Mott the Hoople

Mott the Hoople had formed in 1966 as the Doc Thomas Group, and also performed as the Shakedown Sound, and Silence. They settled upon the name Mott the Hoople in 1969 when singer Ian Hunter joined.

Their new name was suggested by Guy Stevens of Island Records, who took it from Willard Manus’s 1966 novel of the same name, whose protagonist Norman Mott – an idle rebel – considered becoming a ‘hoople’ – a social conformist.

David Bowie’s long-standing ambition to be taken seriously as a songwriter meant that, even though the Ziggy Stardust album and tour were building momentum, he still hoped to have his compositions recorded by other artists. He had sent a tape of ‘Suffragette City’ to Mott earlier in the year.

On 27 March 1972 the band’s bass guitarist, Pete ‘Overend’ Watts, called Bowie and explained that the band would not be recording the song, and were intending to split up at the end of their Rock And Roll Circus tour of the UK.

The purpose of Watts’ call was to see if Bowie had any use for a bass guitarist.

Overend, who had always been a big fan of Bowie, phoned him up. He’d got his phone number from a tape David sent us of ‘Suffragette City’, which he thought we might like to do for a single. He said, ‘The band’s split, y’know, what’s happening with you?’ – hoping for some job as a bass player, maybe. David was quite shocked that the band had broken and said, ‘Listen, don’t do anything. I’ll work something out, you mustn’t break up.
Dale Griffin, Mott the Hoople drummer
Changes: The David Bowie Story, BBC Radio 1, May 1976

Bowie hastily wrote ‘All The Young Dudes’ with the band in mind.

When I finished writing the song, I knew it would be a hit and I couldn’t believe I was about to give it to someone else (laughs).
David Bowie
Rock & Folk Magazine, December 1998

At a meeting held shortly afterwards, Bowie played the incredulous Watts the song.

Bowie played me this song, ‘All The Young Dudes’, on his acoustic guitar. He hadn’t got all the words but the song just blew me away, especially when he hit the chorus.
Michael Watts
The Complete David Bowie, Nicholas Pegg

A meeting with the band was convened at Bowie’s publishing company Gem’s central London offices. Upon hearing ‘All The Young Dudes’, the band were more than happy to accept it.

We couldn’t believe it. In the office at Regent Street he’s strumming it on his guitar and I’m thinking, he wants to give us that? He must be crazy! We broke our necks to say yes! You couldn’t fail to see it was a great song.
Dale Griffin, drummer
The Complete David Bowie, Nicholas Pegg

Bowie offered to produce the single for the band. His manager Tony Defries also set about negotiating a new record deal with CBS, and arranged to add Mott to his MainMan artist stable. Hunter, however, was suspicious of Defries, and kept the unsigned management contracts away from the band.

On 9 April 1972 David, Angie, and Tony Defries turned up at Mott the Hoople’s gig at the Civic Centre in Guildford, Surrey.

She told me David had taken four hours to get ready. He was shaking, real nervous. He thought we were a lot heavier than we were… heavy duty punks. He was slightly disappointed to encounter ‘ordinary blokes’. He just liked what we represented.
Ian Hunter
Mojo, May 2009

On 13 August, following the release of ‘All The Young Dudes’, Bowie and Defries attended another show at the same venue, this time with Lou Reed in tow.

Earlier that day, Mott had performed the song on the BBC’s Top Of The Pops. At the Guildford show, Ian Hunter introduced Bowie to rapturous applause, and the pair duetted on ‘All The Young Dudes’.

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