PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Reviews

'The Ballad of Mott The Hoople' Is for Those Who Love Mott the Hoople With All Their Might

There’s something missing from this story; there’s an insularity about the film that renders it just a notch or two above pure reminiscence.


The Ballad Of Mott The Hoople

Distributor: Cargo Records
Cast: Ian Hunter, Mick Jones, Mick Ralphs, Dale Griffin, Verden Allen, Morgan Fisher, Luther Grosvenor
Directors: Chris Hall and Mike Kerry
Rated: NR
Release date: 2011-11-08

Those who love Mott The Hoople love Mott The Hoople with all their might. This film is for them. Chris Hall and Mike Kerry’s documentary takes us back to the time before there was a Mott, describing how The Buddies and The Soulents merged to create a new entity, how the group came to the attention of mercurial producer Guy Stevens and how the rest became the ballad of Mott The Hoople.

It was Stevens who suggested that then-vocalist Stan Tippins get the ol’ heave-ho. Enter Ian Hunter (a few years older than the other lads) and enter one of the most interesting eras in British rock music. Stevens, more a cheerleader and catalyst than an actual producer, oversaw the sessions for several of the band’s early albums, including the dark Mad Shadows (1970) and the 1971 classic Brain Capers, and the memories shared of him her mostly carry a waft of kindness that the passing of time often brings.

But the studio was not really where the band thrived. The place to really hear Mott The Hoople was the stage (Clash guitarist Mick Jones was an early convert, and he testifies with enthusiasm to Hunter and Co.’s live prowess). The group’s records sold slowly and no one could really seem to settle on a direction early on. By early 1972 the group decided to pack it in.

Enter David Bowie who convinced the band that they should soldier on; he also gave the band its biggest hit, “All The Young Dudes”, and produced the 1972 album of the same name. Success saw a rift grow in the ranks resulting in the departure of Mick Ralphs (who went on to form Bad Company) and Hunter’s ascent to leader of the band.

From there, the end came rather quickly, amid the strains of touring and band politics; no one seemed a good fit after Ralphs (ex-Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson apparently refused to speak to other members of the band) and thus the end came perhaps sooner than anyone expected. What isn’t told in the film is how the group attempted to soldier on without Hunter under the name Mott, then as British Lions. Those years were tough in every sense of the word but their absence and the absence of Hunter’s lucrative solo career is a bit of a letdown.

But the story’s told with an unflinching honesty by the band members and a few who worked for the band (fan club president Kris Needs, for one) and a few friends (the aforementioned Mick Jones and Queen’s Roger Taylor) and if the filmmakers don’t quite strike the proper balance between rising and falling action or manage to maintain a healthy sense of distance from the subject, we understand the importance of the story all the same.

More than an hour of bonus material can be found on this single-disc set, including the story of Hunter’s visit to Graceland, a tour of several old Mott haunts, Jones discussing Guy Stevens in more detail, and 2009 footage of the group performing at the Hammersmith Apollo with the classic lineup intact. An impressive-enough 12-page booklet with notes by Morrissey and a few souvenirs round out the package.

It’s easy to feel that there’s something missing from the story; there’s an insularity about the film that renders it just a notch or two above pure reminiscence but that doesn’t account for the somewhat empty feeling that arrives once the credits roll. Maybe it’s that the real story happened so fast and that Hall and Kerry feel as though they have match pace. That’s too bad because the film could have sparked some new interest in this band. Instead, it’s a souvenir for fans, both deep and shallow, and little more.

5

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Is Carl Nevill's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.