Cover of the Week 23 Ballad of Mott the Hoople

By on 4-07-2009 in CoTW, Cover of the Week Project

I’ve been on a bit of a Mott the Hoople kick this winter. This one became a bit of a residency anthem at Toad this past February. This is obviously a solo version as opposed to the Crown Victoria version.

Like a lot of people who grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, “All the Young Dudes” (written and produced by Bowie) was one of my anthems, and “All the Way from Memphis” was ever-present on the radio growing up. It was a bit of a thrill when Buffalo Tom had the chance to record a Peel Session with Dale Griffin, drummer of Mott, producing. Everyone warned us — wincing when we mentioned who would be producing — that he could be the very definition of curmudgeonly. And the session had a bit of an arc. He was coldly polite when we arrived and set up. He left the studio and returned when we were ready to roll. he seemed to like the music and warmed up to moderately friendly as the session continued, but he turned on a dime to icily nasty when we started to push our luck with overdubs on what was supposed to be a “live” session. He had everyone at the BBC studio cowering, from the tape op to the tea boy. Griffin had the nickname “Buffin” in the group, apparently, and is referenced in this week’s cover.

All of these Covers of the Week fall into the “songs I wish I had written” category. But “Ballad of Mott the Hoople (26th March 1972, Zurich)” has a particularly poignant resonance for an old rock & roller like me. The lyrics are self-explanatory. Ian Hunter, who wrote with an acute awareness of time passing, heavy on nostalgia (Listen to “Saturday Gigs,” e.g. which could have been an even more apt Toad Saturday night residency anthem), writes/sings about the unraveling of his band. It is simultaneously arch and a bit ironic (“Buffin lost his childlike dreams”) and sincere (“so what the hell, I can’t erase the rock & roll feeling from my mind.”)

I envy all of those who get to see the Mott reunion in London this fall. maybe I will hop a plane over!


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