"If you make a revolution, make it for fun, don't make it in ghastly seriousness, don't do it in deadly earnest, do it for fun" - D.H. Lawrence
For more information on their history at my local music club when growing up, Friars, Aylesbury, check out the excellent
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Brain Capers (1971)
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 1965-66 “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.
Status Quo meets The Velvet Underground vibe 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.
So - now we get to Mott's brief "glam" period, which gave us three great albums, and then they were no more - don't wanna be hip, but thanks for a great trip....
and it is popularly thought to be the album where the band were “saved from oblivion” by David Bowie. That is not entirely the whole truth. Yes, he gave them the monster hit single All The Young Dudes and produced the album, assisted by Mick Ronson, but I am pretty sure that an awful lot of the material was there anyway and I also find myself questioning just how much Ian Hunter would be told what to do, even by David Bowie. Nevertheless, his contribution was obviously there, big time, but a lot of it has become somewhat mythologised over the years. What Bowie clearly and indisputably did, however, was to re-unite a rapidly fragmenting band and give them a purpose - a new raison d'être - together with a renewed vigour and confidence. To coin a more contemporary phrase - he gave them their mojo back.
The funky-ish and strangely soulful Momma's Little Jewel is a considerably underrated song, a bit overshadowed by fading (albeit wonderfully) as it does via a broken tape loop sound effect straight into the iconic All The Young Dudes. It 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 and sort of exemplifies the group's somehow shambolic, but much-loved approach.
Now, here we go then, All The Young Dudes. I have heard the title track hundreds (probably thousands) of times since 1972, but I never tire of it. That guitar intro always, without fail, gives me goosebumps. You still can't beat the bit at end either where Hunter shouts out "hey you, you with the glasses...". Once more, like Sweet Jane, it is a track that successfully merges acoustic and electric guitars. Incidentally, a sometimes overlooked bit of trivia is that 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 - a track that has always intrigued me lyrically - 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, to be honest and it is one of Mott's best down 'n' dirty rockers. Some Bowie influence can be detected (maybe) on the song's decadence but the backing vocals on Sucker are certainly very Bowie-esque from his Man Who Sold The World period.
is a copper-bottomed, stonking laddish Mott rock anthem, with a great old-style telephone ring intro, but, unfortunately, organist Verden Allen’s prog-rock-ish Soft Ground is a real, contrasting low point. Basically poor old Verden's voice was positively dreadful. That was often the way with bands in those days, though, everyone got their chance to contribute. Fair enough, I suppose, but it really should have been left on the cutting-room floor.
** The non-album session tracks from this album's recording are:-
Black Scorpio, which 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 album better and 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, while organist Verden Allen's contribution is much more noticeable. The is also no huge, dramatic orchestrated part. For me it is a more appealing version and one with slightly more soul.
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, despite my love for him. Mott The Hoople were different - they were LADS. Although they looked like some of the prefects did at my school when out of uniform - long hair, Afghan coats, and big flares, I always felt Mott could handle themselves in an apres-gig row - no-one would push Ian Hunter, Overend Watts or Mick Ralphs around, would they? Like The Clash after them, or The Jam, they were "our band" - a band of mates or big brothers to look up to. That is a feeling that really sums up my relationship with Mott The Hoople and it was one that always accepted them for better or worse.
A more than welcome chart hit followed with the catchy and gleefully 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. Now things get a bit tasty as the chaotic, shambolic and slightly 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. All very early/mid seventies, wasn't it?
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 vastly inferior (to Hunter) vocals. I Wish I Was Your Mother, though, 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:-
Marionette is a dense, complicated rocker dominated by Hunter's leering voice plus the ludicrously-named new guitarist Ariel Bender's dentist drill axe. It is full of mood and melody changes that make it sound more than a bit clumsy in places. It is redeemed by some convincing rock parts. Alice, however, is a great Hunter Dylanesque rock ballad, one of my favourites on here, packed full of atmosphere and great lyrics. In contrast, the chaotic 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. To be horribly frank, it's bloody awful. Born Late '58, bassist Overend Watts' contribution, is a bit of a "Ringo song", his dull, expressionless voice not a patch on Hunter's, although many long time fans seem to love it.
Despite the patchy nature of the album, though, there were still some really good tracks on the album, - well, five and a half actually - but you couldn't help but get 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:-
Mott The Hoople. After they had split in October 1974, I stuck with charismatic lead singer Ian Hunter as he put out his solo work, which was, and still is, excellent. Then there was the rest of the band. What should I do about them? They formed the spin-off group, "Mott", no longer containing the by now iconic Hunter, or guitarists Mick Ralphs or Ariel Bender. Only drummer Dale "Buffin" Griffin, bassist Overend Watts and latter-day pianist Morgan Fisher remained. They were joined by guitarist Ray Major and "Spinal-Tap"-esque lead singer Nigel Benjamin, complete with high-pitched "heavy rock" squeal and a harlequin one-piece suit. Oh dear, oh God, oh my-oh.... (check out the Friars Aylesbury website. I was at the gig, in June 1976).
I stuck with them for this 1975 album, out of some sort of loyalty, a bit like watching a favourite footballer at the end of his career, plying his trade in the lower leagues. There were just a couple of moments on this album, but they really were just split seconds, to be honest. The overall sound is one of bombastic sub-heavy rock, characterised by Benjamin's voice, which certainly wasn't to my taste. Ian Hunter's Dylanesque big anthems had gone, and Mott The Hoople's Stonesy rockers too. The influence now were a sort of Deep Purple meets Black Sabbath sort of thing.
is awful, to be honest, trying to ape MTH's Pearl'n'Roy and Violence and failing, badly, while Love Now employs those hackneyed heavy rock cliches in its lyrics - "I want love, I want it now, not in five minutes, I want it now...". The big heavy riffs are impressive, but it all just made me think "is this what MTH had come to?". Overend Watts had previously contributed only the somewhat laboured Born Late '58 to Mott The Hoople's body of work. Now he was writing a whole album, and, unfortunately, his limitations showed. Now I loved Overend as part of Mott The Hoople and felt so genuinely sad when I heard of his passing last year, but getting back to business, this album just doesn't do it.
The Great White Wail has another chugging riff and then it descends in to some more cod-heavy rock vocals. The chorus refrain is reasonable enough, but this is very definitely fourth division stuff. admittedly there is some impressive guitar near the end of this track, but I just can't get past this not being anything like Mott The Hoople, really. It is, I know, partly my problem. I know there are some people who love this album. Maybe I just can't see it. On Here We Are, Benjamin attempts a lower key, more romantic ballad-ish vocal. It all sounds a bit flat to me, although the backing on the song is vibrant enough, it all goes a bit 'prog rock", with several changes of pace and style. It Takes One To Know One is full of cliches and is best left behind. The opening piano to I Can Show You How It Is has echoes of Ian Hunter but, unfortunately, that's as good as it got for what was a bit of a dirge, with a dreadful, singalong chorus. Sorry lads, you know I love you, but this wasn't for me. Funny thing is, though, every now and again I dig this album out and play it!
For more information re: Mott at Friars, Aylesbury, check out
Mott, the post-Ian Hunter band containing original MTH members, bassist Overend Watts and drummer Dale "Buffin" Griffin and latter-day pianist Morgan Fisher, plus Spinal Tap-esque high-pitched vocalist Nigel Benjamin and lead guitarist Ray Major. I know there are a few people out there who did like this incarnation of the band, but they never did it for me, and in many ways, I found them a sad postscript to the history of such an iconic band. The music they produced was "heavy rock by posturing numbers" and nothing like either the shambolic fun of the original Mott The Hoople or the infectious glam rock of the 1972-74 years. To be frankly honest, with punk sweeping all before it i 1976-77, Mott were an embarrassment, showing all the stereotypes that Spinal Tap lampooned so well. The band's first album Drive On had a couple of reasonable moments. This one really doesn't have many at all. I saw Mott live in 1976 and felt the same then as I do now. I feel bad about that, as Mott The Hoople were "my band" through my teenage years.
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