Ian Hunter Never Left the Building

14 10 2012

Ian Hunter was the rock guy who had the strength, the wits, and empathy to wrap a listener in his genuine concern for how you were. He was always on your side, and despite an absence that turns out to not be an absence at all, he’s still standing up and in for the normal folks. 

He’s always been a wordy lyricist, a parallel to Bob Dylan who weaves beautiful stories that no one understands. Hunter is very clear about his subject and his allegiances. That’s not changed from the Mott the Hoople explosion of 1972, when David Bowie threw a scrap to a band he liked, something to cash in on in order to stay in a game the band had been slowly losing over four thundering, little known albums.

It didn’t matter because life for Mott actually began with All the Young Dudes.

The Bowie dividend was huge and the band didn’t waste the opportunity to improve itself, slinging three classic rock records in a row. The Hoople was the last great Mott recording. Hunter didn’t waste a moment in bouncing back with a strong self-titled record that made Mott’s passing easier to take.

Hunter still sings in his own accent, reminding everyone that he, and Mott, are English eccentrics who followed the music and did exactly what they wanted at the time. The phoniness level is and was always remarkably low. He genuinely would have liked to have been your mother.

He’s there still, putting out albums quietly, steadily, keeping the pedal on quality since the mid ’90s. The newest is When I’m President, which is as good as anything he’s done. This one’s also getting way more attention anything of his in the past 15 years. He’s the same; it’s just his time. Again.

And he’s still funny. Being 73 hasn’t slowed him much, seemingly. Here he is kicking it back and forth five years ago with fellow Brit expat Craig Ferguson: 

In 2004, a time of relative obscurity for him, was still a time to talk at length. This 2004 interview shows why he’s a great raconteur and would likely be a better memoirist than many of his contemporaries, Pete Townsend included, unfortunately. Part 2 is right here.

Cleveland looms large in Hunter’s legend. In the early ’70s, the gritty port city had as hip of an audience as you would find anywhere, with a stonkin’, no playlists allowed radio station, WMMS, boosting the careers of many non-US bands, including Mott, Bowie,  Brian Eno, Roxy Music, Jim Capaldi, and Jack Bruce. None of this was lost on Hunter, who loved the town and the people. He wrote Cleveland Rocks to prove it. In this 2008 interview in Cleveland, he mentions MMS and why the city truly mattered.

Here’s a  grainy version of All the Way from Memphis by “The Hoople” band, last Mott mach led by Hunter. The change in guitarists made the band louder, loonier, better: It was the final hot tour of a four-year hot streak.

In 2009, Mott reunited for a series of London-only shows, which were well attended and well critiqued. The adoration of the audience is clear in this encore, Roll Away the Stone/All the Young Dudes. The band’s mutual feeling for the song, the audience, the moment is just as clear. Magic. The footage is from a handheld and the audio is dense, but it’s still magic.

The Ian Hunter blog is updated monthly and reverently. Bookmark and read it from here. 

If you haven’t listened in decades, and you’re still in the majority, then open this discography from AllMusic, close your eyes, choose a title, and enjoy knowing you’re getting a winner whether you know the release or not. Your mother would approve.


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8 responses

14 10 2012
Don

Nice coffee cup!

15 10 2012
Out There

Thanks for not saying, “Nice mug.” I wouldn’t have known which of the two you were referring to.

23 07 2013
Don

If I had been more creative, I would have.

15 10 2012
Duwan

Your Never Alone with a Schizophrenic has always been one of my favorite albums. When Short Back and Sides came out I remember reading an unfavorable review. Being a college student with limited funds I didn’t want to take the monetary risk. Nor did I want To be disappointed with a musician I loved so much.

I missed an opportunity to see him play with Mick Roson in the late 80s–I so regret that.

I didn’t buy another Ian album until Shrunken Heads. I love that album. So glad I stepped back into the building.

15 10 2012
Out There

Hi, Duwan. Short Back & Sides was produced by the Clash’s Mick Jones, himself a huge Mott fan. It’s got some good songs on it, so it’s worth having, especially Central Park and West. I’d regret not seeing Ronson/Hunter too. It was a partnership too good to be true, and too great to last. His new record, When I’m President, is really great.

I first saw him with Mott in 1974 and the next time was just about six weeks ago, at a small show in Portland. Electrifying.

17 10 2012
Every Record Tells A Story

His book – Diary of a Rock n Roll Star is a classic…

18 10 2012
Out There

That’s what I hear. It was out of print for years, but I evidently it’s back. I don’t have a copy but I’ll make it a point to get one. By the way, the swipe at Pete Townsend was done out of respect; he talks in interviews about how he’s worked on his memoir since the mid ’90s, but it reads like he dashed it off a few months ago, almost like rushing through a homework assignment that was due the next day. Too bad. He’s got a great story to tell, and if you’re just interested in the storyline, his book has the arc. If you already know his story, then it’s pretty much a waste. The public has evidently decided that anyway as it’s sold fewer than 20,000 copies in its first week of release.

19 10 2012
Every Record Tells A Story

Interesting – I haven’t read it – but it doesn’t sound like a classic in the way Keith’s book was – a shame…

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