Mott the Hoople are a 1970s English rock band with strong R&B roots and dominant in the glam rock era of the early to mid 1970s. They are popularly known for the song "All the Young Dudes", written for them by David Bowie and appearing on their 1972 album of the same name.
The early years
Mott The Hoople can be traced to two beat bands from Herefordshire in the early 1960s. The Soulents were from Ross-On-Wye, and boasted Pete "Overend" Watts on guitar, and Dale "Buffin" Griffin on drums. The Buddies were from Hereford, and featured Mick Ralphs on guitar and Stan Tippins on vocals. By 1966, Ralphs, Tippins, and Watts (the latter now on bass) had come together in a band called The Doc Thomas Group, and soon secured a residency at a club in a resort town in Italy. The group were offered a recording contract with the Italian label Dishi Interrrecord, and released an eponymous album in January 1967. By 1968, drummer Dale Griffin and organist Verden Allen had joined the band.
Although the group toured and recorded in Italy as The Doc Thomas Group, their gigs in the UK were played under the names of The Shakedown Sound, and later as Silence. Silence recorded demos at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales, which were shopped to EMI, Polydor, Immediate and Apple with no success. The group came to the attention of Guy Stevens at Island, who liked the group but not with Tippins as lead singer. Advertisements were placed ("Singer wanted, must be image-minded and hungry"), and Ian Hunter was eventually selected as lead singer and piano player. Tippins assumed the role of road manager.
While in prison in 1968, Stevens discovered the Willard Manus novel, Mott the Hoople, (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1966) and vowed to find a band to match the moniker. When Silence auditioned for Stevens in early 1969, they reluctantly agreed to change their name. The book is about an eccentric who works in a circus freak show.
Their debut album, Mott the Hoople (1969), which was recorded in a week, was a cult success, and their repertoire included cover versions of "Laugh at Me" (Sonny Bono), and an instrumental cover of "You Really Got Me" (The Kinks).
The second album, Mad Shadows (1970), presented Mott the Hoople as hard rocking, poorly recorded, boggie hippies. Mad Shadows features a squeaky kick drum that is almost impossible to NOT hear, once one becomes aware of its presence. The record sold poorly and received generally negative reviews. Wildlife (1971) fared even worse, and flirted with an overtly country-hippie stance and accordingly (usually) acoustic instrumentation. On 10 October 1970, Mott the Hoople and Bridget St John were showcased on BBC Two's, Disco 2. Even though the group was building a decent following, Brain Capers (1971) failed to sell well. A nadir came in early 1972 when, booked into fourth-rate European venues, they decided to split after a particularly dismal gig in a disused gas holder in Switzerland. When combined with an aborted UK tour with The Lothringers, the band was close to breaking up.
The glam years
David Bowie had long been a fan of the band, and heard from Watts that they were about to split. He persuaded them to stay together and offered them "Suffragette City" from his then yet-to-be-released Ziggy Stardust album. They turned it down. Bowie also played "All the Young Dudes" for them, and it became their biggest hit. Released as a single in July 1972, it was a success in the UK, with the band using Tippins - who by this time was their tour manager - to sing backing vocals during concert. A Bowie produced album, also called All the Young Dudes, sold well but stalled at #21 in the UK Albums Chart. Late in 1972 they were going to record another Bowie song, "Drive-In Saturday", but their intended arrangement did not satisfy him and their professional relationship effectively ended. Another casualty in the wake of All the Young Dudes was Verden Allen, who departed before the release of their next album, Mott.
Mott climbed into the Top 10 of the UK Albums Chart, and became the band's best seller to date in the U.S. Using the glam rock craze as their launch pad, the band straddled the widening gap between the teen-pop market and the college circuit. It yielded two UK hits, "Honaloochie Boogie" and "All the Way from Memphis", both featuring Andy Mackay of Roxy Music on saxophone. "All the Way From Memphis" is also featured in the movie, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.
Mott the Hoople's new found popularity ultimately helped lead to the band's break-up, perhaps helped along by an expos?© in New Musical Express of Tippins' role in singing the chorus of "All the Young Dudes", from a hidden microphone backstage. In May 1973 following Verden Allen's departure the band was augmented by two keyboard players. Former Love Affair and Morgan member Morgan Fisher joined as keyboardist and Mick Bolton joined on Hammond Organ. Bolton left at the end of 1973 and was replaced on tour by Blue Weaver, while Fisher stayed on to become their permanent piano player. Ralphs left in August 1973 to form Bad Company and was replaced by former Spooky Tooth guitarist Luther Grosvenor. For contractual reasons, he changed his name to Ariel Bender at the suggestion of singer-songwriter Lynsey De Paul for his stint with the band.
In the afterglow of The Hoople (1974), a live album Live was quickly released, after which Mick Ronson replaced Bender. The end was nigh when both Ronson and Hunter left the group to form a duo. Ray Major and Nigel Benjamin were added to continue the group, which abbreviated its name to 'Mott'.
In 1974, for their tour of America, Mott the Hoople were supported by the band Queen. This tour later provided the inspiration for Queen's 1975 single "Now I'm Here," which contains the lyrics "Down in the city, just Hoople and me." The song became a live favourite of Queen fans and reached #11 in the UK Singles Chart. The tour resulted in a lifelong friendship between the two bands, with Ian Hunter, Mick Ronson and David Bowie performing "All the Young Dudes" at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992. Morgan Fisher went on to play piano on Queen's 'Hot Space' tour in 1982, and Brian May, Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor performed backing vocals on the Ian Hunter solo song, "You Nearly Did Me In". May would later cover Mott's "All the Way from Memphis" on his solo album, Another World, with Hunter making a guest appearance.
Mott the Hoople are name-checked on two other hit singles. Reunion's 1974 single, "Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)" begins with the lyrics, 'BB Bumble and the Stingers, Mott the Hoople, Ray Charles Singers...'. Whereas, R.E.M.'s, "Man on the Moon" begins with 'Mott the Hoople and the Game of Life, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah...'
Also name-checked by Daniel Johnston and covered by K.McCarty on the song "Life" on the former's albums Songs of Pain (1981), Early Recordings Volume I (2003), Discovered Covered (2004); and on the latter's Dead Dog's Eyeball, ... though pronounced "Hopple" - pairing with Doris Day and rhyming with "unlikely couple".
Hunter wrote the book Diary of a Rock'n'Roll Star about the day-to-day life on the band's 1972 winter tour of the U.S., covering the ups and downs of life on the road. It was published 18 months later in June 1974 was out-of-print for many years but is currently available.
The post Hunter years
This line-up released two more albums, Drive On (1975) and Shouting and Pointing (1976), both of which sold poorly. After Nigel Benjamin quit in 1976, Mott added John Fiddler (formerly of Medicine Head) and became British Lions in 1978, but they soon split as well, similarly without any chart success. Hunter and Ronson worked and toured together sporadically until Ronson's death in 1993. Hunter has continued his solo career.
On 16 and 17 April 1999, the first and only 'Mott The Hoople Convention' was held at the Robin Hood Pub in Bilston, Wolverhampton, England. Hunter and his band performed both evenings of the convention. During the encore of the Ian Hunter Band's 17 April performance, Hunter was joined onstage by Bender and Allen for a version of "Walkin' With A Mountain"; Allen performed on the original studio version of the song, whilst Bender performed an extended solo during performances of the song on Mott The Hoople's 1973-74 tours.
In 1996 K-tel released a CD called The Best of Mott the Hoople purporting to be re-recordings of the band's hits and new songs by Hunter and Ronson. In actuality, the recording was by a Danny McCulloch and Gerry Chapman (usually going under the band name of The Trybe), consisted of heavy rock versions of Mott's hits and original songs, and had nothing at all to do with the original Mott the Hoople. K-tel were subsequently fined for supplying goods with a false description, but the tracks and album continued to circulate under the name Mott the Hoople, often appearing on compilation albums. In 2002, the tracks were released again as I Can't Believe It's Not Mott the Hoople!, though this time it was credited to The Trybe.
In 2002 and 2004, Ralphs toured with Hunter, as part of the latter's backing band.
No Mott the Hoople reunion has occurred to date, although negotiations for one were attempted in 1985; all parties have shown some interest at various times in the idea over the last 30 years. In 2005 it was reported in the publication Classic Rock, that Hunter had received the offer of a seven-figure number to re-form the band. In October 2007 at Hunter's concert at the Shepherds Bush Empire, he was joined by Ralphs and Allen for the encore.
On 16 January 2009, it was announced that the band would be re-uniting for two concerts at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, in October 2009. According to Hunter's website, all five of the original members will participate in the reunion. Hunter wrote, "Why are we doing it? I can't speak for the others, but I'm doing it just to see what it's like. Short of war, death, famine etc. ...it's ON." Tickets for the two original dates sold out, and a third date at the same venue was added on 1 October 2009. After that one sold out as well another two dates were added. Mott The Hoople also held a warmup gig prior to their five-night stand at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo in October. The show was held at the Blake Theatre in Monmouth, Wales on 26 September 2009. Prior to this is was announced that because of the poor health of Buffin, his place for the concerts would be taken by Martin Chambers, drummer of The Pretenders.
Ian Hunter ??? born Ian Hunter Patterson, 3 June 1939, Oswestry, Shropshire, England ??? vocals, guitar, piano (1969???1974)
Mick Ralphs ??? born Michael Geoffrey Ralphs, 31 March 1944, Hereford, Herefordshire, England ??? guitar, backing vocals, keyboards (1969???1973)
Verden Allen ??? born Terrence Verden Allen, 26 May 1944, Woodland Road, Crynant, Neath, Wales ??? organ, backing vocals (up to 1972)
Pete "Overend" Watts ??? born Peter Watts, 13 May 1947, Yardley, Birmingham, England ??? bass guitar, backing vocals, guitar (1969???1976)
Dale "Buffin" Griffin ??? born Terence Dale Griffin, 24 October 1948, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, England ??? drums, backing vocals, percussion (1969???1980)
Ariel Bender ??? born Luther James Grosvenor, 23 December 1946, Evesham, Worcestershire, England ??? guitar, backing vocals (1973???1974)
Morgan Fisher ??? born Stephen Morgan Fisher, 1 January 1950, Middlesex Hospital, Fitzrovia, West London, England ??? keyboards, backing vocals (1973???1980)
Mick Ronson - born Michael Ronson, 26 May 1946, Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England ??? guitar, backing vocals (1974)
Mick Bolton - born Michael Bolton, 20 December 1948, Wigan, Lancashire, England - Hammond Organ, Yamaha keyboard, backing vocals (1973)