If Mott the Hoople had split up as planned in 1972, the group would still have had a small following with fond memories of the band. Mick Jones, who went on to become a founding member of The Clash, recalled being part of a group of loyal fans called “The Mott Lot” when he was a teenager.
But Mott the Hoople had an even more famous fan in David Bowie, who at that point in the ’70s was working on his landmark Ziggy Stardust record. While auditioning bass players in ’72, Bowie encountered Mott the Hoople’s own Pete Watts in his midst.
Watts told Bowie that Mott was indeed breaking up, and Bowie found the news upsetting. So he helped Mott in the way only a great songwriter could: He gave them a hit. But Bowie didn’t stop at passing “All the Young Dudes” their way.
David Bowie 1st offered Mott the Hoople ‘Suffragette City’
In a 2016 Uncut article on the making of “All the Young Dudes,” the main players discussed how the track came together, starting with Watts’ audition for Bowie. At the time, Mott frontman Ian Hunter said he was aware of Bowie but “didn’t like what he was doing.”
However, Hunter knew Bowie had the magic. There was a telltale sign: “The women lined up after [Bowie’s] show, it was obvious the guy had something,” Hunter told Uncut. But when Mott met with Bowie, Hunter didn’t think the first track he offered would be a good fit.
That track, “Suffragette City,” became a classic Bowie song but might have slipped through the cracks with a lesser-known band like Mott. When Bowie played “All the Young Dudes,” Hunter and Mott knew they could sink their teeth into it.
And that’s exactly what they did. With Hunter’s extended ad-lib in the last minute of “All the Young Dudes,” the song became Mott the Hoople’s first song to reach the UK and the US Billboard charts. Today, it stands as one of the great glam-rock anthems — and remains the group’s biggest hit.
Ian Hunter wondered why Bowie gave Mott ‘All the Young Dudes’
Looking back on the days when Mott the Hoople took off, Hunter told Uncut he was curious why Bowie was handing them a track as great as “All the Young Dudes.” Longtime Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson told him Bowie didn’t like the version he’d recorded (without any spoken “rap” part like Hunter added at the end).
“At the time, [Bowie] told us that he’d written it specially for us, but that turned out not to be the case,” Hunter recalled. For Bowie, the answer was simple: He wanted Mott to stay together because he thought they were great.
“When I first saw them, I couldn’t believe that a band so full of integrity and a really naive exuberance could command such enormous following and not be talked about,” Bowie told NME in 1972. “They broke up [briefly] and I caught them just in time and put them together again.”
Bowie didn’t just give Mott the song that turned the band’s career around; he produced the All the Young Dudes album as well. Decades later, Hunter marveled at Bowie’s generosity. “Who else at that stage in his career would start giving away time and songs to other people?” he asked The Guardian in 2018. No wonder Bowie was so loved — and remains so missed.