When I say significant songs, of course I mean that they have a significance for me. For many of you, they might be just annoying, or not to your taste. That is fine, as music is nothing if not subjective, and this occasional series of posts is not intended to convert anyone to a particular song, or style of music. Consider it nostalgia; as you may already know, I like the occasional wallow in that.
All The Young Dudes (1972) Mott The Hoople
When I heard this song played over a car radio, I thought at first, that it was by David Bowie. This turned out to be a reasonable assumption, as I later found out that he had written it. In 1972, I was far from being a Dude, in the sense of ‘a cool dude’. I wasn’t even an apprentice Dude, and did not so much as possess a single element of ‘Dudeness’. I was 20 years old, and a very straight South London boy; with a normal job, and a normal girlfriend. I did have varied music tastes though, and immediately liked this song, buying it on a vinyl single, the next day. It seemed to have something for everyone, and I liked a lot of the lyrics. As a city dweller, the line, ‘Is that concrete all around, or is it in my head?’ especially resonated. It even had some Cockney rhyming slang in there-‘Boat Race’.
I had no idea what the strange name of the band signified, if anything, and still haven’t bothered to find out, to this day. Although they were being marketed as a ‘Glam Rock’ band, I didn’t buy that at all. Ian Hunter, anonymous behind his signature shades, and mass of curly hair, was far too cool to be a Glam Rocker. This was a genre associated with The Sweet, Slade, Gary Glitter, and many others; they were not in Hunter’s league. His conversational singing style, almost like he was chatting to the listener, appealed to me immensely, and there was a real power behind that voice, that you just knew had the potential to roar. I liked the asides, left in after the recording, and the reference to spotty faces, Marks and Spencer, and the obvious English accent, made this single stand out from so much of the imported American music of the period.
At the time, I was going through a transition in my life. My old friends were still going to the South London pubs, listening to all our favourite stuff, suited and booted, drinking beer, and driving decent motors. My new friends were a little older. They had long hair, some had beards, they played in a band, and understood music. They weren’t bothered about cars and pubs, and their musical tastes were different. I felt myself beginning to be drawn to their spliff-smoking lifestyle, and relaxed attitudes to everything. Not that I was about to grow my hair, or to stop wearing suits and ties; I couldn’t quite go that far.
This song, along with many others, seemed to sum up how I felt at that age, at that time in the world. I took lyrics and ideas from it, and moulded those into representations of my own thoughts and issues. In retrospect, it seems I was completely wrong. Bowie later told how he wrote the song as a warning of the impending apocalypse, that he believed would be just around the corner. The news that the Young Dudes were carrying was that of Armageddon, apparently, and not the lifestyle and social upheaval that I was reading into it at all. I don’t mind getting that one wrong. The world didn’t end, despite Mr Bowie’s prophecy, and I still enjoy the song as much today, as I did almost 42 years ago.
Here is a clip of a good version of the song, billed as Glam Rock, unfortunately.
And here is Bowie performing the song himself. Less frantic perhaps, but still good.
If any of you have never heard it, then I hope that you enjoy it. If you don’t, well that’s life.