1972 Mott the Hoople – All the Young Dudes
A band calling itself The Doc Thomas Group formed in the UK in 1966 and released its first album in 1967 on an Italian record label. The band used that name in Italy but toured in the UK first as Shakedown Sound and later as Silence.
Guy Stevens at Island Records became interested in the band but refused to work with them unless they brought in a new lead vocalist. He ran an unusual ad: “Singer wanted, must be image-minded and hungry”. Singer/songwriter Ian Hunter answered the ad and became the band’s piano player and lead singer.
Guy had previously given Procol Harum and insisted that Silence rename their group Mott the Hoople, a name he came up with after reading a novel by Willard Manus.
Poor album sales and disappointing appearances left the band on the verge of breaking up. David Bowie had been a fan of the group’s music and he sent a demo of the song Suffragette City hoping to convince them to record it. The band tried out the song but did not feel it was right for them and turned down his offer, sending word to David that they were going to break up instead.
Fortunately, David did not give up so easily. He had his manager, Tony Defries, work to get the band a recording contract with CBS Records. David played an acoustic version of another song he was working on, and everybody became excited to record it: All The Young Dudes.
It took some additional work to flesh out the lyrics, after which David produced their single (and sang backup vocals as well).
The record reached the top ten in the UK but stalled at only #37 on the Hot 100 in the US. David produced an entire album for the band as well.
While the band never reached the top forty again in the US, they did have a string of hit singles in the UK in 1973 and 1974. I found one of those songs to be instantly recognizable, All The Way To Memphis. Ian wrote the song; it tells the story of a musician whose band traveled to Memphis while his guitar inexplicably went to a small town in Kentucky. It dwells on the woes of being in a band on the road.
All the Young Dudes may not have been a chart success in the US, but it became recognized as a pivotal recording in the Glam Rock field. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked the record at #161 in its 2021 list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and it became one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
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