Mott the Hoople was on the verge of disbandment in the spring of 1972 when David Bowie offered to lend them a hand. He sent them a demo of his new song “Suffragette City” for them to record, but they politely declined. Bowie then visited them in person and performed “All the Young Dudes”, a song he had written especially for them. “He strums it on his guitar and I’m like, does he want to give this to us?” He must be crazy! remembers the late drummer Dale Griffin. “You couldn’t fail to see it was a great song.”
“All the Young Dudes” became a huge hit for Mott the Hoople. It also became a glam-rock anthem, with lyrics seen as dealing with bisexuality. (“Now Lucy looks adorable because he dresses like a queen / But he can kick like a mule, he’s a really mean team.”) Bowie denied that notion two years ago later, in a 1974 conversation with beat writer William S. Burroughs for Rolling stone, when he insisted that the song was related to “Five Years” by The rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the spiders of Mars. “Ziggy’s advisor tells him to collect news and sing it, because there is no news,” he explained. “So Ziggy does this and there is terrible news. ‘All the Young Dudes’ is a song about this short story. It is not a hymn to youth as we thought. It is quite the opposite. “
Here you can watch Mott the Hoople perform the song in Los Angeles in 1973. “It’s nice to be back in Los Angeles,” frontman Ian Hunter says, tuning his guitar. “Actually, we don’t think so at all, it’s a drag to be back.” The band is in glamorous attire, with Hunter in a white ruffled shirt and bassist Pete Overend Watts in white platform thigh-high boots. Newly joined guitarist Ariel Bender takes the song’s signature riff to new heights.
While “All the Young Dudes” saved Mott the Hoople’s career, it also kept them from being known for other things. “You could say it could have had a negative effect on the image of the band,” said Hunter. “But without that, there wouldn’t have been a band: it’s that simple.”
In April, Mott the Hoople will tour America for the first time in 45 years. Back in the band, Bender – who hasn’t toured with Mott since 1974 – and keyboardist Morgan Fisher.