Ian Hunter talks about Mott the Hoople and David Bowie – Music – Buzz


What do you do when you’re one of rock’s most consistent artists and you’ve made one of the best records of your career when few of them are paying attention? You release it anyway and hope it finds an audience.

For Ian Hunter, the iconic former singer of Mott The Hoople (1969-1974), “Fingers Crossed” (Proper Records) is the latest proof that the man just keeps getting better with age.

Sounding younger than his age, Hunter’s ten hook-laden tracks on “Fingers Crossed” range from the slinky opener “That’s When The Trouble Starts” to the reggae-flavoured “You Can’t Live in the Past” and by the closing rave. up, “Long Duration”.

The centerpiece of the record is “Dandy”, the song Hunter was writing last January when news broke that David Bowie had died. As he explains in the following interview – conducted last week – the song was written from the perspective of an early 1970s rock fan whose life was changed by Bowie’s music.

“Stranded in Reality, a 30-disc anthology box set containing a wealth of rare and previously unreleased material, has also just been released.

TME: “Dandy” attracts a lot of attention on the new album “Fingers Crossed”. You knew David Bowie quite well and did an amazing job capturing the vibe of when he was making these groundbreaking records and shows.

Hunter: At that time, England was dull and very dull and David was in Technicolor. You went to see David do a concert and it was like another world during those two hours. When you came out, it was back to reality and you took the last bus home. “The last bus home” is repeated in the song and it’s my favorite line in “Dandy”. I was writing a song called “Lady” when I heard the news of David’s passing. I rewrote parts of the song and it became something else. It’s written from a fan’s perspective in 1971.

TME: He was such a fan of Mott the Hoople that he wouldn’t let you break up when you wanted to (laughs).

Hunter: That’s right. We had actually split up in Switzerland and Pete Watts, our bass player, phoned him for a gig. He wanted to be in David’s group. When David found out that Mott had broken up, he came up to us and said “you can’t break up” and offered us two songs. One was “Suffragette City” which we turned down (it later appeared on Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust”) and the other was “All The Young Dudes” which we did and it became a hit.

TME: Mott the Hoople was such an amazing band. Did you have as much fun as it looks?

Hunter: Do not laugh)

TME: I like your honesty.

Hunter: We didn’t have good management and we had a label that wasn’t interested in us so it was very frustrating. The shows were always great because you could let go, you know? There was a lot of desperation and frustration. But there was a lot of passion involved. That’s what lasted.

TME: The “Stranded in Reality” box set looks like a goldmine for hardcore fans. How did it happen?

Hunter: It’s the work of Proper Records and that guy, Campbell Devine. He’s the one who wrote that book about Mott. In fact, he came to stay with me for a while. Basically, he’s a super fan and that’s who the box set is for.

TME: Is this material in your archives that you had largely forgotten?

Hunter: Yeah, he has a way of getting you to find stuff, you know? In the late 80s and early 90s, I had no manager or record label or anything. I was just fiddling around for my own pleasure on an old Fostex half-inch (reel-to-reel multitrack machine that records and plays back half-inch tapes). There were some good songs from that era and also some that fell through the cracks on some albums. They didn’t seem suitable for records back then but they’re great to hear now. He really did an amazing job with this anthology. It’s very flattering.

TME: It’s limited to only 2,500 copies worldwide, right?

Hunter: It’s true and they won’t change their minds. It’s not like live gigs where they stomp and sell out sections where they’re not supposed to once they’re exhausted. This one is really very limited. There are 2,500 and when they leave, that’s it. (Note: the collection is available at www.propermusic.com.)

TME: Will we meet again next year with the Rant Band (Hunter’s longtime backing band)? (The band played at the Maine State Pier in Portland in 2015).

Hunter: “Fingers Crossed” is doing very well and we want to continue like this so we will start doing concerts again in June. Not only in the United States, but also in Scandinavia, France, England and Spain.

TME: Do you have a chance to reissue your excellent book “Diary of a Rock and Roll Star” (Hunter’s column on Mott the Hoople on the road in 1972. The book has been out of print for many years.)?

Hunter: I picked up the rights to the book about a year ago. It belongs to me now. We get offers from publishers and film companies who want to make a film. The thing is, they don’t get what I want. I want it to be about airports because I think it would be a great airport book. Until they give me a guarantee, we’re on it. I’ll wait for someone with a bit of weight to come along and then we’ll take him out.

TME: We lost so many great artists in 2016. Please don’t leave us anytime soon.

Hunter: I don’t intend to do that but you never know. I have been married to the same woman for 45 years. It tends to keep you straight (laughs).

Previous Ian Hunter opens up about Bowie, Mott the Hoople's crazy guitars, and the merits of unprofessionalism
Next Mott the Hoople bassist Peter Overend Watts dies