Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mott The Hoople Enters The Golden Age of Rock 'N' Roll - Is It Time For A Full Reunion?

As the days grow shorter and seasons pass, isn't it a great time to give back to the fans what they have given for so long? Rock 'N' Roll has grown up, and many great bands are reuniting for last go arounds, and the best of them are being inclusionary in bringing back ex-members and giving their fans the gifts of seeing a panoramic glimpse of cherished histories.

Of course, the return of Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor certainly made The Rolling Stones 2013 Tours more interesting for their fans, and the band seemed all smiles during these cameo appearances, as well. Even the famously fractious Eagles are having back ex-multi instrumentalist Bernie Leadon for their 2013 History of the Eagles Tour (and would have included former bassist/vocalist Randy Meisner had he not been of ill-health).

It's always uncomfortable when there are breakups and leavings taken by well loved members of any musical aggregations, but time is a great healer, and I'm one who feels that it's best to forgive, forget, move on, and remember what was good about our past assignations.

Mott The Hoople 1972
No band has ever been more, or better loved by its fans than England's Mott The Hoople - they've not been a band since 1974, but they still are the topic of many daily deposits on Internet fan sites, and lead singer Ian Hunter's website features one of the best behaved and beloved forums on the Web.

Nowadays, these discussions are fiery with opinions on the band's latest reunion tour, a brief five gig affair to be held across the UK in November 2013. The point of discourse focuses on two members who were notably not invited to the band's first reunion in 2009, and seem to have escaped invite for this sojourn, also.

The members are guitarist Ariel Bender, and keyboard wiz Morgan Fisher - they joined the band late in the group's history, but they were witness to the band's greatest successes and became rock 'n' roll legends during their stay. Bender played his way right out of the band with excessive drinking and a reported inability to get it together in the studio, though few would argue with his amazing performances on both the band's last studio album, The Hoople, or his astonishing performance on the Mott Live record (partially recorded on the first ever rock 'n' roll shows on Broadway in The Big Apple). Fisher brought a polish to the band that was most welcome - again, his performances on the same final two records are held in incredible esteem by the band's loving audience. Bender's extreme histrionics balanced wonderfully with Fisher's grand piano exploits, and Mott The Hoople were set to graduate to Madison Square Garden when frontman Ian Hunter pulled the plug, exiting stage left with ex-Spider From Mars guitarist Mick Ronson, who had briefly emerged as Mott's last guitarist - perhaps saving himself from a lifestyle he found lacking.

The discussions between the fans seem evenly pitched, with some saying that only the original five members should take the stage as Mott, and the other half arguing vociferously that Bender and Fisher have been in exile more than long enough, and are more than deserving of sharing the stage with their fellow Hooples.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Ariel Bender (real name, Luther Grosvenor, though the two will argue with me on even this) in 2012, and he had this to say:
"I think I joined Mott The Hoople at their biggest and most successful time! The band was much more successful when Ariel was in the band! It was never a problem being compared to Mick (Ralphs), as we were friends. Mick couldn't give a damn if people said that Ariel was better, and Ariel couldn't give a damn if people said Mick was better!"
Concerning the 2009 reunion, Bender looked at it rather comically, and philosophically, as he tends to do:
"At first I did not know anything about it, then I thought I would have been included. I was upset at the time, but did not understand that they wanted to do it with the original members. I think it would have made for a better show, more wholesome, to have included the later members. There has been a lot of feedback from fans who were disappointed that Ariel was not included.  
"Ariel always thought that Ian thought that Ariel might steal the show again, hahaha!"
Both Bender and Fisher have stated that they would be very happy to be included in any future reunion shows, but there seems to be a reluctance from the original five members to either include them, or to even say why they would not be included.

I will certainly state that I am not privy to any information concerning the whys, or why nots of this situation, but I must say that as a huge fan of the band for 40 years, I would give my eye teeth to see a full blown reunion involving all surviving members of Mott The Hoople. Their story is one of rock's greatest tales and to see it played out onstage would be a proper cap to their history, and a more than wonderful payoff for their incredibly loyal fans.

The reasons for an incomplete reunion are unknown, and perhaps unknowable. Is it petty, or grand, I cannot say - but, I can say that if there is justice in the universe called rock 'n' roll, a complete reunion including all members that ever tread the boards as a member, and that also includes touring keyboardists Blue Weaver, and Mick Bolton.

I see little chance of one lineup, or another getting short shrift, or any upset as a result of having up these beloved members one more time - Mott fans most generally revere every member - sure, some came to the party early and some late, but all generally agree that the only bad thing that ever came of Mott The Hoople was its end.

As a beaming fan of fifteen, I remember hating hearing that Ralphs had quit the band after falling into bad company, but I was equally thrilled to experience the rock magnificence that Bender/Grosvenor brought. Verden Allen also opted out, and his replacement turned into just another fabulous facet of the diamond in the rough that was Mott when Morgan Fisher signed on.

C'mon fellas - bury the hatchets, put away the past and any continuing pains, and welcome back a couple of guys who also lived through to tell the tale. Perhaps Dale 'Buffin' Griffin can no longer tread the boards, but let's see those boards shine once more with the entire tale of Mott The Hoople.

Can you imagine a better ending than Ralphs and Bender blazing their glories, while Allen's organ grinds and Fisher's piano tinkles? I can't. Not for the life of me.

It was The Golden Age of Rock 'N' Roll. Roll Away The Stone and bring the boys back home.

Edited: The shame is that Mott is run via a five owner vote - not a democracy, but 100% agreement or nothing. One vote keeps Ariel and Morgan out, even in four votes were to say yes. One can only imagine the trouble this system has caused the band since inception.

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