A struggling English band, ‘Mott The Hoople’ found themselves on the brink of a breakup in 1972. Fantastic gigs aside, the band found themselves penniless and privately worthless, despite a legion of fans including to Mick Jones, Noel Gallagher and future members. One of the band’s fans, a rising star named David Bowie, elevated his artistic stature with a cover of his ‘Ziggy Stardust’ outtake ‘All The Young Dudes’, a much-needed No. 3 hit in the UK. United. Buoyed enough, the band entered their sixth album with guaranteed optimism. However, these sessions were largely dictated by frontman Ian Hunter, causing enough harshness within the band’s ranks. Keyboardist Verder Allen quit during the pre-production stage of ‘Mott, guitarist Mick Ralphs left just a few months after the album’s release. Though they were replaced (by Morgan Fisher and the auspicious Ariel Bender, respectively), Hunter discovered just how irreplaceable they were, causing ‘Mott the Hoople’ to disband in 1975, an entire 2009 reunion that revived just how timeless their work was ( finally shortened). .
And none better than this work, one of the best glam rock albums, and one of the most underrated albums of the seventies. At thirty-four, Hunter was at the height of vocal finesse, blending the elegiac roar of Bob Dylan with the unflappable rockabilly of Marc Bolan; quintessential glam rock singer. Amalgamated by Ralph’s sizzling guitar lines (sometimes as melodic as George Harrison, other times as forceful as Tony Iommi), Hunter’s voice proved to be as tactile as rock needed it.
His songs showed that he was as capable a hits writer as David Bowie had been. Opening track ‘All The Way From Memphis’ proved to be a far more worthy song than ‘Dudes’, complete with saxophone from Roxy Music’s Andy McKay, giving the song a coda not heard since The Beatles ‘n-na-na ‘ed’ on their way. four moments from ‘Hey Jude’. The 1950s stomper ‘Honaloochie Boogie’ featured the rhythm and bop of a Memphis track, albeit with flashes of Noel Coward wit attached. ‘Whizz Kid’ screamed like a ’70s equivalent of ‘The Velvet Underground’. ‘Drivin’ Sister’ proved that car songs could be popular, five years before Gary Numan released ‘Cars’.
Ralphs guitar playing is here in the center. Although he would feel marginalized as a secondary guitarist (he eventually left to form the riff-heavy ‘Bad Company’ with Paul Rodgers), his playing ranges from the Spanish fret on his own penned ‘I’m A Cadillac’ to the Richie. Blackmore’s chord play on ‘Violence’ to the smooth, independent playing of ‘Memphis’, a style David Gilmour would have given two thumbs up to. Hunter later admitted that he tried to stop Ralphs from leaving by offering him half of his royalties. It proved futile, though ‘Mott’ would be one of two albums (the other being Bad Company’s self-titled debut) that showcased his ability as one of the best rock guitarists of the ’70s. Brian May himself was a fan!
But it’s Hunter’s closing ‘I Wish I Was Your Mother’ that elevates the 1970s album into a 1970s classic. While much of 1973 sounded glitzy (this was the year of ‘Dark Side of the Moon’), ‘Mother’ was a sumptuous acoustic ballad intended as a love letter to the legions of fans who had supported Mott throughout the years. over the years leading up to this indelible times. The only track without an electric instrument (save for Overend Watts’ melodic bass), the song returns the band to their Guthrie roots, with the delicate harmonica playing intact. When fans exploded with affect over the ballad in 2009, it turned out to be Mott’s ‘A Day In The Life’, ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ or ‘When The Levee Breaks’, a final song that turned his fans into interpreters. into living legends and his album into something bigger than what you normally hear on the radio.