Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Great Ian Hunter

Those of you who know me well know that an item of clothing synonymous with me is a Mott the Hoople t-shirt! I actually own three of them, and the amazing thing is that there are still three different designs that can still be purchased today, even though this great band split up in 1974!

 ‘In Seventy four, on the Broadway tour, we didn’t much like dressing up no more, don’t want to be hip, but thanks for the great trip’ Saturday Gigs, Mott the Hoople.  

I can still remember, quite vividly, a pastiche of seminal performances by various artists on Top of the Pops: Bowie & Ronson together singing Star man (it was always Ronson who I thought the cool one, I loved his hair style, his gold boiler suit and gold Gibson) the Bohemian Rhapsody video by Queen, and to tie in with all those weird changes from boy to man, a band called Tight Fit singing ‘The lion sleeps tonight’ (those girls were hot!)  
I just can't work out what I saw in them......
But to me, the life changing musical event was hearing ‘All the young dudes’ performed by a  disparate group of sequined, glittered, platform shoe wearing, long haired, slightly camp, ever so theatric, brash glamsters from Hereford, fronted by a charismatic, naturally permed, permanent shades wearing rocker known as Ian Hunter. To me, the man is Mott the Hoople, and the legend lives on, having celebrated his 74th birthday last Monday.
Is that a gun in your pocket ian?
This weekend he played the Isle of Wight Festival  and on Friday, I went to his warm up gig at Leamington Spa 
              Still a Rock n roll legend!
A fan shouted ‘Happy Birthday Ian’ and was rewarded with a ‘ah shut up!’ The master not needing to be reminded that his body, his work ethic, his continued creativity defy his age. He’s never hit the same heights as a solo artist, but to me he’s matured like a good piece of stilton, and theirs a continued rich seam of quality lyrics and riffs running through his veins. Although it pains me to say it, the best thing that could have happened to Ian was to leave Mott although his bank balance may not agree.  

His last two albums ‘Man Overboard’ and ‘When I’m President’ also herald his backing band, the Rant Band as an entity in themselves. This carries over into their live act, and at Leamington, once again, Hunter allowed them the opportunity to show their quality. Some fan I am, I couldn’t tell you the names of any of them (unlike Mott where I could tell you every member of their ever changing line up) but particular credit has to go to the lead guitarist who is just a throwback to a seventies axe hero, getting his Gibson to almost plead as he takes centre stage with his solo on the excellent ‘Black tears’  

I guess I’m at an age where I see nothing wrong with a lead guitarist pulling the kind of face I imagine someone with kidneystones pulls when they pee. This guy is no exception, its pure rock n roll.  
But lets get back to the master. As well as a reasonable smattering of tracks from the latest album, there were still sufficient homage to his earlier solo career including ‘Shrunken heads’ ‘All American Alien boy’ and of course ‘Once Bitten twice Shy’ which has the immortal line ‘You didn't know what rock n' roll was, Until you met a drummer on a greyhound bus, I got there in the nick of time, Before he got his hands across your state line’ 

Hunter the iconerial punk poet. (is that a word?)I love his lyrics, which remain as perceptive today as thirty years ago. Take ‘Man overboard’ a ballad about an alcoholic ‘They’ve got lasers that zap, they’ve got cures for the clap, you can see your insides on tv. They’ve got all kinds of pills for all kinds of ills but they aint found a cure yet for me’ It could almost be John Cooper Clarke (& if that means something to you, you were there in the days of punk!) 

And then of course the Mott years: ‘All the way from Memphis’, ‘Saturday gigs’, and of course no Hunter show is complete without ‘Dudes’ which takes on an almost religious worshipful response from the 500 or so devotees, resplendent in Mott or Hunter T shirts, hiding beer bellies, a smattering of denim and leather and a fragrance of lager and belched beefburger. A roar goes up as those instantly recognisable first notes of that iconic riff begins and we all sing along, arms waving, like a bunch of born-agains on a Sunday, or Fratton enders on a Saturday. My life really is that narrow! 
Got it already thanks
I’ve seen Hunter more times than I care to remember. To me he’s a legend and I treasure each gig as if it’s the last. Sadly at 74, there is the reality that he’s going to have to retire his plectrum at some point, and it will be a sad day when he does. But his music will live on. Its never too late to join the movement, I’ll lend you a CD if you want!
And finally, here's a little known fact (unless you've been around me) A certain band who went on to enjoy a modicum of commercial success only ever were the support band once on a tour before they became the headliners themselves. Mr May (along with Morrisey, Gallagher Brothers, Def Leapord, Mick Jones of the Clash) speak very highly of  the influence of Mott the Hoople. Remember that next time you play them!

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