The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: "All the Young Dudes"

Wednesday, March 26: 2:07 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Released in September 1972, 'All the Young Dudes' marked a turning point for Mott the Hoople.

As glam rock hit its platformed stride in early 1972, Mott The Hoople was fading fast.

Born in mid-1969 as the brainchild of Island Records' mad genius Guy Stevens, the band was now deep in debt after four albums. Despite local notoriety helped by a riot-causing performance at London's Albert Hall (resulting in a "permanent" ban on rock and roll at the venerable venue), they had stiffed stateside and had just been dropped by their American label.

As Mott half-heartedly entered the studio that February to record demos for their next venture, a package awaited; in it, a tape and a note reading: "A song for you to hear. Hope you'll ring me and tell me what you think. David Bowie." The tape featured a demo of "Suffragette City," the song that would soon climax Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust" breakthrough. After Mott turned down the tune, they set out on a miserable tour of Switzerland and officially broke up on March 26, 1972 (a series of events that would be later chronicled on "The Ballad of Mott the Hoople (26th March 1972, Zürich)" off of 1973's Mott).

Back in London, bassist Pete "Overend" Watts called Bowie to belatedly thank him for the song and, um, ask if he needed a bass player. Horrified that Mott had split, Bowie went into salvage mode. He set them up with his Mainman management (which negotiated a contract with CBS that effectively got the band out of debt). Then he penned and produced a song geared to shoe-horn them into the glam rock boom.

"All The Young Dudes" was a "My Generation" for glitter kids teetering on eight-inch heels; if the song contained a goofy snipe at Bowie-pal Marc Bolan ("I need TV but I got T. Rex"), the song's narrator totally wrote off the Beatles and the Stones as irrelevant antiques. After the lyric-phrase "Marks and Sparks" (the nickname of British department store Marks and Spencer) was altered to "unlocked cars" to appease the BBC ban on plug-ola, "All The Young Dudes" reached Number Three on the U.K. charts in the summer of 1972. Mott The Hoople inexplicably turned down Bowie's "Drive In Saturday" for a follow-up. (The Starman himself took it to U.K. Number Three the following spring.) But they enjoyed a two-year revival that was truly a gift of glam.

Watch this video of Ian Hunter, Mick Ronson and David Bowie perform "All the Young Dudes" live at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992. Joining them are the surviving members of Queen, and Def Leppard's Joe Elliott and Phil Collen.

In this video, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Curator Howard Kramer takes a look at David Bowie's myriad personas over the years, including his famous Ziggy Stardust character.

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