Today has been a damned good day. First, I discovered that I have a couple of things in common with Joe Elliott, of Def Leppard fame, whose written introduction to this set I have just read.
Second, I sat down to a veritable feast of mind boggling brilliance in the shape of the four CD set that is Mott The Hoople In Peformance 1970-1974 (Angel Air).
When you get your hands on this superb set I highly recommend you do something unusual with it. Sit down, pour a glass, light up, feet up, and read the notes. 48 pages crammed full of quotes, anecdotes, and facts; forgotten and otherwise. Then play the CDs with your brain refreshed with all that knowledge.
Quite simply you need to transport yourself back to a time when seeing Mott The Hoople could literally ‘wreck your minds, completely, absolutely’. Well that’s how they are introduced on CD one – Fairfield Halls, Croydon 1970. I couldn’t agree more. After all, my mind has been messed up for years. However, this is where Joe Elliott and I come in.
Like Joe I never saw MTH live. Damn, I just missed them by virtue of the fact that I was born too late. But I did see Ian Hunter a year or two back when Joe got up on stage helping the night become utterly unforgettable.
Just play that opening track "Ohio" from the somewhat infamous Croydon gig when Mott supported Free (you don’t get line ups like that anymore). Remember that this is 1970. Read the background as to why Mott were playing Neil Young’s “Ohio" in the first place and why the audience went crazy.
It’s incendiary, literally on fire, or at least smouldering away between Mick Ralphs superb guitar and the impassioned vocals.
It has to be said that a concert consigned to the waste bin for years by Island Record’s eccentric Guy Stevens is finally revealed and Angel Air have done a truly excellent job with it.
There were sound problems, there were stage invasions, and there were technical breakdowns. Yet what we have here has been put right, mended, and fixed as far as possible. It simply explodes back into life despite the passage of time.
It’s like digging up a time capsule and not only hearing it, but feeling it, almost as powerfully as if you were there. “No Wheels To Ride”, taken from the then as yet to be released second album Mad Shadows, actually made the hairs on my arms wave about like one of those stupid dancing Christmas trees. Such is the power we are tapping into here.
The four CDs take us from the instant crowd reaction in Croydon to the more subdued audience at the Konserthusel in Stockholm on the 16th of February the following year.
Next we are off to The Tower Theatre in Philadelphia for a gig on the 29th of November, 1972. Disc three is a compilation taken from the band’s US tours 1971-1973 whilst number four covers the tour of America in '74.
There are simply too many highlights to do any justice whatsoever to this set. The audience reaction in Croydon is electric, the quality of the sound from Stockholm exceptional, the choice of material from the US tours, phenomenal. I guess you're getting the picture by now.
Disc one moves from the mania of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Queen” to Ian Hunter’s passionate performance of the ballad “When My Mind’s Gone”. The Stockholm concert is altogether more restrained. Polite clapping replacing stage invasions. They opened this gig with a smouldering cover of Mountain’s “Long Red”, and an excellent rendition of “The Original Mixed up Kid”.
Disc two is a romp through all the parts that made the whole. Introduced by David Bowie there is Dylan in Hunter’s “Angeline”, and glam in Bowie’s “All The Young Dudes”. Lou Reed gets covered on “Sweet Jane”, The Stones on the encore “Honky Tonky Women”, and it all opens with Holst’s Planet Suite, “Jupiter”.
The sound is as good as you could expect from a long lost gig such as this but stay with it as it opens out into a right good rollicking gig.
Disc three has Ian Hunter more up front and centre stage and includes the gems that are “Angel Of Eighth Avenue”, “All The Way From Memphis”, and “Walking With A Mountain”. The line-up changes mid-disc with the departure of Mick Ralphs to Bad Company and the arrival of Ariel Bender, aka Luther Grosvenor. See, it pays to read those notes after all.
The last disc is a more angry Mott on fire with “Roll Away The Stone”. It opens with Don McLean’s “American Pie” done Hunter style like a bar room balladeer, before “The Golden Age Of Rock ‘n’ Roll” kicks it all off.
“Roll Away The Stone” and a version of Hunter’s “Marionette” stand out. Somewhat fittingly, it all comes to a ragged end with Hunter hardly able to control his frustration with the techie's as the band launch into “All The Way From Memphis”, and “All The Young Dudes”.
Mott were glam, they were Dylan meets the Stones, they were definitely influential, but most of all they were rock ‘n’ roll in all its raw intoxicating glory.
Oh yes, I forgot. I have something else in common with Joe Elliott. I have no doubt at all that we will both be at the Mott reunion gigs later this year. After hearing this fantastic set I just wouldn’t miss it for the world.