27 October 2012

Mott the Hoople's "All The Young Dudes" explained

I was not into "glam rock" in the 1970s, so if I were asked to name some songs by Mott the Hoople, this would be the only one I know (it's the one that as far as I am concerned defines the group).

The lyrics - written by David Bowie - are less than uplifting:
Well Billy rapped all night about his suicide
How he'd kick it in the head when he was twenty-five
Speed jive, don't want to stay alive when you're twenty-five.

And Wendy's stealing clothes from Marks and Sparks*
And Freddy's got spots from ripping off the stars from his face
Funky little boat race.

Television man is crazy saying we're juvenile delinquent wrecks
Oh man I need TV when I got T Rex
Oh brother you guessed I'm a dude dad...
It's the refrain ("All the young dudes carry the news...") that makes the song memorable.  And about that "news"-
"According to an interview Bowie gave to Rolling Stone magazine in 1973, the boys are carrying the same news that the newscaster was carrying in the song "Five Years" from Ziggy Stardust; the news being the fact that the Earth had only five years left to live.
And finally, here's the "thing you wouldn't know" - what's a "hoople?"  The word (presumably a neologism) comes from a novel of the same name:
According to the 1966 review of the novel in Kirkus Reviews, "Hooples, to clear this up right at the beginning, 'make the whole game possible, Christmas Clubs especially, politics, advertising agencies, pay toilets, even popes and mystery novels.' Obviously they're squares and Mott, Norman Mott, is certainly not...."
Which doesn't make sense, because then the book and the group should have been called "Mott Not the Hoople."  Oh, well...

*The version embedded above uses the original "Wendy's stealing clothes from Marks and Sparks [Spencer]" rather than the Bowdlerized "Wendy's stealing clothes from unlocked cars."


  1. Again, w/o typo~
    Its the last line I always related to..
    "Is that concrete all around or is it just in my head"

  2. I guess this is merely coincidental and not the source of the band's name, as I thought it was. There was an American comic strip, a gag-a-day panel, known as "Our Boarding House" that ran from the '30s through the '60s. It's principal character was Major Amos Hoople. The Major was married to Martha Hoople, who seemed to be both his soulmate and physical twin.

  3. I always wondered what he had "wanted to do for years" to the fellow with the glasses that he had his friends bring down.

  4. Love this song. Glad Bowie gave it to them. (No surprise it ties in to the Ziggy Stardust mythology.) I also love love love their cover of Sweet Jane. But otherwise? Sadly concluded: meh.

  5. Mott the Hoople were not a band of prolific hits, it's true.

    But other than Dudes, there's All the way from Memphis, a true great in pop music.


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