April 22, 2010


 Ian Hunter

Mott the Hoople
Winterland, San Francisco, California
September 29, 1973/April 13, 1974

Photos 1-27 by Dan Cuny
Photos 28-52 by David Miller
Text by Michael Collins Morton

Peter Overend Watts

Mott the Hoople began in Herefordshire, England, as Silence, a band that included Mick Ralphs (guitar), Peter Overend Watts (bass), Verden Allen (organ), and Dale "Buffin" Griffin (drums). In 1969, their first producer, Guy Stevens (who also was known for his connections to Procol Harum, Free, Mighty Baby, and Spooky Tooth), changed their name from Silence to Mott the Hoople, and brought in a new musician, Ian Hunter (vocals, piano, guitar), a native of Shropshire and a former journalist. With the addition of Ian Hunter, Mott gained a distinctive singer who also had strong talent as a songwriter.

Ariel Bender

Mott the Hoople's first four albums, Mott the Hoople (1969), Mad Shadows (1970), Wildlife (1971), and Brain Capers (1971), all sold poorly, and by early 1972 they were ready to give up. When David Bowie, a longtime fan of Mott the Hoople, heard of their distress, he reached out and sought to help them, offering one of his new songs. When Mott the Hoople released "All the Young Dudes," a single that was written and produced by David Bowie, in July of 1972, it was a sudden hit, giving a second chance to the band. The single was followed by an album of the same name, which also was produced by David Bowie.

The musicians of Mott the Hoople now found themselves being quickly carried forward by the glittery tide of glam rock. Their next album, Mott (released in July, 1973), sold well and yielded more hits when two of its strongest tracks, "Honaloochie Boogie" and "All the Way from Memphis" (both written by Ian Hunter), were released as singles. Within a year of Mott the Hoople being down and nearly calling it quits, the band was more active than ever, moving upward and going from strength to strength in both the United Kingdom and the United States.

When Mott the Hoople appeared at Winterland, in September of 1973 and April of 1974, Mick Ralphs and Verden Allen were no longer in the band. (Mick Ralphs had joined Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke of Free in a new band, Bad Company.) The new members of Mott were Ariel Bender (formerly with Spooky Tooth, when he was known as Luther Grosvenor) on guitar, and Morgan Fisher (formerly with Love Affair) on piano. Mick Bolton (1973) and Blue Weaver (1974) also performed on organ with the band during this period. Mott the Hoople was touring heavily at the time, as evidenced by the two shows, within eight months, that they played in San Francisco.

Ian Hunter, in particular, was a completely engaging performer who actively forged an easy kinship with the audience. He clearly was born to be in the limelight, and his dry humor was frequently at the forefront of his demeanor. With an overgrown tumble of curls hanging to his shoulders, and sunglasses always shielding his eyes, he was a striking figure. Ariel Bender, although new to the band, had the right sort of look and appeared to be fitting in easily, and he also displayed a flair for vigorous showmanship. Overend Watts was utterly amazing as he tottered around the stage in boots that made him appear to be ten feet tall. Buffin was hidden behind his drums, keeping a steady beat.

Mott the Hoople was a powerful band onstage, a rip-roaring gang of full-fledged rockers with a straightforward approach to their music and an abundance of knockabout charm. They were bold and assured performers, flashy without being overly precious, and they always did their unreserved best to fully entertain the many fans who came to see them. Any performance by Mott the Hoople in the 1970s was certain to be a hot and sweaty workout from start to finish, usually bringing forth a wild response from their happy audience.

David: Mott the Hoople was one of my favorite bands. I owned all of their records. I saw them twice and enjoyed both concerts very much. Their records were great listening and I felt that they were one of the best live bands at the time. Flashy, but not outrageous. (Except for Overend Watts, who out-dressed them all.) Their music covered hard rockers, ballads, and anthems. Their lyrics were unique and memorable, and had a touch of being very personal. Mick Ralph's guitar work was sharp and moving. He wrote many of their best songs. Ian Hunter seemed to be the perfect lead vocalist in voice and stage presence. They had the look and the sound.

The album Mott was released around the first time we saw them. I think they were at their creative peak at that time. I was disappointed to learn that Mick Ralphs had quit the band one month before the 1973 show. I don't think we realized he had left until they burst on to the stage without him. Not only was Mick Ralphs gone, but also keyboard player, Verden Allen. Ian Hunter introduced the new guitarist as Ariel Bender, which we knew had to be a made-up name. I think Michael recognized him to be Luther Grosvenor, from the old Spooky Tooth band. In that band and on his solo album he looked like a nature boy, but now we saw him as very flashy in dress and on guitar. It was quite a transformation. The new keyboard player at the 1974 show was easy to recognize as Blue Weaver, who recently had left another favorite band of mine, The Strawbs. It seemed the British bands were playing a game of musical chairs.

Mott was one of the most exciting bands, not only to see in person, but to photograph. I was very impressed with Dan's photos of the first concert, so I was eager to photograph them the next time. Ian Hunter was one of the best subjects ever. He looked great and moved about the stage, giving me opportunities to get varied shots. I distinctly remember that when he was close to the edge of the stage, just to my left, in the middle of a ballad, as I pointed the camera directly at him to focus, he stopped. He looked right at me. I clicked the picture. He smiled at me and continued on. You can see that photo here. It is one of my most cherished moments from any concert.

At the first concert, Montrose opened, with Sammy Hagar as lead singer. I was not a fan at the time and still not so today, but Sammy Hagar left quite an impression on me, and on the bass player. While swinging the microphone around, Sammy hit the bass player in the head, causing blood to stream down the bass player's face. The bass player continued playing while a roadie wiped the blood away with a towel. Then came Barnstorm, with Joe Walsh in his pre-Eagles days. I remember his big, furry boots. The second concert opened with Aerosmith, instead of Queen, who had been touring with Mott. I was disappointed about that. I felt that Aerosmith was a poor man's Stones back then, and still do today. Next on the bill at that second concert was Bachman-Turner Overdrive. A "big" act, literally, and not much to my interest, but they were talented musicians and put on a good show.

We met Mott after the second concert, and got their autographs. Ariel Bender got into a limo and rolled down the window. He leaned out and asked the crowd, "Does anyone have a fag?" We knew he was referring to a cigarette, but wondered what sort of a response he would get in San Francisco! I remember getting Ian Hunter's autograph. I stood close to him as he signed my pad. I tried to see through his sunglasses to get a good look at his eyes, but all I saw was my own reflection.

Gary: I thought Mott the Hoople was very interesting. Ian Hunter was a great front man, who wrote songs with complexity and much thought. The group itself was tight. I liked Mad Shadows a lot. The albums with Verden Allen were different than the later material, but better in a way. The titles of the songs were intriguing: "When My Mind's Gone," "Thunderbuck Ram," and "Death May Be Your Santa Claus," were all amazing.

When All the Young Dudes (with the glitter influence of David Bowie on backing vocals) hit the FM airwaves, all the Mott albums started getting airplay, especially on college stations. (I heard a lot of Mott the Hoople on KUOP, University of the Pacific, Stockton.) I was used to the group with Mick Ralphs as guitarist, and I was disappointed to hear that he had quit by the time we saw them at Winterland. I did, however, like Luther Grosvenor, and was a big Spooky Tooth fan, so I adjusted to the lineup change. Michael explained that Luther's new name (Ariel Bender) was a sarcastic joke, meaning a punk who would go down a row of cars, bending their radio antennas out of spite. (Ha ha, big laugh.) His playing was great. I liked the sound he got from his Les Paul Special (not a regular Les Paul). It seemed loose-jointed and raw.

The two Winterland concerts have blended in my mind. It seemed that we only saw them once, but David reminded me of the different bills, and I vividly remember the opening set by Montrose, when Sammy Hagar, tugging his pants up and swinging the microphone in a blatant Roger Daltrey imitation, nearly killed the bass player and never apologized to him. Bachman-Turner was very entertaining with the bass player in heels, packed into a tight leather outfit, driving the music with huge kicks and "whoops" up the fretboard of his bass. (This was all just overhead, as we were pressed close to the stage.)

When Mott the Hoople stormed on stage, I remember Ian Hunter running and sliding to the edge of the stage. He clutched hands with members of the audience and laughed. Mott was having a good time, and the music rocked. I seem to remember Ian Hunter playing his specially designed cross guitar, but maybe that was just a photo in a magazine. I do remember that he wore a large cross around his neck, I think at both concerts. I liked his literary references (D. H. Lawrence and French symbolist poetry), countered with a kind of rough Cockney slang. I also liked that Mott did carefully selected covers of songs by other artists. All in all, a great band and two great concerts.

Dan: I had always wanted to see Mott the Hoople, ever since I had been turned on to them by a neighbor of mine who played me their first album, Mott the Hoople, on his reel-to-reel tape recorder. I always thought their music was fairly hard rock, but with roots in hard-working, blue collar English society.

Being a huge fan of David Bowie, when Mott the Hoople released All the Young Dudes, I was very excited to see them at Winterland in September of 1973. I can remember being at the front of the stage, peering through my trusty camera at Ian Hunter, Ariel Bender (Luther Grosvenor), and Overend Watts as they played many of my favorite songs. Overend Watts, with his knee-high boots and thumping bass, was fun to watch. Ariel Bender playing his lead riffs right in front of me was great to watch.

Front man Ian Hunter wore a white suit and played his Guild guitar to the crowd of enthusiastic Hoople fans. His vocals were spot on, which made songs like "Sweet Jane" and "All the Young Dudes" come to life. I remember leaving the show thinking they were a very tight band that really seemed to enjoy playing their music together.

Michael: Mott the Hoople was absolutely one of the best bands of the 1970s. We were fortunate in seeing them perform twice at Winterland, when they were at the peak of their fame and at the height of their abilities. Although the two shows that we saw were nearly the same, happening only seven months apart, both of the performances were thoroughly exciting.

I was quite awestruck on the first occasion that we saw Mott the Hoople. To me, the men of Mott were more than mere musicians. I regarded them as true stars of rock 'n' roll. They maintained a sharp appearance, wearing the sort of extravagant finery that was seen on many British musicians in those days, but they did not come across as soft or dainty. They actually played most of their songs in a style that was hard and heavy, and their act could be extremely boisterous at times. I remember Ian Hunter and Ariel Bender playfully shoving each other in a mock fight during one song.

We were able to meet Ian Hunter, along with the other members of Mott the Hoople, outside the stage door after one of the shows. Although it was getting late and Ian Hunter must have been in a hurry to leave the venue, he greeted us cordially, taking the time to answer our questions and sign autographs for each of us, proving that he was a gentleman, as well as a great performer. It was after midnight, but he still was wearing his sunglasses.

More about Mott the Hoople at David's Rock Scrapbook

Next: Alan Price


  1. Thank you so much for posting these pictures and comments. I have been a huge fan of Mott the Hoople since the age of 12 and hearing the "Mott" lp. I was a bit too young to have seen them back then. I did remedy that situation by going to the reunion shows in London and they totally delivered some of the most rockin', transcendent, emotional shows ever. Thanks again.

  2. A great piece on my favourite band, fantstic photos, thanks for sharing your experiences and your pictures.

  3. Awesome, thank you so much!

  4. Great pictures great stories. Never saw them live way back in the 70s :-(
    Its Live and Live Only!!!

  5. I was there for the Mott/Barnstorm/Montrose bill at Winterland. Bender was not good that evening. Disappointing not to see Ralphs. Montrose was mindblowing, as we'd never heard of them before. They stole the show.

    Oh, and Ian's SG was a Guild.

  6. Thanks for the correction regarding Ian's guitar.

    Michael C. Morton
    General Editor, Brit Rock by the Bay

  7. Brilliant Pics,brings back a lot of good memories

  8. Where the hell are Buffin's Pic?

  9. Hard to get shots of those drummers when you are standing at the foot of the stage behind a sound monitor and the drummer is buried behind a wall of drums. Buffin should have took a bow.

  10. Great article, and a tribute to one of the truly most underrated and influential bands ever. I got to London to see the reunion, and I can tell you that they can still rock with the best of them. Catch one of Ian's solo shows with his great RAnt band and you will see that he can still teach moany of todays rockers a thing or two at age 70+ !!!!!

  11. yep - -superb band. soooooo under-rated at the time but they have managed to keep their credibility when a lot of similar bands eventually lost theirs. The reunion actually added to this and if they had not been true stars, it could have fallen flat. As above - go see Ian whenever you can (touring US shortly) also Verden and Mick are making occasional UK appearances and watch out for Luther shortly - new CD out from him. MTH rule. grastark.

  12. I went to this show to see Joe Walsh. His song,"Rocky Mountain Way" was a huge hit in the bay area. I remember waiting in line outside and seeing that Montrose was the opening act. Not only had i never heard of them, but i couldn't figure out how to pronounce the name. They were terrific. I could have sworn ian hunter said something that pissed off the crowd and a mass exodus took place. Anyways, they were acting very gay, and believe it or not, that did not go over well with the boys from the SF suburbs.

  13. I saw this same tour in Oklahoma City with Queen as the opening act. I still have the ticket stub. It was quite a show with Queen just releasing Queen II and Mott the Hoople had just released The Hoople. I can read $6 on the ticket stub and 1974 but not the month. That would be on the half they kept.

  14. I bought Ian Hunter a pint at Birmingham Town Hall in the early 70's.

  15. I saw Mott at both both Winterland shows. My first ever concert to see was Ziggy Stardust at Winterland. Fittingly my last SF concert before I moved to NYC was the Sex Pistols lol

  16. My first Winterland show was the Montrose, JW and Barnstorm and Mott. I remember being in line and as we turned the corner to see the marquee it read Aerosmith as opening. From a distance it looked like Aerospace..or was it our condition. Anyway Montrose blew the doors of the place and Barnstorm followed with a great set. Though I was and to this day a fan of MTH, they were out played that evening by a long shot. Was wondering if anyone can confirm a Cityboy performance at Winterland. I'm sure I saw them with either Bebop Deluxe and or HeadEast..maybe Rush??

    1. Aerosmith opened their '74 show with BTO between the them and Mott The Hoople

  17. I was at the Sept 29 (2nd night) of the '73 shows (Joe Walsh and Montrose) as well as the April 13 '74 show (BTO and Aerosmith) Spoke with Ian as he arrived ('73) and he was very generous with his time. As it was long ago, my memory might be "dimmed" but I seem to recollect that in '73 Grosvenor stuck very close to Ralph's licks as he had just joined the band. Being given much more recognition in '74, he was able to express more of his own flavor into the tunes.