Mott The Hoople All The Young Dudes, 1972, CBS
Momma’s Little Jewel
All the Young Dudes
One of the Boys
Ready for Love / After Lights
Formed in 1967, Mott The Hoople wanted to make music like Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. They never quite achieved the level of quality or success of their idols and lyrically, they were a bit more suburban but they were still important to British music at the start of the 1970s. They initially had limited commercial success, although they were popular in mid-sized venues in London and were always considered to be a good live band. (Fans caused so much damage at their 1971 concert at the Royal Albert Hall that rock concerts were banned from the iconic venue). By the beginning of 1972 following poor album sales, an aborted tour and an onstage fight in Switzerland, Mott The Hoople were on the brink of breaking up. Sometimes in life quality is more important than quantity, and even if you don’t have a huge number of fans, if your hardcore group of fans includes David Bowie, you must still have some hope. Such was the case for Mott the Hoople. After hearing of the band’s troubles, Bowie offered to give them his song Suffragette City. They declined the offer thinking that it would not get them the kind of radio airplay that they needed to sell more records, but took him up on All The Young Dudes. The single release became their greatest hit and a classic of the glam rock genre and the album of the same name that followed, produced by Bowie and Mick Ronson, got to number 21 in the album chart. This was their fifth album and it was where they moved away from standard 1960s rock music and jumped firmly onto the glam rock band wagon, despite not being the most obvious candidates for the ride.
The Velvet Underground cover Sweet Jane initially put me in mind of a Bob Dylan song. I liked the acoustic guitar start, it’s not the kind of opener I expected from a glam rock album. Momma’s Little Jewel is a much rockier affair that ends with what sounds like a cassette tape being mangled (anyone remember that?) but is actually David Bowie having the last word on the saxophone, but this is surprisingly a great way to lead into the start of All The Young Dudes which is of course the stand out track and a glam rock anthem. Sucker has some brilliant guitar work and since Mott have decided to go glam rock, they have to have a sex song full of “oh oh oh’s” and the theme continues with the less good (despite borrowing the intro from The Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar), but equally lewd Jerkin’ Crocus. One of the Boys also has a Stones vibe, it’s very Honky Tonk Women-y. Soft Ground is the album’s weakest track and although it has a distinctive glam rock sound, it reminded me of the genre’s more mediocre practitioners.
David Bowie’s production gave Mott The Hoople a hit album at their fifth attempt but unfortunately without him they were not able to maintain this level of success, and although their sixth album actually charted higher than All The Young Dudes, they split up in 1975. The tracks on this album all sound like they would be better on stage. It seems like Mott The Hoople were a band that sounded great in front of an audience but could not quite recapture that magic in a studio and I am reliably informed (by my Mum) that Mott were “absolutely brilliant live”. In 2009 they played a 5 night sell out reunion residency at the Hammersmith Apollo. The crowd were on their feet through the entirety of each show and apparently lead singer Ian Hunter commented that it was the first time he had ever had a standing ovation for an entire concert. The surviving members of the band have continued to play sporadically since. Not bad for a band that never had a number one hit single or album.
Despite being the least commercially successful band I have covered, Mott The Hoople influenced some serious musical players, Queen, REM (Listen to Man on the Moon) and of course David Bowie. The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Smiths and the New York Dolls all cite Mott as influencing them and Mott have the distinction of having the most interesting non-musical influence-ee so far, former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto (yes, really, she was actually a paid up member of the Mott The Hoople Fan Club.).
I was going to end this by saying that it feels like a shame that I won’t get to have the Mott the Hoople live experience, but they have just announced a UK tour for spring 2018 and tickets go on sale tomorrow. I’ll be in the queue.