40 Years Ago: Ian Hunter Snatches Mick Ronson From Mott the Hoople for Solo Debut
He managed to complete 1974's The Hoople before faltering under the pressure. Suffering from exhaustion, Hunter collapsed at a friend's house, and was taken to the hospital just as Mott the Hoople were set to begin a supporting tour. "They did a battery of tests. Everything was fine," Hunter told the Independent in 2015. "The doctor said, 'If you don't want to do this, then you really shouldn't do it.' I said, 'I don't want to, but I have to. Otherwise I'll get sued.'"
So, Mott the Hoople hit the road anyway, but their days were numbered. During sessions for the band's final single, "Saturday Gigs," guitarist Ariel Bender was replaced by Mick Ronson, who had recently parted ways with David Bowie. This lineup recorded one single before Ian Hunter's departure.
He took Ronson with him, while the rest of Mott the Hoople continued under the streamlined moniker of Mott for two more albums. With Ronson as his right hand man, Hunter was once again inspired.
Ian Hunter, the result of their whirlwind collaboration, was released in April of 1975. From the knowing strut and the simple "Hello" Hunter delivers on the opener "Once Bitten Twice Shy," we knew Ian had rekindled his rock and roll soul. Released as a single in the spring of '74, it shot to No. 14 in the UK and then was later covered to huge success by Great White. Mick Ronson provides a simply amazing guitar solo that would erase any doubt as to if this pairing would work. Hunter and Ronson were made for each other.
A lingering glam stomp can be found on the killer second track, "Who Do You Love?" which has more swagger and spirit than just about anyone else trading in riffs at the time. Once again, Ronson's chunky and shimmering guitar is nothing short of brilliant.
The funkier groove of "Lounge Lizard" slithers its way around, basking in pure grit and attitude. Mott the Hoople had recorded a version in their last hours, and had planned to release the song as a single. It remained in the vaults, however, and Ian claimed it as his own. His vocals here are nothing short of brilliant. Chock full of attitude, Hunter spits out the lyrics with as much venom as any would-be punk rocker who might try to take his place.
Things slow down, in elegant fashion, with "Boy." Co-written by Ian and Mick, it is a beautiful ballad, full of drama, both musical and lyrical. An almost orchestral vibe is created without going whole hog with instrumentation. This is followed with the touching acoustic ballad, "3000 Miles From Here."
Ian Hunter then gets heavy as heavy can be on "The Truth, the Whole Truth, Nothing But the Truth." The band surge through this slow-burning rocker while Hunter, once again, delivers a powerhouse vocal. Ronson gets an extended workout here, and he blows the roof off the place. The album is rounded out with two more killers: "It Ain't Easy When You Fall," a cool change of pace featuring a spoken-word section from Hunter; and "I Get So Excited," a rocking raver to end the album.
Produced by Ronson and Hunter, Ian's solo debut easily stands alongside all the Mott the Hoople classics. The team of Hunter and Ronson would be put on hold, however, until 1979 when they reunited for You're Never Alone With a Schizophrenic. Sadly, Mick Ronson passed away on April 29, 1993, after a long battle with cancer.
His death hit Hunter hard, though he did deliver the eulogy. "I gave the memorial speech. I'd expected that his coffin would be in another room while I was doing it. It wasn't. It was right there, right next to me," he told the Independent. "I managed to get through it, but about a week later, it hit me." Hunter would pay tribute to Ronson with the song "Michael Picasso," from his 1996 album The Artful Dodger.
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