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Mott The Hoople movie premiere at London Film Festival

The Ballad of Mott The Hoople

A film about the Herefordshire band Mott The Hoople is being premiered at the London Film Festival.

The band's first big hit came in 1972, when they recorded the David Bowie song All The Young Dudes.

The film's producer, Chris Hall, says he was fascinated by the band's mercurial career:

"They always seemed to be veering between success and disaster on a fairly regular basis."

The film, called The Ballad of Mott The Hoople, will be shown at selected cinemas across the country, before being released on DVD.


Mott The Hoople were originally called Silence when the band formed in 1968.

Mick Ralphs, Verden Allen, Pete "Overend" Watts and Dale "Buffin" Griffin played in bands in and around Hereford, and were joined by Stan Tippins as lead singer, in 1969.

Stan was injured soon after joining the group and was unable to continue singing, so he became the road manager for the band.

They signed with Island Records and it was the producer, Guy Stevens, who changed their name to Mott the Hoople, inspired by a book of the same name written by Willard Manus.

An advertisement for a new singer found Ian Hunter, who was also a boogie piano player.

Their debut album (Mott The Hoople) in 1969 was a great success, but the second album in 1970 (Mad Shadows) and third (Wildlife) in 1970 sold poorly and the reviews were not favourable.

The band was close to folding, but were saved by a great fan of theirs - David Bowie.

He wrote All the Young Dudes for them, which released as a single in July 1972 and was a major success in the UK.

Stan Tippins - former band member

Stan Tippins was once the lead singer with Mott The Hoople and he told BBC Hereford & Worcester his memories of that time:

"The way the music was going was very psychedelic - there were like these five or ten minute solos, well I didn't play anything, so what the hell was I supposed to do with all these solos going on?

"I was getting dissatisfied with that and what they really needed was a singer/songwriter."

Stan realised it was time he left the line-up, and recalled that moment:

"We had an audition in London with the band. Guy Stevens was the record producer, he said: "Well it's not quite right," so I said, "Look, you've got to get someone else.

An advert was placed in a music magazine, Ian Hunter joined the band and Stan encouraged him during the early days:

"They were quite off with Ian at the time, I was the only one talking to him… I was trying to keep him happy, keep them happy, and gradually it built up and after a few months it got really good."

Stan became the tour manager, but his singing talent was still needed at times:

"Nobody could do the high harmony parts, and after a couple of albums, along came the big single 'All The Young Dudes' - which I sang on.

"I used to be a tour manager behind the stage - counting the money, talking to the promoter, going through all these things - and suddenly I'd have to be at the side of the stage doing all these harmonies.

"I used to have my own microphone behind this curtain, my own amp and monitor - so I could hear myself and know what I was doing… Everyone else thought it was one of the others."

Fashion of the early 70's became a big part of the group's image:

"Pete was so into clothes… Suddenly you got three-inch platform heels, then it was six-inch platform heels, in the end they were so high he couldn't walk around the stage.

"If he fell over, which he sometimes did, a roadie used to run on stage and lift him up."

The first album released (All the Young Dudes) was a great success, however coming up with new material was difficult:

"Trying to get a new album all the time is a real big problem. He could write a few songs then he was always relying on one or two of the band to write two or three songs to complete the album.

"He was in America, had a breakdown and phoned back to England and said, "I'm going to leave the band - I've just had enough, I can't go on any longer," so I went over to America to try and persuade him to stay in the band, but he couldn't, so that basically was the end of it.

"I remember being in the office, after all these three or four years of Mott The Hoople, Mott, British Lions. In the end, there was nobody left.

"The phone stopped ringing - no record companies ringing anymore, no agents, no agents - nothing.

"I was just sat in this office thinking, This is the end - I'm the last one left."

Clive Selwood - Record label entrepreneur - Music publisher with John Peel of Strange Fruit Records.

Clive Selwood formed, with John Peel in 1986, the record label Strange Fruit Records.

The label specialised in re-releases of older out-of-print albums, including those of Mott The Hoople.

Clive told BBC Hereford and Worcester his memories of the band drummer, Dale "Buffin" Griffin:

"The drummer with Mott The Hoople went on to become a noted BBC producer.

"He produced a huge amount of the John Peel sessions that were so influential over the years.

"Having been the drummer for Mott, he would turn up at the BBC in rather smart three-piece suits."

Dale, at this stage, looked mature compared to the young up and coming bands of the future he was working with.

Clive said they hadn't any idea how successful Dale had been:

"Of course these kind-of hairy young musicians would think that this guy was an old fogey, was straight and knew nothing, and in fact he'd been the drummer in one of the world's best selling bands."

Mott The Hoople played at many venues and were supported by bands like Sailor, The Sutherland Brothers, and Queen who, Clive remembers, ended up distraught after one gig:

"Mott were top of the bill; the sound for the Queen performance was absolutely dreadful, it was truly diabolical.

"People were beating a retreat out of the Hammersmith Odeon; they were falling over backwards it was so loud, so distorted and so awful.

"Queen thought that possibly Mott's roadie had messed about with their equipment.

"Poor Freddie Mercury was walking around in tears - genuine tears - saying that his career was finished."

Kevin Wargen - fan

"The Mott The Hoople concert at the football ground had a line up of Frupp, from Germany, Heads Hands and Feet, which included Chas Hodges of Chas and Dave fame, and Amazing Blondel, who almost stole the show.

"They came back later that year to play a concert at the Black Lion in Bridge Street, to a packed audience.

"The Mott concert was well remembered for Mott's Ian Hunter swearing on stage, and stopping the music to ask the audience 'Would there be any one here on a Saturday afternoon if the police arrested anyone who swore at the matches?

"Mott's gig in Worcester at the Gaumont cinema in '73 had Queen as the support act, who blew everyone away.

"Nothing had been seen like it, with Freddie in (almost) a frock top and black fingernails.

"Their music was incredible and started a love affair with them to this day."

Drummer backs dementia campaign
07 Jul 10 |  Wales
Great gigs and musical legends
02 Feb 10 |  People & Places
Mott the Hoople: past and present
12 Oct 09 |  BBC Introducing


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