Ian Hunter is the main singer and also plays piano and guitar in the band.
We were experiencing financial losses and Island Records was becoming impatient with our situation. They arranged for us to perform at the Gaskessel in Berne, Switzerland, which is essentially a gas storage tank. We were feeling extremely frustrated and decided to part ways, but surprisingly had a wonderful time on our journey home without any tension or stress.
Pete Overend Watts, our bassist, reached out to David Bowie for a potential bass-playing gig as David was assembling his band. Pete then contacted me with the news that Bowie wanted to keep us together and had a song for us. We were visited by David in Guildford, dressed in his finest attire. Together, we rode in a luxurious limousine, with David and his wife Angie on either side of me. Angie revealed that it took David four hours to get ready for the occasion.
David initially suggested Suffragette City to us, but I declined. Later, I recall entering a room on Regent Street where David was seated on the floor and performed All the Young Dudes for us. It gave me goosebumps and I recognized its brilliance, feeling confident in my ability to sing it.
Tony Defries, David’s manager, successfully negotiated a deal with CBS/Columbia and we were able to leave Island and join their label. David recorded the song at Olympic Studios within a few days. I believe I sang three different versions of the vocal track. The opening lyrics revolve around a young person who wants to live until they are 25 and then end their life, but I never gave much thought to the meaning behind the song. “Dude” was a term commonly used in America. We had to modify the line “Wendy’s stealing clothes from Marks and Sparks” to “… stealing clothes from unlocked cars” in order to comply with advertising regulations, but it seems that the version with “Marks and Sparks” is the one that is played on the radio today.
The end rap is something I’d done at a gig earlier in New York. We used to get the audience to yell obscenities at us for a laugh. So I’d shouted, “Hey you with the glasses – I’ve wanted to do this for years,” and poured a bottle of beer over this poor kid’s head. All good fun. Then we had a party, came out at 4am and that kid was standing there asking for an autograph. It was the 70s!
Verden Allen plays the Hammond organ and provides backing vocals.
Before we were scheduled to travel to London to meet with potential new manager Guy Stevens, our Hereford-based band, Silence, encountered a physical altercation. Our vocalist, Stan Tippins, intervened and was injured, leading Guy to suggest finding a replacement singer and rebranding the band. Ian auditioned and proved to be the ideal frontman for Mott the Hoople, while our band was the perfect fit for him. I recall wondering how we could disband without achieving our goal of producing a hit record.
Bowie expressed his admiration for our album Brain Capers, visited us, and later sent a telegram claiming he had written our potential hit single. He had already reserved the studio, without Island’s knowledge. It was ironic that we ultimately signed with CBS, as they had previously rejected Bowie. However, his manager convinced them not to miss out on Mott the Hoople as well. The combination of Bowie’s reputation and our devoted fan base generated excitement around our band.
During the recording of All the Young Dudes, Bowie requested that I play the organ in synchronization with the guitar. I expressed concerns about the difficulty of this task, so I proposed holding down chords instead, allowing Mick Ralphs to focus on the guitar part. This approach proved successful. Bowie aimed for a more mainstream sound for the song, but encountered some issues with the initial mix. As a result, David took it to Trident Studios and remixed it. When the representative from CBS heard the new version, he exclaimed: “Boys, you have a hit single.”
During the height of glam-rock, Pete acquired a pair of 8-inch platform boots that were so tall that the weight of his bass would cause him to fall into the audience. One evening, I went out for pizza with Bowie, who was wearing his iconic blue Ziggy Stardust jumpsuit. Unfortunately, he was suffering from malnutrition and his teeth were bleeding due to lack of food. As we sat, his hit song “Starman” played on the jukebox and he remarked that our own hit would soon be on there as well. I expressed that we had wished to have written our first hit ourselves, which he understood. However, “All the Young Dudes” opened doors for all the future hits of our band. We were grateful to have the opportunity to thank him for writing it for us. It was truly a remarkable gesture.