Thursday, 2 August 2018

Mott The Hoople




Mott The Hoople were my favourite band as a teenager in the mid seventies. It began for me with the "All The Young Dudes" single in 1972 and I stuck with them for the remaining just over two years of their rollercoaster career. These were their "glam" years", the years of "the suits and the platform boots" as referenced in their valedictory final single, "Saturday Gigs". At the time I had no knowledge of their earlier Dylanesque rock period from 1969 to 1972 under the producership of the madcap genius that was Guy Stevens, before David Bowie gave them the legendary shot in the arm. I have come to those challenging, but interesting albums over subsequent years.


So, like many groups who had a "glam phase" there are two incarnations of Mott The Hoople. Those early albums have a real appeal to them, but the three glam years saw the very best of the group as they became momentarily famous something that never really sat quite right with them. Mott The Hoople were an honest, hard-working, uncompromising and often shambolic band. They were never quite as good as they might have been, or maybe they were just what they were - a good time rock band who never let us down, despite what they said in "The Ballad Of Mott The Hoople". I finally got to see them live on the final night of their farewell tour in 2009 at the Hammersmith Odeon where they had played all those years before. I had been just a bit too young to see them in 1972-74.

For more information on their history at my local music club when growing up, Friars, Aylesbury, check out the excellent https://www.aylesburyfriars.co.uk.

   

I read an interview with Queen's Brian May (Queen opened for Mott in 1973) and he said "Mott The Hoople - God bless 'em....". Indeed. He speaks for everyone there.

The albums covered here are:-

Mott The Hoople (1969)
Mad Shadows (1970)
Wildlife (1971)
Brain Capers (1971)
All The Young Dudes (1972)
All The Way From Stockholm To Philadelphia (1971-72)
Mott (1973)
The Hoople (1974)
Mott The Hoople (1974)
Live At Hammersmith (2009)
Live At Manchester (2013)
and The Best Of Mott The Hoople

Scroll down the page to read the reviews chronologically.

Also covered is an extended review of:-

Mental Train (The Island Years 1969-1971)

Click on the link to read that one.

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MOTT THE HOOPLE (1969)

1. You Really Got Me
2. At The Crossroads
3. Laugh At Me
4. Backsliding Fearlessly
5. Rock 'n' Roll Queen
6. Rabbit Foot And Toby Time
7. Half Moon Bay
8. Wrath And Wroll    

Mott The Hoople’s debut album, in 1969, three years before their Bowie-inspired renaissance, was a competent, but somewhat patchy affair. A great cover, by the way, but utterly irrelevant. 

Because it is Mott The Hoople, however, who we all went on to know and love so well, it somehow seems as if the album is better than it actually is. 

Producer Guy Stevens wanted the band to sound, apparently, "like Bob Dylan singing with The Rolling Stones". He sort of achieved that, examples being the Dylanesque At The Crossroads (although it was a Doug Sahm cover, not a Hunter original) and the riffy, Stonesy Rock 'n' Roll Queen. Indeed, Mott were never far from being labelled as "Dylan influenced", because singer/composer Ian Hunter definitely was, and it came across in many of his songs. They also liked a riff or two, so a lot of Stones comparisons would subsequently be made. 

                                                                                     
On to the album. Nicely remastered, it kicks off with a storming semi-instrumental cover of The Kinks’ You Really Got Me, that almost sounds like a studio jam, then the afore-mentioned Dylanesque At The Crossroads (as I said, Dylan was one of Ian Hunter’s perennial influences, in delivery as well as songwriting). Hunter's vocal is a little down in the mix, and it sounds a tiny bit under-confident as he had only just joined the group. The bass line and organ are impressive as well. It ends with some jamming style clunky piano and drums as Hunter's vocals get more animated. This sightly clumsy piano sound used to end songs is typical of Mott The Hoople in this period.

A cover of Sonny Bono’s Laugh At Me is not bad at all, with an improvised Sympathy For The Devil-style ending similar to the previous track, neither is the most obvious single, the upbeat, riffy Rock 'n' Roll Queen. The old seventies-style vaguely sexist lyrics are present in Mick Ralphs"listen woman..." address on this one.

Hunter's first songwriting contribution is the shamelessly Dylanesque Backsliding Fearlessly from the old "side one" and it is a good one, but you can't help but get the impression that this album saw the band go into the studio, play, and say "ok that'll do" in a "just happy to be there", rough and ready sort of fashion. I don't think they really thought this album through. It has the feeling of a studio jam pervading the whole thing.

Rabbit Foot And Toby Time is a vibrant instrumental jam that precedes the sprawling Half Moon Bay, which is a bit introspective, despite a huge, grandiose, promising intro as the quality dips a little on the old “side two”. The track is far too long and doesn't real get anywhere, being far too ponderous. The album ends with more instrumental jamming in Wrath And Wroll.

Also included here in the bonus tracks is another Dylan-inspired number, the civil rights-inspired Road To Birmingham. It should have been on the original album, to be honest, as should Little Christine. Certainly in place of the two short instrumentals. The group's live recording of Neil Young's protest song, Ohio is great too. There is also a Jimi Hendrix-influenced instrumental in Find Your Way that is probably as good, if not better, (certainly than Wrath And Wroll), than the two on the album. I just feel there was more that could have been put on this album, and that it was something of a missed opportunity. Three more albums over the next three years would do a little to dispel that notion, but all the albums were ever so slightly flawed. Therein lay their appeal, however.

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MAD SHADOWS (1970)

 1. Thunderbuck Ram
 2. No Wheels To Ride
 3. You Are One Of Us
 4. Walkin' With A Mountain
 5. I Can Feel
 6. Threads Of Iron
 7. When My Mind's Gone
 8. It Would Be A Pleasure
 9. How Long? (Death May Be Your Santa Claus)   

The second Mott The Hoople album, coming the year after their "good in parts" debut from the previous year. It is similar to that album in that it rocks in parts and there are some hints as to the future in some of Ian Hunter's slower numbers, but, as with all the first four Mott The Hoople albums, it carries the impression of being somewhat half-baked. While Thin Lizzy and Nazareth had two "finding their feet" albums, Mott had four of them.

The album kicks off with Mick Ralphs' heavyish rocker, Thunderbuck Ram which has some industrial, chunky guitar and organ parts but is let down by Mick's reedy voice. Oh for his later band-mate in Bad Company, Paul Rodgers on vocals. Ian Hunter takes the lead (he didn't always do so on these early albums) for the simply wonderful No Wheels To Ride, which sees Mott and Hunter at their "ballad with quiet Dylanesque verses turns into melodramatic dollop of rock majesty" absolute best. This is the first true Hunter/Mott classic. There is point about two minutes in when the first "chorus" part kicks in that shivers go down my spine and I realise why I have loved Mott The Hoople and Ian Hunter since 1972. Just magnificent. It rides above the muffled production. With a clearer sound it could have been absolutely outstanding. The quality continues on the short but rousing You Are One Of Us, which finishes all too soon. Hunter is showing what a great vocalist he was to become. Shame the track ends to soon.

 

 Walkin' With A Mountain has the rock keeping on rocking with Hunter again in fine form and a Jumpin' Jack Flash fade out. This is early Mott at their best, why they developed a cult following, and why, no doubt, David Bowie always had a soft spot for them. Some critics have not enjoyed this album, preferring the next one, the comparatively limp and feeble Wildlife. God knows why. This knocks it into next week. I have to admit that it has a certain shambolic, slightly unfinished feel to it, however.

I Can Feel is a slower pace, lengthy piano-led Hunter rock ballad of the sort he would go on to specialise in over the years. A great guitar solo on it from Ralphs too. Again, so typical of the best of early Mott.



This album is far more of a Hunter album than a Ralphs one, in comparison to Wildlife, which had four somewhat insipid Ralphs tracks and three lesser-standard Hunter ones. Of the album's seven tracks, four are from Hunter, three from Ralphs, but it just seems to have Hunter's stamp all over it.

Ralphs' Threads Of Iron has its country-ish moments, particularly the "you are what you are" vocal part, but there is still a heavy rock backing to it and Hunter is on vocals and piano and drives the track, making it his own, to be honest. Some great bass from Pete "Overend" Watts too. Some reviewers have described this three-track "side two" of the original album as being a "dense fog". I disagree, it contains some of Mott's hardest, purest rocking. If they were all off their heads on Jack Daniels and at the mercy of madcap producer Guy Stevens, who cares? The result is a frantic, furious kick in the head of beautiful, thumping early seventies heavy rock. Turn it up loud and enjoy the madness! It has the feel of a live recording and is all the better for it.

Hunter brings the proceedings to a reflective end with the sombre, thoughtful and moving When My Mind's Gone, which is somewhat appropriate for this wild ride. His voice, which is so poor on Wildlife is at its best here. Loud, clear, throaty but with a sadness. This is a nearly always forgotten Hunter classic. He has probably even forgotten it himself.  When he sings, against just his own piano backing "When I take my secrets, I will take them with me to my grave..." it is just one of those great Hunter moments, then Verden Allen's organ joins in, then Watts' bass for the fade out - early Mott heaven.

The bonus tracks are Ralphs' hint towards his country rock material on Wildlife in  It Would Be A Pleasure and Hunter's Stonesy rocker How Long? (Death May Be Your Santa Claus). Both would have been ok on the album.

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WILDLIFE (1971)

1. Whiskey Women
2. Angel Of Eighth Avenue
3. Wrong Side Of The River
4. Waterlow
5. Lay Down
6. It Must Be Love
7. Original Mixed Up Kid
8. Home Is Where I Want To Be
9. Keep A-Knockin'       

As pointed out in a review of Nazareth’s 1972 album, Exercises, many bands felt the need to go “folky” and “country rock” in style around 1970-72. The somewhat directionless Mott The Hoople, circa 1972, did exactly the same with this somewhat low key effort. Even the cover saw the band posing, slightly unconvincingly, in the middle of a wood. Nevertheless, despite several misgivings, listening to it sequentially, I can really hear progress here. It is the band's most cohesive and dare I say mature album to date, by far. It is far less chaotic than Mad Shadows, for example.
                               
The opener, Whiskey Women, is a mainly acoustic led piece of mid-pace rock, with some pleasant upbeat parts and a hook but it is all a bit undercooked. Mick Ralphs is on vocal and his voice was never that great, to be fair. However, at the time it was the equal, if not superior to that of Ian Hunter.  Hunter’s Dylan admiration rears its head once more in the somewhat subdued, organ and bass driven Angel Of Eighth Avenue. After several listens, though, despite the track's slightly hissy sound, it becomes clear that we have a beautiful song here. It has to be said also, though, as with Nazareth’s Dan McCaffertyThin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott and Slade’s Noddy Holder, that Ian Hunter’s voice was nowhere near what it became only a year later. All four of them seemed to transform not only their voices but their confidence and personae.

Wrong Side Of The River is so Neil Young it may as well be Neil Young. Mick Ralphs is on vocals again here, he even sings in Young’s Canadian whine - “riverrrr”. It is a good, underrated song. The muffled strains of Waterlow give us a mournful dirge of a ballad, with Hunter’s voice again not convincing. It is a bit of a grower, all the same. He raises it up a bit for the upbeat, gospelly Lay Down, a Melanie Safka song, but this is another track that just seems not really complete or particularly credible even what Mott The Hoople presumably wanted to be. It is very, very easily forgotten.

 

It Must Be Love is a steel guitar Mick Ralphs song with him on vocals again and going all Nashville Skyline meets CSNY somewhere in the Colorado countryside on us. No need, Mick. Start rocking! Hunter’s Original Mixed Up Kid has potential, lyrically. Musically it uses a Dylan-1965-66 style organ and some more whining steel guitar. Hunter’s voice is at its strongest on the album here and it is not a bad track. Probably the album’s best. The “woh-woh” vocal fade out would be repeated by Hunter again on 1974’s Trudi’s Song.

Mick Ralphs' The Band-like country-ish rocker, Home Is Where I Want To Be is probably his strongest track on the album too, all very melodic and not unpleasant at all, with some nice bass bits, but this is Mott The Hoople and for me, this sort of thing saw the band going down a dead end street at a pace. They could, and would, do so much better with later releases and Hunter with his solo material, Ralphs with Bad Company. These songs are not bad ones, and the album is an enjoyable listen, but as I said, there is not much Mott The Hoople about it.

The final track on the album is totally incongruous, given what has come before - it is a rocking live version of Keep A-Knocking which reminds us that, yes, Mott The Hoople could rock. Time to start proving it! As Ian Hunter says in half way through the track - "this is the best kind of music that ever was". Thanks for reminding us, Ian, now keep on rocking yourself in future.

PS - the bonus track, It'll Be Me is far more of the sort of riffy, guitar-driven rocking material that should also have been included on the album. It's a good one. As indeed is the other extra - Long Red, an organ and clunky guitar chugger.

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BRAIN CAPERS (1971)

1. Death May Be Your Santa Claus
2. Your Own Back Yard
3. Darkness Darkness
4. The Journey
5. Sweet Angeline
6. Second Love
7. The Moon Upstairs
8. The Wheel Of The Quivering Meat Conception
9. Midnight Lady
10. The Debt          

The last of the four “pre-Bowie” Mott The Hoople albums and it is probably the best of the four. It rocks much harder than Wildlife, and is less madcap and rambling than Mad Shadows. It shows some of the potential that would finally blossom over the next couple of years as Mott went into their glam-rock phase and merged showy pop with their by now more formed Dylan and heavy rock traits. It had been a long, hard road for three or more years, but MTH were getting there at last, it would seem. Just a bit more fine tuning needed.
                                              
Death May Be Your Santa Claus is a re-write of a track from 1970s Mad Shadows with an almost funky guitar intro but some seriously pounding, bassy heavy rock kicks in, some madcap, swirling organ and a red hot Ian Hunter vocal. A great start after the insipid nature of the previous album, the comparatively half-baked Wildlife. This is one of the best rockers from the early albums, really good.

Your Own Back Yard is a fetching, tuneful, Dylanesque rock ballad from Hunter. It is a cover version of a Dion song, but sounds very much like a Hunter song, with shades of Alice from 1974’s The Hoople album in places, particularly on the swirling organ breaks. His voice seems to have rediscovered its mojo since Wildlife, where it was uncharacteristically weak. Verden Allen’s organ was also integral to Mott’s sound in this period, no more so than on this underrated track. The band’s sound was a sort of cranked up, heavy rock version of Bob Dylan’s 65-66 “wild mercury sound” at times.

Darkness Darkness, another cover version, (from The Youngbloods) highlighted Mick Ralphs' weaker voice, but it is still a refreshingly hard rocker in the chorus, which was good to hear after his lightweight, country-ish contributions to Wildlife. He seemed now to blend his love of a lighter, more melodic song with some harder rocking, which was good to hear. It made here for an impressive number - a bit Free-like in places.

  

The big, dramatic, “slow build up to rock majesty” Hunter number to close the old “side one” was the mighty nine minutes of The Journey. Nobody really does this sort of moving rock ballad better than Ian Hunter. Nobody. It is a monster of a song. Nice one Ian. Just wonderful from beginning to end. Hunter was back now, make no mistake. In places, this was also Mott at their heaviest. It does veer from sheer brilliance to shambolic mayhem at times, though. Hunter's knack for a moving, melancholic line is found on the "bridge called suicide" bit. The melodramatic ballad tradition started on No Wheels To Ride and I Can Feel is continued on this behemoth of a number.

“Side two” started with another great upbeat rocker in the Status Quo meets The Velvet Underground of Sweet Angeline (although I prefer the live version on 1974’s live album). Hunter was starting to burn with the fire that would make Mott, briefly, one of the best rock bands around over the next two years. This is one of their best early rockers.


Second Love, (an unusual thing - a Verden Allen song) is a piano and organ led mid-pace  slow rock number with another powerful chorus part and some almost Mexican-sounding brass used too, unusually. Something of an underrated, unique track. Listening to this album again, it is definitely the best of the first four. There is a great full, punchy remastered sound on the latest edition too.

The Moon Upstairs is a bluesy, upbeat kick-ass heavyish rocker with hints of Restless Youth from Ian Hunter’s 1976 All American Alien Boy album, with a frenetic, loud, thumping Mad Shadows-style ending too.

The Wheel Of The Quivering Meat Conception continues the fade-out from The Journey and is a waste, to be honest. The bonus track, the single Midnight Lady (albeit a live recording here), should have been used in its place, and also Hunter’s The Debt, another Dylan-influenced number.

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ALL THE YOUNG DUDES (1972)

1. Sweet Jane
2. Momma's Little Jewel
3. All The Young Dudes
4. Sucker
5. Jerkin' Crocus
6. One Of The Boys
7. Soft Ground
8. Ready For Love/After Lights
9. Sea Diver 

Popularly thought to be the album where Mott The Hoople were “saved from oblivion” by David Bowie. Yes, he gave them the monster hit single All The Young Dudes and produced the album, but I am sure that a lot of the material was there anyway. His contribution was obviously there but a lot of it has become somewhat mythical over the years. What Bowie clearly and indisputably did was re-unite a rapidly fragmenting band, and give them renewed vigour and confidence.
                                                    
Released in 1972, this was the album that catapulted Mott The Hoople to their roller coaster two year period of glam rock majesty. As well as the iconic single, there is some impressive 70s rock on there. The band’s riffy cover of The Velvet Underground’s Sweet Jane is an absolute delight. It trumps the original, in my view. Check out that great 70s stereo separation too. Bass, drums, Stonesy cowbell, crystal clear acoustic guitar and electric guitar all merge wonderfully well to back Ian Hunter's deliberately Reed-esque vocal. I remember first hearing this as a fourteen year-old and just loving it. 

The funky-ish and strangely soulful Momma's Little Jewel  is an underrated Mott classic, fading wonderfully via a broken tape loop sound effect straight into the iconic All The Young DudesMomma's Little Jewel also retains its false start part where the music grinds to a halt early on and Hunter shouts out to drummer Buffin - "Buff, don't stop, carry on...". It is a nice quirky bit to retain.

  

I have heard the title track hundreds, probably thousands, of times since 1972 but you still can't beat the bit at end where Hunter shouts out "hey you, you with the glasses...". Once more, it is a track that successfully merges acoustic and electric guitars. Incidentally, Bowie's first offering to bassist Overend Watts was Suffragette City. He returned a few days later with a "great new song" for Mott and kept Suffragette for himself and the Ziggy Stardust album.

Then we get the rhythmic, infectious, syncopated shuffle of Sucker, which precedes the riff-powered Stonesy rock majesty of Jerkin' Crocus, complete with leery seventies lyrics. "I know what she wants - a judo hold on a black man's balls..." is one good example. There is sexual imagery all over the song. The backing vocals on Sucker are very Bowie-esque from his Man Who Sold The World period as well. 



One Of The Boys is a laddish Mott rock anthem, with a great old-style telephone ring intro, but organist Verden Allen’s prog-rock-ish Soft Ground is a low point. Basically poor old Verden's voice was positively dreadful. Guitarist Mick Ralphs' Ready For Love/After Lights is much better, with a great hook, and was later covered by his new band, Bad Company.

Ian Hunter's stark, heavily orchestrated ballad, Sea Diver, concludes what is a satisfying piece of early 70s rock. It was a great improvement on the band’s previous albums and heralded what would be Mott's short lived, but glorious "glam" period. Things would be great for the next two years.

The non-album session tracks from this album's recording are:-

Black Scorpio was a prototype version of Momma's Little Jewel. It is considerably faster than the eventual cut and heavier. There is more of a frantic, rocking feel to it that may actually have suited the alum better. There is some great, fuzzy guitar and bass interplay near the end. Ride On The Sun was an early version of Sea Diver. It is similarly moving and plaintive, Ian Hunter singing over a piano backing. The string orchestration, however, is far more subtle and less bombastic. Organist Verden Allen's contribution is much more noticeable. The is no huge, dramatic orchestrated part. For me, it is a more appealing version, one with slightly more soul.

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ALL THE WAY FROM STOCKHOLM TO PHILADELPHIA (1971-72)

1. Long Red
2. The Original Mixed-Up Kid
3. Walking With A Mountain
4. Laugh At Me
5. Thunderbuck Ram
6. Keep A-Knockin'
7. Jerkin' Crocus
8. Sucker
9. Hymn For The Dudes
10. Ready For Love
11. Sweet Jane
12. Sea Diver
13. Sweet Angeline
14. One Of The Boys
15. Midnight Lady
16. All The Young Dudes
17. Honky Tonk Women

Mott The Hoople live were an often shambolic, ragged outfit, but therein lay their down-home appeal. They were no masters of their instruments, no Jimmy Page, Keith Moon, Keith Richards or Jimi Hendrix. They were simply an honest, hard-working, had-rocking band who gave an energetic, bombastic, often chaotic live show. This is perfectly captured on this rough and ready release.

The first six tracks are from 1971, before their David Bowie-inspired renaissance and were recorded in Stockholm for Swedish radio. The sound, considering from when it dates, is ok, but don't expect any "audiophile" quality. Both the concerts included here are "warts 'n' all", sound-wise - a bit distorted at times, a bit crackly, a bit muffled. They are live recordings in the purest sense of the word. They sound like it probably sounded like being there. Highlights are a rocking Walking With A Mountain and Ian Hunter doing his best Dylanesque thing on Sonny Bono's Laugh At Me and a rousing closer in Keep A-Knocking.

  

The second gig is from a show in Philadelphia in 1972. The band are introduced onto the stage by David Bowie, who later joins them to encore All The Young Dudes. The sound is not as clear as on the Swedish gig, but it has a huge bassy thump to it. Just turn it up loud and enjoy it, despite its sonic shortcomings. This is Mott The Hoople at their improvisional, raggedy live best.

Jerkin' Crocus is a great Stonesy opener and Lou Reed's Sweet Jane is another superb riffy one. The ballads Hymn For The Dudes and Sea Diver are other highlights, but Mick RalphsReady For Love/After Lights simply goes on too long. For some reason, seventies rock groups always thought it was ok, about four songs in, after a rocking beginning to the gig, to indulge in twelve minutes of solo guitar doodling that killed the atmosphere somewhat. They all did it.

As I said, just turn this up and enjoy it for what it is - one of the seventies' best loved rock bands giving it their all.

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MOTT (1973)

1. All The Way From Memphis
2. Whizz Kid
3. Hymn For The Dudes
4. Honaloochie Boogie
5. Violence
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          

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 HunterOverend 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.
                      
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.



(Incidentally, who is the mystery guitarist on the second left on this picture above?)

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.

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THE HOOPLE (1974)

1. The Golden Age Of Rock And Roll
2. Marionette
3. Alice
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  
                                 
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. 

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. 

Anyway, sadly, a few months later it was all over. Goodbye lads. Don't forget us. We won't forget you. 

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MOTT THE HOOPLE LIVE (1974)

1. Intro
2. American Pie/The Golden Age Of Rock 'n' Roll
3. Sucker
4. Roll Away The Stone/Sweet Jane
5. Rest In Peace
6. All The Way From Memphis
7. Born Late '58
8. One Of The Boys
9. Hymn For The Dudes
10. Marionette
11. Drivin' Sister/Crash Street Kidds/Violence
12. All The Young Dudes
13. Walking With A Mountain
14. Intro
15. Drivin' Sister
16. Sucker
17. Sweet Jane
18. Sweet Angeline
19. Rose
20. Roll Away The Stone
21. All The Young Dudes
22. Medley
23. Walking With A Mountain

Recorded live at Uris Theater, New York City and Hammersmith Odeon, London

I bought this as a teenager upon release in late 1974, after Mott The Hoople had actually split up. It harks back to better times. This now expanded edition has more tracks. The material is taken from two concerts, one at The Uris Theatre, New York, the other at the good old Hammersmith Odeon in London.

The New York gig kicks off with Ian Hunter singing a verse of Don McLean's American Pie before the band launch spectacularly into The Golden Age Of Rock 'n' Roll - Hunter's piano intro is then embellished with the full MTH power as Overend Watts's clunky bass, Dale Griffin's drums and Ariel Bender's guitar take us into sheer Mott heaven. 

 

Other highlights from the New York gig are Roll Away The Stone/Sweet Jane, the lovely Rest In Peace and All The Way From Mmphis.

From Hammersmith we get a full length Sweet Jane, and absolutely stonking Sweet Angeline and another beautiful Hunter ballad in  RoseAll The Young Dudes is sung at both shows, of course, while Hammersmith ends with a chaotic medley of Jerkin' CrocusOne Of The BoysRock 'n' Roll Queen and Whole Lotta Shaking. You just wish you had been there, at both gigs. The atmosphere is tangible.

Walking With A Mountain ends Hammersmith with the curtain being forcibly pulled down on the band and things come to a premature end.

The sound is good on these remasters, but Mott were always a bit mistake-prone, live. No matter, we loved them for it and still do.

"Don't Wanna Be Hip, But Thanks For A Great Trip”.

  

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LIVE AT HAMMERSMITH (2009)

1. Intro
2. Hymn For The Dudes
3. Rock And Roll Queen
4. Sweet Jane
5. One Of The Boys
6. Sucker
7. The Moon Upstairs
8. The Original Mixed-Up Kid
9. I Wish I Was Your Mother
10. Ready For Love
11. Born Late '58
12. The Ballad Of Mott The Hoople
13. Sweet Angeline
14. Walking With A Mountain
15. Like A Rolling Stone/The Journey
16. The Golden Age Of Rock 'n' Roll
17. Honaloochie Boogie
18. All The Way From Memphis
19. Roll Away The Stone
20. All The Young Dudes
21. Keep A-Knockin'
22. Saturday Gigs

Recorded in October 2009, Hammersmith London

This was an album recorded "on the spot" so to speak and released to attendees (and everyone else) of this "farewell gig" in 2009 from Mott The Hoople (they did one more farewell tour in 2013). As far as the audience were concerned, however, this was the band's first live gig since 1974 and the roar of affection when they take the stage after the Jupiter (Holst) intro music is moving.

The sound is surprisingly good, nice and bassy, and captures the whole gig, warts and all, the on stage banter and a few brief confused moments, as you would expect from a gig from an honest, but never perfect band such as Mott The Hoople.

Some real oldies get an outing, like the heavy rock of The Moon Upstairs, the Dylanesque Original Mixed-Up Kid, the Stonesy Rock 'n' Roll Queen, the barnstorming Sweet Angeline and the mighty, anthemic The Journey. Great stuff. All the band on top form. Great to hear I Wish I Was Your Mother get an airing too.

After The Journey ends it is hits all the way in a wonderful finale -  The Golden Age Of Rock 'n' RollHonaloochie BoogieAll The Way From MemphisRoll Away The StoneAll The Young Dudes and the band's "goodbye" song, Saturday Gigs. This was night one of a five night run. I was there on night five. Great memories.

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LIVE AT MANCHESTER (2013)

1. Intro
2. Rock 'n' Roll Queen
3. One Of The Boys
4. The Moon Upstairs
5. Hymn For The Dudes
6. Sucker
7. Soft Ground
8. Waterlow
9. Born Late '58
10. Death May Be Your Santa Claus
11. The Ballad Of Mott The Hoople
12. Walking With A Mountain
13. Violence
14. The Journey
15. Honaloochie Boogie
16. The Golden Age Of Rock 'n' Roll
17. All The Way From Memphis
18. All The Young Dudes
19. Roll Away The Stone
20. Saturday Gigs

Recorded live in Manchester 2013

Mott The Hoople, after their triumphant and well-received “farewell tour” in 2009, decided, ill-advisedly, to do it all again in 2013.  They chose to play in the massive O2 Centre in London and, for this recording, in Manchester’s Arena. The venues, as opposed to at 2009’s more intimate Hammersmith (Apollo) Odeon, were too large and were half full. Furthermore, the band, always a little messy, live, to be brutally honest, were four years older and even less reliable. The result is an album far inferior to the excellent 2009 release. It gives me no pleasure to say this, because I have loved Mott The Hoople since 1972, but they should have called it a day in 2009.

Yes, Rock 'n' Roll Queen and One Of The Boys rock enthusiastically at the show’s beginning, but there is something a bit more shambolic about the performance compared to the 2009 one. The Moon Upstairs makes another welcome appearance though, and it is suitably loud and frenetic. As it should be.

 Hymn For The Dudes and Sucker, although played energetically, are a bit of a mess in places. Mott had always been a bit like that, though, so it is nothing new, but this show is far more like that than the previous one. The strange Soft Ground  with organist Verden Allen on vocals was good to hear, and Waterlow is better than on its original album, so there are positives, but as I said, overall it is a far flatter show than the previous one. The encore material is still fun, though.

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THE BEST OF MOTT THE HOOPLE

  

Mott The Hoople's halcyon years, the (initially) David Bowie-inspired 1972-74 are covered in this excellent Best Of compilation. Unfortunately, their early period, 1969-1972, which yielded four albums of varying quality on the Island label, are not included here. The best material from that period has a separate compilations, The Best Of The Island Years, which is also worth owning. This covers the CBS years and also has several tracks from the spin-off group "Mott", which no longer contained iconic lead singer/songwriter Ian Hunter or guitarists Mick Ralphs or Ariel Bender. Only drummer Dale Griffin, bassman Overend Watts and latter-day pianist Morgan Fisher remained. They were joined by "Spinal Tap"-esque lead singer Nigel Benjamin, complete with high-pitched squeal and a harlequin suit. Non-MTH listeners who buy this wanting to dip into the music of this great mid 70s rock band may wonder about the change in voices from track to track. 

Unfortunately for this compilation, the "Mott" tracks are interspersed with the "Mott The Hoople" tracks in no clear chronological order, just a cursory nod to it. The great MTH tunes - All The Young DudesAll The Way From MemphisHymn For The DudesRoll Away The StoneHonaloochie BoogieBallad Of Mott The HoopleThe Golden Age Of Rock 'n' Roll  and the valedictory anthem Saturday Gigs appear here with clearly sub-standard "Mott" squawking tracks all around them. Even non MTH experts will notice the difference. The beauty of the digital age means that, digitally, one can arrange the tracks chronologically, which makes for a far better listen. Personally, at the time, I stuck with Hunter's solo material and Ralphs in Bad Company. Sorry to the lads in "Mott". I tried, I really did!

Overall, though, a great compilation for those who want to get into a much-loved, honest 70s band. A benefit for long time fans is a rare appearance on CD for the highly-superior original single mix of Roll Away The Stone (the one that appeared on the The Hoople album is much worse).

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Pete "Overend" Watts              Dale "Buffin" Griffin

1947-2017                                          1948-2016

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