#188 – All The Young Dudes by Mott The Hoople
– This song has carried more than a few heavy connotations since it was released in July 1972. It’s been called the anthem for glam rock and an anthem for gay rights. But according to the composer, David Bowie, it was neither of those. In later interviews he said All The Young Dudes carried the same meaning as the opening song on Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars. Titled Five Years, the character of Ziggy warned the earth only had five years left before it died.
In All The Young Dudes, the dudes “carried the news” predicting the planet’s final meltdown. In other words, it wasn’t written to be an uplifting song.
Bowie also claimed to have written it especially for Mott The Hoople who was on the verge of breaking up. He liked the band and thought a hit song would keep them together. But according to different versions of this story, the band’s recording and concert timelines during spring 1972, along with the existence of Bowie’s own version rumored to have been meant for his Ziggy Stardust album, the true origins of this song are still shrouded in mystery.
You can hear Bowie’s / Ziggy’s version on YouTube at this LINK.
As teenagers in 1972, we didn’t know any of that. It was simply a great song and worthy of turning up the volume whenever it came on the radio.
With hindsight it’s possible to see how All The Young Dudes can be associated with glam rock and gay rights. The seeds for both were flowering in the 1960’s with rock stars already cross-dressing and baby boomers rejecting many of the strict morals handed down by older generations. If you’re not following me on this, check out the flower children from The Summer of Love that gradually morphed into the hippies of The Woodstock Generation.
In 1971 the Alice Cooper band hit the scene with I’m Eighteen. And when they made the scene in concerts and television appearances, their makeup and clothes made them look like poster boys for walk of shame partiers the morning after a wild night in a glam bar. A year later Bowie kicked the movement up notch releasing Ziggy Stardust and touring North America looking like… well, nothing we’d ever seen before.
It wasn’t long until a new wave of bands sported glitter makeup, silk flairs and platform shoes. And that wave included the dudes in Mott The Hoople.
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I definitely wasn’t wearing makeup in 1972, or anytime before, during or after the “glam period” of rock ‘n’ roll. So at least I have that going for me… ha! But the flairs on my trousers were pretty wide and would have picked up every speck of dust and glitter from dragging across floors if not for the high-heeled shoes a lot of us dudes were balancing on. Those long-gone fashion statements (thankfully) only exist now in old photos and memories, which is also how All The Young Dudes made it onto this Dream Song List.
Of course I own a copy on my current digital collection, but hadn’t included it on a recent playlist. So carry the news that this one has glammed its way into the subliminal category.
I’ve always loved the song, but by 1972 buying single (45 rpm vinyl) records had been replaced by album collections. And to reemphasize the constraints of being a college student on a budget during that era, Mott The Hoople lost out to LPs by Bowie, Alice Cooper and few others. So the first version of All The Young Dudes I owned was by the originator on his 1974 album, David Live.
So again, was it actually written for Mott The Hoople? Bowie seemed to like it an awful lot himself…
Though I don’t have any specific memories for this song, I have a slight one that involved the lead Hoople himself, Ian Hunter.
As mentioned in a few past Classic Rocker ramblings, during the mid 1980’s we’d occasionally hang out at a legendary NYC music club called Tramps. To add a little bit of specificity (an awkward, but fitting word) to this tale, our night of choice was usually a Monday. The weekend partiers were tucked away somewhere recovering from Fridays and Saturdays, so we never had to worry about an overcrowded scene. We’d have plenty of room at the bar or grab a table in the back to watch the night’s jam session.
The Monday night resident band – a loosely knit group of blues and rock musicians – was called The Bullies. One of my best pals was the semi-regular piano man and the main reason why Tramps became our semi-regular destination.
One Monday afternoon he called and said Ian Hunter was planning to come in and jam for a few songs. Since that would be a definite celebrity moment for any rock fan, our core group met up and headed for Tramps.
The band stomped out a few classic twelve bar blues and three chord rock ‘n’ roll classics and when they took a break, Ian Hunter walked into the room. And though he probably stopped wearing silk flairs and platform shoes a decade before, there was no mistaking who he was. But instead of plugging in a guitar, he sat down at the piano, which meant my best pal was relegated to sitting at the table with us during the next session.
I remember giving him a few digs about Hunter not wanting to jam with a commoner, but it didn’t faze him at all. We thought it was cool to hear some classic rock and blues from a great group of musicians that happened to feature Ian Hunter, which was the main reason we hung out on Monday nights while the real commoners were still recovering from weekend cover charges and drink minimums.
I don’t remember having a specific conversation with Hunter after they finished the set. My pal may have talked with him about keyboards, but that would have been it. But that’s the beauty of NYC. On a Monday off-night he was just another talented musician hanging out in a local music club with a group of music fans.
Except in the back of my mind I’m sure I was replaying the Mott The Hoople version of All The Young Dudes.
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Here’s a video with Ian Hunter and Mott The Hoople doing a glam lip sync of All The Young Dudes.
To purchase The Essential Mott The Hoople with All The Young Dudes visit Amazon
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