Early Mott the Hoople had their fans, Mick Jones later of the Clash and Kris Needs later editor of Zigzag magazine to name just two. The band inspired the devotion that only comes from giging and hard work. Early producer Guy Stevens was willing to give them a listen after seeing Ian Hunter wrestle a Hammond Organ up several flights of stairs after a shift at the factory.
The bands attitude didn’t really disguise the fact that early Mott weren’t really that good, fairly run of the mill rock that didn’t really distinguish them from Blossom Toes or Blodwyn Pig or countless other bands beginning with B.
And so the band ran out of steam and split up.
Luckily another fan was David Bowie, when Mott bassist Overend Watts phoned him up to see if he was thinking of sacking Trevor Bolder from the Spiders of Mars, Bowie was so upset that he said he would write the band a song if they could only reform.
Bowie offered the band ‘Suffragette’ city which rather cheekily, the band turned down. Bowie apparently then sat down and wrote a song literally in front of Ian Hunter.
And so, ‘All the Young Dudes’ was born. Certainly one of Bowie’s greatest songs and instead of keeping it for himself he gave it away.
Along with the song came a whole new package from Bowie’s management company, in the 70’s that made a whole heap of difference, Mott the Hoople were to become a major proposition.
The lyrics are,of course exceptional, you can speak them like poetry, you can rap them or’ like Hunter you can sing them pretending to be Bob Dylan circa 1966. Bowie intended the song to be part of his (always fashionable) ‘the world’s about to end’ theme others prefer to see it a some sort of ‘coming out’ song. I just loved the fact that it mentioned ‘Marks and Sparks’ (retail chain Marks and Spencers).
All the Young Dude’s for me is possibly the best ever glam rock song. Lets not forget Glam was Glam Rock not glam pop, early proponents, Bowie, Slade, even T Rex were bands capable of packing a real punch live. Quite how Rock became Glam is still a mystery, it must be more than Overend Watt’s thigh boots. For me, there was a certain crunchy guitar sound that was synonymous with Glam, Bolan had it, the Sweet had it, Slade had it. The best bit of the song for me is the guitar intro, its got such a Mick Ronson feel to it I wonder what his involvement was, if any. Two notes from Mick Ralphs and it 1972 again.
There’s another, less noticeable musical element to the song that anchors it perfectly in time and place. The Hammond Organ was, in man ways the sound of the early 70’s. Tony’s Kaye in Yes, Hugh Banton in Van Der Graff Generator, Vincent Crane in Atomic Rooster,Ian Maclagan in the Faces and many many more. The Hammond was a mainstay of seriously heavy bands despite being physically unsuited for life on the road. It was heavy and huge and invariably needed an equally huge cabinet to make it heard. Clearly as soon as more portable keyboards were developed from the mid 70’s the Hammond was history. It’s a huge shame, there’s nothing like a genuine Hammond organ but no one is going to carry one of them up a few flights of stairs again. Which meant no one was going to get a change to impress Guy Stevens with their commitment.
Ever since JS Bach wrote ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ we’ve been a sucker for the descending bass line. Here it’s played by Mott Organist Verden Allen and with that under Ralphs guitar its 70’s heaven all the way.