On the whole, classic rock radio is a pretty macho affair, full of Hot Legs, Big Balls, and Radar Love. In a certain respect, Mott the Hoople's biggest hit (and only contribution to American classic rock playlists) fits right in: All the Young Dudes is upfront with its sexual desire and horny, twenty-something lust. There is one catch: It's also a celebration of the glam's gender-bending aesthetic.
At the time of its release, Mott the Hoople were wallowing in obscurity despite releasing four albums of high-powered boogie. They were ready to pack it in, but David Bowie encouraged them to soldier on, offering Mott the chance to record Suffragette City. The band, though, wanted Drive-In Saturday, which Bowie wasn't willing to part with. All the Young Dudes was the compromise. In the short term, Bowie came out looking the genius, as the band briefly achieved the stardom they felt was rightfully theirs, kicking out their two best albums in the process.
But it couldn't last, and by 1974, guitarist Mick Ralphs was off playing in Bad Company and Mott faded back to the margins.Mott the Hoople are still a widely respected and influential band, and it's pretty easy to hear why-- they've got the swagger, confidence, and riffs of glam and the basic approach of punk.
That's not to mention vocalist Ian Hunter, whose voice was so limited and colorless that he probably made more than a few kids with guitars think if this guy can sing in a band, surely I can. The band, however, found countless ways to work around Hunter, from melodic harmonizing on the choruses that he could yelp and talk-sing over to clever lead guitar parts that Ralphs used to inject hooks into the verses.
So Hunter becomes the everyman, just trying to get by, and the tension between the band's chops and his lack of skill and range is oddly poignant. All the Young Dudes closes with the dejected piano ballad Sea Diver, a crushingly sad song that uses a diving bell as a metaphor for being trapped in a failed relationship.
Hunter's inability to get through half an octave without cracking or morphing into a dock worker's shout sucks out all the maudlin potential of the piano part and string arrangement, turning them instead into a kind of security blanket. It's a strikingly emotional capstone to an album that mostly trades in funky rock and roll and leather-pantalooned swagger.
Young Dudes highlight Sucker is a slow, cowbell-guided rocker adorned with sax interjections from Bowie; it features a killer call-and-response between a harpsichord and a wordless backing vocal phrase on its chorus. The reissue appends a thunderous live version that suggests the band's true power wasn't really captured on any of its records. However, there's also a live version of Sweet Jane that's as forgettable as the studio version that leads off the original album.
Conventional revisionist rock crit wisdom says this is a five-star record, but in truth it's not even close, and that song is a big part of the reason.Elsewhere, a primordial version of Ready for Love pales in comparison to the version Bad Company took into the charts two years later, but the band gets in some strong hard boogie tunes on Momma's Little Jewel (the early demo version added here, called Black Scorpio, is even nastier) and One of the Boys, the rocking follow-up single to All the Young Dudes. Bowie-philes will love the version of All the Young Dudes featuring his vocal, even though it's weaker than the version everyone knows.
by Joe Tangari
1. Sweet Jane (Lou Reed) - 4:21
2. Momma's Little Jewel (Ian Hunter, Peter Watts) - 4:26
3. All the Young Dudes (David Bowie) - 3:32
4. Sucker (Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs, Peter Watts) - 5:03
5. Jerkin' Crocus (Ian Hunter) - 4:00
6. One of the Boys (Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs) - 6:46
7. Soft Ground (Verden Allen) - 3:17
8. Ready for Love/After Lights (Mick Ralphs) - 6:47
9. Sea Diver (Ian Hunter) - 2:53
10.One of the Boys (Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs) - 4:18
11.Black Scorpio (Ian Hunter, Peter Watts) - 3:35
12.Ride on the Sun (Ian Hunter) - 3:36
13.One of the Boys (UK single version) (Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs) - 4:21
14.All the Young Dudes (David Bowie) - 4:25
15.Sucker (Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs, Peter Watts) - 6:27
16.Sweet Jane (Lou Reed) - 5:00
Tracks 10-12 Demos Versions
Tracks 15,16 Live 1973 at the Hammersmith Odeon
Mott The Hoople
*Ian Hunter – Vocals, Piano
*Mick Ralphs – Guitar, Vocals (Except on Tracks 15, 16)
*Verden Allen – Organ, Vocals (Except on Tracks 15, 16)
*Pete Overend Watts – Bass Guitar, Vocals
*Dale Buffin Griffin – Drums, Vocals, Percussion
*Ariel Bender – Guitar, Vocals on Tracks 15, 16
*Mick Bolton – Organ on Track 15
*David Bowie – Saxophones, Vocals on Track 14
*Morgan Fisher – Organ, Mellotron on Track 12, Piano, Synthesizer, Vocals on Bonus Tracks 15, 16
*Ray Majors – Slide Guitar on Track 11
*Mick Ronson – Strings, Brass Arrangement on Track 9
*Buddy Bauerle - Pan Flute
*Mike Walls - Hammond B3 Organ
*Jeff Hanover - Vibraslap
1966/90 Doc Thomas Group And The Silence - The Italian Job / Shotgun Eyes
1969 Mott The Hoople - Mott The Hoople (2003 bonus tracks remaster)
1970 Mott The Hoople - Mad Shadows (2003 Extra Tracks Remaster)
1971 Mott The Hoople - Wildlife (2003 japan bonus tracks remaster)
1971 Mott The Hoople - Brain Capers (bonus tracks remaster)