Autumn 1975 found the Manband camped out in Headley Grange once more. An
invitation to rejoin the group had been sent out to keyboard player Phil
Ryan, and despite the tensions of his previous involvement he gladly accepted.
Phil describes the events; "One day I was going home from London on a
train....Terry was on the train. We really had a nice journey down together,
we hadn't seen each other for ages. So a week later I got a phone call you
know - it was a crisis phone call, the usual story in the manband - tell
me something new. It was like 'What're you doing?', it was THE CALL you know.
I must admit I'd missed being in a unit that could actually go out and do
gigs without having to worry about the practical details. Man were equipped,
and were in a position to do gigs and I thought that was very attractive
to me after being in the studio all this time."
The Welsh Connection Line-up
Auditions for the bass player's berth eventually saw John McKenzie being
offered the job. Writing and rehearsals for the new album,
took them through to Christmas and into the early part of 1976. The new lineup
- the thirteenth - had another different style, smoother and more accomplished
musically thanks to McKenzie's lyrical bass lines, and with a funky edge
to it. February brought a handful of shows in France, then a handful in middle
England before March ushered in the next major nationwide tour, a series
that ran through until mid-April. The UK tour did reasonably well, and critical
reaction was positive but guarded. The summer tour of Europe and Scandinavia
went well and was neatly interleaved by a third American tour which had been
rescheduled from April and May to July and August.
In San Francisco the band hooked up once more with John Cipollina for shows
at the Keystone in Berkeley but once again the strains were beginning to
surface. A two week break back home helped a little, but then a gruelling
and hassle filled trip around Europe proved to be the final straw. Phil decided
he was leaving, and John McKenzie was going with him. Terry, Micky and Deke
decided enough was enough the band would finish after a farewell UK tour.
To most fans the news came as a shock. The internal struggles had been kept
well hidden, live performances were always top notch and it seemed like the
group would go on progressing, evolving and changing forever. Behind the
scenes however it was a very different matter. Attempts at writing for a
further studio album were abandoned amongst savage arguments and bitter
resentment. Manager Barry Marshall negotiated with the new record company
and got them to accept a single 'in concert' album as completion of the original
three record deal. The swansong,
'All's Well That Ends
Well', was recorded at the Chalk Farm Roundhouse, and there were three
more gigs at Leicester, Harrogate and finally at the Fulcrum Theatre in Slough,
on December 16th 1976. For many of us who were there that night, the last
note, of the last song, of the last encore was the moment that much of the
joy went out of the music business. From then on the aggressive, skill-free,
humourless angst of the Punk movement took over. I can't ever remember being
so depressed after a night out.