Mott the Hoople
Mottt the Hoople’s Ian Hunter wrote one of the best books ever written about life on the road, Diary of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star, which told the inside story of Mott’s American tour in November and December, 1972. Mott the Hoople were one of the greatest (and sadly under-rated) bands of the 1970s, who were only saved from disbanding, by David Bowie (a fan) gifting them “All the Young Dudes” to record.
During thier five week American tour, Hunter kept a diary detailing the adventures, the tedium, the groupies, the second-hand guitar shops, the performances and meetings with David Bowie, Frank Zappa and Keith Moon. It’s an enjoyable read, more so because of Hunter’s enthusiasm, and child-like wonder of life in the States.
One night, towards the end of the tour, after the band had played Memphis, Hunter (a little worse for wear) decided he wanted to visit Elvis Presley, and begged his driver Ike to take him to “the legendary Gracelands, home of the king himself (his dad lives next door.)”
“We get out at the gate (the one with the notes) and survey total unreality in the cool Memphis night air. One of his many cousins comes out and we ask boldly if we can drive up the little road to his place, but the guy’s not having any. Elvis is in. He’s been here two or three days, and he’s just got back from the pictures an hour and a half ago so they won’t let anybody near the place. The best he can do is open the gate so we can get a clear view and he gives us a picture postcard. In my drunken state I decide this ain’t enough.”
The driver distracted the guard’s attention, and Hunter was pushed up onto a small sidewalk, where he casually made his way to Elvis’s front door.
“...I’m expecting any minute to be pulled back. Miraculously, the guards didn’t notice, and I was wearing an afghan, so they must have been bloody blind and I just went on.”
It was just before Christmas and Prelsey’s lawn had an illuminated nativity scene.
Blue bulbs outlined the driveway, and outside the front of the house were red, yellow, blue, green Christmas trees either side of the main door. It’s not really a huge house, in fact quite modest for the size of the grounds. There seem to be columns by the front door and two huge flashy chrome cars stood outside.
Hunter moved towards the back of the house, where there were more cars, and he heard dogs barking, “but you know what it’s like when you’re pissed.”
I walk across under the patio and there’s the back door. I turn the knob and it opens. Fuckin’ hell! Am I dreaming? I’m in the dude’s house; he’s somewhere within 50 feet of me now, but I daren’t go further. Inside the door there’s two more doors - one on the right looks like a sports room, but I’m a bit too far gone to tell properly, and the one on the left looks more like where he’d be - plush carpeting, a short hall and what looks like a staircase. I’ll never know if these doors opened or not because I didn’t try them. Instead, I knocked loudly. No answer. I knocked again and a black lady, very nicely dressed, peered at me through the window. I’ve since found out that it was probably Alberta, Presley’s maid.
‘I’ve come four-and-a-half thousand miles to see Elvis Presley - is it possible to see him?’
‘I’m sorry, Mr. Presley’s tired and he ain’t seeing anybody.’
‘Are you sure I can’t see him?’
‘Yes, I’m definitely sure.’
‘Well I’m sorry for the inconvenience, and I’ll go back to the gate. Don’t worry, I’m knocked out to have gotten this far. Thanks anyway.’
‘You’re welcome. Good night.’
I felt elated. I didn’t really want to meet the guy - he’d have only gotten angry at me staggering in in the middle of the night and invading his privacy. I felt like a 14-year-old groupie - but I’d done it for the buzz, and it had been great! To tell the truth, I’d get a bigger buzz out of Jerry Lee Lewis, but there I’d been, in the king’s house, and fooled the entire army. Actually I hadn’t fooled them that well because as I wandered round the front a wagon was waiting.”
Bonus ‘All the Young Dudes’ plus short doc on Mott the Hoople, after the jump…