Nowadays there are not many who remember them. The good people at Vinyl Japan, however, luckily do, and have graced us with two fine CD issues, one called 'The Good Things In Life', which is a compilation of most of the material they recorded during their career. The second one is a live CD called 'Big Noise', recorded in their hometown Manchester in early 1989. Who am I talking about? The Man From Delmonte, of course!

After searching for hours on the Internet, which is supposed to have information on everything, I finally gave up and instead I began looking for Mike West, the songwriter and singer with this forgotten 80’s band. After a while I found him in the US, where he now makes hillbilly music. I gently asked him if he wanted to talk about his past, and to my utter happiness he agreed.

"So, Mike, how did you begin making music ?"

"I had guitar lessons when I was 13, but was too lazy to read music and learn songs. So I started making up my own songs. When I was 18, I tried playing music in the London Underground train tunnels... I knew two tunes and played them over and over... I was horrible. I made fifteen pounds a day from people feeling sorry for me and throwing me money to shut me up."

His first influences were ABBA and Willie Nelson, and maybe it was their songs he tried to play down in the tube stations. Soon he met Martin Vincent, a guitar player who had recently started playing with Sheila Seal, a classical pianist who wanted to play the bass guitar. After a while they discovered they didn’t have any original songs, and that’s where Mike came in. He had written some songs on his own and muscled his way into the band. Then they also found out that a friend’s boyfriend, Howard Goody, used to play the drums ten years ago. So, they made him dust off his old drumkit and voila, a band was formed! The year was now 1985 and the musical influences had changed to The Mamas & The Papas, Dion and the Belmonts and the June Brides.

"I wrote the songs, but the band arranged them and made them better. Most of the songs were boyfriend/girlfriend songs, written by exploiting old relationships that had gone wrong. The usual method."

Their first release was a single called 'Drive Drive Drive', released on the Ugly Man label in 1987 (the song were also featured on the great compilation CD 'The Sound Of Leamington Spa' last year), and later that year, the second single 'Water In My Eyes' hit the shelves. Actually, the B-side to that single, 'Bored By You', is Mike’s all-time favourite The Man From Delmonte song. Although many people, including me, would like to place in the C86 genre, Mike can’t really agree with me:

"I've never heard that term. It'd be nice to think we were part of a movement... There were a lot of bands that came through at the same time from Manchester, and we all knew and played with each other. But C86? What is that ?"

They continued to release some great singles (including the absolutely brilliant 'My Love Is Like A Gift' and 'Will Nobody Save Louise?', but never got around to make an album. The closest they got were the aforementioned live album, and also a compilation of their singles named 'Catholic Boys On Mobilettes'. Now they had switched labels to Bop Cassettes, who didn’t really release cassettes (or at least the Man From Delmonte's music wasn't released on cassette). But happiness doesn’t last forever, and in 1990, they decided to call it a day. After the split, Mike moved to New Orleans in the US, and became a banjo player and hillbilly songwriter.

"The parts I like best about British pop music, I discovered, were the parts most influenced by early American roots music... jug bands, skiffle... I always loved the banjo, I just didn't get to play one until I was 30... This is the music I love. I have put out 7 CDs since leaving England and I tour constantly. I play old time country style music, with original songs documenting life in this crazy part of the world. Lots of banjo, mandolin, washboard and hollerin'. Hillbilly music suits me better than Pop music. I also produce records for other songwriters."

Martin now has a band called De Kunst and Sheila plays Piano and occasional bass for Edward Barton. Mike tells me he hasn't seen Howard for a while, but he thinks he spends a lot of time in France.

Looking back at the years with The Man From Delmonte, Mike is happy that they made those songs and played those shows, and he is also happy that they still like each other.

"But we didn’t like each other that much! That’s why we split up.".

Mike also tells me he doesn’t listen to the old records anymore, but he had to when he re-mastered the recordings for the reissues which Vinyl Japan did in 1999 and last year.

"It was fun to hear them again, but I haven’t listened to them since."

So, finally Mike, if you would describe The Man From Delmonte’s music to someone who have never heard them, what would you say?

"Jangly pop with too many “la la laas”… but good none the less."

So, that’s the story of the band, whose greatest moment was when their video for 'My Love Is Like A Gift' (a video made for 25 pounds) made the Chart Show. Pop music were more fun back in the old days…

If you want to find out more about Mike West’s current solo career, please visit his website at http://www.mojono.com/mm/.











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