How Mott the Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes” Defined Glam-Rock


The history of rock ‘n’ roll is full of tales of breakup and disaster, of tragedy and drug-fueled excess. Stories of pure, selfless generosity are so much rarer that they are almost antithetical to the form. But it’s the latter that’s at the heart of one of the more purely rock ‘n’ roll subgenres, glam-rock: the story of Mott the Hoople’s 1972 album. All the young guys.

Hailing from Herefordshire in the west of England – a rural county whose other most famous export is its brown and white Hereford cattle – Mott the Hoople formed in 1969 when Island Records producer Guy Stevens , heard something he liked from a band calling themselves both the Doc Thomas band and at other times Silence. Stevens recruited vocalist Ian Hunter (relegating the band’s former vocalist Stan Tippins to road manager) and convinced them to change their name to Mott the Hoople, after a character from a novel he had read while serving time for a drug. offense.

Mott the Hoople released their self-titled debut album – a hard-rock effort with more swagger than polish – in November 1969. It was a minor hit that won them a cult following in England, but their next three albums did not. all failed to do much. a brand, and by early 1972 the band was on the verge of breaking up. Cue the moment of generosity. David Bowie, then at the height of his Ziggy Stardust powers, decided to save them.

Watch Mott the Hoople perform “All the Young Dudes”

As Hoople keyboardist Verden Allen recalled in a interview 2016 with Wales Online, Bowie “liked our picture and sent us a telegram inviting us to his agent’s office in London”. There he played a song he had written for them. As Bowie said NME“I literally wrote that within an hour of reading an article in one of the music newspapers that their breakup was imminent. I thought they were a good little band, and I thought to myself, ‘This will be an interesting thing to do, let’s see if I can write this song and keep them together.'”

The song Bowie wrote and performed for the band in his agent’s office – on a blue guitar while wearing a blue catsuit – was “All the Young Dudes”. It would go on to become one of the definitive anthems of the glam-rock movement while giving Mott the Hoople a bona fide hit and making their careers. And for good measure, Bowie is offering to produce the band’s next album, which will also be called All the young guys.

The album bears Bowie’s fingerprints all over it. Opening with an understated take on Lou Reed’s classic “Sweet Jane,” it immediately finds its rhythm in a kind of brilliant staging that perfectly matches the band’s strengths. Hunter’s songwriting shines on tracks like “Momma’s Little Jewel” and the anthem “One of the Boys.” Guitarist Mick Ralphs’ cool, in-the-pocket style is reminiscent of Keith Richards, and he displays some songwriting chops in “Ready for Love/After Lights,” the first half of which he would resurrect with follow-up band Bad Company.

Bassist Pete Watts and drummer Dale “Buffin” Griffin deftly sway between the driving hard-rock beats and cheekier grooves that make up much of the album’s glam fare, like “Sucker.” And Bowie’s steady hand as producer gives the album a strong, clean sound, lending the perfect amount of cosmic sparkle to the band’s powerful riffs. Several tracks – such as the magnificent ballad “Sea Diver” which closes the album – would not be out of place on Bowie’s 1972 masterpiece, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars.

Listen to “Sucker” by Mott the Hoople

But the heart of the album is “All the Young Dudes”. From the iconic opening guitar line and languid Hunter vocals, to the Bob Dylan-esque, operatic chorus and soaring arrangement, the song has helped define glam as one of the most flamboyant moments ever. , sexually overfed, sexist and rebels in rock history.

The song’s lyrics celebrate alternative sexuality — the “I’m a guy, dad!the chorus reads like a cross between “Guess what: I’m gay!” and “I’ll dress like a girl if I want, so get over it!” — and details the hardships endured by people who embrace this sexuality Billy, one of the young guys in the song, is already talking about killing himself even though he’s not yet 25. Lucy “dresses like a queen” but sometimes has to “cut like a mule” I’m never quite on board with the simpler “revolutionary stuff” offered by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

That all of this subversion was delivered by a band whose members weren’t gay was not confusing or accidental, but part of the appeal of glam rock. It was about strutting whatever sexuality you wanted to strut about right now, dressing up and being who you wanted to be, celebrating people who had hitherto been driven into hiding by the current dominant. It was an inclusive and joyful musical moment, based in part on an unwavering act of generosity.

Top 100 Rock Albums of the 70s

From AC/DC to ZZ Top, from “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to “London Calling”, they are all there.

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