Podcast Transcript

Welcome to the “Takin a Walk” podcast with your host, Buzz Knight.

Buzz gets the inside scoop from musicians who’ve created the soundtrack of our lives. On this episode, a British icon who created music history with Mott the Hoople

Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Ian Hunter is next on “Takin a Walk.” – Ian Hunter, welcome to a virtual edition. We’re gonna take a walk down memory lane here on the “Takin a Walk” podcast.

And we’re gonna talk about defiance Part two and many other things, but thank you for being on, sir. Oh, you’re very welcome. It’s a privilege, thank you. Did you know you’re never alone with a Schizophrenic?

That was Ronson’s title. He found it on a toilet wall. Is that right? I had to give him a half a track to get that title. Yeah, I gave him half for Just Another Night,

which was a song on my album. Another great – Great one, yeah. – Yeah, he was gonna make another record. He said, “No, no, I’m keeping this.” And I’m like, “No, I’ve got to have that. “I’ve got to have that.” So in the end,

we came to an agreement. – That’s wonderful. What inspired you to pursue a career in music? And tell me about the earliest influences, Ian. – Oh, I was right at the beginning,

you know, Fast, Storm and all this and all that, I was, what, 15, and then I heard the Johnny Lewis, who was crazy,

you know, and we were living in a country that had just come off Russian books, the Second World War and it was pretty, you know, boring and people were looking for excitement and all of a sudden,

you know, a little Richard Chuck Berry and all this stuff coming out of the space and we were like well this is something you know and well I was a fan you know it was jukeboxes and stuff like that I never thought I’d have it be in bands or anything like that I just I was just a huge fan of rock ‘n ‘roll music.

When did you know though that this was gonna be a career? I really didn’t I mean I sort of got into semi -pro pro bands, Randall Thampton,

I was a bass player and somehow wound up in London. It was very difficult to get into London in those days because everything was twice as expensive. If you’re coming from a factory in the sticks,

an orange costs a shilling in start of suspense, it’s very hard to get into London. So it took a long time. I wound up with a I call Freddy Fingers Leigh. It was the color of the English equivalent of Jerry Leigh.

And with Fred, I went, you know, we do German clubs. And I started to think more like a musician than a fan. You know, I thought maybe I could make a living out of this.

And that’s how it sort of came into being, you know, over a few years. Ian, can you share a bit about your songwriting process? How do you typically approach the crafting of a brand -new song?

I think every writer, well, it’s hard to say. Sometimes it’s kind of like a comedian, somebody says something, and you pick up on it where nobody else does.

Sometimes it comes in out of, you wake up with it in the morning, you know. I can’t really explain it to you, it’s, that’s why a lot of people don’t write songs.

And some do, it’s kind of like comedians, you know, they get the jokes, other people don’t. It is being in a certain zone though to have that creative process, is that right? I don’t know,

because it kind of grew on me, you know, when I joined Mark, I wasn’t even a songwriter, they, they had Mick and Pete Watts and they were the songwriters but Pete was more concerned with models at the time so I mean the way we used to rehearse they would get there about three in the afternoon I was there ten in the morning because I was trying out all these instruments and stuff and as I tried out these

instruments songs started coming you know and I tried them out in front of the band and some sometimes they fed you and times they said no and slowly I sort of became this McGrawson and I became this all -wise -and -not band.

You know throughout your entire career you’ve been part of different bands and collaborations. Tell me how difficult at times it can be to navigate the the dynamics of working with all different types of musicians.

You just, With me, it had to be exciting. It had to be people I liked But I had to be crazy and my was crazy and I did like them I don’t say like me because I was like I wasn’t the hero for Matthew,

you know But we got an okay, and then I every band ever since it’s always been this has got to be fun This has got to be camaraderie. This hasn’t got to be I’m not,

I can’t take sitting on the bus, listening to a bee, we just did. It’s just the excitement, the original excitement I felt with Jerry Lee and those people. I guess that’s what I was looking for,

you know. And in Mark, they wound up creating that kind of excitement too. You know, I’m a pleasure to go crazy without riots and stuff. And they were good riots,

not bad ones. Do you ever remember one of those shows that Sticks in your head cuz oh, yeah, either because of the fan reaction or something,

but that did something went awry Mother the Maltz fans were kind of like Maltz fans and that was it It was like a tribe that followed you all over, you know, I mean they would go anywhere you went and So I can remember gigs you know where they were all on stage and they were all singing and we tried to make a live album and that was a disaster because everybody go on stage and the cables went but they were kind

of a new castle yeah a new castle they brought dogs out which was not a clever thing to do because they thought it was a nasty riot you know man and it wasn’t it was it was a happy riot it’s a spun and that was what we were How do you balance diverse influences while being true to,

you know, what your unique sound is? Well, what happened was, I somehow wound up as a singer, which I wasn’t, you know, I was a bass player. Maybe I was to sing harmonies and stuff.

And moreover, you know, Guy Stevens was like looking for me to get off the piano and get in the middle of the stage and sing. And around that same time,

like everybody else, Bob Dylan affected me a lot, you know. And so I started doing that phrase sort of singing, which is what non -singers do.

J .I .G. is an amazing phrase, you know. And Dylan’s a past master. And I just kind of copied Dylan for a couple of years until until it got silly, you know,

so I started after, you know, you develop your own thing out of that. I love, Bob got silly? What happened? No,

no, I mean, it was just, when I had Bob Dylan, I mean this guy, I don’t know what he’s talking about, but it’s right, it’s absolutely right,

how he’s doing it is right. And Sully Bonner was another one, you know, Soviet Shura. He was another one. He couldn’t have served him that great, but he came across, he had big number one.

You know, I got U -Baves starts like that. I thought that’s the route I’m gonna have to go, you know, because I’m not for watches, you know. – I mean, your lyrics touch on the themes of rebellion and society and personal experiences.

So going back to Bob Dylan for a second he obviously had some impact as he wrote about rebellion as well right? It wasn’t so much that it was it was the way he was singing.

I was English so therefore I didn’t really understand a lot of what he was talking about you know and I probably just still don’t but it was just right it was just so right you know and I,

you know, I copped off him. Eventually, you know, you develop into your own thing. I guess modern singers, you know, they start off with some, they get influenced.

Everybody gets influenced initially, you know, and then you sort of wade through it and come at yourself eventually. Did you ever have the opportunity to run into Bob and tell him about the impact he made on you?

Yeah, I’ve met him a couple of times. I mean, oh, you know, sorry, but he’s great. He’s really nice. I mean, what are you gonna do? Did you get the cold fish handshake?

Oh, I can’t remember. It’s been a while. No, but he does stand the street in in the village one night. One foot on the road and one for on the pavement.

He knew we were love and start. I remember at the time said on Bob’s new album, he’s trying to say like Mark the Hooper. So it was all fun. You know, it’s all you know just for fun.

Can you tell me about the first time that you met David Bowie? Yeah, it was Guilford Civic Hall, a gig just outside London. And what had happened Because we’d split up,

we’d been in gas tanks in Switzerland for Ireland records and we didn’t like them, there were two records, so we decided this is enough. We hadn’t had a hit record, we’d been going a couple of years.

So Pete Watts, the bass player, rang up David to a gig because David was at that time forming his band. And David said, “Well, you’re in Mott, you know, and Pete said, “No, we’ve split.” And then David said,

So we can’t do that, you know, it turned out that they would like to ban the lot. And so he came to see us at Guilford. That was the first night I met him. And I wound up in a limo with him afterwards,

and Angie, and Angie whispered to me in the back of the limo, he took him four hours to get ready. (laughing) – That’s great.

– And then from then on, now and we still on Island Records and we’re just doing a tour and flowers in the dressing room every night and these people from Ireland, you know,

Johnny Glover, Alec Rosley, they were going, “Well, there were really flowers for every night,” you know. But what was happening was the beginning of, you know, our time with Columbia and De Fries and David,

you know. Did he offer you Suffragette City? Is that correct? Yeah. You know, we’d had a couple of singles out and they’d been on the BBC and they hadn’t been hit.

Well, when you have a couple of singles in the main list, from then on in, you’re not going to be on the BBC unless it’s something extremely special. We were writing good stuff, but we knew the BBC wouldn’t play it.

And the stuff of that city was good, but we knew they wouldn’t play it. It wasn’t good enough. So then he sits down in an office in Wage of the Straight and plays all the young dudes too. It was all acoustic guitar And that was a whole different kettle of fish,

you know, that was we can do this And this can be huge, you know, I have chills just thinking about that moment Yeah, I remember sitting there thinking one I can sing it,

you know, cuz subs like I bluesy stuff stuff like that, I’m not good at. The first thing was I knew I could sing it and the second thing was this is an hit. I mean, you know, it’s kind of neat being behind a hit before it’s even recorded.

It’s just a song and it’s so strong. – And what’s amazing about it, Ian, is how it has stood the test of time. – Yeah, we’re still talking about it. We,

I’m not to the great nobody. You know, we improved it. We We didn’t just sit and do it, you know, we improved all that, and he was there and he was helping out and doing what David did, you know, he taught us a lot,

you know, because we didn’t really know much about the studio with Guy Steenins, our previous producers. David knew how to work the room, you know, just, you know,

the buttons. What do you think of how he constantly reinvented himself, and has that inspired your reinvention as you have reinvented through your career?

No, no, I think David was a performance artist who played a part of a rock and roll singer and did it extremely well, you know,

funk, whatever you want to talk about, the stages he went through, he was a performance artist, that’s where he came from, Lindsay Gemp. Stuff like that.

So he was, you know, he had that role for that while. You know what I mean? Yep. The Ziggy role. And then he ran out to other things. I think DeFerrice was molding him in the Elvis.

You know, DeFerrice’s idol was Colonel Tom Barker. DeFerrice was Tony, was John’s, was a David’s manager. And I think that’s that’s what DeFries wanted.

He wanted David to be Elvis or two. You know, we’re living in a divided society, obviously, yet I’m constantly amazed at how music is this one thing people can generally agree upon.

Do you agree with that fact in the world today that that’s really the one thing people can agree on? Football, music and football.

I see football, you know what I mean? Two teams. Yep. Somebody’s going to win, somebody’s going to lose. I’m 60 ,000 people who don’t really know that much about it. Right. It’s screaming from the blue mountain,

you know. Yeah. But as we move to talk about Defiance part two, What’s your take on the rest of the world?

Well, I’m in a bit of a mess, you know. I tried to avoid it on part one. It kind of caught up with me on part two. However, you know, we live in an hysterical country,

so hopefully it won’t turn out as bad as everybody predicts. I just have an opinion like everybody else. I try not be the didactic and all that kind of stuff but sometimes it leaks you know and it’s for that this I was a bit dense you know it’s been done something the first one and I think the next one will be a little lighter this one’s a pretty political can you talk about some of the folks that you

collaborated with in both defiance part one and part two – Yeah, sure, who? – Well, how about Jeff Beck for starters? – Well, you know,

I was Johnny Depp. John was working with Jeff. And I, now John stood at Walnut, and he likes what I do. So he said,

you know, I’m over here with Jeff. Do you want me to do something with Jeff? And so he sent him two tracks. And Jeff played on both of them,

you know. He played on the third rail on part two. And it was Jeff. I mean, it was like, for me, he was a ’60s god. You know, we came through in the ’70s.

So we looked up to those guys, you know, like the Beatles and the Stones and the whole, you know. So to have Jeff back on your album, for me, is a personal win, no matter what.

Plus, he played great. great and plus sometimes he would do things and then he would not let him go because he didn’t think his performance was good enough fortunately and both tracks he he was fine he passed him you know he okayed him and his lawyers said the third rail which is on part two is the last thing he ever did it’s amazing not this way his manager yeah how about Robin Zander well I’ve known them for a

long time, on and off bigs here and there, you know, Rick and Robin and stuff, great guys and they’re proper rock and roll, you know, and it’s a privilege.

But a lot of these bigs, it’s a whole privilege, you know, stone temple, those guys, it’s gentlemen, you know, and intelligence, and you’ve got to send the right kind of studio to the right kind of people,

it’s in their area, you know what I mean, like Mike Campbell, it was perfect for him and Ringo on Better Roses on the first, you know, you knew that track was 117 and I’m sitting there with Andy York,

I said that’s certainly the Ringo for fun, you know, and Ringo was like if I like the song I’ll do it, if I don’t like the song I won’t, and even four days later we got it back and it was done, you know, and Mike Campbell then takes it and makes it even better,

you know, as without the zoom it’s still a great it’s good it’s still a great father and you you were part of Ringo Starr’s all -star band at one point right yeah we went out we did the tour yeah who was part of that group at that time I can’t remember the lines Sheila Sheila A was on the drums Sheila tried to make him do a drum solo that was fun well But I want to ask the question differently about that.

So tell me about your connection with Ringo Starr and ultimately playing with him in the All -Star Band. I just got a phone call. I came home from wherever I’d been one day and it was on the answering machine.

All the way in this Ringo, you know, I had your fax to go another tour. And I was like, whoa, You get the chills when I beat all of your aunts from a machine, and so I went, you know, and it was great.

It was just fun. Greg Lake, I became a fan of Greg Lake on that tour. He was my mate, you know. He was a lovely Greg Lake player,

you know, King Crimson and then ELP. The ELP I wanted to see on the King Crimson was amazing. We opened for them early on in March and they were, they were threatening. Tell me about the period of time when Queen had first come to the States and Queen and Mott Toward what were your memories of that early period?

Well, there was great fun because I became it became one big band, you know and Fred being Fred was hilarious He’d walk up and down backstage going why don’t these silly bastards get Yeah,

so it’s going to take a couple of times and this is a big country, you know And it’s taken that long But they were characters all of them. You know, I really like those guys and I still sort of bride and wudgy,

you know But we’re Joe we can work out different continents, but I still talk to them and they’re still lovely It’s normal chaps. I love it It was like a nine -piece Then people found on the road when they were opening for us,

you know. And then we got to Washington, yeah, we were staying in that Nixon Hotel, what was it, the white, oh, I don’t know. Oh, Watergate.

Yeah, we were staying at the Watergate, that was it, you know. And Brian came down with something bad, they had to get him on and playing quick. And so that was the end of it, but we’d done a British tour,

I mean we were halfway through the American tour and that’s when they had to go and I think we had candles or somebody like that came in in that form but they went through the roof really quick you know a tread was so outrageous on one but I have to say they were so they were watching us every night because I don’t think they’d quite got their staging together they they got their music together but well they’ll

Many of themselves, they were watching us every night. – Are you considering going out on an acoustic tour? – I might, you know, I don’t know. When you’re my age,

you know, things come up, you have to be careful what you’re doing. It’s in the works, you know, I had to cancel off once because of sickness in the family. And I do have tinnitus,

which a lot of people have on car, I used to it. But there’s no real cure for it and then if I commit and then Can’t do it and a lot of travelers get very upset with you You know cuz they it’s expensive nowadays you get out of playing if I’m playing New York they’ll come from England I don’t want them to plug through that.

You know, that’s a hotel at their fairs and then the gig itself. I Want to make sure that I’m absolutely fit before I go for it. Yeah, and it would be acoustic, you know, Q &A acoustic. And there’d be one other mandatory aspect,

I’m sure it would have to be fun for you. Oh, it would be fun. I got it up for good. This isn’t going to be a serious play I’ve been inside from 1948. It’s not going to be like that at all.

I’d want to have fun, you know. Do you have any advice that you’d give to aspiring musicians looking to carve their own path out in the industry? Well Dylan said to me,

you know what I like about you? And I said, what? He said, you hang in. And all these years later, that would be my voice. You hang in. It’s another business where success comes quickly or easily.

I guess like a lot of other things, you know. And there’s a lot of ups and there’s a lot of downs. And you just have to Keep going if that’s what’s inside you to that extent, you know,

you just have to hang in and sooner or later the phone will lose Do you still approach the days where you yearn to learn something brand new? Oh,

yeah That’s my whole thing Yeah, I mean I’m already on the next Once it’s done. It’s done. It was that’s it, you know – Is there anything you’d like to learn that you haven’t learned?

– Oh yeah, sure, I’m out of factories. I’m not a genius. The stuff I don’t know is enormous, but then again, yeah, I’ll join the club. – Are there some people that you’d like to collaborate with that you have not collaborated with?

– You know, loads of people. My heroes, like Chuck Berry and Little Richard and Jerry And I wouldn’t want to work with Jerry Lee. He was difficult.

I remember him playing the ritz in New York and his band didn’t even go to the dressing room. They got off the front of the stage and mingled with the audience. I wouldn’t have wanted to be part of that.

And how about any new music you’ve discovered by maybe artists we haven’t heard of that you’d like to bring to our attention. I don’t do that boss.

I never do. I just write, you know, stuff that comes in in my hand. I don’t listen. I’ve been doing this for what, 15 years or something? If you’re in an ice cream factory for 15 years you ain’t sipping ice cream anymore,

we aren’t. I do it because, you know, I like writing songs and, you know, the next song hopefully is going to be different or what? That’s fly them.

Congratulations Ian on Defiance part two and it’s so great to have taken a walk down memory lane with you and thank you for all the great music that you continue to give us sir.

Oh you’re very welcome. And thanks for being on Taken a Walk. Thanks for having me. Thanks for having me. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Taken a Walk podcast.

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About The Author

Buzz Knight

Buzz Knight is an established media executive with a long history of content creation and multi-platform distribution.

After a successful career as a Radio Executive, he formed Buzz Knight Media which focuses on strategic guidance and the development of new original content.