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From Luther Grosvenor to Ariel Bender & Beyond
The Story of a 5* Rock 'n' Roll Star
(Part 4 of 5)

Review: 216
Date: 25 Feb 05

 


Rating: n/a

Musicians: n/a

Albums featuring Ariel Bender in this period:
> The Hoople - Mott the Hoople
> Live - Mott the Hoople

Albums with Luther Grosvenor:
> Rattlesnake Guitar
> Peter Green Tribute album

 


After their hugely successful tour of Britain, Mott the Hoople, with brand-new guitarist Ariel Bender in tow, entered Trident studios to record the follow up to the previous year’s smash hit album 'Mott' (1973). At first all was well. Ian Hunter, after having established his position as leader of the band again, was chock-a-block full of songs. The first song to be put down on tape was 'The Golden Age Of Rock 'n' Roll', a superb slice of glam rock. All Ariel Bender had to do was slip in a crazed guitar solo in the middle section. When the single was released it went Top Ten on both sides of the Atlantic. Ariel Bender's contribution was the talk of the town.

The next two months in the studio did not go so well. On stage Ariel Bender was the perfect sword for Mott the Hoople, but in the studio the guitarist was still Luther Grosvenor, who was not a Mott the Hoople guitarist. A great guitarist - yes, but not the man to lay down recordings of Ian Hunter songs. So, with mounting tensions the ten songs for Mott the Hoople's next album ('The Hoople' 1974) were laid down with the songs becoming more and more keyboard orientated as Ariel Bender found it more and more difficult to get to grips with Ian Hunter's structured songs. When the album was released it was still met by universal critical and commercial success. The great rock 'n' roll public had no idea there was such turmoil going on in its favorite band.

'The Hoople' went straight to the top of the charts all over the world, and Mott the Hoople set off on another headlining tour of America. Although everything was fine on stage, Ian Hunter’s concerned mounted about recording more material with their mercurial axe slinger. When the tour was over, Mott the Hoople went back into the studio to record the next single 'Foxy Foxy'. The results were disastrous and the single failed to chart. A follow-up single was planned, but results were equally as troublesome. Thus, although friendships had been formed, it was decided by both sides that a parting of the ways would be beneficial to all concerned.

Ariel Bender left a huge impression on Mott the Hoople, but left a year after he arrived. In a splash of publicity Mick Ronson replaced Ariel Bender, but the game was up and Mott the Hoople folded in another six months.

Posthumously a live album from Mott the Hoople was released with the Ariel Bender lineup, featuring one side songs from the Hammersmith Odeon Christmas gigs, and one side from the Uris Theatre on Broadway. It is pure unadulterated rock 'n' roll with the guitar playing of Ariel Bender being the major feature. The Hammersmith Odeon closing medley of classic standards and Mott the Hoople signature songs coming in at over seventeen minutes is spectacular. It contains some of the greatest guitar pyrotechnics ever put down on tape.

This band should of conquered the world. At least those of us who were lucky enough to see the band can refresh their memories by listening to the musical drama unfold on these recordings. Mercifully, the complete recordings from both concerts have been released in their entirety, with a re-release of the Live album (May 2004) on a double CD. Slip the disc into your player, turn the volume up to eleven, and let Ariel Bender blow away your brains.

After a brief recuperation Luther Grosvenor decide to keep the Ariel Bender persona and formed a new band, a rock 'n' roll band that would fit the monster that Ariel Bender had become. After several false starts ‘Widowmaker’ made their public debut. What a band!

Ariel Bender still held down lead guitar responsibilities and spotlight in live concert, backed by Hugh Lloyd Langton, ex Hawkwind, on second guitar; Steve Ellis, the voice behind the hit single by Love Affair ‘Ever Lasting Love'; Bob Daisley on bass, who was later with Ozzy Osbourne, Uriah Heep, and Rainbow; plus powerhouse drummer Paul Nicholls, ex Lindisfarne. The band got management through Don Arden, father of Sharon, wife of Ozzy Osbourne.

Widowmaker set out on the road with support slots for the Who, Electric Light Orchestra, Aerosmith, and two headlining tours of Britain. The first album was recorded and released (1976) under the band’s moniker. The musically explosive band stage was also musically explosive off stage, and before somebody ended up in hospital, Steve Ellis left the band after the first American tour. He was replaced by John Butler and another album was recorded aptly titled 'Too Late To Cry' (1977). Tours of Europe and the States were completed before more internal strife and the arrival of punk rock left the band nowhere to go. So they split up. After leaving the stage at Carlisle Winter Gardens, the band members never spoke to each other again.

Ariel Bender then shed his skin and became Luther Grosvenor again. Taking a good long look at the rock 'n' roll world, Luther Grosvenor on his thirty second birthday decided enough was enough. Luther Grosvenor gave up the Ariel Bender business and started a painting and decorating business. For the next fifteen years Luther Grosvenor did not even pick up a guitar, a tragic waste of such a stunning talent. But although having contributed to some of the most legendary concerts in rock 'n' roll' history, and having been involved in two of its classic albums with Spooky Two (1969) and 'The Hoople' (1974), still being broke and unemployed, who can blame him?

Luther Grosvenor went home to Evesham. It was not until local friend and workmate John Ledson coaxed him into forming an ad hoc blues band called 'Blues 92' (after the year) to play the local pubs that Luther got his fingers back.. They grabbed the attention of record executive Bob Laul, who then spent three years plotting and scheming to get Luther Grosvenor back into the spotlight. Luther himself was not keen on the idea and resisted all sorts of enticements. But everybody has got a chink in their armor, his was found when asked to play on a Peter Green tribute album. At first Grosvenor was reluctant, having been away from the recording studio for such a long time. However, he finally decided to go for it when he found himself surrounded by old friends like Mike Kellie, ex-Spooky Tooth, and record label mate Jess Roden. They recorded two tracks for the ‘Rattlesnake Guitar’ album, 'Crying Won't Bring You Back' and 'Merry Go Round'.

The results were stunning and Luther Grosvenor was an instant star again. Then Bob Laul asked Luther to record his second solo album. Luther took a year to think about it, but eventually agreed, and the studio was booked.

Would the magic still be there? Would Luther Grosvenor be able to control Ariel Bender back in the studio? All will be revealed next week.

 

Widowed by Mott the Dog
Made by Ella Crew

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

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