In the latest issue of Uncut – in shops now or available to buy online by clicking here – Rob Hughes catches up with Mott The Hoople’s 1974 line-up, who are about to reunite for an anniversary tour, to hear tales of riots, splits and rock’n’roll abandon from back in the day.
On one memorable occasion, at London’s Hammersmith Odeon on December 14, 1973, such determination led to a riot, soundtracked by heavy riffing and fierce noise. Down the front, David Bowie and Mick Jagger yelled mock insults – although no-one seemed to be paying them much attention.
All eyes, instead, were fixed on the stage, where the band were over their allotted time and hurtling towards a frenzied finale. Unwisely, venue officials chose this exact moment to try to regain control. “They started bringing the safety curtain down,” recalls pianist Morgan Fisher. “But the audience were trying to keep the show going by whatever means – jumping on stage, screaming, throwing their shirts off. I put the mockers on it by shoving the piano under the curtain. Then the other guys emerged from underneath.”
“The curtain stopped at the top of the piano,” remembers singer and rhythm guitarist Ian Hunter. “There were three plinths over the orchestra pit, so Luther [Grosvenor, lead guitarist] and I just got up on the middle one and carried on playing. The whole place went up.”
“Eventually, the curtain came completely down and there was just Luther left out at the front, soloing away,” says organist Mick Bolton. “I heard his guitar splutter and howl, then it died as he was overcome by fans.”
Adds Fisher: “It brought everything to a head. It was a positive riot, people went mad with pure excitement.”
The show – partly commemorated on 1974’s Mott The Hoople Live album – wasn’t an isolated incident. Mott The Hoople’s story was always informed by a degree of chaos; rock’n’roll as raw theatre, full of swagger and rough glamour. They were the kind of band that attracted an equally devout fan base. Followers included Morrissey, Steve Jones, Mick Jones and – No 262 in Mott’s official fan club – Oxford student Benazir Bhutto, later the prime minister of Pakistan. Throughout 1972, they had enjoyed the generous patronage of David Bowie.
Their support act on that night at Hammersmith, and throughout their UK tour that winter, was Queen. “We’d got on remarkably well,” Brian May tells Uncut. “It was an incredibly exciting time.”
You can read much about Mott The Hoople in the current issue of Uncut, out now with Neil Young on the cover.
The May 2019 issue of Uncut is on sale from March 21, and available to order online now – with Neil Young on the cover. Inside, you’ll find Mark Hollis, Jimi Hendrix, Al Green, Oh Sees, Damo Suzuki, Mott The Hoople, Big Thief, Love, Kristin Hersh, Shaun Ryder and much more. Our 15-track CD also showcases the best of the month’s new music, including Weyes Blood, Kevin Morby, Richard Dawson, Fat White Family, Shana Cleveland, Drugdealer and Mekons.