The Ballad of Mott the Hoople and Ian Hunter - Album by Album thread

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by onlyconnect, Oct 16, 2016.

  1. onlyconnect

    onlyconnect The prose and the passion Thread Starter

    Winchester, UK
    Ian Hunter, 77, is a rock phenomenon, not only still touring after over fifty years in the business, but also still delivering strong new material, as evidenced in the new album Fingers Crossed from Ian Hunter and the Rant Band. If we were to do an album by album thread I feel it should begin with Mott the Hoople, the first successful band to which he belonged, whose first, eponymous album appeared in November 1969. It would go on through Mott's Island years, its glam years on Columbia and association with David Bowie, then Ian's solo career which began in collaboration with Spiders from Mars guitarist Mick Ronson and continued with a series of mostly strong albums right up to the present day. Anyone up for it?
  2. quicksrt

    quicksrt Senior Member

    Los Angeles
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  3. Flaming Torch

    Flaming Torch Forum Resident

    Big fan of Mott The Hoople and the first few solo albums by Ian Hunter. Lost the thread after that but I would guess each album from then on probably has at least one great song. Going back to the start the first 4 Island/Atlantic albums on cd are out of print.I am awaiting delivery of these 4 albums on vinyl from Rhino via Popmarket. I have the Atlantic cds and the Angel Air cds along with original Island pressings of these 4. I am very fond of the early Mott albums although they are patchy. Key tracks on the debut are Laugh at Me and the wonderful Backsliding Fearlessly.
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  4. Terry

    Terry Senior Member

    Mott is my fav.
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  5. JoeF.

    JoeF. Forum Resident

    New Jersey, USA
    Mott the Hoople was a great rock and roll band. There isn't a lot to say beyond that....
    Yeah, I'm up for this...
  6. pscreed

    pscreed Upstanding Member

    Land of the Free
    Mott The Hoople changed my life in 1973. I would be very interested in this thread.
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  7. onlyconnect

    onlyconnect The prose and the passion Thread Starter

    Winchester, UK
    Excellent, let's see how it goes. I will take it pretty slowly and would greatly welcome any recollections from the time as well as other comments from those more knowledgeable than me.

    Here's a bit of background. Note that much of my information comes from the fab book Mott the Hoople and Ian Hunter, All the Young Dudes the Biography, by Campbell Devine, which is a great read for any fan.

    The name Mott the Hoople was taken from a book read by Island Records producer Guy Stevens who was also the band’s first manager. The book, which is called Mott the Hoople, is a novel by Willard Manus, who later explained that Major Hoople was a layabout character in a comic strip called Our Boarding House. “Hoople”, according to Manus, is also a slang word “meaning variously fool, rogue, buffoon, and even sucker. That’s why my character Normal Mott sometimes thinks of himself as a Hoople.”

    Mott the Hoople evolved from a Herefordshire band called Silence: guitarist and songwriter Mick Ralphs, bass guitarist Pete Overend Watts, drummer Dale Griffin, organist Verden Allen and singer Stan Tippins. Stevens wanted to sign the band but felt Tippins was unsuitable as vocalist. They auditioned. Watts recalls:

    “The auditions were frighteningly awful. The first bloke looked like Les Dawson, with thick pebble glasses, his face was about an inch from the keyboards. We sat there despondently until about eight or nine at night and then Ian turned up. He looked grim, with short horrible curly ginger hair. He was very nervous but there was something about him. Afterwards he stood up and said, 'I've got this idea for a symphony. Can I borrow your bass?' He played this horrible bass line and we were all thinking, 'Oh God, how awful.' After he left we sat down and none of us were very impressed. But Guy said, 'Maybe if we get that last bloke in for a week or two, just to show Island you've got a complete group.' We reluctantly agreed.”​

    The “last bloke” was Ian Hunter Patterson from Shrewsbury. Hunter had played with a Northampton band called Apex, then formed his own band called Hurricane Henry and the Shriekers. Then, according to Devine, Hunter happened to meet a “wild rocker” called Freddie Lee, who had worked with Screaming Lord Sutch. Lee joined the Shriekers and the band went to play in Hamburg, but never made much money. Returning to Northampton, Hunter joined another band called The Homelanders, then another called the Scenary. (Around this time, Hunter also met a guitarist called Mick Ronson at a club in London). Next Hunter worked again with Lee for a bit, before briefly joining The New Yardbirds, which never came to anything. So when he auditioned for Mott the Hoople (name not yet settled, Stevens also called the band Blue Egg, or Savage Rose and Fixable), he was at a low ebb.

    Hunter recalls that “I sang in this odd Dylany voice because I couldn’t sing properly.” Fortunately Stevens was a Dylan fan and Hunter a good fit with what he had in mind for the band. Ian Hunter joined on 5th June 1969 and the band started rehearsing for an album.
  8. boboquisp

    boboquisp Magic Prism Eyes

    NE Ohio
    How many bands open their debut album with an instrumental cover version of a hit song?
    From the start, this was not a normal group.
    Love 'em!
    Ian Hunter IS rock 'n roll. :cheers:
  9. The Panda

    The Panda Forum Mutant

    Marple, PA, USA
    And that cover! Escher--how cool.
    It's funny how they never covered a Dylan song when Ian was singing like him.
    I heard that over here, people thought that the first album was actually Bob in disguise with a a different backing band. (Don't forget Bob had put on the whole Skyline mask with the different voice)
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  10. onlyconnect

    onlyconnect The prose and the passion Thread Starter

    Winchester, UK
    Guy Stevens, a key figure in the early history of Mott the Hoople, was an energetic, somewhat obsessive music fan who became a talent scout for R&B at Island Records and was then put in charge of the Sue Records subsidiary label. A colourful character, he is said to have originated the phrase “a whiter shade of pale” in the presence of Keith Reid, co-writer of the song made famous by Procol Harum. In fact, the name Procol Harum was also thanks to Stevens, who found it on the pedigree of a Siamese cat. Stevens was immensely influential in the early history of Chris Blackwell’s Island Records, also working with Spooky Tooth, Traffic and Free. In 1968 he was imprisoned for nine months for possession of cannabis. Wild, somewhat manic, a huge motivator, fun, somewhat destructive: all these characteristics apply, according to those who remember him (he died in 1981 at just 38 years old).

  11. onlyconnect

    onlyconnect The prose and the passion Thread Starter

    Winchester, UK
    Rehearsals for Mott’s debut album began in June in Islington, London. Songs rehearsed, according to Campbell Devine, include:

    The Rebel
    Laugh at Me
    At the Crossroads
    Little Christine
    Rabbit Foot and Toby Time
    Half Moon Bay
    If the World saluted You (became Backsliding Fearlessly)
    The Wreck
    Back in the States again
    Lavender Days
    Desolation Row
    Little Queenie
    Yma Sumac
    The Parrot and the Cat
    Jekyll and Hyde
    When my Mind’s Gone

    Pete Watts said, “Ian … was the only one trying. We didn’t realise the significance of what was going on with the record deal, it seemed easy for us.”

    Studio recording began 11 days later, at Morgan Recording Studios in London. Apparently producer Guy Stevens went “way over budget”, spending £5,000 rather than the normal £2,000.
  12. onlyconnect

    onlyconnect The prose and the passion Thread Starter

    Winchester, UK
    Mott the Hoople

    ILPS 9108 released November 1969.

    Chart position: UK 66, USA 185

    The striking front cover is a drawing by Maurits Cornelius Escher (1898 – 1972), selected by Guy Stevens. The original drawing is black and white. In Devine's book, Dale Griffin expresses doubt over whether Stevens had permission either to colour in the drawing, or to use it at all.

    The inner gatefold shows the band members, though the heads are all superimposed on Mick Ralph's body (same picture). The names of the band members were adapted by Stevens to sound more mysterious, so Terence Allen became Verden Allen and so on.

    The original LP has the famous pink Island label with a white i logo.

    Track listing:

    You Really Got Me
    At the Crossroads
    Laugh at Me
    Backsliding Fearlessly
    Rock and Roll Queen
    Rabbit Foot and Toby Time
    Half Moon Bay
    Wrath and Wroll

    Verden Allen is quoted by Devine: "That was the best one for me really. It was recorded on eight track and there was no messing about. We had one track each and that was it."

    The album has an inescapable Dylan influence, not only in Hunter's voice, but also in Allen's organ, yet does not really sound like Blonde on Blonde or Highway 61 Revisited; it is more muscular and more manic (in places).

    The opening track is a powerful instrumental rendition of the Kinks' You Really Got Me.

    Next comes At the Crossroads, by Doug Sahm, which incidentally was my introduction to Mott the Hoople thanks to its inclusion on the fine sampler, Nice enough to Eat. It sounds like a different band, being a gentle ballad, though with growling background organ that hints of a more aggressive undertone. Hunter is at his most Dylanesque but it is a fine track, lilting and evocative.

    Laugh at Me is by Sony Bono but Mott takes it more slowly and makes it a passionate plea for the right to be who you are. "I don't care, let them laugh at me". Hunter said it was related to the people laughed at him for wearing shades, which became his trademark.

    Backsliding Fearlessly is called by Devine "a thinly disguised rewrite of Dylan's Times they are A-Changing. One of the weaker tracks on the album, though not without appeal.

    Rock and Roll Queen opens side two, the second rockier number and a fine song by Mick Ralphs. Devine says that Ralphs wrote it in a hurry after Stevens panicked that there were not enough tough rock songs on the album; it was recorded late, in early September. Built on a great riff, there are echoes of the Stones and pre-echoes of Free.

    Rabbit Foot and Toby Time is a bit of a throwaway, a rocky instrumental by Mick Ralphs.

    Half Moon Bay on the other hand is a tour de force, credited to Ralphs and Hunter, and clocking in at over 10 and a half minutes. Hunter says:

    "Guy got me writing by getting us to do strange things. I was actually playing songs backwards and reversed chords. Guy was egging me on, and Verden Allen waded in there, 'Moonlight Sonata' and all that, and before we knew were we were, we had our first epic."

    He says it was one of the best things Mott did and "the essence of Mott because it has everything in it."

    The actual Half Moon Bay was on a sign between LA and San Francisco.

    It is a song of musical textures and evocative words and perhaps as much prog as rock.

    Closing the album is Wrath and Wroll, credited to Guy Stevens. This is actually from a jam at the end of You Really Got Me; apparently the whole take was 15 minutes and absolutely manic. I'd love to hear the whole thing one day, perhaps it is in the archive?

    So that's it; it sounds almost accidental, but it was a great album, though the band's efforts were not really rewarded by sales. This was a band that knew how to rock, on top of which you had spooky organ Blonde-on-Blonde style, and Ian Hunter's ability to sound world-weary, tender and tough at one and the same time.

    I was sold as soon as I heard At the Crossroads on Nice Enough to Eat.


    Acknowledgement: some quotes above are from Mott the Hoople and Ian Hunter All the Young Dudes The Biography by Campbell Devine.
  13. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    The ATX
    It's a pretty solid debut, but could use a bit more spunk IMO. I didn't realize "Little Christine" was already in the can at this point. That would have been a nice inclusion.

    Interesting that "Rock and Roll Queen" was thrown together at the last moment (much like Sabbath's "Paranoid") and turns out to be the most memorable song on the record (much like Sabbath's "Paranoid").

    Hunter never sounded more like Dylan than he does here. Fortunately, he grew into something much more than a Dylan imitator.
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  14. slipkid

    slipkid Senior Member

    Sure, great band (both Mott & Ian in all his incarnations). Looking fwd to getting reacquainted with the catalog. Just listening to Ian's latest btw.

    Mott remains one of my fave albums ever!
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  15. TeddyB

    TeddyB Senior Member

    Great thread!

    Early pressings of the debut album featured the Dylanesque (of course) ballad Road to Birmingham instead of Rock 'n' Roll Queen. Later on, Road to Birmingham was released on compilations, starting with Two Miles From Heaven, which also featured the Mick Ralphs vocal version of You Really Got Me, as opposed to the instrumental mix chosen for the album. Birmingham is a good song, but Rock 'n' Roll Queen was the first major example of Ian Hunter singing a Mick Ralphs originated song, and so is irreplaceable.

    I take it we're not dealing with the pre-histories here, such as the Doc Thomas Group (basically Mott the Hoople with Stan Tippens on vocals pre-Ian), or the various groups Ian was in with the great guitar player Miller Anderson, such as Formerly the 1958 Rock 'n' Roll Show with Fingers Freddie Lee, or Charlie Wolfe, or The Scenery, in which Ian mostly played bass and wrote a bit. It was Miller who saw the notice that Guy Stevens had put out, looking for a singer/pianist for the emergent Mott. Ian didn't really play much piano, but enough to fake it and get the gig.
  16. I discovered Mott The Hoople with a gift someone got me that they thought I would like--Brain Capers. I am forever grateful.
    slipkid likes this.
  17. onlyconnect

    onlyconnect The prose and the passion Thread Starter

    Winchester, UK
    Didn't know about the early pressings, thanks.

    All comments and recollections welcome :) Any gems in the pre-Mott era? It sees the Doc Thomas Group was a lot more bluesy.

  18. onlyconnect

    onlyconnect The prose and the passion Thread Starter

    Winchester, UK
    A note about live albums, anthologies, etc. I intend to stick with the mainstream releases but that's no reason not to mention the live releases as they come up. For example the amazing Fairfield Halls Croydon 1970 gig which was not released until 2008.

  19. The Panda

    The Panda Forum Mutant

    Marple, PA, USA
    There are some mix differences in the alternate press of the first lp. There used to be a web site for al things Mott and I can't find it now. It had all the differences noted. A friend still has his copy of the vinyl, bougfht it for peanuts from someone who had no idea what he had.
  20. Siegmund

    Siegmund Vinyl Sceptic

    Britain, Europe
    Not heard the debut album for a while but I'm surprised it charted so highly in the UK, given the competition around at the time and the fact that Mott took a while to find their level. Like a lot of people, I have a preference for the early Island albums, where the creative input was shared between Hunter, Ralphs and Allen. The standout track for me, here, is Rock And Roll Queen, a Ralphs composition, which Hunter sings (and we get to learn why two albums later when Ralphs gets a lead vocal - his voice is/was very weak indeed). Backsliding Fearlessly is a great title but not a great song - it's too obviously imitative of a certain American. The version of Laugh At Me is a real ear-opener. and better than Sonny Bono's original. The rest of the album doesn't do a great deal for me, though.
  21. pig bodine

    pig bodine God’s Consolation Prize

    Syracuse, NY USA
    Mott was my favorite rock band after Sabbath growing up. Like most Americans, I first heard the when All The Young Dudes was a radio hit. I was 9 at the time and not yet buying albums, but I did get the single. About 2 years later I saw the film Alice Doesn't Live Here Any More which had All The Way From Memphis on it. That song blew me away, so I saved up my pennies and bought the Mott album asap. From there, it was The Hoople which was their new album, then Dudes and the live album. The debut was still in print, but the only other Guy Steven album you could find was the comp, Rock & Roll Queen, with which I had to make do. Ian Hunter had left by then. I never got to see them live, though I saw Hunter & Ronson in 1980, and Mott (who I could take or leave) open for somebody in 76-77--maybe Aerosmith or Ted Nugent? Eventually I discovered used record stores and located copies of the three other pre-Bowie album. Brain Capers remains as one of my 10 or so favorite rock albums.
  22. elborak

    elborak Forum Resident

    Ian is one of the all-time greats, right up there with Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and a (very) few others. I have about 5-10 artists I'm crazy enough about to be a completist, and Ian is one of them. Which is why the price tag on the upcoming boxed set hurts so much... :eek: Here's hoping it drops.

    The debut is quite impressive though, unlike Verden, I believe the best was yet to come. I always want to reach for this album next whenever I hear Ian sing "Eight track machine playin' 'Half Moon Bay'" on Mott.

    "Laugh At Me" rivals "Your Own Backyard" and "Keep A Knockin'" for best Mott cover.
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  23. John Fell

    John Fell Forum Survivor

    Good debut album. Rock And Roll Queen and Laugh At Me are great. You Really Got Me and At The Crossroads aren't far behind.

    Mott The Hoople seemed to be very adept at interpreting cover tunes and putting their own spin on them.

    What do people think of their vocal version of Your Really Got Me? I like it as well.
  24. elborak

    elborak Forum Resident

    It's nice as a curiosity, but one of the few mistakes Mott made over the years (though I doubt they had much choice) was letting Mick sing some of his own songs. I used to wish that tapes would turn up with Ian vocal versions of "Ready For Love" or "I'm A Cadillac", but I'm sure Buffin would have released those on All The Young Dudes: The Anthology if they existed.

    Ian's vocals were usually great. Verden's were at least interesting. Mick's were generally painful.
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  25. curbach

    curbach Some guy on the internet

    The ATX
    I enjoy Mick's singing in the same way I enjoy Steve Howe's singing. No, it's not good but I find some charm in its earnest awkwardness.

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