The Ballad Of Mott The Hoople

Aside from a generation growing up in the early seventies the name Mott The Hoople probably means very little if anything at all. Most notably famous for the career saving, Bowie penned and produced ‘All The Young Dudes’ a song so clothed in anthemic garb it defined a whole movement-Glam Rock- they were, in fact, so much more; a good time down and dirty rock and roll band that predated punk by a good five years. Their five year tenure –they formed in 1969 and disintegrated late ’74- whilst brief is a classic rock and roll tale consisting of the rise and fall then rise again only to splinter as fame sunk its insidious claws into various members unable to deal with the pressures and ego clashes resulting in acrimony and the inevitable parting of the ways.

Essentially the brain child of manager Guy Stevens-who later went onto produce the seminal  London Calling album by the Clash- Mott were put together as a  Blonde on Blonde era Dylan and Stones composite  bridging the gap of connecting with their live audiences that neither of these artists still possessed so remote had they become. Stevens wanted to strip the music back to basics whilst still imbuing it with a sense of intellectual integrity and vision which is where frontman and vocalist Ian Hunter stepped in. Ably supported by Mick Ralphs, Dale Griffin, Verden Allen and Overend Watts Mott then took to the clubs and built up a reputation as a live act that was second to none. Eventually culminating in a riotous appearance at the Royal Albert Hall, no less, their reputation was phenomenal but frustratingly they weren’t selling any records and therefore no money. After a particularly dispiriting European tour they were about to jack it all in until a certain David Bowie- whose star was only just entering the ascendant after years out in the wilderness-entered the fray offering them ‘All The Young Dudes’. Recognising an instant surefire hit the band leapt at this unbelievable offer and suddenly chart stardom and Top of The Pops were in view with their beckoning fingers. It is at this point that a whole new collection of problems arose however.

First casualty was organ player Verden Allen who quit whilst Dudes was still in the top twenty. Around six months later shortly after they recorded their best album the excellent ‘Mott’-proving they were no mere Bowie acolytes- guitarist Ralphs split fed up with playing second fiddle to Hunter who had by this juncture  effectively become band leader steering them in his chosen direction. After this the deliciously named Ariel Bender joined but the fact that they were haemorrhaging members at an alarming rate continued and his tenure was brief only to be replaced by Mick Ronson whose role as Bowie’s sideman had recently come to an abrupt end. This was, in essence, the end of the band and they never really recovered and five years after they had begun it was all over. As Ian Hunter succinctly put it ‘The fun is in the ride but there is no station.’

This film has some amazing footage and interviews with most of the major players-those who have survived-and is a document piece not simply of an era but an industry which is not known for its kind nature. Looking at this band of reprobates or intergalactic thugs-‘Liberace on LSD’ is one memorable description of their look- they looked and sounded as though they were having a ball. Interesting footage of Bowie introducing them live on stage then joining them on back up vocals has probably never been seen before. For a brief time there they lit up Top Of The Pops with a slew of great singles- Dudes, Honaloochie Boogie, All The Way From Memphis and Roll Away The Stone-and memorable appearances. A great informative film about a forgotten band  who not only had the Glam era’s defining single but provided inspiration for the punk generation skulking impatiently in the wings..

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