Mott The Hoople frontman Ian Hunter is all for the underdog, as Jon Griffin discovers.
All the Way from Memphis ... Roll Away The Stone ... The Golden Age of Rock and Roll – the classics still trip merrily off the tongue, 40 years or so down the line.
It’s well over four decades since a scruffy looking bunch of provincials from Herefordshire hooked up with a corkscrew-haired rocker in shades to form one of the seminal bands in UK rock history.
Back in the late 60s and early 70s, when po-faced progressive rock was doing the rounds in the shape of earnest musos like ELP or Yes, Mott The Hoople were loud, aggressive and didn’t give a damn. In Ian Hunter, they found the perfect frontman to match the underdog spirit.
Mott sold out concert halls virtually everywhere they went, but after four acclaimed, yet commercially unsuccessful albums, they were about to call it a day, when David Bowie gave them All The Young Dudes.
Mott hit the big time at last, and Hunter came up with the aforementioned classics, and a whole lot more.
And the most famous Shrewsbury Town fan in the entire rock and roll pantheon signed on the dotted line for a half century or so of distinctive artistry and unyielding, high-calibre songwriting.
Hunter is still producing the goods, as his new CD When I’m President, illustrates. He’s about as far removed from a cheesy, showbiz-style golden oldies music lag wheeling out the old hits year after year as it’s possible to get.
“Regrets? No, I do not think that way. To me, it is always the next thing. There is no plan; once you start planning ahead, it becomes a job.
“As much as we had successes, we had failures too. We were not like bands who turned up and never spoke to anybody.
“I had been in a factory, I knew what it was like to work for a living, I had made a lot of mistakes. David (Bowie) operated like a man from another planet, which was fantastic – he never talked to people. Mott got off stage and were hanging out with the fans.”
The man with the shades was over in the UK recently for an appearance at the Hop Farm Festival with his Rant Band, and more than happy to talk rock and roll, past, present and future.
“It was great, but there were the usual feedback and squeaks. Dylan was on the Saturday. He’s a genius – he’s earned the right to do whatever he wants to do.
“He’s the yardstick for me, the sounding board – I would have loved to have written something like Jokerman (a lesser-known track from the early 80s album Infidels).”
Hunter, now in his 70s, has a treasure trove of memories, even if he continues to mine a rich seam of song-writing, as his new CD shows.
There’s a wonderful old rock and roll yarn about the day Tony Blackburn decided to publicly mock Mott.
Blackburn decided, for reasons best known to himself, that he didn’t like All The Way From Memphis and informed his listeners of his aversion to Mott.