Here we go again with yet another Ian Hunter article. Why do you like Hunter so much, you may ask? The answer is that I don`t especially like him more than others on this blog. As some of you know, I promise to post all articles I find of the 5 most visited bands/artists of my blog. And those artists are right now: Ritchie Blackmore, Deep Purple, Lemmy, Ian Hunter and Steve Howe.
If you want the same treatment for your favourite artist, you need to get people to click on the articles with them in it. That`s all!
IAN HUNTER: All American Alien Boy (CBS)
By Charles Shaar Murray
There exists a subtle difference between a tax exile and an expatriate.
It has more to do with the way that someone carries themselves than the reasons that sent him away. Rod Stewart is a tax exile, pure and simple, whereas John Lennon is an expatriate. Stewart sounds to have lost touch with his background without having established any real temporary root system; artistically as well as politically and geographically, he is in limbo.
On the other hand, Lennon determined from the outset that if he was gonna live in America he was sho `nuff gonna righteously live there and involve himself as fully in American cultural, social and political life as anybody else on his block; without denying his Englishness he was simultaneously going to do his damnedest to be a good American.
It ain`t for nothing that Ian Hunter shouts out “Look out Lennon here I come – land ahoy-hoy-hoy!” as he bawls himself hoarse on his way into the first chorus of the title song of “All American Alien Boy”. The slightly pretentious title proves itself nothing more than a direct summing-up of Hunter`s stance as resident rather than tourist, a stance which enables him to transcend the superficiality of the out-of-the-limo-window-I-saw generally written by jetstream Anglos buzzing through to deliver boogie to the natives, while utilising his distance from England to recollect emotion in tranquility – or vice versa.
If Lennon is one of the spectres who stalk the landscape of this album, the other Ghost Of Rockanroll Past who`s right in there rattling his chains is Bob Dylan. On the strength of this album it may well be appropriate to nominate Hunter for a second term as This Year`s New Dylan. He`s deliberately cast much of the album in a “Blonde On Blonde” mould, utilising the master`s devices with a knowing pointedness, manipulating the associations, implications and resonances of the instrumentation and the inflections of his own expertly Zimmer Twins vocals for specific effect.
The only occasions when his grip falters is where, despite his mastery of Lennon and Dylan`s use of boisterous humour, he fails to infuse into his mixture the sly irony of his models: the irony that enables Dylan to use the device of saying “The moral of this storreeee” in “Frankie Lee And Judas Priest” and not sound heavy-handed, whereas Hunter flubs the trick in “Restless Youth”, a musically exciting but lyrically suspect sympathy-for-the gunsel song in Maestro`s “Joey” tradition (it even refers to “Little Italy”, f` Chrissakes!).
So, picking up on New York like any starstruck English Dylan freak would, and maybe seeing Dylan`s adoption of his erstwhile pal and partner Mick (“I aren`t a session man”) Ronson as vaguely symbolic, Hunter has ditched the last vestiges of Mott-style rock and roll in favour of his deliberate, conscious, yes-I-know-my-rights-and-am-of-sound-mind-and-body-and-do-knowingly-willingly-that-which-I-am-about-to-do Dylan act.
The album`s opening cut “Letter To Britannia From The Union Jack” is to-and-about Britain, and uses the rather strained metaphor heralded in the title to sound a slightly discordant note of national pride and please-get-it-together-England.
It`s the first of a fairly small cluster of moments on the album where Hunter seems unable to find language that will match the power of his attempted statement and thereby debases his theme while uncomfortable emphasis is thrown on his linguistic fumbling.
On the title cut, however, he`s in roaring form. Gerry Weems` blasting Ronsonesque lead guitar cuts in right on the heels of “Union Jack”`s fade, underscored by Jaco Pastorius` bass, Aynsley Dunbar`s stomping drums, accompanied by Hunter`s own monolithic piano chording, before the inimitable David Sanborn (formerly of the Butterfield Blues Band and “Young Americans” – period Bowie) blasts a path for a bellowingly self-assured Hunter sneering like some Dylan/Jagger fusion.
It`s a fine song, though in its opening stages the solos by Pastorius, Sanborn and Weems that interrupt the verses irritate despite their excellence, and Hunter has a fine old time machine-gunning tortuously rhymed lyrics and racing the band to the changes. His Dylanisms seem endearingly cheeky rather than offensively derivative:
“Don`t get slugged get mugged get bugged or they`ll sling you in the jug. Sweep you under some rug, give you some drug, pull out the plug and then..
I mean, howcum Bruce Springsteen didn`t write that?
From getting hilariously confused with brash Americana and TV commercials, he drifts back to his distant youth and gets misty-eyed about the callous teendream who rejected the young Hunter in “Irene Wilde”. “A Barker Street Bus Station non-affair” is how he characterises it, proving that he still has his background together.
“Restless Youth”, which ends the side, is by far the heaviest rocker on the album. Chris Stainton comes off keyboards for his one crack at bass, and he clearly hasn`t forgotten how to crank a Fender bass up to the bonecrunching impact level of his playing on Cocker`s “With A Little Help From My Friends”.
“Rape” proves again that Hunter has a lot to learn from Dylan about writing political songs (and let`s just leave “Mozambique” right out of this, okay? I never liked the damn song in the first place anyway), “You Nearly Did Me In” has a gorgeous chorus (with backing vocals by Freddie and Roger of Queen, gang!) and a nice drift to it.
Hunter unleashes his killer punch in “Apathy 83”, which demonstrates that his ability to slice rock and roll right down the middle is completely undimmed. He also pulls off his most inspired Dylan reference of a heavily Dylan-soaked album with “Was it General Sheridan who said that the only good good man is a dead good man? It was not me, babe!” delivered in the most ringingly triumphant Bobby-the-Zee tones imaginable. He clinches with:
“Nostalgia is starting to focus too late, intelligence is starting too itch.
And there ain`t no rock and roll no more, just the music of the rich.
`N it`s apathy for the devil, apathy for the devil, apathy for the devil.
Apathy`s at fever piiiiiiiiiiitch!”
His final song, “God”, is stone Dylan with Stainton laying down an organ part so Kooperish that if you woke Al up in the middle of the night and played it to him he`d probably think it was him. Hunter`s God opens up the dialogue with “I`m gonna kick your ass, `cuz all you ever do is ask, ask, ask” and ends with “Behave yourself, see you around!” which is probably pretty much how God would talk if Ian Hunter was writing his scripts.
“All American Alien Boy” is a difficult and fairly uncompromising album; it`s uncomfortably personal, occasionally crude and self-indulgent, and it`s by no means an unqualified success. However, it`s also hugely revealing both about the subjects it discusses and the man who made it, and one which has by no means diminished my admiration of Ian Hunter.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Ramones, Genesis, Erich Von Daniken, Eric Carmen, Elton John, Nils Lofgren, Stanley Clarke.
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