Mott The Hoople

Lets tear up the rulebook.

Now.

The idea that rock n roll is the preserve of the young and the hip has been dealt a mighty blow by the amazing Mott The Hoople. As much as anyone I’m always hooked on the thrill of the new and I’m always out there searching but I’m also not scared to embrace the past.

At one time reformations were a bad thing- remember the Velvet Underground’s rather disinterested performances a decade ago? Now bands seem to have worked out how to do this getting back together thing and Mott played out one of the best gigs I’ve ever been too…

It was a joyous affair- as sentimental, powerful, heartfelt, passionate and thrilling as the band were at their prime. Oddly I didn’t feel nostalgic- I tried to- feeling that was perhaps the right context for this- but Mott played with so much fire it felt like a band at the peak of their powers.

Mott came armed with two hours of great songs that underlined their credentials- they had everything- brilliant songs stuffed full of imagination and a down to earth charisma that saw the Hammersmith Apollo ooze with a genuine love for the band.

There is something magical about watching a band this great taking the stage again after 35 years and play a set this good.

Frontman Ian Hunter, now 70, looked amazing- infact better than in the band’s heyday and his powerful rasping voice cut through. His vocals were always one of the band’s key signatures and, for me, he has one of the great British voices as he sung with a passion that is missing from so much music.

Put together by legendary late producer Guy Stevens in the late sixties and armed with heartfelt lyrics and anthemic songs, Mott was the quintessential British street band that was looking at the stars. They were the ultimate proto punk band who influenced so many of the next generation bands and several of the generations after that as well- with both Oasis and Blur agreeing on something for once in their love of the band.

They also looked great, Hunter with his corkscrew hair and shades and bassman- the fantastically named Overend Watts with his silver hair and stack heeled boots- Watts invented that look- the New York Dolls supported Mott and copped the whole of his look- it’s a crime that he’s been semi- forgotten in the linear narrative of rock n roll because he came from Hereford and not New York City- I demand a recount! They also looked real- like they had thought of the look themselves and not been dressed by some record company stylist.

This week the pair of them owned the stage- Hunter the seasoned rock star and Watts whose not been on stage for 35 years throwing shapes with his pink thunderbird bass and assortment of nooses tied round his neck, they looked as brilliantly eccentric as in their prime.

Mott managed that balance between making sparkling, glamtastic anthems, stunning melancholic ballads that described their world and heavy droog street songs. They were our Springsteen, our Dylan, our Stones and when the Clash came along in punk former Mott follower Mick Jones took up their mantle. Mick was at the gig the other night and he was getting very misty eyed as he talked about the band that he used to follow round the country.

Glam rock is one of those needlessly maligned scenes and Mott, whether they were glam or not, were proof of the artfulness of the form. They stuffed their songs full of imagination and music hall twists, they had the power and precision of a great rock band and these five nights at the Apollo were a deserved curtain call for one of the GREAT British bands…

Hopefully they can be persuaded to play again…

9 Responses to Mott The Hoople

  1. Vinny says:

    John – Mott the Hoople were the second band I ever saw…didn’t they have a guitarist called Ariel Bender or did I make that up? I love the intro to All the Young Dudes [surely up there with Bowies finest writing] – such a magical era defining welcome to the 70s [bye bye hippies bye bye]classic. Their triumphant reuinion only goes to prove that great bands are just great regardless of the passing years. I wish I could have been there – lets hope, liek you say, they do more shows…also, did they wear the clothes? so much of that era for me was all about the dressing up, ha ha

    • johnrobb77 says:

      good point vinny…

      they did have a guitar player called ariel bender- great name!
      the intro to dudes was actually written by mick ralphs the mott guitar player…

      they were not dressed glam but ian hunter looked amazing still got the hair and the shades at 70 and bassman overend watts was rocking the stage and was wearing nooses round his neck as a tribute to the Monks…

  2. Paul J, Manchester says:

    Like you I also made the trip from Manchester to see Mott, Saturday night in fact. Ian Hunter was astounding. I’ve seen him on most of his solo tours in recent years, but his energy level for this gig was up several notches – he really was the archetypal rock n roll front man. My abiding memory will be of him pogoing around the stage as they cranked up Angeline, and saying to my mate ‘but he’s f***in 70!’. As the phrase goes there was a lot of love in the room and most of the fans would probably have been happy just to be there for the occasion, but the band really delivered. And the material stood the test of time from the classic Brain Capers era, right through to to the glam singles. For example I’d never realised what a powerful song Roll Away the Stone could be live. You’re dead on when you talk about a joyous evening – life affirming, a genuine celebration of the power of rock n roll to take us all to a better place for a couple of hours. There’s some decent footage on you tube if you want confirmation. Cheers, your review captured the spirit of the gigs

    • johnrobb77 says:

      thanks Paul,

      it was one of the great all time gigs…if you had to show someone what rock n roll was then thats one of the gigs you would take them to…mott transcended everything to deliver one of the all time classics..

  3. Bremt Coursey says:

    AMEN! Rock and Roll, what’s barely remaining of it, is NOT The domain of the “young and hip” anymore. God help us, “hip’ went the way of bell bottoms, shirts unbuttoned to the navel, and Kurt Cobain. It’s a shame now that “popular music” has become but a vehicle foe effeminate little boyz with ponytails and tattoos weilding synthesizers for poptarts who have NOTHING to say, and wear just as little as the law allows to “say” it.

  4. That was the best its seven weeks still I saw them and the hairs on the back of my neck are standing on end just thinking about the gig. Visually basic sonically brilliant forget the age it was what rock n roll was all about.

    They never sold out they always delivered and Ian Hunter is the great ignored front man. If he had been a rock business whore he could have gone far but he didnt swallow the crap he stuck to his guns and kept his integrity.

    I saw them at Hammersmith supported by Queen 35 years ago, this was just as good if not better. Its not all down to Hunter Mick Ralphs is a tasty guitarist and all round good bloke. I had a chat with him in a pub in High Wycome, an absolute joy. Pete Watts what a star! His bass rumbling like a riot in Valhalla, he looked like Nicky Wire’s psycopathic uncle and we all loved it.

    Big thanks to Martin Chamber from the Pretenders too he stood in for the sick Buffin and was awesome.

    Its the only tim ein my life when I have heard 3000 people screaming “And the we went to Croydon” with joy in their heart and lumps in their throats

  5. andy healey says:

    john,
    only just come across this review and felt I had to reply. Have always loved Mott since the 70’s in Blackpool. Do you recall that the British Lions who followed on from The Hoople and Mott played a VIth form dance at the Mecca – Buffin and Overend watts in attendance.
    I went to 3 of the Hammersmith gigs – all great with perhaps the Saturday being the best as the crowd – elderly gents most of us – were really on the ball.
    Glad you’re impeccible musical taste remains – and sorry i didn’t get to the SLF thing last night. seeing our local pub band won over!!
    all the best

    ANDY HEALEY

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