in the studio that week were; Dusty Springfield, Nancy Sinatra, Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours and Trini Lopez. Jimmy Savile was the host.

    12 May 1966. Also in the studio that week were; Neil Christian, Paul & Barry Ryan, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, The Merseys, The Rolling Stones and The Troggs. Pete Murray was the host.

    19 May 1966. Also in the studio that week were; Ken Dodd, Sandie Shaw, The Merseys, The Troggs and Tom Jones. David Jacobs was the host.

    26 December 1966. The Small Faces were also in the studio that Boxing Day. Jimmy Savile and Pete Murray were the hosts.

    None of these editions survive.

  12. 14
    lonepilgrim on 8 Aug 2012 #

    Meanwhile, over in the USA this got to Number One. Judging by the repeated plays it gets on Radio 2 you’d think it got to Number One here as well.

  13. 15
    DanH on 23 Jun 2013 #

    Not a hit in America, I see. No big loss there

  14. 16
    hectorthebat on 24 Apr 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) 17
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 578
    Guinness Book of Hits of the ’60s (UK, 1984) – Tim Rice’s Top 10 Songs
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  15. 17
    Tommy Mack on 26 Oct 2014 #

    RIP Jack Bruce, bassist on Pretty Flamingo* and better records which sadly didn’t get to number one.

    *his only recording during his ultra-brief tenure with the Manfreds, I believe?

  16. 18
    lonepilgrim on 5 Sep 2015 #

    best to approach the lyrics to this as dadaist poetry – maybe it was supposed to be an exotic variation on the ugly ducking. I find it hard to place this in any particular musical genre, although something about its jerky shuffle reminds me of things like ‘Under the Boardwalk’

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