Hunter - Ronson: Not The Hoople
08 May 1975
By Barbara Charrone
LONDON - 'Fucking tremendous,' Ian Hunter mumbled into Mick Ronson's right ear as his first solo album blasted out of the speakers. The former leader of Mott the Hoople and the one - time guitarist for David Bowie were in the same studio where Hunter had arranged Mott and The Hoople. 'I've never relied on anybody before,' Hunter reflected. 'People always relied on me, which made them lazy. Now Mick and I rely on each other.'
Five floors above the everyday chaos of Oxford Street, Hunter and Ronson were putting the finishing touches on Ian Hunter. Written by Hunter and arranged by Ronson, assisted by former if drummer Dennis Elliott, Jeff Appleby, bassist of Ronson's original group, the Rats, and keyboard player Pete Arnesen, the album's nine songs will be heard during the Hunter/Ronson Band's two - month American tour this April and May.
'I was changing, Mick was changing and he was changing me,' Hunter said. 'Originally I thought this would be a transitional album, but it's got an identity of its own. That's why we threw out tracks that sounded like the past.'
Mott's problems began when original guitarist Mick Ralphs left to join Bad Company. To Hunter, replacement Ariel Bender proved 'a great mate, but he wasn't the right guitarist for Mott.' Ego may have also been an issue, since Bender had been quoted as saying that he wanted 'to take the limelight away from Hunter.' The situation came to a head when Bender was fired after efforts at recording a sequel to The Hoople broke down.
'Mott had always been a big guitar band, but on The Hoople album I deliberately wrote away from guitar, which was difficult. Everything was leaning towards me.' Hunter, in black leather trousers and shades, shuddered at the thought. 'I was writing more lyrics to fill the album while the singing became too stylized. I was subconsciously working my way towards the end of the band.
'When Mick joined, I felt like a new member, suddenly seeing things through his eyes. I wasn't keen on firing people. We had to come up with something new to continue, but I wasn't getting any cooperation. I was bored with us, bored with the name. It was all over for Mott and people were hanging on just for the money. Suddenly everything went haywire.'
Ronson, who'd seemingly stabilized the group after leaving David Bowie to join Mott for last autumn's successful European tour, intervened softly. 'I didn't join Mott to break up the band. I wanted to get back into a band situation with another front man. Mott was just what I wanted.'
But Mott was not to be. The closing chapter came just after the European tour. Two days before the group was to begin a sold-out British concert series, Hunter suffered a nervous breakdown in New York, where half of Mott's Live a1bum had been recorded. That tour and an anticipated American swing were canceled, and the band broke up.
It's the standard of pressure that finally gets to you,' Hunter said, commenting on his collapse. 'People reach a certain level and they get scared of losing it. Afraid everything will disappear. The danger of clinging on to what you've got scared me.'
Hunter survived the breakdown, emerging quietly in January with plans for his new project. Meanwhile the other Mott members - drummer Dale 'Buffin' Griffin, bassist Pete 'Overend' Watts and keyboardist Morgan Fisher, decided to stay together. Calling themselves 'Mott,' they have recruited Ray Smith as their guitarist, and will record an album, possibly at Ronnie Lane's Clearwell Castle, as soon as they find the right lead singer. With Watts writing most of the songs, their album probably will resemble early, hard-rocking efforts like Mott the Hoople.
Hunter seemed more than content with his situation. 'My parents rang up after the band split and said, 'That's too bad, son; We suppose you'll do all right.' ' is voice rose as he recalled their underestimation. 'All right? I'm gonna do even better! This album makes me feel confident because I really went off the track for a while. I was scared to hell I'd never write again.'
Yet he has, writing all the songs (Ronson coauthored 'Boy') and playing rhythm guitar on the new album. The songs, rockers and emotional ballads, seem to channel personal fears and insecurities into a positive sound. Ronson's arranging seems to complement Hunter's wry lyrics, and Hunter is obviously happy with his new band.
'The drummer has been the surprise', Hunter said, speaking of Elliott. 'That's why the album is much more rhythmic'. Kicking out a hard-driving tempo with his boot heel, Hunter, perhaps forgetting that he'd welcomed Bender with much the same assessment, said that his 'new mate' is 'a right cocky bastard and I love arrogance. I swore I'd get a swing drummer if I left Mott. I'm sorry if I sound like a cocky bastard at the moment', Hunter apologized as he rose to finish a final mix. 'But I love this album.'