The story of Mott the Hoople’s near disappearance and their rescue from retirement by super fan David Bowie is etched in the annals of the rock and roll legend. Despite several notable previous albums on Island Records (Mott the Hoople, crazy shadows, Wildlife, cerebral capers), Mott had yet to gain momentum and was on the verge of disbanding due to frustration over the failure.
It was then that Bowie stepped in and provided them with the lead anthem that would soon become their signature song.
Released on September 8, 1972, the album All the young guys effectively capitalized on the success of the title track, but luckily too, the set as a whole was just as assertive. He not only pointed out Mott the Hoople, but also helped lay the groundwork for the so-called ’70s glam movement, underscored by the band’s penchant for flashy stage outfits and a smug but confident attitude.
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Naturally then, “All the Young Dudes” set the tone, and in fact, it resonates even now. His lyrics express the need for tolerance, especially when it comes to gender diversity and embracing everyone, regardless of sexual preference:
“Now Jimmy looks cute even though he dresses like a queen
He can kick like a mule
This is a real mean team
we can love
Oh, we can love.
Other songs also affirmed this premise. “Ready for Love”, written by guitarist Mick Ralphs, evolved as one of the most driving and decisive songs on the album as a whole, and was so powerful, in fact, that it was picked up by the next outfit from Ralphs, Bad Company. Given its ready riff and determined delivery, it’s not only tenacious in tone, but rugged in its simplicity.
A secondary cover, a resilient version of Lou Reed’s classic “Sweet Jane”, a song that originally appeared on the Velvet Underground Charge album – helped give this number its own meaningful status, which it still retains today. In Mott’s able hands, it became an established standard, sparking a series of other covers in the years to come.
Nonetheless, the song that neatly encapsulates the band’s attitude and agility – while also being an obvious companion to the title track – is the song that ended up as a B-side when “Dudes” was released as a single. “One of the Boys,” written by Ralphs and singer, guitarist, pianist and de facto frontman Ian Hunter, became a shared and moving statement about the new unity that glamor would eventually embrace. It’s a relentless rocker to boot.
However, the album’s quality cuts were not limited to these songs. Hunter’s seductive “Sea Diver,” his strong co-writing with bassist Pete Watts, “Momma’s Little Jewel,” and the seductive “Soft Ground,” written and sung by organist Verden Allen, helped fill out the setlist, making it clear that Mott had the material to maintain both consistency and credibility. The fact that Bowie took his commitment to the band one step further by choosing to sit behind the boards, almost ensured that the album would achieve a certain level of success.
All the young guys effectively broke the band in the US, peaking at #89, their first album to break into the Billboard top 100. The title track, meanwhile, reached No. 37 on the US singles chart, by far their best showing (though well below its No. 3 spot in the UK). The song has remained a classic rock radio staple ever since.
The group will reach even greater heights with their next album, the simply titled clod. In retrospect, this would turn out to be the highlight of their careers. Nevertheless, it was All the young guys who saved the band from oblivion and established them as true rebels to be reckoned with.
look Ian Hunter performs ‘All the Young Dudes’ live with Queen’s Def Leppard and Brian May at the 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony