Oct 17th, 2015, 02:04 PM

The Greatest Band You've Never Heard Of

By Sam Baird
Mott the Hoople
The music world needs a re-examination of the importance of Seventies glam band Mott the Hoople.

Another year has passed marked by birthdays, weddings, divorces, taxes, deaths -- and, of course, the release of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominees

As always, the list includes some superb artists who absolutely deserve a place in the hall, as well as some bizarre choices (Janet Jackson…?). The criteria for eligibility include rules such as this one: 25 years must have passed since the release of an artist’s first album. More generally, they must have contributed to the development and perpetuation of rock & roll. The nominees from this year’s list have been real trend setters and are high water marks in the art form: Cheap Trick, The Cars, Deep Purple, Steve Miller, and The Smiths.

But there are so many artists that aren’t even getting nominated that are more deserving than anyone on this list -- artists that created some of the best music of the 20th century and shaped people’s lives and the trajectory of the rock genre. This could include dozens (for example Warren Zevon, Harry Nilsson, and Electric Light Orchestra). But for this writer, one rises above the rest: Mott the Hoople.

The glam rock scene in the UK in the 1970s is embarrassingly underrepresented in the hall -- with David Bowie the only real figure in that genre -- even though glam helped shape rock music for the next forty years with its mix of showmanship, songwriting, and exposure of social issues. It also just rocked really, really hard. There are a number of deserving bands, from Slade and Roxy Music to the mighty T. Rex. But none is more deserving than Mott the Hoople.

Formed in 1969 in Herefordshire, England, Mott the Hoople had been building a small but passionate cult following in their home country and elsewhere in Europe for a few years. However, in 1972 after the release of four albums of mediocre to limited success and a depressing tour, they were about to split. Luckily, their biggest fan happened to be the reigning king of glam: David Bowie. After hearing they were going to break up, Bowie urged them to stay together, offering them his not yet released song ‘Suffragette City’. They turned it down, saying it didn't really sound like them. He went back to the drawing board and returned with a new offer. A strangely downtrodden tune called ‘All The Young Dudes’. They accepted, and this was the result:

Mott the Hoople All The Young Dudes

"Is there concrete all around, or is it in my head?"

 Good thing they did, because it turned out to be their most famous tune -- and the disillusioned anthem of a generation. The album of the same name was a huge success. Mott the Hoople went on to release two even more successful albums in the following two years, and a string of hit singles. In 1974, they went on a U.S. tour, becoming the first band to ever play a Broadway theatre in New York. And they were the only band ever to have Queen as an opening act.

Mott The Hoople, 1971

The honeymoon was short lived however. Lead guitarist Mick Ralphs got antsy and left the band to form the hugely popular super-group, Bad Company. Lead singer, song writer, and warrior-poet, Ian Hunter, lead the band for another year, but left as well to start a now legendary solo career (still putting on the best shows you can pay money for). Though the remaining members stayed together in various incarnations over the next few years, Hunter's departure marked the end.

In this writer’s opinion, Mott the Hoople are the distillation of the term ‘Rock & Roll'. With their heavy mix of cynicism, sensitivity, and stream of consciousness ambiguity, they epitomize the essence of the genre. They played the the apathetic foil to the hippie movement’s optimism. You can see their influence through the decades in genres from punk to pop. And with two albums in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the greatest albums of all time, a still passionate legion of fans, and a catalogue of music that refuses to lose its spark, their place in rock history is set and it’s time to induct them into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

mott saturday gigs

Their final single, a nostalgic recount of the band's history.

 (Photos: Michael Putland/Getty Images)