Thursday, July 16, 2009

491. All the young dudes- Bowie to the rescue.



Album: All the Young Dudes.

Artist: Mott the Hoople.

Year: 1972.

Genre: Rock with a twist of glam.

Track listing.

1. Sweet Jane
2. Momma’s Little Jewel
3. All the Young Dudes
4. Sucker
5. Jerkin' Crocus
6. One of the Boys
7. Soft Ground
8. Ready for Love/After Lights
9. Sea Diver


Apparently die-hard Mott the Hoople fans (who I hope to god call themselves Hoopleheads) don’t regard All the Young Dudes as the crowning achievement in the Hoople back catalogue. It’s not typical of their sound and a dilution of the true Hoople experience (I’m really enjoying typing Hoople, can you tell?) The blame/credit for the sound on Dudes, which makes it loved by Rolling Stone magazine but not by Hoopleheads, is down to producer/songwriter/svengali David Bowie.

From 1969 to 1971 M the H were a reasonably successful hard rock band who cranked out four albums with fantastic song titles like Death may be your Santa Claus and The Wheel of the Quivering Meat Conception. By 1972 they’d had enough and announced they were packing it in to pursue other interests and solo careers. But before Mott The Hoople could officially become Not the Hoople, David Bowie stepped in and announced he was a big fan. He wanted to be their producer and would gift them a song if they could settle their differences. The result was a new record deal and a huge selling album with a Bowie-written hit single.

There’s no doubt the Thin White Duke is all over Dudes. While the title song is the only one he wrote, a lot of the others sound like they could be his work. The production sounds Bowie-like and at times the vocals even sound like someone doing their best David impression. While his influence is everywhere it’s no more apparent than on All The Young Dudes, the song he wrote for them. Viewed from any direction you’d have to say that ATYD is a generous gift indeed. It’s a great song with a really catchy chorus that sounds almost as much like the Beatles as it does Bowie. If the author had decided to record it himself he would have had a number one hit but instead he gave it to someone else- Kudos to you Mr B.

Sadly the rest of the album isn’t strong enough to rise to the challenge laid down by their producer. The general sound is Stones-like but the band doesn’t have the riff-writing potential of a Jagger or Richards. The opening track is a cover of the Velvet Underground’s Sweet Jane, which is a bold move especially since they stole the chord progression for one of their own tracks (Jerkin Crocus) a bit later on. I would have thought that if you were going to plagiarize something it’s best not to lead-off with the original so people have a point of comparison.

They do however have moments of lyric writing brilliance. My personal favourite is on Jerkin Crocus which features the line: “I know what she want/ Just a lick of your ice cream cone.” Aha! I thought. That would be sexual innuendo. It doesn’t literally refer to the physical act of licking a frozen dessert. The “ice cream cone” is cunning slang that sneaks a sex act past the record company. While those of us clever enough to see hidden meanings can work this out, the Record Executives with their suits and ties and lack of imagination assume this to be a reference to the consumption of icy-cold treats. After hearing this my brain was finely attuned to pick up subtle innuendo and concealed lewdness. Imagine my surprise when a few lines later I heard “I know what she want/A judo hold on a black man’s balls.” What the hell happened there? Did the band struggle to find a metaphor for a woman with a martial arts grip on gentleman’s testicles or is “A judo hold on a black man’s balls” a cunning double meaning all of it’s own? And if so what the hell for? My mind just boggled.

I haven’t heard any of the earlier Hoople albums so I comment on the Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes that Bowie made to their sound but having heard All the Young Dudes I’m tempted to track them down. There’s a lot to like in this release and I’d like to hear more. And it would be great to be able to introduce myself to people as a Hooplehead.

Highlight: All the young Dudes. If you don’t know it (and you probably do) it’s worth hunting down.

Lowlight: The album does fade out badly when the band tries to slow things down.

Influenced by: David Bowie.
Influenced: Lots of English bands I’ve never heard of.

Favourite Amazon customer review quote: “I haven't a clue what Columbia was pressing their records on back in the 70's, but my copy refused to say "uncle" when used for either entertainment purposes or a jazz cigarette rolling kit.”

-I think you’d need more than jazz cigarettes to hear an album say uncle.

So is it all hail Bowie for bring Mott back from the dead or do you curse him for inflicting more Hoople upon us? Let me know below.

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