Tag Archives: Mott The Hoople

The Ballad Of Mott The Hoople

Times like this it pays to be British – or at least have a region-free DVD player!

The long-awaited DVD release of The Ballad Of Mott The Hoople is finally upon us – October in the UK (followed by a November US release). Much like with the Bill Hicks documentary, I’m not waiting.

Video: Trailer for the film

The feature-length documentary also features Mick Jones of The Clash (who cites Mott as a huge influence) and Roger Taylor of Queen (Queen opened for Mott during their famous Broadway residency). It tells the story of the band from beginning up to the original implosion, plus includes the bittersweet coda of the 2009 Hammersmith Apollo reunion gigs.

Amazon UK has it here.

The official film website.

Official Mott website

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R.I.P. Steve Popovich

In the 70s and 8os, when record companies warred against each other like lumbering dinosaurs, there were some real unsavory characters in the business. I’ve met and worked with quite a few of them, and to say I counted my fingers after a handshake is putting it mildly.

But among the stories of the ridiculously rich and powerful were the occasional feel-good stories of when David beat Goliath. Of course these days, that happens daily – the major label stranglehold on music is all but dead.

But when little Cleveland International Records started up, they could have never imagined that they would stumble across one of the most monumental albums of the rock era, especially after most of the supposedly smarter majors passed on it.

Steve Popovich had the career I thought I wanted a the time, a VP of a major label in his twenties with the ability to sign artists and help share them with the world. Any of us who are fans of music have our truckload of underappreciated musicians and writers and singers who would surely be megastars if only given the break. Working under Clive Davis at Columbia Records and then A&R with Ron Alexexburg at their sister label Epic, he was able to help launch or maximize the careers of artists like Cheap Trick, Brice Springsteen, Mott The Hoople, Johnny Winter, Southside Johnny and many of my favorites.

When he struck out to form Cleveland International Records, he used his old school local promotion skills to work an odd and obtuse album called Bat Out Of Hell month after month, slowly building an expanding regional base until radio finally fanned the spark into a flame. I was working in a record store at the time, and I remember how often labels would get all excited about a new record only to ignore it three months later if it didn’t catch on. Popovich believed in the record, believed in Meat Loaf, believed in Jim Steinman. He followed his gut instincts, and the rest is history.

He also gave us Ellen Foley’s majestic Night Out, and when Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson wanted assistance post-Mott, it was Steve they turned to for direction. He had the reputation as a man who would invest in the artist in ways far beyond financial.

Steve Popovich passed away today at the age of 69.

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New Album! Smash Fashion

Glam punk powerpop alert!

I’ll admit it – I love everything about glam powerpop. The fat guitar chords, the thrashing drums, the foot-stomping beat and the huge hooks are the antithesis of subtle, but there’s a time and place for everything. I love Loudon Wainwright III but I don’t bounce down the street blasting “Your Mother And I” out of the car stereo, windows down, rear-view mirror shaking from the pulse of the woofers. Nope, that’s what glam and powerpop is for.

I missed Smash Fashion’s 2003 release (and have since made up for it) and almost did the same thing with 2010’s Don’t Pet The Sweaty Things. (Thank god for late night “sounds like” tangents on Amazon and CD Baby!) I wasn’t sure what to expect from a group photo that had one guy thrusting a Flying V guitar neck at me while sporting an eyepatch, but at the risk of hearing an album full of Dr. Hook covers I dove in.

Video: “She Goes Down

Like most powerpop bands, you can play spot the influence. For example:

  • Baby Dancer” and “Blonde Raccoon” are so reminiscent of Dwight Twilley I had to check the credits
  • Hard On Love” is as KISS-like as its title
  • Confessions of a Opium Eater” is the bastard child of “Auf Weidersehen
  • Proper Way To Eat A Muffin” is T.Rex incarnate
  • Sad Sweet Sick and Beautiful” has Mick Ronson’s fingerprints all over it 
  • All Systems Go” is like a mashup of Matthew Sweet and “If I Needed Someone
  • Mott The Hoople, The Sweet, Cheap Trick…and so on.

The title track is as close as you’ll get to a glitter ballad. There are also a couple of covers – the muscle pop rendition of Abba’sDoes Your Mother Know” is really good but “Benny And The Jets” was probably better left alone. Still, this impressive collection of glammy chestnuts is well worth getting and playing loud. These guys know exactly what they’re doing, and they sound like they’re having a blast in the process.

Life is short, stop taking it so seriously. Blast this mofo out a window.

Smash Fashion’s website and MySpace page

Listen/buy at CD BABY.

Smash Fashiion - worth the trip.

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New Album! Joe Elliott’s Down ‘n’ Outz

Joe Elliott is a Mott The Hoople fan. A big fan.

Goes without saying, I guess, since the Def Leppard frontman has worn that on his sleeve his whole career. It’s refreshing to see a rocker who has attained the level of global success that he has still be a rock fan at heart. Elliott grew up loving Mott The Hoople and still does.

Elliott has often put his money where his mouth (and heart) is with his support of Ian Hunter and Mott; he was a driving force in organizing the memorial tribute for Mick Ronson and has always touted the music of his favorite band in interviews. So when Mott The Hoople reunited to make their historic stand at the Hammersmith they called Joe in for support, and he assembled a group of like-minded Mott devotees to perform some songs off the family tree that Mott fans probably never thought they’d get to hear from a stage ever again. The success of that gig led to what I can happily say is one of 2010’s best surprises.

I’ve never been a huge Def Leppard fan but have enjoyed some of their work; the overproduction by Mutt Lange usually tempered any enthusiasm I had for the songs themselves. That’s probably why I enjoyed their covers album Yeah! more than their own material; even though that was a bit bombastic I was halfway there before cracking the shrink-wrap because I was already into the songs. On My Regeneration, it’s inverted; I was familiar with the players but not all the tunes, as I never paid much attention to Widowmaker and British Lions after Mott imploded.

I think the wisest move here was using members of The Quireboys in the backing band, and I hope this project brings much attention to them as well. As a lifelong Faces fan, discovering the Quireboys back in the 90s was a godsend (they were The London Quireboys then), since they wallowed in the same loose menagerie of blues, glam and rock that makes my hair stand on end. If there are torch-bearers for the post-Faces era, surely The Quireboys and The Diamond Dogs are at the front of the pack.

So with Paul Guerin, Guy Griffin, Keith Weir, Ronnie Garrity and Phil Martin in tow, Joe lit into a litany of post-Mott cuts, some of which (“Who Do You Love”, “By Tonight”) might be better than the originals. His voice sounds spectacular, but it’s Weir’s tinkling piano and Griffin’s guitar tone that might share MVP honors here as the predominantly hard-rocking album reinvents these twelve tracks with pristine clarity and crisp power:

GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY
STORM
OVERNIGHT ANGELS
CAREER (NO SUCH THING AS ROCK ‘N’ ROLL)
ENGLAND ROCKS
SHOUTING AND POINTING
BY TONIGHT
APOLOGIES
WHO DO YOU LOVE
ONE MORE CHANCE TO RUN
3000 MILES FROM HERE
GOOD TIMES

A ten track version of this album was included with a recent issue of Classic Rock Magazine, but if you missed it, My Regeneration is available on CD with twelve MTH family cuts (plus a thirteenth track, a puzzling oddity from Elliott and producer Ronan McHugh). And yes, it’s subtitled “Volume 1”!

Listen to clips here.

In  the liner notes, Elliott says “we did this for all the right reasons; for the love of the music and to celebrate the fact that from the ashes of the then defunct MTH came some amazing music, much of it criminally ignored for far too long…” I know that it’s intrigued me enough that I’m going to pull out my post-Hunter Mott records and find out what I missed with Widowmaker and British Lions. I’ve already got Ian’s career locked and loaded.

I want to have a pint of beer with Joe Elliott – and I’m buying!

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Under The Radar: Sounds Like…?

My buddy Angelo over at Power Pop Criminals has done it again.

Angelo loves well done cover tunes as much as I do, and we probably share the same disappointment that record labels don’t often do a good job assembling tribute albums. PPC’s Beatle album recreations, for example, are works of art (literally – the cover art on their home-crafted mixes is always first-rate!). So like many of us do, Angelo makes mix tapes to compensate. Thankfully, he also offers them as a free download.

Last month also marked PPC’s fifth anniversarycongratulations!

Head on over to PPC. You’ll find a wealth of magic in the archives and hopefully discover a new favorite artist or two; hopefully your interest will turn into support via album purchases and concert tickets. I’ll bet you find a couple of new (to you) bands that will floor you in this collection.

Here are his words on the subject:

“I guess you all remember Dave Edmunds recreating the Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound, or how many bands have contributed to the Beatlesque history of Power Pop and some other artists searching for the perfect harmonies of Brian Wilson, even The Fab Four did this with “Paperback Writer”. All those bands have something in common, the love and respect for these forerunners. So instead of covering some classic tunes, they wrote original songs, mixed and produced them in the spirit of the bands we all love.

This new 2CD PPC collection is my humble try at compiling the homages recorded by the bands featured here. Of course, some of you won’t hear what i’ve heard, but you won’t deny the L.E.O.’s song might be one of the best songs Jeff L. has never written, or that Marc B., Bob D., Elvis C. can be heard without being really featured. Some other acts have included partial references to their heroes – this is how Roy Wood’s Wizzard can be heard with some glitter stomp in the same song, i could write and on and on, but where would be the fun of discovering the  tributes hidden in the songs. Enjoy.”

Some Soundalikes is available at the PPC website.

 
 

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Blast From The Past: Mott The Hoople

I can’t help myself.

I know I’ve pimped Mott one or two times already but (1) we’re not getting any younger, (2) Mott The Hoople rules, and (3) what’s a couple of posts over fifteen months? Besides, all but one were related to the reunion we thought we’d never see, which some of my friends (who attended) are still jawing about (and judging by the reviews, rightfully so.)

And it’s almost Easter – an appropriate time to Roll Away The Stone.

Roll Away The Stone / All The Young Dudes

And do enjoy this great diary from Mott fan John O’Rourke, one of the lucky American blokes who leaped The Big Pond for the event. That great event can be relived via the official live album which can be ordered here.

But to invert a great line, that was now and this is then.

No, today’s time-trip is for a release that popped across my desk a decade ago, just after the luminous box set All The Young Dudes finally saw the light of day but before many more of the live shows officially surfaced. While it wasn’t the pristine capture that people have come to expect, consider the source of the material and the date of the show and be thankful that these gems surface at all. (Be forewarned that it’s for fans with a tolerance for bootleg quality sound.)

Rock’n’Roll Circus is just one of many Mott titles available from UK label Angel Air, who have unearthed and issueed great music for many classic bands. Here’s what I wrote for Consumable Online in 2000…

Recorded at the Civic Centre in Wolverhampton (a favorite venue of many bands of the era), this CD features the classic lineup of Mott The Hoople in April 1972, just after their legendary meeting with David Bowie and his donation of his “All The Young Dudes“. Although that track had yet to be recorded (and the band’s global popularity had yet to explode), Mott The Hoople sounds revitalized and plays this sixty-six minute set with great enthusiasm.

Perhaps that’s why “The Ballad Of Mott” sounds especially poignant here in its rare live appearance. “Just lately we started to do what we wanted to do again”, says Hunter at one point, and you can sense that this almost-defunct unit once again truly believed in themselves and their future.

Like the Stones before them (albeit only once) and Ronnie Lane afterwards, the band headlined a “Rock And Roll Circus“; musical concert as part of a variety/vaudeville format. Knife throwers, comics and animal acts took the stage in addition to other groups, which made life on the road especially chaotic, but also a lot of fun. In the liner notes, the band speaks highly of the late comic Max Wall and dedicates the release to his memory. Ironically, the opening band Hackensack featured future Mott member Ray Majors on guitar in a performance that obviously impressed Buffin and Overend Watts.

The sound quality on Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus is merely bootleg plus, but once your ears settle in, it’s hard not to get caught up in the energy of the performance. Hunter’s voice is in prime form, Verden Allen’s Hammond B3 sounds positively sinister and full, and Mick Ralphs is chock full of spirited leads and chunky rhythms. “Angeline”, later played at a much faster tempo, here retains the spirit of the original, while early staples like “Darkness Darkness” and “Thunderbuck Ram” (with Mick Ralphs’ vocals sounding a lot like Dave Davies) get solid workouts.

Ian Hunter’s “Mr. Bugle Player” admittedly robs “Mr. Tambourine Man” blind (so thoroughly that Dylan’s lack of a co-write is criminal) but gives due props on their blues-based take of “Honky Tonk Women”. Ralphs’ “Until I’m Gone”, the Who-like “The Moon Upstairs” and the manic “Rock And Roll Queen” are standouts, along with the encore of “Midnight Lady”. It’s a great aural snapshot of Mott The Hoople at a critical point in their history. Like all releases on Angel Air, the packaging is outstanding, featuring well-written liner notes and rare photos in the twenty-page booklet.

Roll Away The Stone

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Blast From The Past: The Dictators

Milder title, but the music is still molten lava

An old, live Dictators album? On a Sunday? 

Yeah, I was probably thinking about New York New York because I was writing about Scott Kempner yesterday. Not that I don’t pull this fireball of an album out with regularity, along with all my Dictators albums. But I mention this one again because it was first issued only on cassette with a much better title (Fuck ’em If They Can’t Take A Joke) before finally making it to CD. 

This April 1999 review (below) was one of the first things I wrote about The Dictators since I picked up the pen keyboard again in the mid-90s. Damned if I’m not still fighting the uphill battle eleven years later. Those who know, know, but there are still far too many non-converts. 

Well, fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke

Daddy...what's a cassette tape?

ROIR (Reachout International Records) was founded by former club owner and talent agent Neil Cooper in 1979 to provide a home for the bands that were dominating the New York scene at the time. His roster was incredible – Television, the New York Dolls, Bad Brains, Suicide and The Fleshtones among them. Amazingly, the label was cassette-only releases in an era still dominated by vinyl (the Sony Walkman had not yet debuted, but its arrival soon afterwards saved the label). Perhaps even more amazingly, this man with his finger on the pulse of the imminent musical explosion was 49 years old at the time. 

Now 68, Cooper and his label have been digitally transferring titles to CD for the past four years, and one of the newest re-releases might be the one that put ROIR on the map in the first place. Fuck Em If They Can’t Take A Joke was ROIR’s third release, a sonic atomic bomb from a five-headed street monster that was the perfect bridge between the urban glam of the New York Dolls and the punk edge of the Ramones. The Dictators kicked ass and took names, a dynamic blend of white heat and solid songwriting. 

They were loud and obnoxious, but if you looked closely you could see that tongue planted firmly in cheek. Not too closely, though…Former roadie turned lead vocalist “Handsome Dick” Manitoba prowled the stage like a rabid rhino, keeping time with Richie Teeter’s thunder drums. Ross “The Boss” Funicello played blistering lead guitar while Scott “Top Ten” Kempner held the fort on rhythm and Andy/Adny Shernoff handled bass. A Dictators show was a party and a war zone at the same time, and this night was no exception. 

The show was recorded live to two track in 1981 and contains many of the classic songs – “Two Tub Man”, “Next Big Thing”, “Loyola” and “Rock And Roll Made A Man Out Of Me” among them. The band smokes, but Funicello was especially hot – his solo on “Science Gone Too Far” is a classic that players seventeen years later have a hard time matching. Naturally, there’s a version of the set staple – Iggy‘s “Search And Destroy” (with a hilarious introduction by Manitoba) as well as covers of Mott and Lou Reed (“What Goes On”). Shernoff is a solid songwriter who leans toward the melodic, and “Weekend” is a great example of a pop song turned inside out. 

New York New York expands the original track list by adding three bonus cuts from a show at the Ritz. The soundboard recordings of “Master Race Rock”, “Baby Let’s Twist” and “Faster And Louder” catch the band on another solid night and were mastered by Shernoff last year for inclusion here. Ironically, as the recording date is listed as “the early 80’s”, these could have been from a show after the band’s official demise. 

The Dictators went their separate ways – Funicello to the heavy metal Man O War, Kempner to the late, great Del-Lords, Manitoba to his Wild Kingdom, but through it all they remained Dictators at heart. Always New York legends, recent years have seen them become gods in Spain (where even a tribute record was released) and add to their legend with new singles on Norton. In 1999, the band has finally acquired the rights to their final album Bloodbrothers and have released it on their own, later this year the classic Manifest Destiny may join it. But the best news of all is that there will be a new release in the coming months, so we can all ride their coattails as we face the New Millennium the way it should be – faster and louder. 

In the meantime, whether you have worn out your original ROIR cassette (as I did) or you never had the pleasure in the first place, you are in for a real treat with New York New York. For although Blondie and The Talking Heads made more money, and The Ramones had more imitators, and Television got more credit for being important, let’s set the record straight. Nobody, but nobody, embodied New York rock better than The Dictators

White Light, White Heat...White Castle

The Dictators have done more than release their back catalogue and occasionally regroup – in the last decade they have issued a brilliant new album (D.F.F.D.), a rarities/anthology disc (Every Day is Saturday) and a new blistering live album (Viva Dictators). They formed way back in 1973, but in 2010 The Dictators are still Faster And Louder. Get the albums, hunt down their shows, and when in New York City, visit Mecca.

Stay With Me live in Spain (where they are gods).

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