Cult Classic: Barış Manço-Nick The Chopper.

Some twenty-one years after his sudden and tragic death, Barış Manço is still remembered as one of the pioneers of modern Turkish music. His career began in 1958, and continued right up until his death in 1999. 

During his career, Barış Manço was one of the founding fathers of Anatolian rock. He helped popularise this hybrid of Turkish folk and rock. Soon, other artists were following in his footsteps and Anatolian rock’s popularity was growing.

It helped that at the vanguard of this new musical movement was a musician that was a pioneer and was capable of creating ambitious and innovative music. That was the case throughout Barış Manço’s long and illustrious recording career. 

Throughout his career, Barış Manço was a truly prolific artist. That was the case since the early days, when he recorded and collaborated with wide variety of groups and artists including Harmoniler, Jacques Denjean Orchestra, Les Mistigris and Kaygısızlar, Moğollar and Kurtalan Ekspres. However, this was just part of the Barış Manço story.

Barış Manço was also a solo artist, and by 1977 was still to make a commercial breakthrough. When he came to record his sophomore album Nick The Chopper, he thought that this was the last roll of dice for him and the most important album of the thirty-four year old’s career.

 Barış Manço was born in Üsküdar, Istanbul, Turkey on the ‘2nd’ of January 1943, into a musical family. His mother Rikkat Uyanık has been a successful singer, and as she watched her son grow-up, little did she realise that her son would later, follow in her footsteps.

By the time Barış Manço was a pupil at  Galatasaray High School, he founded his first band, Kafadarlar. They mainly played to the students at nearby schools,but this was enough to give Barış Manço a taste of life as a professional music.

When Barış Manço was nineteen, he formed a new band Harmoniler. They accompanied Barış Manço when he recorded his debut single, Twistin USA, which was released in 1962, with Do The Twist following later that year. The third and final single Barış Manço released with Harmoniler was Cit Cit Twist in 1963. These three singles were among the first Anatolian rock releases. Barış Manço was part of a new musical movement. Despite this, after graduating from high school, he decided to spend some time travelling across Europe.

Initially, Barış Manço headed to France, and spent some time in Paris. This was where he recorded a single with the Jacques Denjean Orchestra, Baby Sitter. It was released in 1964, but soon, Barış Manço was on the move again.

He then moved to Liege in Belgium, where enrolled and studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Liège, Belgium. This was where Barış Manço encountered the other members of Les Mistigris. 

Les Mistigris. 

Before long, Barış Manço joined the band, and they released three singles while Barış Manço was a member. The first was Il Arrivera in 1966, with Bien Fait Pour Toi following later that year. A third single Bizim Gibi was released in 1967, and by then, Les Mistigris’ popularity was spreading, and the  band were playing much further afield. 

Les Mistigris  were playing not just in Belgium, but France, Germany and Turkey. However, Barış Manço time with Les Mistigris came to an end in 1967.

Later in 1967, Barış Manço was badly hurt in a car crash. It was then that he decided to grow a moustache to hide a scar. This would eventually become one of his trademarks, and a familiar sight to music fans when commercial success and critical acclaim came his way. Before that, Barış Manço would form a new a new band, Kaygısızlar later in 1967.


Unlike the last couple of bands Barış Manço had been a member of Kaygısızlar featured just Turkish musicians. During his travels, Barış Manço had worked with musicians from different countries. This hadn’t been easy, given the language barrier. This time, Barış Manço was joined in Kaygısızlar by Mazhar Alanson and Fuat Güner and they spent the next two years together. 

Kaygısızlar’s debut single Kol Düğmeleri was released later in 1967, and was followed in 1968 by Kızılcıklar, Bebek, Karanlıklar İçinde and Bogaziçi. By the end of the 1968, Kaygısızlar’s popularity had grown. They had graduated from playing in venues in Turkey to touring internationally. Barış Manço’s new band had come a long way in a short space of time.

As 1969 dawned, Kaygısızlar released Runaway, and followed this with Aglama Değmez Hayat and Kağızma, which proved to be Kaygısızlar’s swan-song. The story came to an end later in 1969 when Mazhar Alanson and Fuat Güner told Barış Manço that they didn’t want to move, and live abroad. After eight singles, Kaygısızlar were no more. However, as the sixties gave way to the seventies, Barış Manço founded a new band, Barış Manço Ve.

Barış Manço Ve.

The newly founded Barış Manço Ve headed into the studio to record their debut single during early 1970. This multinational group’s debut single was Dağlar Dağlar (Mountains, Mountains!), and when it was released later in 1970, the single sold in excess of 700,000 copies. 

Buoyed by the success of their debut single, Barış Manço Ve released their debut album in 1971 Dünden Bugüne…Alas, which was the only album the band released. Despite the success of Barış Manço Ve, its founder was ready to move on.


Next stop for Barış Manço was Moğollar, who were one of the pioneers of Anatolian rock. They had been formed in 1967, and were still growing strong when Barış Manço joined in 1971. He features on their 1971 single Bin Boğanın Kızı, but after this, Barış Manço decided to reform Kaygısızlar.


After reforming, Kaygısızlar only released one more single, Fil ile Kurbağa. It was released in 1972 and after this, the members of Kaygısızlar moved on to new projects. Mazhar Alanson and Fuat Güner went on to form MFÖ. Meanwhile, Barış Manço formed another new band, Kurtalan Ekspres.

Kurtalan Ekspres.

Barış Manço’s latest band wasted no time beginning work on their debut single Ölüm Allah’ın Emri, which was was released in 1972. Little did anyone know that this fusion of Anatolian rock and psychedelia marked the debut single by one of the most innovative and influential Turkish bands of the early seventies. They pioneered Anatolian rock, and took the genre in new directions.

Initially, had Kurtalan Ekspres combined Anatolian rock and psychedelia. By 1973, Anatolian rock was evolving as Kurtalan Ekspres moved the genre towards progressive rock. This became apparent when they released their first single of 1973, Lambaya Püf De. It was followed by Gönül Dağı later that year. Kurtalan Ekspres were musical chameleons, whose music continued to be innovative and influential. 

This continued as Kurtalan Ekspres released two new singles released during 1974. The first was Nazar Eyle, which showcased a folk-tinged sound,wiyh the followup Bir Bahar Akşamı showcasing a psychedelic sound. Each single was different from its predecessor as Kurtalan Ekspres’ music evoked and they ensured that their music stayed relevant. Despite this, commercial success continued to elude Kurtalan Ekspres as 1974 gave way to 1975.

The  last two years had been frustrating for Barış Manço, who had just spent two years in the Turkish military. There was no getting round this as national service was mandatory.

At least Barış Manço’s college education meant that he entered as an officer, which made the two years that bit more bearable. During that period, he was regularly pictured in the Turkish teen magazines in his uniform with his head shorn of his long hair. However, eventually the two years were over and Barış Manço returned home, to continue his musical career.

By then, Barış Manço was thinking about where his career was going? He had experienced commercial success with Barış Manço Ve, and  knew that Kurtalan Ekspres was a talented group, but time was beginning to run out for them. Barış Manço was forty-two in 1975. So he was hoping commercial success was just around the corner. 

Alas, when Kurtalan Ekspres released Ben Bilirim as a single in 1975, the single failed to find an audience. Barış Manço however, had a plan and was ready for one last throw of the dice.

Later in 1975, Kurtalan Ekspres were about to release their debut album. It was a genre-melting concept album where songs rubbed shoulders with instrumentals. This became 2023, which was released in 1975. 2023 with its groundbreaking and futuristic music that was meant to transform the fortunes of Kurtalan Ekspres. Sadly, the only countries where 2023 sold well, were Romania and Morocco with album topping the charts in both countries. Elsewhere, 2023 failed to find the audience it deserved, and for everyone involved it was a frustrating time. 

Especially when Kurtalan Ekspres’ 1976 single Çay Elinden Öteye Rezil Dede failed commercially.By then, Barış Manço’s career was officially at a crossroads.

Barış Manço’s career received a boost when he starred in the movie Baba Bizi Eversene. Buoyed by the success of the movie, he decided to travel to Belgium where he hoped to find a label that would transform his fortunes.

By then, Barış Manço knew that CBS in Belgium had a successful track record and had recently released a string of singles and albums. The man behind the success of CBS in Belgium was Jean Huysmans, who had been involved in music for two decades. He had joined Les Cousins in 1961 and played an important part in the band’s success. That was Jean Huysmans’ past, and by  1976 he was running CBS in Belgium when he met Barış Manço.

Jean Huysmans already knew Barış Manço who was a member of Moğollar when they were signed to CBS in the early seventies. The head of CBS in Belgium also knew that Barış Manço was a hugely talented, versatile and innovative musician. Soon, Jean Huysmans had drawn up a three-year contract which Barış Manço was more than happy to sign. After that, work began on Barış Manço’s sophomore album Nick The Chopper.

Nick The Chopper.

Barış Manço and Jean Huysmans wasted no time, and soon had hired twenty-nine musicians to record Nick The Chopper. This included three drummers, two bassists, two guitarists, two string quartets, two pianos, a nine piece horn section, backing singers Heart Of Soul and Turkish musicians Ohannes Kener and former roadie turned percussionist Cetal Guven. The  band recorded the ten songs that became Nick The Chopper in two Brussels’ studios.

This included Studio Katy and Morgan Studios, Brussels where Jean Huysmans took charge of production on Barış Manço’s sophomore album Nick The Chopper.Barış Manço wrote Little Darlin’ (We’ll Be Kissing), Nick The Chopper and Ride On Miranda. He penned six other songs with various songwriting partners including Jonathan Glemser, who wrote album closer Old Paulin’.

When Barış Manço’s sophomore album was released by CBS in 1976, the title was Barış Manço.It was released as part of series that included Kansas, Phoebe Snow and even Johnny Mathis.Sadly,Barış Manço was the album that failed to find an audience in Belgium.         

Record buyers who didn’t speak Turkish found the lyrics unwieldy. At least exiled Turks were familiar with the melodies. The only problem was that the exiled Turks either wanted heavier sounding songs or folk-tinged songs. Barış Manço had taken as a starting point Anatolian rock, which is a hybrid of Turkish folk and rock and added elements of blues, electronica, folk, funk, progressive rock and psychedelia. The result was a genre-melting album that oozes quality,

From the opening bars of Little Darlin’ (We’ll Be Kissing), through  Lonely Man and Old Paulin’ the versatile, charismatic and talented Barış Manço leads his twenty-nine piece band on  Lucky Road, Emerald Garden and Nick The Chopper, which tells the story of a homeless woodcutter. On each of these songs Barış Manço puts three decades of experience to good use. That is the case on Tell Me Old Man, which gives way to Blue Morning Angel and Lady Of The Seventh Sky which are highlights of the album. It closes with the memorable Ride On Miranda.

Sadly, Nick The Chopper was released  commercial success eluded Barış Manço’s sophomore album. It was a huge disappointment for everyone involved in the project. 

Undeterred, Barış Manço headed home to Turkey where he embarked upon a forty-five date to promote his sophomore album which was retitled Nick The Chopper. The tour was a success until they played in Balikesir, where Kurtalan Ekspres were attacked by right-wing protesters and two band members were hospitalised. Despite this, the tour continued.

In December 1977, Barış Manço played a concert in London, and afterwards was hospitalised. He was diagnosed with a liver infection and had to have a tumour removed. It was a worrying end to a year that had promised much. 

Especially after the release of his genre-melting sophomore album Nick The Chopper which should’ve transformed his career. Sadly, that wasn’t to be and it was case of what might have been. However, forty-four years later and the cult classic Nick The Chopper is a a truly irresistible and heady  musical brew, and one of the hidden gems in Barış Manço’s back-catalogue.

Cult Classic: Barış Manço-Nick The Chopper.

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