From 1968 to 1970.

The uneasy marriage between Pye records and Man very nearly didn't happen. Pye, a previously successful company but who were by then beginning perhaps to founder on a stale diet of traditional sixties pop, attempted to ride the new trend that was taking the music industry by storm.

The Manband in 1968

Dan Williams recalls the Swansea scene at the time; "From about '66-'67 I became aware of Welsh bands that were making original music but not having any sustained success. Eyes of Blue, The Dream, Bystanders and finally, about 1968, Man (personnel from the latter two) really took my fancy. I was lucky some years later to become a regular in Man's watering hole 'The Tenby' in Swansea and saw quite a bit of them. Drugs were always freely available (and cheap) in Swansea - especially acid that was being mass-produced in the environs of Carmarthen, grass that flourished in many a Hanover Street and Townhill greenhouse and magic mushrooms that grew in profusion in all the City parks. Although it was to kill a few of the less discriminating boyos it did fuel a very diverse music scene."

Progressive rock was beginning to develop after the spectacular impact of The Beatles, and their evolution from Pop through Psychedelia as the sixties neared their conclusion. Pye remained sceptical throughout, but set up an offshoot label, Dawn, to support the new trend, and to distance their heavier sounds from the more mainstream Pop with which they felt more comfortable. Man were signed to the new label on royalties of 0.75%, a subsistence level.

Relationships between the company and the group were always strained, and producer John Schroeder was required to fight hard to retain them under the Pye umbrella. He considered that the key difference between Man and their previous incarnation as The Bystanders was the arrival of Deke Leonard; "He wasn't only a singer, he was quite a good instrumentalist as well, and also he wrote material that was more in the direction." Said Schroeder in a TWC interview in the early nineties, "The whole thing fitted together a lot better. He was the missing piece of a new direction, but we didn't know that the new direction was going to be able to sell any records."

The group were gigging, but only intermittently, and were being billed as 'Man - formerly The Bystanders' in order to maintain hopes of attracting an audience amongst people who remembered the former glories. Although musically things were taking shape very nicely, it was always a struggle to make ends meet financially. The group were based in and around a flat at 66, Tierney Road, Streatham in London for this early period, tenants of a generous Welsh landlord. Their benefactor, who was prepared to cut them some slack when money was tight, even subbed them funds to travel to the next gig so they could pay the rent with the takings.

The first album,'Revelation' caused barely a ripple in the marketplace when it was released in January 1969, but it gave the group the confidence they needed to take their musical development further. Their second album, '2ozs Of Plastic With A Hole In The Middle' was also released without much trace at the time but prompted the first positive news the band had heard for a while. Despite having looked around for several months the group had been unable to find an agency willing to manage them. The fairy godmother turned up in the unlikely shape of Barry Marshall from the Arthur Howes Agency, who had heard them and wanted the job. It was the start of a very productive relationship, but it also marked the end of another, as Deke Leonard left the group, returning to Llanelli to help support his wife Fran who was unwell at the time.

His replacement was another ex-Dream member, Martin Ace who had been kicking his heels in various other local groups after they had split. Martin took over Deke's role lock stock and barrel, singing his vocals and playing his guitar parts. Clive John recalled the events later; "Martin decided he was going to join the band! You didn't argue with Martin in those days! He stood on stage and he was a character. It wasn't a musical thing when Martin joined at the beginning. We thought he'd make a good front man."

The Deke-less Manband in 1969
five piece band from 1969

The perilous financial situation was eased a little by the band taking on session work for Ronnie Scott (of Leeds Music not Jazz Club fame) at RG Jones studios in Morden. Ray Williams' wife Jan was also fortunately amongst the various wives and girlfriends who had gradually moved up to London. Between them there were enough steady jobs and enough income to help keep things going for a little longer. New manager Barry Marshall was working hard to fill up the tour schedule, but a great proportion of the dates were abroad in continental Europe.

The group spent much of 1969 touring in Switzerland, Germany, Holland and Belgium. Returning from a gig supporting American act Chicago at the Jahrhundredhalle in Frankfurt the Manband had the first of several run-ins with the Belgian police authorities. The German police had been watching the concert promoter, newly released from a two year sentence for forging passports and documents for the terrorist Baader-Meinhof group. Take one foreign van, six burly individuals unloading and reloading large heavy boxes, simmer gently in the police mind and out pops a terrorist plot. The German force failed to stop the band before they reached the Belgian border, but they were soon pulled over and arrested. Despite a healthy dope-stash being recovered, courtesy of a casual hitch-hiker who the group had offered a lift to, no plot was discovered and after a week long stay in Bruges jail all charges were dropped.

Back to Tierney Road, and the return of Deke Leonard who had enough of the nine to five. Deke had taken on a job as a time and motion progress chaser at a local piano factory back in Llanelli, but inevitably had trouble sorting out just exactly whose side he was on. It didn't work out and he was soon back in the band, raising the lineup to a six-piece. The tour schedule continued to concentrate on the European mainland and as Martin was freed from the strictures of a fixed instrument the live act was becoming looser all the time. Deke remembers; "We had dispensed with a set list, preferring instead to start off with a familiar riff, then letting it go where it wanted to." Not everyone was happy though, bassist Ray Williams and drummer Jeff Jones were the casualties this time, being sacked during one of the group's brief stays back in England. Jeff was replaced by another ex-Dream man, Terry Williams whereas Ray's place was readily filled by Martin Ace.

A few days of rehearsals and then inevitably it was back to Germany again. The first concert given by the new line up was recorded privately by the promoter and later released as the bootleg album 'To Live For To Die'. Barry Marshall was busily working away in the background to keep the group active and solvent, but out of sight of their record company. Although the free-form improvisational nature of the shows was less successful at home, they were going down a storm in Germany, Holland and Belgium, and the summer of 1970 was spent abroad. A gig at an all-day open air festival at the Cyclodrome in Ostend proved to be a key event. Despite the promotors being assured that the event was subject to a drugs amnesty, the Belgian police infiltrated the crowd. Two officers in uniform were intent on herding one young boy out of the concert area where it would be possible to arrest him. Martin intervened and when the original target of their intentions fled, the officers turned violent. So did Martin. The ensuing struggle was immortalised in his song 'Romain', a Manband classic that was released on their next album and is still played regularly.

Eventually Barry Marshall phoned through with the news that everyone had been waiting for. Pye had lost interest, and the band had a new record label. The United Artists years were underway. John Schroeder's call on events suggests that Pye simply didn't see a market for Man's music, preferring instead to concentrate on easier pickings in the Pop area. Despite this disinterest, Pye certainly got their money's worth out of the group. Although only two albums were recorded, over the years these have been issued on compilation cash-in albums on no fewer than eight occasions, and all at a measly 0.75%.