The Glam Rock of Mott The Hoople paved the way for David Bowie and The Clash. Frontman Ian Hunter looks back along his rocky road.
God Loes A Trier
I never thought I’d be pro. I was in semi-pro bands for ages. It wasn’t until I met Freddie “Fingers” Lee who played piano for Screaming Lord Sutch and I went to Hamburg with him and Miller Anderson - then we started to think we could make a living out of this. It wasn’t until I was twenty-six that I thought I was good enough. It was just blind enthusiastic desire that made it happen. You carry on playing and everyone tells you you’re joking, you can’t do it, and then you carry on doing it. I guess it’s just in you. I remember when I was a kid my guitar broke and it was £17 to fix it but my dad wouldn’t give me the money to fix it - he didn’t think there was any point. Nobody thought I had a cat in hell’s chance of doing anything musical.
Have A Plan
Mott The Hoople learned everything the hard way. Bands like Queen who paid to open for us in the UK and US, they were intelligent people - they had a plan. We never had management that was effective. Sometimes we never had management at all. There was no plan with Mott The Hoople. Even Guy Stevens, who did what he calls ‘managing’ for us; really we managed Guy. He was hopeless, but he was head of A&R for Island and we were on there. He couldn’t manage. He was fucking nuts.
Look At The Big Picture
The problem with Mott was we were too wrapped up in touring. We were playing big shows and then when we took it into the studio we didn’t know how to do it. That aspect just didn’t occur to us, we were too busy playing gigs in gas holders. It wasn’t until Bowie came in with ‘All The Young Dudes’ that we really learned that side of things. He couldn’t do that song as well as we could though. His version was too fey. We gave it the real energy it needed. The guide to surviving a life in music, by those who know best.
Learn To Compromise
The members of Mott were all very strong characters and are to this day. It’s very hard to move them. I love them all dearly - they’re great to play with, a lot of fun, but trying to get something done is impossible. It was such a diplomatic situation. It couldn’t be 5-2 it had to be 5-0, and there was always somebody who didn’t agree so nothing ever really got done. I must’ve been a bossy person too. I knew what I wanted more than Mott knew what they wanted, so I had to leave. The band were doing me in. Once I left it was down to me and [Mick] Ronson, so things were a lot easier.
As you get older things will change - it’s unavoidable. Not just the way you look but your voice too. Mine’s definitely got more of a rasp to it than before, but you’ve got to learn to use your voice differently. If anything on my new album I feel I’m singing better than I ever have. I’m using the gravelly weight in there to really sound raw. I’ve finally got the knack of it in my seventies!
If It's Broke Don't Fix It
There was too much industry bullshit with Mott. It didn’t work. We came back for a couple of reunion shows in 2009 at Hammersmith Apollo and it was fantastic. We rehearsed for five days and had a great time. We started growing. We started becoming a band, then the crowd on the night did the rest really. After that it was tempting to give things another go as a group, but then you remember how bad it was at the time, and at the end of the shows too, because all the business stuff started coming in. It’s a totally different game now. Marketing is so important. We were in it for the music, now it’s all business.
The solo album ‘When I Am President’ is out now on Proper Records.
INTERVIEW: Simon Butcher