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From Luther Grosvenor to Ariel Bender & Beyond
The Story of a 5* Rock 'n' Roll Star
(Part 3 of 5)

Review: 215
Date: 18 Feb 05

 


Rating: n/a

Musicians:
Ian Hunter - Lead Vocals/Guitar
Ariel Bender - Lead Guitar
Overand Watts - Bass
Dale Griffin - Drums
Morgan Fisher - Piano

Tracks Listing: n/a

 


Success was assured after a four year search for fame and fortune.

After Mott the Hoople’s collaboration with David Bowie of ‘All The Young Dudes’ (June 1972) reached number three in Britain,and a modest thirty-seven on the American Billboard chart, the follow-up, Ian Hunter written ‘Honaloochie Boogie’ (May 1973) reaching the upper regions of both charts either side of the Atlantic, and a brand new album already in the can ready for release mid tour, ‘Mott’ (July 1973), Mick Ralphs, lead guitarist and founder member decides to hand in his notice halfway through Mott the Hoople's groundbreaking first headlining American tour. Mick Ralphs had some ludicrous idea of forming some sort of musical beat combo with his old mates from Free, Paul Rogers and Simon Kirke. Sounds like bad company to me.

To say this caused slight ripples of concern within the Hoople camp would be a major understatement. Mick Ralphs agreed to play the first half of the tour, until the 2-week tour break; for the remaining concerts the band would have to carry on with a new axe slinger. So the problem was manifold. The replacement had to be good, in fact, very good. Mick Ralphs left big foot prints to follow. He or she had to look the business, this was after all 1973 and looks were the in thing. He or she had to get on with the rest of the band, have stage presence, a passport, and of course - most importantly - be available to move lock, stock, and barrel to Mott the Hoople’s side, like yesterday.

After one last emotional plea for Ralphs to stay (Ian Hunter offered Mick Ralphs half of all Hunter's songwriting royalties if he stayed) was unsuccessful, the remaining members of the band, lead singer, guitarist, and main songwriter Ian Hunter (songwriting was the main reason for Ralphs departure. Hunter had such a purple patch with the pen that there was no room for Ralphs’ songs); bass player Overend Watts; drummer Dale Griffin; keyboard player Morgan Fisher; and longtime mate and road manger Stan Tippins sat down to discuss options. Ian Hunter mentioned Luther Grosvenor from old record label mates at Island, Spooky Tooth. He fitted the requirements. It was decided that if he said yes, that was it. No auditions. No second thoughts. Heads to the wall and go for it.

Stan Tippins got the required telephone number and Ian Hunter booked the call person to person from New York to London. With the time difference it was 6 o’clock in the morning when an unsuspecting guitarist got a ringing in his ears and was awaken from his slumber. Ian Hunter, surrounded on the phone by his band mates, dropped the big question. Luther Grosvenor, not one to let a mate down, answered in the affirmative, and the band was whole again.

Flights are quickly arranged and the band flew back to London. Luther Grosvenor had got two weeks to learn the entire Mott the Hoople repertoire, and Mott the Hoople had got two weeks to get used to having a new ace up their sleeves. Rehearsals are frantic and chaotic. The band discovered that unlike their previous guitarist who used to belt out the licks from the back of the stage, shaking his mane of hair but stationary, the new guy liked to move and needed one side of the stage to rush about so that nobody was safe. The band even managed to squeeze in a spot on Top of the Pop's with everybody in the crowd trying to work out who the new guitarist was who ran amok while the band mimed their way through the new single ‘All The Way From Memphis’ (August 1973, 10 U.K., Top 30 in U.S.A.).

With this air of mystery as to the identity of the new Hoople member, Ian Hunter decided a change of name for his new recruit would be a laugh. So Lindsey de Paul, the beautiful English singer, came up with the name of Ariel Bender, and Ariel Bender it was.

The band flew back to continue the tour of the States in a high state of apprehension. The new album was rushing up the charts and the rest of the tour was already sold out. Plus with the fast spreading success of their support act Queen, it was all a bit daunting. (In their entire career Queen only supported one band and that was Mott the Hoople. Two tours of U.S.A and one of U.K. Oh! Anything for a time machine.) Would the loyal Mott the Hoople fans take to their new guitarist?

The first gig was at the Hollywood Palladium on 5th August, 1973. With a fair bit of Dutch courage under their belts they hit the stage. As soon as opening song 'Drivin' Sister' was finished, the band knew they had struck gold. Sure, they missed Mick, but the new guy, Ariel Bender, gave Mott the Hoople that extra cutting edge they needed to push them over the top.

The fans loved him. Ariel Bender would arrive on stage with impossibly high stack heeled boots, which never slowed him down at all as he rushed around the stage, ripping out licks from his guitar, sparkly spandex strides, an assortment of fluorescent tops, enough slap to put the shares of Max Factor up on the stock exchange, long black hair flowing with glitter, all topped off by some glorious head wear. Sound outrageous? You bet.

On stage Ariel Bender would prowl along the front of the stage flicking picks into the baying hoards, disappearing off the side of the stage to reappear on the balcony or balancing precariously on top of the speakers before leaping off back onto center stage. Right from the start Ariel Bender would bait Ian Hunter on stage. Hunter was supposed to be the front man, but Ariel Bender, much to the audiences’ delight and Hunter's encouragement, tried to steal that act. Mott the Hoople's encore number of 'Walkin' With A Mountain' became Ariel's own little party piece. Goaded on by the crowd he would stretch out his solo until Ian Hunter snatched back the spotlight by knocking the young guitarist to the ground and dragging him around by the hair while Ariel played on. The band would then bring the whole show to a rousing conclusion. It may not have been Beethoven, but it was certainly entertainment.

A tour of Britain was organized at the Hammersmith Odeon, ending a day short of Ariel Bender's Birthday, with two gigs on the same day, which were recorded for a live album and were attended by Jagger and Bowie. Another headline tour of the States was penciled in for the following year with a record breaking seven day run at the Uris theatre on Broadway. Things were definitely on the up.

As his 27th Birthday loomed at Christmas 1973, the young boy from Evesham found himself in the hottest band of the year, a date book that was full, a new identity, fame, fortune, all laid out within his grasp. Top of the world, what a difference a year makes.

 

Pawed by Mott The Dog
Re-chewed by Ella Crew

E-mail: review@mott-the-dog.com

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