*7.13-MIGHTY QUINN (Manfred Mann)

Manfred Mann


     Come all without, come all within
     You'll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn.

Everybody's building ships and boats.
Some are building monuments, others are jotting down notes.
Everybody's in despair, every girl and boy.
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here
Everybody's gonna jump for joy.


I like to go just like the rest, I like my sugar sweet;
But jumping queues and making haste, just ain't my cup of meat.
Everyone's beneath the trees, feeding pigeons on a limb
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here
All the pigeons gonna run to him.

     [Chorus (2x)]

Let me do what I wanna do, I can't decide 'em all.
Just tell me where to put 'em and I'll tell you who to call.
Nobody can get no sleep, there's someone on everyone's toes
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here
Everybody's gonna wanna doze.

     [Chorus (4x)]

I have always thought that Mighty Quinn was Bob Dylan’s spoof on Beatles psychedelia, playing with the profundity of the wisdom literature cited in Within You and Without You and most especially the nonsense of I Am the Walrus. It’s hard to find the authenticity here except in Dylan’s sense of humor. With the pied piper flute accompaniment, played by Klaus Voormann, Manfred Mann performs as if pitching Mighty Quinn as a contender for a position among the bubblegum psychedelia that was topping the charts in early 1968. In the U.S. the Manfred Mann single put up a good but losing fight with Judy in the Disguise by John Fred and His Playboy Band (itself a spoof on the Beatles’ Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds) and Green Tambourine by the Lemon Pipers. In the U.K., Mighty Quinn topped the charts. Though Dylan had failed to chart with his own production of All Along the Watchtower, Manfred Mann’s hit was an opportunity to show the world that Dylan could still write a hit single.

Like I Am the Walrus, the song insists on its absurdity to such a degree as to discourage any serious interpretation of the poetry. The character Quinn the Eskimo seems to be some sort of laughable guru figure carrying a natural truth similar to that of St. Francis to a crowded city where everyone has to wait in line for everything and there’s not even room to sleep. The song doesn’t hold up much more hope than sedation to solve the urban problem. More than that, I dare not suppose. Some people interpret the Quinn the Eskimo character as a drug dealer, and that seems to work too.

George Starostin in his blog Only Solitaire wrote “I daresay that if Shakespeare found it possible to think highly of comedy, so can the rest of us, and in Manfred Mann's hands, Mighty Quinn becomes the Mr. Tambourine Man of all jokey throwaways.” The two songs mark the beginning and end of Bob Dylan’s involvement with psychedelia. We will not hear from Dylan again in the Psychedelic Masterworks, except when the Jimi Hendrix Experience puts an entirely new spin on All Along the Watchtower.