The Ballad of Mott the Hoople, BBC Four


Mott the Hoople: before their glam rock makeover with Ian Hunter on the left sporting his corkscrew hair ‘n’ shades combo

“Five years,” former Mott the Hoople fan club president Kris Needs said of the band’s lifespan. “How long have the Kaiser Chiefs been around, but who cares?” It seemed like an unfair measure. Mott split 39 years ago and the Leeds quirks are still going strong. But in terms of stitches in the rich tapestry of rock, Mott’s, like the Kaiser Chiefs, probably wouldn’t take a sock back.

That’s not to say that Mott the Hoople didn’t deserve this documentary, or that their best records weren’t among the greatest of the early ’70s. But it took David Bowie to write their first hit and propel them to the charts. singles after four albums as a cult act. When Bowie gave them “All the Young Dudes” in 1972, it was to keep them from going their separate ways. He first suggested “Suffragette City”, which they declined. Then he came up with “… Dudes”. A glam makeover and fabulous hits written by Ian Hunter like “Honaloochie Boogie”, “All the Way from Memphis” and “Roll Away the Stone” followed.

Ian Hunter said Mott was David Bowie’s ‘Flavor of the Quarter’

The ballad of Mott the Hoople grabbed a group built for success, but initially out of step with the mainstream. Hunter said “if we’re bored [on stage], we would accelerate, faster and faster. No one did that. As the 1970s dawned, Mott’s pre-glam rough rock foreshadowed punk and drew fans like future Clash member Mick Jones, who spoke fondly of his unwavering love for the band.

Hunter had a way of phrasing that his sphinx-like presence and his time-frozen corkscrew hair and shade combo did nothing to diminish. Speaking of Bowie’s defense of the group, he said they were “[Bowie’s] flavor of the neighborhood. “The film also celebrated their late producer and svengali, the volatile Guy Stevens. Stevens has been described as throwing chairs against a wall to inspire Mott,” which I remember was somewhat inspiring, “noted engineer Andy Johns, When The Clash used Stevens to London call, he invoked the same inspiring chair tightening technique for them.

Watch the Mott the Hoople “All the Young Dudes” promotional film

The most memorable moment was a strangely staid Old gray whistle test interview with a pursed-lip Mick Ronson about his brief post Bowie tenure with the band in late 1974. Hunter argued it could have worked with Ronson, although he released a new solo album at the time . Other band members disagreed, saying the newly arrived guitarist had a different manager from the rest of the band and didn’t speak to them. Hunter didn’t seem to worry too much – then or now – about the views of the rest of Mott.

In a documentary so keen to reveal the negative side, there were some strange omissions. Most blatantly, their 2009 reform was not addressed. The origin of their name has not been explained (it comes from a novel by American writer Willard Manus that Stevens had read in prison) and, perhaps less importantly, their pre-Mott album as Doc Thomas Group was not mentioned. The first group was not as green as described. Hunter, introduced to the line-up by Stevens, also hadn’t come out of nowhere and was part of bands from the late 1950s.

Equally noteworthy was a “special thank you” to Morrissey buried in the credits. His take on Mott the Hoople could have been enlightening, but was not included. Instead, without his input, this uplifting tale of wrong turns and conflicting perspectives will have to suffice.


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