Competition for the honor of "Best Glam Rock Act You've Never Heard" has always been stiff. Matter of fact, pretty much anybody (outside the twin giants Bowie and Bolan) could qualify for that title; it's an unfortunate symptom of glam's "middle child" position, between psych and punk, that the genre itself is as forgotten as it was short-lived. But standing head and shoulders over all comers, bar none, is a little band from Hereford, England called Mott the Hoople.
Mott's story reads like a dry run for Behind the Music - only way more interesting. They formed in 1968, were signed by '69 and quickly began to generate buzz with a reportedly stunning live show, showcasing their blend of heavy guitar rock and frontman Ian Hunter's Dylanesque sneer. The band then released no less than three well-received albums between 1970 and 1972, only to be greeted again and again with indifference from the mainstream audience. Finally, after a disastrous gig in Zurich, Switzerland early in '72, they called it quits ... and that marks the beginning of their golden age. Because at that point, no less a personage than David Bowie swept in to the rescue, using the clout from his Ziggy-era rising star to resurrect Mott, produce their next record and give them the promotional/artistic boost they'd been needing all along: namely, a hit single.
And boy, was that single a doozy. Almost thirty years after its release, "All the Young Dudes" still stuns: an epochal, anthemic moment, not just generation-defining but downright youth-defining. You can tell Mott know it, too; from Mick Ralphs' Ronson-esque guitar leads to the resonant church organ courtesy Verden Allen, the track is sheer pop perfection, and Hunter delivers Bowie's lyrics like he'd written them himself and meant every word.
But for all its countless charms, "Dudes" can't quite overshadow the album which shares its name ... and folks, that says a hell of a lot about the album. Songs one and two - an inferior cover of the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane" and leering, strutting "Momma's Little Jewel" - hold their own, but only until track three kicks off one of the greatest quadruple whammies in rock'n'roll history: "All the Young Dudes," "Sucker," "Jerkin' Crocus," and the coup de grace, "One of the Boys." After this sequence, Dudes' rightful place in history is reserved even without the benefit of another highlight - and it's a good thing, too, since the songs after "One of the Boys" are largely undercooked relics from Mott the Hoople's pre-Bowie days.