The advertisement to the 2010 documentary on the band, entitled “The Ballad of Mott the Hoople” (see http://www.music-news.com for details) leads off with this statement, “The ballad begins with four lads from Herefordshire [England] who, in the 1960s, fell under the spell of musicians like Little Richard. So impressed were they that they set off for the big city of London to indulge in their newly found passion.” Essentially, Mott the Hoople were an English rock band who came to prominence in the Glam Rock era of the early 1970s, primarily after they were discovered by David Bowie, who gave them the song “All the Young Dudes”, which became their vehicle to fame. According to Wikipedia, Mott the Hoople began as two separate “beat” bands in the 1960s, which featured Pete Overend Watts on bass guitar, Verden Allen on organ/piano, Mick Ralphs on guitar, Dale “Buffin” Griffin on drums, and Stan Tippens on vocals, eventually forming a rock’n’roll group they called “Doc Thomas”, then “Shakedown Sound” , and then finally “The Silence”. Silence recorded demos at Rockfield studios in Wales and were submitted to record labels EMI, Polydor, and Apple with no success. (See Wikipedia). One record label did notice them, which was Island records, who agreed to sign the band, but not with Tippens as lead singer. Guy Stevens at Island wanted them to replace the lead singer, so ads were placed, according to Wikipedia, which read “Singer wanted, must be image-minded and hungry”; Ian Hunter was selected as lead singer and piano player, and Tippens became the band’s road manager.
Island records’ manager Stevens had read a book while in prison (for drug charges) by one Willard Manus called Mott the Hoople, and he decided he had to find a band to match the name. The book is about a circus freak show. The band reluctantly agreed to the name change upon Stevens’ urging. Mott the Hoople’s debut album of the same name, Mott the Hoople (1969) became a cult success and now is regarded as one of the top ten Glamour Rock music albums of all time. The rock band’s next three albums did not achieve the same level of success; they were Mad Shadows (1970), Wildfire (1971), and Brain Capers (1971). According to Wikipedia, after a dismal show at a former gas holder [gas containment industrial area] in Switzerland, the band was close to breaking up.
David Bowie had been a long-time fan of the rock group, and upon hearing that they were going to disband, persuaded them to record one of his songs, to break into the top selling UK music charts. They turned down “Suffragete City” but accepted “All the Young Dudes” and it became their biggest hit, released in 1972. In an element of some confusion, David Bowie also produced an album of his own, also called All the Young Dudes. Mott the Hoople was going to record another Bowie song “Drive-In Saturday” but their arrangement did not satisfy Bowie, and their professional relationship ended in 1972. (Wikipedia). The next album during those Glam years was Mott, which climbed to the top 10 in the UK Albums chart, and this was also the bands biggest US seller.
The band went through several changes in line-up, and although it seems incredible now, there was an expose in a rock magazine at the time called New Musical Express that said Tippens had sung back-up on the bands’ albums and this caused a furor! By today’s standards, this seems quaint, but it led to a group shakeup. Mick Ralphs left in 1973 to form Bad Company. Mick Ronson, David Bowie’s guitarist, replaced Ariel Bender. When Mick Ronson and Ian Hunter left to pursue solo efforts in 1974, this was the beginning of the end for Mott the Hoople. However, in 1974, their tour of America was supported by Queen, and this tour provided inspiration for Queen’s 1975 single “Now I’m Here” with the lyrics “Down in the city, just Hoople and me”, as well as the inspiration for Ian Hunter’s book about the tour Diary of a Rock’N’Roll Star. It also resulted in lifelong friendships between Hunter, Ronson, and Bowie, who performed together for the Freddie Mercury concert tribute in 1992.
Ian Hunter began a successful solo career while joining forces with Mick Ronson. Ian Hunter had actually met Ronson pre-Bowie years and had noticed his elegance as a sensational guitarist. Ian Hunter’s best known solo album was Once Bitten, Twice Shy (later covered by Great White) as well as Cleveland Rocks. See Wikipedia for complete discography of Ian Hunter’s solo albums from 1975 with Ian Hunter, to 2009 with Man Overboard.
After lead singer Ian Hunter left Mott the Hoople, the band had little success with albums Drive On (1975) and Shouting and Pointing (1976). In 1990 some former members of The Silence recorded songs from earlier days resulting in 1998 The Italian Job. In 1996, K-Tel released a CD purported to be the best of Mott the Hoople, but was actually a tribute band, and K-Tel was subsequently fined. (See Wikipedia). In 2005, it was reported in Classic Rock that Hunter was offered a seven-figure sum to reunite the band, and on January 16, 2009, it was announced the band would reunite for two concerts at the Hammersmith Apollo in London October 2009, where all five original members of the band participated. Please see both Ian Hunter’s website and Mott the Hoople’s website for latest updates and tune back in for an exclusive podcast featuring Mott the Hoople, Guns N Roses, and Nazareth!