Ian Hunter was somewhat of a late beginner in the musical game. So that meant that at the age of 81 on June 3, 2020, he had only been working there for about 66 years.
The solo artist and frontman of the Rant Band, who enthusiastically led a Mott The Hoople core reunion in 1974 as he approached his 80s, has been an inspiration for decades. Not just for his writing, but for the fact that the years have done nothing to diminish his composure. Even as an octogenarian, older than any successful generation of artists before him, he can still watch the part and sing it.
Hunter also gained a different kind of esteem as a member of this relatively small group of Dylan-influenced writers whose dexterity with words was not limited to recorded music. Born in Oswestry, Shropshire, he played in local bands and one in Northampton called the Apex, then in a London band called the Scenery. But he also had a journalistic training, albeit brief, which will come in handy later.
“When I left school I became a little reporter for the Wellington Journal in Shropshire,” he said. Beat Instrumental in 1971. “This job lasted about three months because even though I could type. I couldn’t do the shorthand. Then I went to Butlins [holiday camp] with my girlfriend and I met two kids in a group who asked me to participate in a talent competition with them.
“We had only known each other for three days and there were around 165 acts in total – but we won it,” he continued. “Then a few weeks later I got a letter from them in Northampton asking me to join them in a group. This band was called Apex and that’s actually how it all started.
Ride the mental train
At the time of this interview, Hunter had already helmed Mott The Hoople for three albums, with one more to come. They made their Island Records debut with an eponymous release in the closing weeks of the 1960s. The era was celebrated on sumptuous 6CD box Mental training: the island years 1969-1971.
Chart success was modest, and the band was famous for dropping out when David Bowie gave them his song “All The Young Dudes” and changed their whole future. Major recording and touring hits followed, along with several other highly regarded UK hit singles including “The Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, “All The Way From Memphis” and “Honaloochie Boogie”.
But Hunter showed his way with words in another medium in 1974, with the publication of his account of Mott’s US tour in late 1972, Diary of a rock’n’roll star. To this day, it is often voted as the most authentic first-hand report in rock history.
He began a solo career with the self-titled 1975 album which included his only UK Top 20 hit, “Once Bitten Twice Shy”, and has remained prolific. Hunter’s last three albums have been at the helm of the Rant Band, including 2016’s Crossed fingers, which brought him back into the UK Top 40.
In recent years, the frontman has alternated his own work with Mott’s reunion, including the 2009 release which reunited the original five members (although drummer Dale “Buffin” Griffin’s poor health prevented him from appearing. except during recalls, Martin Chambers taking his place behind the kit). A 2013 outing included a date at the O2 Arena in London.
The 2019 tour, presented as Mott The Hoople ’74, including guitarist Ariel Bender and keyboardist Morgan Fisher. Old Wings drummer Steve Holley was among those adding to the line-up. As Mott toured the United States for the first time in 45 years, Variety’The review of their April show at the Chicago Theater was enthusiastic: “Hunter, surrounded by his current Mott compatriots, stood and played loud and proud, celebrating the last incarnation of his old band who had split up nearly. half a century. ”
“His personal victory lap”
Writer Mitch Myers concluded, “Ian Hunter has been on his own personal victory lap for years, singing these songs all over the world. Catch him while you can, with Mott or when he resumes his regular tours. ”
This diet caused Hunter to pass his 80th birthday – where else? – on stage, at the end of a four-night celebration with the Rant Band at the City Winery in New York. Ask by Billboard how he felt about the big monument he said: “I feel great! 80 sunny, clear and charming sounds, and 79 all dark sounds. I didn’t expect to win 50, so that’s a bonus.
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