This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #167: All The Young Dudes by Mott the Hoople.
The story of “All The Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople is really a story of two songs and their intersection at a transitional moment in Music History. In order to appreciate the significance of “All The Young Dudes”, we must travel back a dozen posts or so, to a song called, “Starman” and an album called, “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars” by David Bowie. *(which you can read here). It was just as this album was coming together that the story of “All The Young Dudes” really begins. So, make yourself comfortable. Here is the story of the song that critics and fans, alike, refer to as the “Glam Rock anthem”…..”All The Young Dudes”.
You may recall that, when David Bowie was in the studio recording the songs for “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”, he was, also, at the very same time, putting together a second album called, “Hunky Dory”. It was a very productive and prolific time in his career, when it came to churning out great songs. It was, also, an exciting time for people like Bowie to be a musician in the UK. Social conventions were falling by the wayside and social change was afoot; especially, when it came to gender roles and sexual identity. What ended up making the song, “Starman” such a impactful hit was the moment David Bowie appeared on the TV show, “Top of the Pops” in full Glam Rock regalia; spiky hair dyed bright orange, fingernail polish, flashy jumpsuit, openly flirting with guitarist Mick Ronson on stage and so on. Bowie’s image on “Top of the Pops” helped launch a whole new wave of personal expression through the UK music scene. Music journalists coined the new movement as “Glam Rock”.
While David Bowie was in the process of first becoming a star of note in the UK, the band, Mott the Hoople, was busily slogging their way through endless tours across England, Europe and North America; desperately trying to promote their first three albums. As it was, Mott the Hoople became what is a known as, a “cult favourite”; which means that they had a small and devoted fan base but not large enough of a following to make them commercially viable as a band. So it was that, just as David Bowie found himself in the studio working of “Ziggy Stardust”, the news broke that Mott the Hoople were calling it a career and breaking up.
This is where fate resides. David Bowie was a member of Mott the Hoople’s “cult following” and when he heard the news that they were retiring, he felt a great sense of loss. But, instead of simply mourining his loss, he decided to try and do something about it. So, he contacted the lead singer of Mott the Hoople, Ian Hunter and asked if he would like to record one of the songs that Bowie had written, himself. The song that Bowie offered Mott the Hoople was called, “Suffragette City”. The band listened to Bowie play that song but decided that it wasn’t really something that suited their song catalogue and so, they declined Bowie’s offer. Undaunted, Bowie pulled out an acoustic guitar, sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the band and played them a second song that he called, “All The Young Dudes”. At that moment, Bowie had been considering “All The Young Dudes” for inclusion on his “Ziggy Stardust” album but, because he so desperately wanted Mott the Hoople to stay together, he sang that song for them. To a person, each member of Mott the Hoople who listened to David Bowie that day all swear that they knew this song was a hit, right from the opening notes. None of them could believe that Bowie would so easily relinquish a sure hit to a “washed up bunch of hasbeens” like them. But, he did. Without having to think too much about it, Mott the Hoople jumped at the chance to record the song. David Bowie offered to produce it for them and even played saxophone on it and provided some hand clapping, to boot.
The song, itself, is an ode to the new types of people who were to become so closely associated with the Glam Rock movement. It was about fashion and sexual fluidity and bold personal, self-expression and much more. “All The Young Dudes” was a clarion call to all those disaffected youth who were searching for somewhere to call home. It was a demographic that bands like The Smiths would so emphatically embrace a decade and a bit into the future. Singer Lou Reed even went so far as to declare that “All The Young Dudes”, along with being a Glam Rock anthem, was also a “Gay Rights” anthem, too. He said that the song validated the existence of an entire social class of people who, up until that moment in time, had largely been overlooked and under represented in music and as part of the larger, societal tapestry.
The video that I will play for this song is one that is not exactly just Mott the Hoople in concert. This video shows the song being played at the Freddy Mercury Tribute Concert that was held at Wembley Stadium in memory of the Queen frontman who had passed away but who, when alive, often embodied the ideals of the Glam Rock movement better than anyone else. But, what really becomes clear in this video (and, by extension, through other music posts in this countdown) is what a generous man David Bowie actually was. Not only did he singlehandedly revive the career of Mott The Hoople by giving away a sure hit song but, as we have seen, he was equally generous to the likes of Iggy Pop and others, too. But, not only that, as this particular video will show, David Bowie was ego-free, in the sense of allowing others their moment in the spotlight. On this stage at Wembley Stadium, he steps back and allows a man with a lesser singing voice, the centre microphone to sing a song of his, as the showstopper finale to the entire concert. A bigger ego that his would have seen him hogging the spotlight. But, Bowie was cut from a different cloth, for sure and we are all the better for it as a result.
So, without further delay, here is an all-star cast that included David Bowie, Mick Ronson, Mott the Hoople (lead by Ian Hunter), Def Leppard and members of Queen, all singing “All The Young Dudes” to an adoring crowd at Wembley Stadium. Excellent stuff, this! Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “All The Young Dudes” by Mott the Hoople, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Mott the Hoople, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.