Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hey Dudes!: Mott the Hoople's All the Young Dudes is 40

 Mott the Hoople - All the Young Dudes
Mott the Hoople
All the Young Dudes
Rating: ****

By 1972, Mott the Hoople had released four albums. Although the band did have a small following, it wasn’t enough to improve their record sales. However it was this year the band actually released a hit album. That album was 1972’s All the Young Dudes. Not only was the album a success in the charts but it saved the career of Mott the Hoople.

            Mott the Hoople formed in 1969 in England. The band consisted of pianist and lead singer Ian Hunter, guitarist Mick Ralphs, bassist Pete Watts, drummer Dale Griffin, and keyboardist Verden Allen. By 1972, the band already had four studio albums under their belts: Mott the Hoople (1969), Mad Shadows (1970), Wildlife (1971), and Brain Capers (1971). By this time, the band was pretty close to breaking up. It was around this time when David Bowie had emerged onto the music scene. Bowie was a fan of the band and offered to help them by producing their next album.

             The album opens up with a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane”. For a band that was trying to redeem themselves (with David Bowie producing), opening an album with a cover song is pretty risky. However, the band does a fine rendition of the song. It doesn’t sound too different from the original except it is more glam rock. “Momma’s Little Jewel” is the first original song on the album and it’s a pretty good song. Hunter’s vocals sound a bit like Bowie’s (speaking of which, listen carefully to the beginning of the song and you can hear Bowie talking). Up next is the hit self-titled track, which was written by Bowie himself. An interesting thing to note is that Bowie offered the band “Suffragette City” but the band rejected the song. So Bowie wrote “All the Young Dudes” just for them. The song is widely regarded as one of the great glam rock anthems; although Bowie once claimed that the song wasn’t meant to be an anthem: it was supposed to go with the idea of an apocalypse which was a part of the story in Ziggy Stardust. Nevertheless, “All the Young Dudes” is a classic. “Sucker” is a simple little glam rock number while “Jerkin’ Crocus” is a full blown glam rocker. It’s just a nice, fast paced rocker and the chorus is just wonderful with the “I know” bits.

            Side two opens with “One of the Boys”, yet another rocker. There’s some great guitar work from Ralphs on this one and I believe you can hear Bowie on backing vocals. Verden Allen takes lead vocals for the keyboard-driven “Soft Ground”. Allen really shows off his skills on this one track. Mick Ralphs gets to sing on the next song “Ready for Love”. This is just a great classic rock track basically. The guitars are a bit crunchy and Ralphs is a pretty good singer. Some will know that Ralphs’ next band, Bad Company, would cover the song on their debut album in 1974 but I prefer Mott the Hoople’s version: it’s a bit heavier and it’s the original. The album closes with the ballad-esque “Sea Driver”. It’s a good song and it’s a min-epic of sorts, complete with a mini-orchestra.

            All the Young Dudes saved Mott the Hoople. The album was a hit in both the US and the UK. The self-titled track was also a hit single in both countries as well. With that, Mott the Hoople were able to continue with their career although Verden Allen quit before the band made their next album. The next album, simply titled Mott, is considered by some to be better than All the Young Dudes. Despite some line-up changes after the release of Mott, another studio album and then a live album followed before Ian Hunter quit. The remaining members would go on under the name Mott for a few years and then, British Lions. The band reunited for two concerts in January 2009 at the Hammersmith Apollo. The shows were so well received that the band did another couple of gigs before the year ended.

            All the Young Dudes is an album that speaks for itself: it’s an album that was made when glam rock was at its peak and among the dozens of albums released around that time; it’s still one of the best glam rock album ever made.

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