UNCUT - - News - graeme thom­son

Ian Hunter, Robin Green

First pub­lished in 1974, ian Hunter’s ac­count of Mott the Hoople’s Us tour at the tail end of 1972 is a grip­ping, anti-glam­our tract – road life re­duced to its com­po­nent parts. it’s hard not to warm to any me­moir that sets a scene of de­par­ture thus: “i cleaned the flat up a bit – mopped the cat shit up from the kitchen floor, had a bath and washed my hair. i didn’t look too bad.”

Di­ary Of A Rock ’n’ Roll Star is be­ing re­pub­lished to in­clude a short Ja­panese tour di­ary from 2015 and a fan­tas­ti­cally aw­ful fore­word from Johnny Depp – “it will sear your brain with a most stag­ger­ing residue” – which serves only to il­lus­trate how skil­fully Hunter ne­go­ti­ates the tricky con­ver­sion of ev­ery­day ob­ser­va­tions into en­gag­ingly con­ver­sa­tional prose.

in his mid-thir­ties when suc­cess beck­oned, he sur­veys his re­ward with a level gaze. the won­der­fully un­jaded de­scrip­tions of Amer­i­can ho­tels – “two dou­ble beds, air con­di­tion­ing, two arm­chairs, full-length mirror…” – and aero­plane travel are leav­ened by fa­therly ad­vice to new bands on the va­garies of sound­checks, man­age­ment, record­ing and pub­lish­ing. true, his un­gentle­manly ap­praisal of the ever-pre­sent “ladies of the lobby” hasn’t dated well, but part of the joy of the book is its un­sani­tised can­dour, whether it’s re­count­ing a ho­tel freeze-out with Fleet­wood Mac – “Fuck ’em if that’s the way they want to be” – or the reper­cus­sions when his “staid English gut” meets Amer­i­can food.

surf­ing the suc­cess of “All the Young Dudes”, Mott find them­selves or­bit­ing Bowie’s world. Ziggy is in the states, too, gig­ging and record­ing Aladdin Sane; in New York’s War­wick Ho­tel, Bowie plays Hunter the newly minted “Drive-in satur­day”. “it’s Dy­lan-ish and it’s got a hell of chord run down,” our cor­re­spon­dent reck­ons, be­fore of­fer­ing a thought­ful pen por­trait. “in­no­cence, cru­elty, the near­ness yet the dis­tance, all the qual­i­ties of the star he is – only he knows what he pays for the cov­eted ti­tle, but i’ve some­times caught glimpses of the sad­ness.”

time is killed by pok­ing around pawn shops hag­gling for cheap gui­tars, dodg­ing groupies, bat­tling bands back­stage over run­ning orders, drink­ing too much and tak­ing the odd “Benzy” to come down after shows. the tour ends with a dream­like visit to Grace­land, the shropshire boy sneak­ing past the guard, buzzed at get­ting “within 50 feet” of the King.

Be­tween it all, there are oddly po­etic re­flec­tions that qui­etly il­lu­mi­nate the lone­li­ness of life on the road. “the swim­ming pool’s iced over and there’s a light in the church across the street,” he writes from his ho­tel room in st Louis. “the other way a bridge spans some­thing i can’t see, and a huge of­fice block slowly goes to sleep, its win­dows like hun­dreds of eye­lids shut­ting.” the dis­tance be­tween “out here” and home has rarely been cap­tured so suc­cinctly. At tHE be­gin­ning of the 1970s, robin Green joined a stable of writ­ers at Rolling Stone that in­cluded Hunter s thomp­son, Ben-Fong tor­res and Joe Eszter­has. As the ti­tle of her un­flinch­ing, en­ter­tain­ing yet some­what repet­i­tive me­moir states, she was The Only Girl in a lair of un­re­con­structed male ego. it’s a world where tal­ented women are “chicks” and work is a carousel of sex­ual op­por­tu­nity (“Ev­ery­body was sleep­ing with ev­ery­body”), chem­i­cal “con­tra­band” and 10,000-word cover sto­ries about Marvel. she makes her mark with a clas­sic New Jour­nal­ism evis­cer­a­tion of Den­nis Hop­per, holed up in taos edit­ing The Last Movie, crazed on no­tions of his own ge­nius and be­ing “a com­plete and ut­ter ass­hole”. Later, dur­ing an ed­i­to­rial con­fer­ence held in a hot tub and fu­elled by mesca­line, she ob­serves thomp­son up close. “strange. Guarded in the ex­treme. Jumpy. He didn’t make eye con­tact and he mut­tered. it looked like a big pu­ton, Hunter’s act. to pro­tect him­self, i sup­posed, so he wouldn’t have to ac­tu­ally talk to any­one.”

there are lash­ings of sex and drugs, but cu­ri­ously lit­tle rock’n’roll. As Green re­calls it, the “boys” bagged all the wor­thy mu­sic for them­selves, send­ing the to­ken fe­male to sneer at can­non fod­der such as the Bee Gees and David Cas­sidy. she fi­nally leaves Rolling Stone after “com­pro­mis­ing her jour­nal­is­tic in­tegrity” by sleep­ing with robert Kennedy Jr. You doubt her male col­leagues were sub­ject to such ju­ris­dic­tions.

she lives mis­er­ably for a while in ti­mothy Leary’s garage, be­fore the third act de­liv­ers a happy end­ing. We know it’s com­ing be­cause through­out the book Green takes great de­light in telling us. “i had no inkling that one day i’d have a ca­reer in tV and my own house in the hills above sun­set strip,” she writes early on, one of sev­eral in­stances in which she throws for­ward from messy pre­sent to set­tled fu­ture. By the time she be­comes a writer on The So­pra­nos and wins an Emmy, The Only Girl has, sadly, be­come bogged down in petty score-set­tling and baby-boomer smug­ness.

All Mott cons: Ian Hunter and Mick Ralphs on the roof of The Con­ti­nen­tal Hy­att House in West Hol­ly­wood, Novem­ber 1972

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