I have always admired the mystique created by Ian Hunter continually wearing shades, much like the fabulous Jeff Lyne of ELO it is his ‘look’. Shades are part of rock and roll imagery, from the early blues men to the present day, Dylan used them too and in my opinion Bono has never quite pulled the look off (sorry Bono). When Mott The Hoople came into the studio for their shoot, they processed straight into the dressing room to be dabbed down by the make up artist. They stayed in there for a while laughing and smoking and then emerged one at a time, while I set up the lights with my assistant.
At the start they seemed quite subdued, I thought they were thinking “Oh no, not another PR photo session”. They were working really hard following the success of “All The Young Dudes” (that Bowie had written for them) and other hits like “Roll Away The Stone“. Gradually after sharing some guitar anecdotes and explaining that I’d been writing on the Boz Scaggs and Band album, things changed and the atmosphere lightened. I also told them I had been at art school with Eric Clapton, which also seemed to help! Mott The Hoople were trailblazers in many ways and had a very unique sound with many admirers, which is probably why Bowie gave them such a great song when he produced “All The Young Dudes”.
Once I had established this rapport, things went really smoothly and became much more fun. I did individual shots of all the band members and Ian was the last to emerge from the dressing room. I tried to put some light through the side of Ian’s glasses for his portraits but to no avail, they were so dark and moody they would have shielded him from a triple eclipse! He seemed quite tense in front of the camera at first and then I found a way to make him laugh. As I was taking his picture beer, sandwiches and champagne appeared which improved everyones mood. He is obviously a smart guy and I know that the tour that they had planned for late in 1974 had to be cancelled because Ian was unwell. I read an interview with Ian where he said “Fame is okay for a few weeks'” which may well be why he burnt out, there’s a lot of pressure and expectation.
The above shot of the band is when everyone was fully refreshed to say the least. The day was very significant for me because it was when I first met Mick Ronson (also above) who was such a wonderful and beautiful young man. I recall listening to Ian talking about Mick on the radio late one night and him saying how knocked out they all were when Mick came and joined them. They also toured together supporting each other as solo artists in 1975, which I imagine must have been a great source of support for them both. Leaving big bands like The Spiders From Mars for Ronson and Mott The Hoople for Hunter, must have been tough for them both. It was great that they had each other and by all accounts there friendship endured and was very special to both of them.
As a band everyone had their own very strong look and personality and all the individual shots reflect that. The band took their name from the quirky novel Mott The Hoople. I tried to get a painterly quality to all these portraits and to capture each of their striking characters.
I really enjoyed taking everyones picture, they were eclectic musically and far more individualistic than bands today are, which I really appreciated as a photographer. As I said before the day was also memorable to me because it was when I met Mick Ronson who I later shot the cover of his album Play Don’t Worry. Mick was such a lovely man and for those that new him his loss is still keenly felt. As for Mott The Hoople, I know the band reformed in 2013 and have played some live dates in 2018 – check them out here.
I photographed them all again at a later date at one of their shows and they were all really pleased to see me and having a great time. A classic band in their element. It’s actually really touching to see the bond between Mick and Ian Hunter and the rest of the band in this picture. I was so lucky to be there to capture that perfect moment in time.
You can see some of these images in the 1974 Tour Programme which I believe got cancelled because Ian Hunter was ill.