My hair gets longer as the beat gets stronger....
Released July 1973
Recorded at Air Studios, London
Running time 45:10
In the summer of 1973, three words mattered to me - Mott The Hoople. Yes, I had been "into" (using the contemporary vernacular) David Bowie since the autumn of 1972, but even then, at fourteen, there was something a little bit too effete about Bowie upon which to focus my adolescent admiration. Mott The Hoople were different. They were LADS. Why, they looked like some of the prefects did at my school when out of uniform - long hair, Afghan coats, big flares. I always felt Mott could handle themselves in an apres-gig row though. No-one would push Ian Hunter, Overend Watts or Mick Ralphs around. Like The Clash after them, or The Jam, they were "our band". A band of mates or big brothers to look up to.
1. All The Way From Memphis
2. Whizz Kid
3. Hymn For The Dudes
4. Honaloochie Boogie
6. Drivin' Sister
7. The Ballad Of Mott The Hoople
8. I'm A Cadillac/El Camino Dolo Roso
9. I Wish I Was Your Mother
To the music. Ian Hunter's extended, insistent piano introduction to the iconic All The Way From Memphis sets out the stall of this rocking good album. It is a stonking track that tells the tale of Mick Ralphs losing his guitar while on tour in the USA. Roxy Music's Andy Mackay provides a superb saxophone solo and the "insane violin", as described on the credits, is provided by Graham Preskitt. The camp "all the way from Memphis" lines are from bassist Overend Watts. The song provided the group with their third hit single. Unfortunately, the single version edited the piano intro, which was sacrilege, in my book. Thankfully the album version has it in all its clunking glory.
Whizz Kid continued the rocking vein with a piano and bass-driven mid-pace number before we got all reflective with one of Mott's many killer big-production Hunter-penned ballads, the dramatic Hymn For The Dudes (name checking their breakthrough chart hit from the previous summer, "All The Young Dudes"). Quiet, acoustically-backed verses lead into some deliciously overblown chorus parts at the song's climax. Check out Mick Ralphs' stunning guitar solo at the song's apex and Dale "Buffin" Griffin's drumming.
A more than welcome chart hit followed, the catchy, singalong Honaloochie Boogie, which was, eight months after All The Young Dudes, proof that Mott could write chart hits in their own right. "My hair gets longer as the beat gets stronger, wanna tell Chuck Berry my news..." was a line I always liked. Andy Mackay provides more great rock 'n' roll-style saxophone. The insane violin and Watts's camp vocal interjections are back again on this one too.
The chaotic, menacing Violence showed they could indeed "handle themselves in a ruck", with its mock "just me and you, right..." "pub fight" scene and general frenetic ambience.
Drivin' Sister is another classic, riff-laden sort of Stonesy Mott rocker and Ballad Of Mott The Hoople is a corking "slowie" as Hunter details the band's past travails, name checking each member. It is a marvellously evocative and moving song written by Hunter for the band's fans and he addresses them in the lyrics - "you know all the tales we tell, you know the band so well". He also says that "somehow we let you down...". No, Ian, you didn't. Not at all.
Mick Ralphs' slightly dated-sounding I'm A Cadillac/El Camino Dolo Roso is probably the album's rambling low point with its extended instrumental fade out and Mick's inferior (to Hunter) vocals, but I Wish I Was Your Mother is a fine example of Hunter's "Dylanesque" folk-rock to end proceedings.
Bands got away with 30 minute albums in those days. It is 30 minutes of enjoyable slightly glammy rock music, nothing more, nothing less. As those sort of albums went, however, this was up there with the best. I knew every note of it in 1973 and still do. I remember everything about the cover even down to the fact that the typing of the lyrics was credited to one Tina Young. Funny the things that you remember.
Unfortunately, this was the album that saw original guitarist Mick Ralphs leave the band, shortly before the 1973 tour, having completed the album. He joined up with ex-Free singer Paul Rodgers and went on to have considerable success with Bad Company. He said of his departure -
"....I was looking for an excuse to leave, I suppose. I'd been thinking about it for a long time. Since the band was becoming more and more Ian's thing, it just wasn't musically satisfying for me any more...." .
The notable 'b' sides and non-album tracks from this period were:-
Rose. This 1973 track was the 'b' side to the Honaloochie Boogie single and is a classic, piano-driven Ian Hunter ballad. It is a bit of an unheralded Mott gem. It also gets an airing on the Mott The Hoople Live album. It contains a very seventies line in "a rock 'n' roll slag, you're such a drag....". It is a sad tale of drug abuse, delivered plaintively and movingly by Hunter and containing one of those huge, dramatic chorus parts that quieten back down to vocal, organ and piano. "I hate to see you cold on a summer day..." is a most moving line to end the song on.
Rest In Peace was in similar style is this non-album, previously unreleased number. It is also a grandiose Hunter ballad, enhanced by some great organ . Again, it was performed on Mott The Hoople Live. Like Rose, it bursts impressively into a loud chorus passage from quiet verses. Quite how it didn't find its way on to this album or The Hoople is a mystery to me. It has echoes of material like No Wheels To Ride from Mott's late sixties/early seventies period. It turned up as the 'b' side to The Golden Age Of Rock 'n' Roll in the spring of 1974, but it is essentially from this album's era.
Nightmare was a demo left over from the All The Young Dudes era when organist Verden Allen was still with the band. It is full of his characteristic and much-missed organ swirls, although his voice left something to be desired. It is not a bad track though. It was far more "1972" than "1973", though.
Roll Away The Stone was released as a single in November 1973 (recorded in July 1973). It reached number eight in the charts and was one of the group's great "glam" singles, featuring an infectious, singalong chorus and an equally memorable introductory riff. It was re-recorded for inclusion on 1974's The Hoople album, to a far inferior standard in my opinion. Both new guitarist Ariel Bender and backing singer Lynsey De Paul's contributions are markedly worse than those of Mick Ralphs and backing vocal trio Thunderthighs. The original mix is, for me, is the definitive one, by far.
Where Do You All Come From. I remember hearing this back in 1973 as the 'b' side to Roll Away The Stone and being most underwhelmed. It is a chugging, bar-room blues number, backed by harmonica and rollicking piano and led with some grainy, indistinct, bluesy vocals from Hunter. It has airs of Subterranean Homesick Blues and Highway 61 Revisited about it and I like a lot more now than I did back then. It does sound a bit like a "demo" recording, though.