When rocker Ian Hunter reviewed the itinerary for Mott the Hoople’s first U.S. tour in 45 years, he stumbled upon Minneapolis as one of eight cities on the schedule.
âWe’re going to Cleveland, we’re going to Detroit. This is what we do. Why are we going to Minneapolis? Hunter recently said from his longtime Connecticut home.
Mott, the cult British glam-rock band best known for the 1972 classic “All the Young Dudes” written by David Bowie, has only performed once in the Twin Cities – opening act for Emerson, Lake. & Palmer at the old Guthrie Theater in 1971.
âThey said it’s great there now,â said the well-traveled singer, who recently visited the Twin Cities as a solo artist and as part of Ringo Starr & His All -Starr Band. “You’re coming.”
This tour reflects the formation of Mott the Hoople in 1974, with guitarist Ariel Bender and keyboardist Morgan Fisher, as well as five new sidemen including former Wings drummer Steve Holley.
There have been Mott’s reunion tours in the UK – including 2013 with four original members and Pretenders drummer Martin Chambers – but two co-founders have since died and another is incapacitated by a stroke .
Tuesday on First Avenue in Minneapolis, don’t expect to hear Hunter’s solo signings including “Cleveland Rocks” and “Once Bitten Twice Shy.”
“It’s separate,” said Hunter, 79. âIt’s basically the 1974 live album. Half was made in London and half was made on Broadway.
The American tour came after the fact. After playing in a few British festivals in 2018, Mott had scheduled a European tour at the end of April. Then a New York promoter made an offer to the band and, before you knew it, a handful of other gigs were booked.
Recorded by Bowie
No one would hear from Mott without Bowie. After a 1971 tour in which they performed at appalling venues in Switzerland – “converted gas tanks” called them Hunter – Mott decided to go their separate ways. So bassist Pete Overend Watts contacted his buddy Bowie looking for a gig.
Wait, urged Bowie, an admirer of Mott. He would write a few songs for them if they continued.
âDavid kind of made us his little project for a while,â Hunter said.
They actually turned down “Suffragette City” before Bowie himself made it a success in 1972.
âThe other things he offered us weren’t better than what we were doing,â Hunter said. Everything, that is, except “All the Young Dudes”, which he said was “a whole different pot of fish.”
What was the attraction for Bowie? Hunter guesses it was Mott’s “roughness”.
âHe thought I was part of a motorcycle gang. Angie [Bowieâs first wife] told me that, âHunter recalls.
The singer was surprised that Bowie got so involved with Mott.
âHe was very selfless at a time when he should have been selfish. He was just starting himself. But he was focusing on Iggy [Pop], he focused on Lou [Reed]. He was doing a lot of different things. You shouldn’t be doing this when aiming for stardom on your own.
âOn the other hand, he was probably the most ambitious person I have ever met. He didn’t miss a turn. Twenty-four hours a day. He was very generous with us.
How he got to ‘Memphis’
Another Mott the Hoople hit was “All the Way From Memphis”, a Hunter original.
The singer, a self-taught pianist, said he composed it on the black keys of his piano because the white ones were broken. But he struggled for six months to find words. Then he thought of a Mott concert in Memphis.
âIn the afternoon, they told us that we had not sold a lot of tickets. In the evening they told us that the turnstiles were not working properly. He had been sold. Joe Walsh and Barnstorm opened for us. I ended up invading Elvis’ house around 2 a.m. thereafter. All in all it was a memorable evening. I got the lyrics from it.
Mott the Hoople was formed in 1969 when Guy Stevens, a record company executive who went on to produce The Clash’s “London Calling”, was looking for a new leader to pair with an existing band.
âAt that time, I thought I would never get the chance to be a singer,â said Hunter, who was already married and had children. âBut Bob Dylan comes along and Sonny Bono. They were phrase singers. It was a way in. Guy Stevens was looking for a cross between the Stones and Bob Dylan when he brought us together. He shaped us. I was right for him. .
on a bender
Original guitarist Mick Ralphs, who suffered a crippling stroke in 2016, left Mott in 1973 to co-found Bad Company.
His replacement was Bender, real name Luther Grosvenor. Hunter calls him “Luther”, but there is a real difference between the two.
âWhen you call him Ariel Bender, he goes into this other character. Luther is a tasteful songwriter and a tasty guitarist who has performed in very good groups [Spooky Tooth, Stealers Wheel, Widowmaker]. Ariel Bender walks in and he’s out of the wall. He is crazy. With him, it became much more of a spectacle.
How Grosvenor got the nickname is one of those only rock ‘n’ roll tales.
Mott had “stunk” (Hunter’s word) during a TV show in Mannheim, Germany. As the group marched down the street afterward, a very upset Ralphs kept bending the radio antennas on parked cars. Then, inexplicably, he stuck his head into a horse-drawn trough filled with water.
âLynsey de Paul, a singer at the time and quite tall, was with us and she said ‘overhead bender’,â Hunter recalls. “I thought that was a great name.” He christened Grosvenor with when the guitarist joined Mott.
Speaking of identity, Hunter is known for his blonde curls and sunglasses. Would anyone recognize him without them?
âNo, they wouldn’t,â he quickly stressed. “I know because I did it.”
He looks back on his 1981 solo album “Short Back n ‘Sides”, produced by Mick Jones of The Clash. At the young star’s suggestion, Hunter slicked his hair back and donned Jones’ shirt and jacket for the cover photoshoot.
Then Hunter, with no sunglasses on, went to a fancy New York bar and “no one knew who I was, including my wife’s best friend.”
“That’s good. Cover my head, take off the sunglasses and I can go anywhere, no one bothers me.