(editor’s note: For those of you who don’t get a big enough dose of Ricki C. on Pencilstorm, Ricki will be co-hosting – along with founders Curt Schieber & Bill Eichenberger - the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Invisible Hits Hour on CD102.5 this coming Sunday night, January 24, from 9 to 10 pm. Ricki will – one would imagine – be soundly badmouthing & dismissing much of the music released in the last quarter century.)
As evidenced by the tickets above, when I was 21 years old in May 1974 I saw The New York Dolls at Vet’s Memorial one weekend and The Eagles and Mott The Hoople two successive nights at Mershon Auditorium the next weekend. I find it an astounding coincidence that two members of those bands – Glenn Frey of The Eagles and Dale “Buffin” Griffin of Mott – would die on the same day 42 years later.
Many Pencilstorm readers – given my oft-repeated venomous attacks on Henley and Frey & company – are probably asking themselves, “What the hell was Ricki C. doing at an Eagles show to begin with?” I have a short answer to that query. In May 1974 I liked The New York Dolls and The Eagles exactly the same amount for exactly the same reason: both bands played short, well-written 3 minute rock & roll songs in the midst of heavy metal, prog-rock, and boogie bands, or oh-so-winsome male & female folkie singer-songwriters. They just happened to write those 3 minute songs about different things: The Eagles about tequila & sunrises, and The Dolls about heroin & subways. (In the end, the Dolls won out in my affections, largely because they had the good sense to break up in a narcotized haze rather than become wealthy & tedious as The Eagles did.)
In the middle of all that was Mott The Hoople, a band I loved beyond all comprehension. And I don’t use the phrase “middle of all that” lightly or accidentally. I always wondered in the early 1970’s why Mott wasn’t HUGE. From my catbird seat here in the 21st century I can see it all quite clearly: Mott were WAY too smart for the lunkhead stoner boogie brigade of Grand Funk Railroad or Foghat, but ROCKED far too hard for the Crosby, Stills & Nash or Joan Baez set. They dressed way too cool for the blue-jean & chambray shirt Eagles hordes, but not nearly gay enough for the Bowie & Dolls glam-jammers. It had to be galling for Mott leader Ian Hunter to watch his former opening act – Freddie Mercury fronting Queen – to dumb down Mott’s precariously balanced blend of intelligence, power & passion to the lowest-common-denominator pablum of “We Will Rock You” and go right past Mott The Hoople in terms of popularity and into the rock stratosphere of arenas and stadiums.
Anyway, I could go on like this all night, but I’ve reached my 500-word limit, and I have to come to a point. That point is: I’m sure you all heard on the internet or on Entertainment Tonight about Glenn Frey passing away. And I certainly don’t begrudge Frey that notoriety: he was a Detroit rocker boy who played maracas on The Bob Seger System’s “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” when he was still in high school. The point is, you might NOT have heard about Dale “Buffin” Griffin, the drummer of Mott The Hoople dying, because – even by Mott’s own admission – they were a “loser’s band” and history is written by the winners.
The point is, I can only ask you to watch the videos below or to call up the album MOTT on your Rhapsody or Spotify playlist, and to maybe raise a glass to our dear, departed Buffin. – Ricki C. / January 21st, 2016.
I saw Mott The Hoople do this "Sweet Angeline" stage bit – bringing a woman out of the audience for Ian Hunter to sing the last verse to – twice, in 1973 and 1974. It went great both times: the participants were twentyish/age appropriate, loved being onstage with the band, reveled in being serenaded by Ian. The teenager in this video, however, is THE MOST uncomfortable human being I have ever seen in a rock video. I've seen hostage situations and/or prison footage where people appear to be having a better time than this girl. Hilarious & rocking. (note: "Angeline" begins at the 4-minute mark, but is well worth the wait.)
Quite simply, one of my Top 20 favorite songs of all time, and definitely the best song about a band breaking up EVER.