Saturday, July 20, 2013
40 Year Itch : Rock and Roll's A Loser's Game
Mott the Hoople's follow-up to the David Bowie aided and abetted All the Young Dudes, Mott is a masterpiece and one of the great rock and roll albums of the 70's. It plays like a concept album about the trials and tribulations of a road-weary, instrument-misplacing, infighting and ultimately disillusioned rock band and proved Mott the Hoople could make a great music all by themselves.
The band rocks hard on "Whizz Kid", "Drivin' Sister" and the band's only weak track "Violence". Hunter's Dylan obsession comes through on the classic "I Wish I Was Your Mother" and Mick Ralphs gets his moment in the sun singing "I'm a Cadillac/ El Camino Dolo Roso" and playing some stunning Spanish guitar.
Most telling of the tracks is "Ballad of Mott the Hoople (26th March 1972, Zurich)". The parenthetical date and place are significant. Mott the Hoople decided to break up after another frustrating, poorly attended gig in Zurich ...only to be met back in their home country by David Bowie offering them first "Suffragette City" ( which Mott turned down) and then "All the Young Dudes". Both the song and the album of the same name were produced by David Bowie and, almost overnight, the band became huge.
Though the songwriting credits go to the entire band, it's clearly Ian Hunter's autobiographical tune:
I changed my name in search of fame
To find the Midas touch ...
( Ian Hunter was born Ian Hunter Patterson)
Buffin lost his child-like dreams
(Buffin is drummer Dale Griffin's nickname. Griffin was the youngest member of the original band)
And Mick lost his guitar
( the second reference to Mick Ralphs losing a guitar on the album. The first is the line "Forgot my 6 string razor" on "All the Way from Memphis")
And Verden grew a line or two
(Verden is the oldest member and possibly the angriest since the band wouldn't play his songs. He left before the band recorded Mott)
And Overend's just a rock'n'roll star
(Shaggy bassist Overend Watts has the rock and roll look down pat)
Behind these shades the visions fade
As I learn a thing or two
Oh but if I had my time again
You all know just what I'd do
( Ian Hunter is never seen without his shades --perhaps to hide his disillusionment)
Rock'n'roll's a loser's game
It mesmerises and I can't explain
The reasons for the sights and for the sounds
We went off somewhere on the way
And now I see we have to pay
The rock'n'roll circus is in town
(Mott toured the UK in 1972 with a circus made up of a vaudeville comedian and a knife throwing act)
With the help of two British hit singles, "Honaloochie Boogie" (UK#12) and "All the Way From Memphis" (UK#10), Mott is the most successful of the band's UK album peaking at #7 there and #35 in the US. Despite the success, the band was in tatters. Guitarist Mick Ralphs followed keyboardist Verden Allen out the door and formed Bad Company with his hometown chum Paul Rodgers.
By 1974, Ian Hunter -too- was gone.
Mott topped Creem Magazine's 1973 readers poll for both album and band.
CREEM MAGAZINE 1973 READER POLL RESULTS
1. Mott The Hoople - Mott
2. The Who - Quadrophenia
3. Elton John - Goodbye Yellowbrick Road
4. Rolling Stones - Goat's Head Soup
5. New York Dolls
6. Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon
7. Allman Brothers - Brothers and Sisters
8. Led Zeppelin - Houses Of The Holy
9. Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies
10. Stooges - Raw Power
11. Blue Oyster Cult - Tyranny and Mutation
12. David Bowie - Aladdin Sane
13. Paul McCartney and Wings - Band On The Run
14. Emerson, Lake and Palmer - Brain Salad Surgery
15. Todd Rundgren - A Wizard, A True Star
16. Yes - Yessongs
17. Paul Simon - There Goes Rhymin' Simon
18. David Bowie - Pin-Ups
19. J. Geils Band - Bloodshot
20. Jethro Tull - A Passion Play
1. Mott the Hoople
2. The Who
3. Allman Brothers
4. The Rolling Stones