Sunday, October 17, 2010

Grooves: Mott The Hoople - All The Young Dudes (1972)

It's quite serendipitous that All The Young Dudes comes immediately after Aladdin Sane. If not just because Bowie produced and wrote the titular track, but also because this A-Z endeavor has gotten me on a real heavy glam rock kick. Mott the Hoople is one of those bands that gets stuck under the weight of their biggest single, "All The Young Dudes." For ages, I just assumed it was David Bowie as it pretty much hits every Bowie-ism possible. When I found out it was written by Bowie and produced by him, I then assumed that the rest of Mott the Hoople's music must not be that great as it's hard to live up to Mr. Stardust. However, further research into Mott's music has been nothing short of a glam odyssey worth every penny. One great thing about vinyl is if you can find an album in a $1 bin and you don't know much about the bands music other than a song or two, you might as well get the album. If it's a terrible record, you lost $1. Such is the case for All The Young Dudes. This is where anyone delving into Mott's catalog will start and it's definitely a proper start.

Mott the Hoople's history is important to this record. Their early records are a melange of Rolling Stones cock rock and Dylanesque lyrical balladry. It's a good mix on some songs, but the albums leading up to their glam years are hit or miss. Songs like "Backsliding Fearlessly" on Mott the Hoople is a perfect mixture of these two sounds. They struggled from their beginnings and were on the verge of breaking up in 1972 when David Bowie stepped in. He has been quoted as saying Mott the Hoople was one of his all time favorite bands. He gave Mott a song called "All The Young Dudes" and offered himself to helm the production of another album. Lucky for Mott the Hoople as they came full circle and brought a fantastic performance on the album. Their reinvention into a glam rock giant was all care of their guardian angel, David Bowie. The thing that really rules about Mott the Hoople is that they prove it that they are more than just a pet band of a monolithic giant of rock history. They are actually great songwriters in themselves. It just took the right muse to get them off the ground.

All The Young Dudes starts with a cover of The Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane." It's a perfectly apt song for the band, with it's bar room swagger and supremely catchy riff, but in the hands of Mott, it sounds a bit flat. It lacks the intensity in the vocal performance but shines musically. This is all turned around with "Momma's Little Jewel." A shining jewel of a performance all around, the track has a great boogie stomp to it. The songs that shine the most are the ones that Ian Hunter and Mick Ralphs write. Their covers are good, and "All The Young Dudes" is about as great as a song gets, but in the original songs, there is a different vibe to it. "Sucker" is easily one of my fav Mott songs. It's got a great chugging riff, a blazing sax part, care of David Bowie, and some of the best overly sexual lyrics of the glam era. Unlike The Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs", "Sucker" makes the sado-masochism sound like a romp. "Jerkin' Crocus" finishes the side with equal parts glam vamping from Ian Hunter's vocal performance. If there is any song that seems to be a prelude to the resurgence of glam rock in the 80's, "Jerkin' Crocus" seems to fit the bill. You could gear Poison or Ratt revamping this track with heavier guitars and over-the-top theatrics.

Side two begins with a ringing telephone on the forgotten single "One of the Boys." It's classic track about all the debauchery and other tomfoolery that comes with being one of, well, the boys. It fades out into sounding as if the band is rocking over the phone that was calling us at the beginning before swelling back into the rock. "Soft Ground", written and sung by organist Verden Allen is the weakest link on the record. It's a forgettable rocker that fits well with the rest of the album, but doesn't really stand out. Mick Ralphs' tune "Ready For Love/After Lights" is one of my favorite songs on the album. Mick Ralph's would leave Mott the Hoople after this record and re-record the song with his new super group, Bad Company. Mott's treatment isn't much different from the revamped version other than the production value and the superior vocal performance of Paul Rodgers on the Bad Company album.. The Mott version isn't as good as the Bad Company take, but it's still a rocking good song. The different parts to the song that are added by Ian Hunter definitely adds to the track. The closer, "Sea Diver", is a quite closer and kind of a welcome sound from some of their older albums. It doesn't have the over the top glam rock sound the rest of the album does and it is a perfect respite from the large amount of rocking that just ensued.

Mott the Hoople would go on from their successful All the Young Dudes to record two more albums before disbanding in 1974. Most of the original personnel left after this record, which is surprising as this was their high watermark at the time. It's not my favorite Mott album (we'll save the praise for that record when the letter H rolls around) but it's an quintessential album for anyone's collection.

Up Next: George Harrison's 3 LP Adventure

No comments: