It's clean the chimneys kids and it's 1974....
Released March 1974
Recorded at Air Studios, London
Running time 39:09
Mott The Hoople's 1974 swansong is a mixed bag. After rising to glam rock heights with David Bowie's initial impetus with the corking albums in All The Young Dudes and Mott, they were gone almost as quickly as their star had risen. It was a shame but probably for the best. Sounds awful that, doesn't it? You just felt it couldn't go any further, though. To be honest this is a bit of an uneven album, lacking cohesion and direction. Guitarist Mick Ralphs had left the previous year to join Paul Rodgers in Bad Company and this left Ian Hunter do everything himself, something he felt he over-compensated for. Replacement guitarist Ariel Bender (Luther Grosvenor) never really fitted the bill for me, being a bit too comic-book rock star.
So, despite some strong points on the album, it was also the product of a band beginning to fall apart.
1. The Golden Age Of Rock And Roll
4. The Crash Street Kidds
5. Born Late '58
6. Trudi's Song
7. Pearl 'n' Roy (England)
8. Through The Looking Glass
9. Roll Away The Stone
The lead-off single The Golden Age Of Rock 'n' Roll is a lesser All The Way From Memphis but is nonetheless an enjoyable retro rock n roll romp. It became Mott's fifth consecutive hit single.
Marionette is a dense, complicated rocker dominated by Hunter's leering voice and new guitarist, the ludicrously-named Ariel Bender's dentist drill axe. It is full of mood and melody changes that make it sound a bit clumsy in places.
Alice, however, is a great Hunter rock ballad, one of my favourites on here, packed full of atmosphere and great lyrics but Crash Street Kidds is a second rate take on Violence from Mott. A bit of a mess. You jut got the impression that the old creative juices had dried up again with tracks like this. However many times I listen to it, it never fails to underwhelm me.
Born Late '58, bassist Overend Watts' contribution, is a bit of a "Ringo song", although many long time fans seem to love it, but Hunter's Trudi's Song brings the quality back, with a touching, laid-back, gentle organ-driven ballad dedicated to his wife. It is a bit of a hidden gem on the album.
Pearl 'n' Roy, one of my favourites on the album, is a wonderfully evocative upbeat, saxophone-dominated rocker, full of references to the current political situation in 1974, but Through The Looking Glass is a virtually unlistenable racket, particularly on the deafening, bombastic chorus parts and there follows a far inferior version of Roll Away The Stone to the original single version. The old "side two" ended a bit disappointingly with this. Quite why they decided to re-record Roll Away The Stone is unclear. The original had so much more "oomph" to it.
Despite the patchy nature of the album, there were still some really good tracks on there, well, five and a half actually. You just got the impression the group were running out of steam somewhat. It proved to be the case, unfortunately.
The non-album singles and an unreleased rarity from this period were:-
Foxy Foxy was a single in the summer of 1974 and was a glorious, Spectoresque number with a Be My Baby-style intro and saxophone-drenched extended fade-out. It was not really like anything Mott The Hoople had released before and sort of stands alone as a quite unique single.
Lounge Lizard re-appeared in 1975 on Ian Hunter's debut solo album. Here it is recored as one of Mott's final numbers. it is a robust mid-paced, riffy and muscular rocker. Hunter's vocals are clearer on the later re-recording but there is a raw, edginess to this one that I like. So, another Mott album had three possible tracks to go on it, but that is as far as they ever got with it.
Saturday Gigs. Now, what can I say about Mott's wonderful, elegiac "goodbye" to us all. Released in October 1974, the group were pretty much done and they knew it. Hunter's mate Mick Ronson had arrived on guitar and they somehow managed to give us this one last Mott classic. The song goes through their career, year by year, from 1969 to 1974. It's bloody marvellous. I can never hear it without being moved as the Mott choir sing "goodbye" at the end, the saxophone wails and good old Ronno's guitar sees us home.
The Saturday Kids is a most interesting rarity - an early, extended version of Saturday Gigs with the same theme but different lyrics, although Ian Hunter garbles them somewhat and they are a bit difficult to make out. At 1.48 it goes into the more familiar parts of the song, but again with a few different lyrics. I love the "hey man, you wanna party" aside too. It is not as good as the original but it still has its great moments, particularly Hunter's "dudes"-style spoken outro.
In this clip below you get the alternative lyrics to The Saturday Kids. I am not sure how accurately-transcribed they have been, though, because some of them don't make much sense! It is interesting to try and make out what they are, though.