This is a really good one, not only for Hoople and Ian Hunter-fans, but also quite a bit about their relation with David Bowie. Sort of ambivalent it strikes me reading this. Band member Verden Allen would actually quit the band, as it was revealed in the next edition of Sounds. Have fun reading this old article!
Mott: Punk rock rolls back
an exclusive interview by Cameron Crowe on the west coast
It`s a delicate business being involved with David Bowie,” explains Mott The Hoople lead-singer Ian Hunter, while soaking in the California sun by an all-American Holiday Inn pool. “We want to maintain a group personality, yet at the same time we`re grateful to Bowie for having given us the hit that`s helped a lot.
“Bowie`s so big, though, you get people making observations such as… he`s taking us over… we`re one of his extensions… he`s using us. It`s just total crap. Rubbish.”
Mott The Hoople are in a bit of a dilemma, you see. Hit singles can be dangerous things, and while the success of “All The Young Dudes” brought to the band their well-deserved recognition, it also may have carried with it a definite stereo-type.
After a lengthy existence spanning three years and five albums, Mott have suddenly found themselves the victims of their association with fellow-Englishman, David Bowie. Bowie, who convinced the band to re-form (and also wrote the title track and produced Mott`s newest album, “All The Young Dudes”) is also responsible for creating the image that he has “taken the band under his wing”. According to Hunter, nothing could be further from the truth.
“We`ve always been like we are now… I`m amazed at this photo of Edgar Winter (on Winter`s new album “They Only Come Out At Night”) because anybody with an ounce of sense should know that the glamour and glitter thing is just the same as the flower-power thing. Pink Floyd came out of it and Bowie`s gonna come out of it. Nobody else is gonna come out alive.
“I mean, even if we wanted to, which we don`t, it would be almost suicidal to go out for all of it. I`m like a lumberjack, I wouldn`t look anything but ridiculous if I came on stage looking like Bowie. Everybody in this band is your ace heterosexual straight.”
The whole story of how the band met up with Bowie, broke-up, re-formed and recorded “Dudes” all begins last April.
“We`d had about enough,” admits Hunter in retrospect. “We broke the band up in Switzerland. We owed twenty-three grand and were having difficulties with our record company. So we got this demo tape from David Bowie in the mail one day, and it was `Suffragette City`, he`d sent it because he`d liked the band.”
Hunter pauses a moment to adjust his biker-like sunglasses and reconsider the ramifications of that last statement. “I don`t actually think he was particularly into the band,” he continues, “He just liked what we represented. I think we were about the first punk rock band to come out of England. He likes that sort of thing.
“Overend, our bass player, sent the tape back to David, along with a note explaining that we`d broken up. Bowie went mad. He was on the phone with Overend for about two hours trying to convince him that the band should stay together. In the meantime, the rest of us were having a party. All the pressure was off. We were finished with Mott The Hoople, and it was a great relief.”
“Bowie came over to see us about three hours after he`d hung up with Overend. During the interim period, he`d written `All The Young Dudes`, which was about the way David viewed the band and our image. He had already booked some time at Olympic Studios for us and asked us to just get together for the session.” Hunter pauses again, this time for effect.
“When we got to the studios,” he picks up, “it was just like magic. We needed a kick up the ass, and after that session it was just like the beginning again. We decided to stay together.”
Now under the management of Tony DeFries, the shrewd Colonel Parker behind Bowie and Iggy Pop, the band is now starting to work their way out of financial pressures, the factor that caused them to temporarily disband in the first place.
Another beneficial event was their signing to CBS Records only seven months ago. Now the only major obstacle remaining is to get out of that David Bowie shadow, a difficult feat, to say the least.
Hunter`s vocals are the most distinguishing characteristic of Mott The Hoople`s music and with the “All The Young Dudes” LP, it has grown quite Bowiesque, or so it seems.
“If you listen carefully to the earlier albums,” Hunter contends, “you`ll see that my voice has always been the same. It`s been the treatment of it that`s changed its sound. I`d always wanted presence on the voice. I listened to American music.. Randy Newman, I listened to Dylan on `Nashville Skyline` where the vocal sound is just incredible. The presence is just amazing.
“I just never had it myself… I knew it was there in the studio, but they won`t help you. You`ve got to know what you want.
“I did all the vocals for `Brain Capers` in two hours. With David, I found the sound I`d always been looking for… a first repeat echo. That`s the sound I`ll continue to use.
Hunter has always tended more towards the semi-spoken, semi-vocal treatment in his material. “Dudes” was far from the first quasi-narrative the band has performed. On “Brain Capers”, the band`s last album, Dion`s “Your Own Backyard” contained an almost identical vocal line.
“I guess I`ve always leaned towards that type of thing, you`re right. That`s where the whole Dylan thing came in…”
“Mott The Hoople”, the group`s debut album (released several years ago) unveiled a very much Dylan influenced band. Hunter`s vocals all matched, missed-note for missed-note, that of the Dylan of that period in time. As one astute reviewer noted, “It was an exact replica of the whole `country pie` scene.”
“… I always tended to slide down at the end of notes because I knew I couldn`t hold them. So, obviously, that`s where the parallel was going to be… with Dylan, because he also slid down at the end of notes. So does Sonny Bono… Lou Reed… David Bowie. But that doesn`t mean that I sat down and studied them because I didn`t.
“It was just that I`d never been able to sing; I`d wanted to, and here was my chance. With singers like Randy Newman and Leonard Cohen, I knew I stood a chance.”
After the release of that first Mott LP, the band, through their many British appearances, began to rack up a substantial following and went on to record “Mad Shadows”… a more consistently rocking album than its predecessor.
“`Mad Shadows` is the album you`ll find the most fanatical Mott fans behind,” reveals Hunter between sips of Mott`s Apple Juice. (An ardent fan sent the band a case of the drink after their extremely successful appearance at the Los Angeles Palladium.)
“We never wanted to be that rough… and we didn`t think we were that rough. It just came out that way. You wouldn`t believe what was going on while we were recording `Mad Shadows`.”
The interviewer takes the bait. “What was happening?” he asks.
“We wrecked the studio,” answers Verden Allen, Mott`s organist. “I don`t know, we were in a hell of a mess… and it came out on the album. The songs were pretty good on that one, but if you listen to the production work on it…”
By the time Mott appears in America again there will be a new album and single, also produced by Bowie and a new stage act to boot. Sit tight. Mott The Hoople have come a long way, and still have a long way to go, but all the signs point to Ian Hunter, Verden Allen, Overend Watts and Buffin sticking it out.
“This is your ace-diplomatic band,” Hunter states looking over at his fellow band members. “That`s why it`s taken us so long. If one of us freaks out for six months, we all have to wait for him. We`re too polite to say something.”
Mott The Hoople. They`ve been wanting to do this for years.
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 Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Neil Hubbard, Yoko Ono, Pussy, Jan Akkerman, David Gates, Moody Blues, Al Stewart, Atomic Rooster, Savoy Brown, Gentle Giant, John Martin, Esperanto, Captain Beefheart, Rolling Stones, Spartacus, Tom Paxton, Eric Andersen, Amazing Blondel.
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