Ian Hunter on Mott the Hoople’s return to America after 45 years of waiting


Patience, your name is Mott the Hoople fandom. Devotees of the ’70s group had longer to wait for a reunion than most – especially in the underserved United States. It’s been 45 years since the band led by Ian Hunter broke up, and exactly as long as they haven’t performed in the US, since a few very short tours where various incarnations of Mott reunited in 2009 and 2013. were limited to Europe. . But with an eight-city tour of the United States starting this week, faithful Americans finally have their very belated chance to be hot to trot to Mott.

It doesn’t matter if the spots on everyone’s face aren’t from torn stars anymore, by this late date; a refreshed youth will be bestowed on all the guys at the door.

But what took so long? Was it Hunter’s general resistance to nostalgia that made even European fans wait (barely) 35 years to see Mott again in concert, let alone the nearly half a century before Mott came to less thousand kilometers from Memphis? ?

“It’s really me who goes out singing songs that I wrote anyway,” said Hunter, speaking with Variety during a phone call before rehearsals, sounding almost nonchalant about the last-minute nod at the fans’ request. “Most of it is stuff that I wrote, or participated in writing, and I’ve been doing it since ’69, professionally. But I have to tell you that when they put on Mott’s intro music and you go out, it’s something very special. And it’s beautiful and it’s fun. And as long as it doesn’t… ”He hesitates. “I wouldn’t do it all the time, you know. I wouldn’t want to do that, because I like new stuff. But every now and then it’s pretty scary when you hear the intro. And I can’t wait. “

While the distinction is probably not necessary in the minds of most fans, the group doing this tour is billed as Mott the Hoople ’74, as the main lineup consists of Hunter and two musicians who joined the ending. of Mott’s tenure – keyboardist Morgan Fisher, who arrived in 1973, in time for the band’s most beloved album, “Mott,” and Ariel Bender, who arrived just in time for their studio swan song. 1974, “The Hoople”.

This latest album is “around which we base this show.” That, and there was a live album that came out (“Mott Live”, also in 1974); half was performed in London and half was performed at the Uris Theater on Broadway. This show is based on these two records. So what sets the final incarnation of Mott the Hoople apart from the previous ones?

The fact that, towards the end, they went from a kind of more meat and potato band – or, being English, bangers ‘n’ mash – even though he had a leader very much influenced by Dylan in Hunter, to one with more of a theatrical bent, which sort of ended what David Bowie had started when he produced their album “All the Young Dudes” in ’72.

“We’ve always been kind of like that,” Hunter says of their penchant for mini-rock music towards the end, “but I mean, that was back when you needed to have a show. It was not enough to just stay there. It also needed a show. We were a bit like that. We were one a little theatrical, ”he said with a chuckle.

For half a minute, they even found themselves in glam, or glitter-rock, quite a turnaround from their debut around 1969. “But before we started, the Who got hooked on the mod thing,” he says. notice Hunter. “You know, anything that could put your ass in the seats, basically!” So I thought, okay, okay. I mean, we looked like masons. I never liked to think we had it actually glamorous. We dressed well, but it wasn’t tinsel, silk, and satin. It was flashier than glam.

There were other reasons beyond the dominant fashions for making a change. “Mick Ralphs was gone, and Luther (Grosvener, who changed his name to Ariel Bender, after replacing Ralphs as guitarist) really wasn’t a writer. He was also fresh in the band, and as much as he gave to the band – I mean, Luther basically carried the band live; he was brilliant on stage – he didn’t offer the material in the studio. And he didn’t really understand the style of the band. So ‘The Hoople’ was more keyboard oriented. I also had this thing of putting saxophones against cellos; others did it later, but at first I did. Then Morgan Fisher was now in the group. and he’s sort of a die-hard pianist, so we naturally went to Morgan. And I was playing that kind of orchestral thing with ‘Marionette’ and stuff like that.

Grosvenor / Bender, who had previously kept a low profile in Spooky Tooth and Stealers Wheel, almost literally became a new man by joining Mott, and not just under a fake name. “It was the funniest thing with Luther, because before us he had been in groups where he was a very tasteful player, and a tasteful writer, too. But when he joined us, and we made up the name of Ariel Bender, he got into this alter ego that was just outrageous. And he hasn’t changed much. Every time he does something in the Mott area, he does. (Mark) Bosch, my usual guitarist, idolizes his playing. He’s out of the ordinary – and as a guy he hasn’t really changed much. He’s still running around the scene like a 12 year old kid.

That Bender and Fisher were left out of previous European meetings, which focused on the 1969-1972 training, was a thorn in Hunter’s side.

“Mainly, it’s important that Luther and Morgan get their chance,” Hunter says. “They never had it the first two times. And it’s important that they get it, because they put it all back in ’74 “- a time when interest in Mott was higher than ever, especially in the UK; it’s not the lack of popularity which caused the split.

He further explains the recent story: “The original band got together in 2009 in London, then we did a second batch in 2012, but that was the original band. And sadly, it just seemed like they didn’t want Morgan and didn’t want Luther to play, which kind of upset bassist Pete (Overend Watts) and myself. But they (guitarist Mick Ralphs and organist Verden Allen, presumably) maintained that it had to be the original band. So Luther and Morgan came to these shows, and they were very sporty about it. And I just thought that one of these days, when we get a window, we should make up for it by following the second half of that group, which was the ’74 version. We got together for three festivals in Europe last summer, and it worked out like a dream, so we thought, why not?

A lot has happened since to make any other version of the band outside of the 1974 edition implausible, anyway. Dale “Buffin” Griffin was only able to make appearances at previous meetings in the UK, where he was replaced by Pretenders drummer Martin Chambers due to poor health; he died in 2017. Watts died in 2017. Ralphs is still there, but also had to withdraw from the Bad Company tour due to health concerns.

Amid all this happiness for American Mott fans, that excitement is waning west of the Continental Divide. This is because the eight meeting dates are towards the east coast. Fans in California and the other Western states were determined to hope that a West Coast switchover would be added, although a gradual acceptance that this might not happen has prompted a fair number of flight bookings. Hunter confirms that they will not be returning to the United States to strike other parts of the country.

“We were already booked in Europe” for the coming months, he explains. “The American side was nailed to the front. So we have to go when we have to go. There is nothing planned after that, I’m sorry to say. But no one contacted us on the west coast. Either your promoters thought it wouldn’t work there, or… ”He pauses. “I’m sorry about that. But we have to ask you before we go anywhere!

At 79, Hunter continues to be a die-hard turner as well as a solo recording artist, regularly visiting the United States with his backing group, the Rant Band – whose members will increase the original (or semi- originals) from Mott on this tour. And he has other solo gigs booked after the close of Mott the Hoople ’74.

An imminent 80e anniversary might remind other rock’n’roll stars to enjoy the mechanical royalties of “All the Way From Memphis” in the countryside longer. Has he ever thought of calling it a day?

“Well no. I mean, I’m doing it,” Hunter said. Finally, he conceded that the thought crossed his mind. “I think, ‘Oh, that’s it.’ himself. “I come to Scotland and I’m like, ‘This is it. This is the last time I see it all. But I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and nothing seems to stop. What am I going to do anyway? What’s the point in stopping? So, no, I have no idea when I’m going to retire. I’m having a good time. “

The American route of Mott the Hoople ’74 (some shows including Cleveland – of “Cleveland Rocks” fame – and Philadelphia sold out very early):

April 1 – Milwaukee, WI – Miller High Life Theater

April 2 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue

April 3 – Chicago, IL – Chicago Theater

April 5 – Detroit, MI – The Fillmore

April 6 – Cleveland, OH – Masonic

April 8 – Glenside, PA – Keswick Theater

April 9 – Boston, MA – Orpheum Theater

April 10 – New York, NY – Beacon Theater


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