Thursday, May 2, 2019


Of course I love the Stones. And I could wax lyrical about them forever, having remained, largely, a fan, through hip, happening and happened, back again into the same cycle, repeated every decade or so. But, it being not so long after Easter, and that stone having been rolled, and to celebrate that they too are still on the road, likewise down to a hardcore trio, plus latecomers, there is always room for Mott.
Ian Hunter is 80 in June, another good reason to celebrate this surprisingly long lived band. With a charismatic stage presence, he has always been one of the more memorable front men in rock music. The band possibly better thought of a series as bands as, irrespective of surprisingly few line up-changes, there were three distinct stages.

Stage 1 was a solid meat and potatoes rock band, unafraid to embrace soul and country influences, blessed with a singer adept at channeling a Dylanesque vibe and vocal to proceedings. However, being a cult underdog favourite did not make for massive sales, their 2nd and 3rd records failing to make much inroad, arguably as they became progressively less electric and more acoustic. It wasn't working, even in the never more credible Island records roster.

Luckily, one David Jones, better known as David Bowie, was a fan of their chutzpah, offering them a song, 'Suffragette City'. That I would have loved to hear, but they turned him down: 'not good enough'(!!) Undeterred he sent a second, immediately gaining them a massive, and deserved hit. And a massive change in style. From long-haired hippies, whilst keeping the hair, they became Gods of Glam, all bacofoil, feathers and tinsel. I can't say I cared for the image, preferring also the older songs, Dudes excepted, but, hell, it was just great to see one of 'my' bands on Top of the Pops. Link to the earlier muse, guitarist Mick Ralphs, jumped ship as this success took hold, leaving in 1973, although he is playing on the later released featured song of this post. The irony might be that nothing more of him was ever heard again, but the band he left to join was Bad Company, playing, arguably, a stripped down version of the Mott part 1 template, doing rather well therewith. Bizarrely, his replacement, Ariel Bender, not his real name, was of similar blues-rock stock, as Luther Grosvenor, ex of Spooky Tooth, transforming himself into and for the designated image.

The hits couldn't last forever, and didn't. In truth, Mott were unlikely popstars, and both too old and too ugly to cut the drift of glam to disco. Erstwhile Bowie guitar-slinger Mick Ronson took over briefly, as Bender/Grosvenor left, ahead of the band formally calling it quits. Ronson and Hunter took up the mantle, a pairing from heaven, Ronson producing many of Hunter's run of solo albums, playing guitar and, on the road, frequently billed as the Hunter-Ronson band.

(I never 'got' this song, 'Cleveland Rocks', above, querying why and how two lads from Oswestry and Hull, respectively, could and would be singing about a city that I still have no idea as to where the f it is. I later learnt it was written as England Rocks, the name change being to endear more with US audiences, with whom they were huge. The lyrics fit better with England, IMHO, but I would say that, wouldn't I?)

Phase three for Mott was reunion time, of which there have been a few, 2009, 2013 and 2018 onward.  The first two of these concentrated on the original line up, as in their 1972 song, 'Ballad of Mott the Hoople'. Therefore not necessarily the more successful glam rock model, but certainly of more appeal to the die-hard fans. Partly in recognition of the tolls of time and age on that quintet, not to say their fanbase, the more recent line-ups have been more a reprise of the later years, more keyboard focussed, courtesy the dapper charms of Morgan Fisher, and bringing back Bender. Billed as Mott the Hoople 74, they have just recently been to a town near you. Including, yes, Cleveland. (OK, the clip below isn't Ohio, but looks to be Hunter, Bender, Fisher.)

Happy birthday, Ian. And it might be time to dig out again his epistle to the life on the road lifestyle of nearly half a century ago, 'Diary of a Rock 'n' Roll Star'. Well worth a read.

Get stoned!

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