As British institutions go, few have the character and soul of Mott The Hoople. Theirs is a convoluted and uncommon history, and one that is well worth re-discovering.
They started out as humble Hereford lads, talented but hardly Soho-hardened like their late 1960s contemporaries, working hard to get their chops up to standard and to achieve their early breaks.
This they did, modestly, through a combination of raw bluesy talent and the maverick machinations of their brilliant but highly eccentric producer and mentor, the late Guy Stevens.
He set them up for a five-year career that would become peppered with false starts, false stops, a superstar intervention from a 25-year-old Ziggy Stardust – and eventually a string of timeless glam rock anthems.
Their ultimate influence was felt by the likes of Mick Jones from The Clash, whose fandom is clear from his enthusiastic comments in this feature-length documentary. But just as plain is Ian Hunter’s brilliantly critical eye on what he and his band were going through in their day.
The more ludicrous aspects of life as a 70s superstar frontman are clearly laid out in his classic book ‘Diary of a Rock’n’Roll Star’ (a tome which Morrissey once asked to be photocopied and faxed to him, page by page) and it could be argued that Mott’s story has already been related eloquently enough in the autobiographical 1973 B-side, ‘Ballad of Mott The Hoople (26 March 1972 – Zurich)’.
But no matter how familar you may be with part or all of the Mott yarn, it’s all worth hearing again: particularly when told as entertainingly and straightforwardly as this.
Neatly pieced together, with enough archive footage and images to keep the most ardent Mott fans happy (the clips of Bowie and Mott onstage together in 1972 are a cracking new find), the 100 minutes of this movie fly by at a sensible pace.
And, just as with any successful documentary, you’ll walk away with new feelings for the key players. Pouring out of the screen, in this case, is Mott The Hoople’s abundant likeability and honesty of intent. They recognise their mistakes – but, with the benefit of some decades of hindsight, it’s clear they’re happy with their legacy too. Nice blokes.
Their final single, ‘Saturday Gigs’, was an inspiring but melancholy swansong. So it’s great that they got back for a last hurrah at Hammersmith Odeon a couple years ago.
Mott The Hoople’s 2009 reunion shows remain some of the best rock’n’roll shows seen this century. Ask anybody who was there.
Better still, ask writer and early Mott fan club organiser Kris Needs, who points out close to the end of this movie that Kaiser Chiefs have now been together for about five years – the same length as Mott were in existence. But, really. Who cares about them?