Thursday, October 08, 2009

I’m trying to balance between answering mail, etc and my curfew and making quite the hash of it. October is flashing past and maybe I’ll relent on Saturday and try to catch up some more.

Anyway, as mentioned yesterday – here’s Lenny’s account of his sojourn close to the Thames last week. Seems like those of us who weren’t there missed out on a very groovy thing.


Mott The Hoople - Hammersmith Apollo October 1st 2009

This was the first time I’d ever seen Mott The Hoople and also my first time at the Hammersmith Apollo (that used to be the old Odeon). Would have loved to have seen them back in the day but was just that little bit too young and didn’t have hip enough parents who would’ve taken me to a Mott show. From ‘Honaloochie Boogie’ onwards I was a fan of their records, tv appearances and the pictures I saw in pop magazines.

Despite the thirty-five year gap since the original line-up played together, this was always gonna be something incredibly special to witness. Not only that but this was also the first of the five gigs. There were even folks at the t-shirt stall and in the bar who said they’d flown in from all over Europe, Australia, Canada and the USA. Wow!

The intro tape played ‘Jupiter’ from the Planets Suite - which apparently was their intro music since '72 or so (thanks to Kris Needs' online Shindig review for sorting that one out, as I thought it was something like the music added to William Blake's ‘Jerusalem’ poem ha ha)
and a huge roar greeted Ian Hunter, Mick Ralphs, Overend Watts, Verden Allen, and Martin Chambers - the Pretenders’ drummer who is helping them out due to original drummer Buffin’s frail health. Opening with the Mott album’s Dylanesque slowy ‘Hymn For The Dudes’ set the scene perfectly before changing up a gear into ‘Rock’N’Roll Queen’. After their take of the Velvets’ ‘Sweet Jane’ and the yikes-here-comes-Bad Company-just-around-the-corner hard riff of the mighty ‘One Of The Boys’, it soon became clear that this was something altogether truly great, inevitably woolly and totally wild…all of that and more!

Some unexpected greats too like ‘Sucker’, ‘Ready For Love’, ‘Angeline’ and the heavy stomp of the Hoople album’s ‘Born Late ‘58’ where Watts and Hunter swapped instruments, Overend (in eye-catching white shoes and other loud apparel) took lead vocal. As great as all these songs are, they were always gonna pale a little in stark comparison – electrifyingly so – to the sheer ferocity of attitude and content unleashed in ‘The Moon Upstairs’, that killa dilla cut from their ‘71 Brain Capers platter. This was a pretty deadly rendering for sure with all the elements in place that made / make MTH one of the best rock groups Britain has ever produced. Watts’ thundering bass lines, Hunter’s pre-punk, pure punk vocal sentiment, Mick Ralphs’ incisive main riff and cool economic wailing (read non-noodling) lead and, forget us we not, Verden Allen’s most excellent screeching and skronking via his vintage Hammond complete with a couple o' weighty Leslie speakers. Loved the way Watts was prowling around in front of the monitors like he's really missing being up there on his stage.

This last few minutes of pure unmitigated rock mania led into a quieter, sit-down Mott The (folk) Hoople style interlude, where the Wildlife LP cut ‘The Original Mixed-Up Kid’ and Mott’s ‘I Wish I Was Your Mother’ sat side by side, played out relaxingly on mandolins and a funny wee toy-like keyboard. We were also treated to rousing versions of ‘The Golden Age Of Rock’N’Roll’, 'The Ballad Of Mott', ‘Walking With A Mountain’ and even a minute or so of Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ which was then roughly pushed aside to make way for one of their most endearing ballads, ‘The Journey’.

Fairly rushing along but nonetheless still magical, were interpretations of two of their biggest chart hits ‘Honaloochie Boogie’, and ‘All The Way From The Memphis’. The former’s ‘well I got this friend and he’s a screwdriver-jiver … spider west-sider…’ vocal interjections performed by Hoople’s original pre-Hunter lead vocalist (then given the task of being the group's road manager) Stan Tippins. Woulda been extra extra super zingy had Roxy Music’s Andy Mackay jumped out of nowhere for the sax solo but alas ‘twas not to be… The group’s backing vocalists were also kept in the family and included Ian’s son Jessie, and Mick’s son Jim.

Then it all got really moving with many eyes welling up and a quite a few gasps being emitted, at the site of a pretty frail looking Buffin being led onto the stage. “Terence Dale Griffin - ladies and gentlemen", Hunter informed us, "Buffin over there on the drums…we’ve got the five now” and in faultless unison with Martin Chambers, the mighty Buff bashed his way through ’73 smash hit ‘Roll Away The Stone’. Hunter’s youngest daughter Tracy provided the ‘I got my invite’…and ‘oh will do’ backing vocal responses. With Buffin still there, it was time for the one tune that allowed them in the first place to go from underground raw ‘n dirty rock’n’roll heroes to being a group who slipped into let's say, a more mainstream pop profile. After initially calling it quits back in ‘72‘, yes of course it’s the Bowie-penned and produced classic teenage riot affair, ‘All The Young Dudes’. Mick Ralphs hit a couple of squalling clunkers here but I wouldn’t’ve had it any other way. Very cool, natural and unstudied. Little Richard’s relentless rocker ‘Keep-A-Knockin’, always one of their stage faves back in the day followed and they were gone.

After a few minutes rest, and much baying from the crowd, the group, minus Buffin sadly – but at least he’d done his bit for the big Mott dream – came back on for a sensational ‘Saturday Gigs’, its ‘goo-ood byyye goo-ood byyye’ finale lending itself well to the ending of what was a thoroughly smoking, not to mention a truly mesmerising display. Age/schmage, this gang was pretty spry and seriously up for it. In the words shouted by a fan as soon as the group took the stage, Mott the fucking Hoople! Thanks for a great trip guys.

Lenny Helsing

RIP - Shelby Singleton