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.