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Here is Ian Hunter guiding us through what we today consider a real classic album! Enjoy!
By Julie Webb
When the news was first released that David Bowie had written and produced the single “All The Young Dudes” for Mott The Hoople, reactions were mixed.
Some people were knocked out with the whole concept, while devout Mott fans wondered whether they had “sold out”. Did Mott really need Bowie? the latter faction reasoned. The simple answer (and the correct one) is yes.
Without Bowie there would be no Mott THe Hoople today. Without his help their very fine new album would perhaps not have reached such a high standard. And over and above everything else, Bowie has given Mott a new confidence in themselves and injected a new enthusiasm into their music.
Lead singer Ian Hunter was delighted with the new album when I met him at their new record company CBS – where it was blaring away on the turntable. (“It should be played loud,” says Hunter.)
“You can`t compare it to our other albums – this one is how Mott should have sounded all along. David likes a very perfect album and this one is so much cleaner and clearer – after the mugginess on previous albums.
“In the past we just didn`t know how to record. I think we could have done this album a year ago if we`d had the right producer.”
Hunter talked to me about each track…starting with “Sweet Jane”, the Lou Reed composition – and other than Bowie`s “Dudes”, the only track not written by the band.
“About the same time as `Dudes`, Bowie played us a riff and we leapt on, wanting to know what it was. It turned out to be “Sweet Jane”.
“Mommas Little Jewel”: “Overend wrote this with me while we were still at Island. We recorded it then but it was too fast – it`s one of David`s best tracks. He really has got the knack of knowing what to do – just a little thing makes all the difference.
“All The Young Dudes”: “There`s a jerk in the tape here just before it starts – I like a jerk, it`s cute, makes you think.”
“Sucker”: “I don`t think anyone has noticed Mick Ralphs. I know certain people who play guitar notice him, but if people can`t relate to the guitar solo on `Sucker` then there`s something wrong. It`s funny, with guitarists, the emphasis often seems to be on speed – but character is important and I think Mick`s guitar playing is very individual.”
“Jerkin` Crocus”: This is about a lady who is good at pulling. The title was taken from a girl Overend knew. It was written fairly recently – just before we went into the studio to do the album.”
“One Of The Boys”: “David liked this a lot. We did it at the time of the `Dudes` session, and towards the end of the second day we knew `Dudes` would be the A side. It was written just before the Circus tour. Again, Mick had a riff – and usually that`s how it works. We got the phone effect at Trident – there`s a bit I like where the track dies away and you hear it come out of the phone reciever.”
“Soft Ground”: Verden had this in mind for three or four months. And when something`s in his mind it totally absorbs him. He lives it. It came out at rehearsals – just before the album.”
“Ready For Love”/”After Lights”: “Although on the album they are two songs, it`s really just one song. Mick wrote it, and there are two hook lines. You think it`s all over – and then it goes into the next hook line.”
“Sea Diver”: “Writing songs is almost a perversion. Most writers can go six months and not get a song. They panic – and then suddenly they start again. That`s what this song is about.”
Album and single aside, the best thing Bowie did for the band was to keep them together. Hunter explains:
“We were looking for material, and David sent us a demo of `Suffragette City`.
“Anyway, we split up in Switzerland. So Overend phoned David to thank him for sending the demo and told him the news. David went quite mad on the phone about it, and Overend rang me and said Bowie thought the group was great and shouldn`t split.
“At that time we`d all heard David`s “Hunky Dory” and dug it, but didn`t want to form again because we were so pissed off. Pissed off with being told we`d be put on half wages…and they were taking our lights away.
“Anyway, three hours later Bowie rang Overend again and in that three hours he`d written `All The Young Dudes`. He`d said to Overend, `if you want to split, then split – but please do this number first.”
It was after a gig at Guildford that Mott came under the management of Tony DeFries, and Bowie offered his help with the album.
“CBS were at the gig and Tony said he wanted to manage us. And David said `if you want me to write a song, or produce you then I will! He didn`t want us as an extension of his personality. He wanted people to understand he was helping and not taking over. He even wanted us to have co-producer credits on this album.
“When it came to making the album David had some numbers and so did we. We played him ours and he said they were okay – he liked the stuff we`d written. The basic arrangements were done by the band then David set about embellishing it. He`s been a great assett just when we needed it.”
For all the help Bowie has given the band, the most refreshing thing is, as Hunter says, the fact that the band are exactly the same as they always were.
I asked Hunter if having Bowie as a producer would be a permanent thing – or if this album was a one shot idea.
“Nothing is ever permanent in the music business, but as far as we`re concerned the relationship with David is amazing, and he wants to carry on. He genuinely digs the band – he needn`t have had us, after all the band was over.”
Hunter denies any allegations that Mott are now portraying a camp image.
“The last thing we want to be called is camp,” he says, and certainly looking at him swigging back a glass of scotch, a mop of curly hair flopping around his shoulders, he looks anything but camp.
“There`s only one person who can do that well and that is David. And he`s not a fairy. It`s just that what he does on stage he can do infinitely better than anyone else. We ain`t fairies – not one guy in the band is. And we figure we`ve got to lay back a bit on stage so that our audience will lay back on looking and start listening.”
As a bonus – here is the review of their then new album, also in this same number of the NME:
Mott The Hoople: “All The Young Dudes” (CBS)
There`s the story that David Bowie saved Mott from winding up completely when the band were at an all-time low. And it could be true, because he penned their “All The Young Dudes” single – easily one of their best numbers ever – and their status and success have increased immeasurably since.
But, Bowie`s guidance brought an obvious danger: the band could fall into an abyss of emulation and be criticised for cashing in on the Bowie – Reed – Underground syndrome. After all, aren`t Roxy showing just a few of those roots?
Therefore this album is important for the group, as on it their own talents will be judged.
And thankfully, Mott have NOT been manipulated and stylised by producer Bowie in such a way to exclude personal flair and inventiveness. Yet neither do they show themselves to have a totally individual style.
The latter fact is quite surprising, because most of the material – apart from the title track and Lou Reed`s “Sweet Jane” – is their own. Yet for the first four numbers there is a resemblance to the Underground – in the chords, and in Mick Ralph`s guitar style; simple but chunky. With Ian Hunter`s vocal phrasing reminiscent of Reed, and Yule.
Then there`s “Jerkin` Crocus” (which sounds so much like the Stones` “Brown Sugar”) and “One Of The Boys”, which both have a Stonish quality. This again is down to Ralphs and his gritty tone, and exaggerated by that Stax drum style from Buffin.
“Soft Ground” – with Verdan Allen`s vocals mixed well back – seems to be closer to their own style and sound, and the song is well put together with a twanging clock-like timing.
With “Ready For Love/After Lights” there`s a comparison to Free in the structure and style, down to Ralph`s vocals – which are excellent. But this number is not exactly straight rock, because of the time signatures and vocal melody.
There can be no denying this is much like a group`s “first” album. Though it is more professional and interesting from both the musical and production point of view.
“One Of The Boys”, quite a beaty, driving number, starts with a phone being dialled, then halfway through a phone bell rings, is answered, and the music comes through like you had your ear to the earpiece. A cute gimmick, which doesn`t make the music more original – but more appealing. Mott`s problem has always seemed to be communicating on record. Now they have done that. And as far as musicianship goes there is little to criticise.
The guitar is used tastefully, with grunting and soothing tones. The organ acts as an effective foil, and the drums and bass keep all the movement there.
It`s a good album, probably their best. But from the pointers here, it`ll take them a while to formulate a style. Aside from the comparisons, Mott still play good music. No more so than on the emotion packed last track “Sea Diver”.
– Tony Stewart
One of the many great festivals you could go to in the 70s.
This number of the NME also contains articles/interviews with these people: Slade, Alice Cooper, Valerie Simpson, The Faces, Muddy Waters, David Cassidy, Quintessence, Renaissance, Edgar Winter, Leo Sayer.
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