For over 60 years, Ian Hunter has pursued his love of music. By the mid-1970s, he had achieved rock and roll stardom as the front man for Mott the Hoople. During that time, the band’s cover of David Bowie’s All the Young Dudes became an anthem of sorts and his signature work. As a solo artist, he created enduring songs such as “Cleveland Rocks,” “Ships,” “Once Bitten-Twice Shy” and “All of the Good Ones are Taken.” Since 2001, he has been touring and recording with The Rant Band. At 75 years old, he continues as a vital and entertaining performer. Target Audience Magazine had a chance to talk to him about his upcoming Atlanta Concert.
To listen to the audio of this interview, visit the “Seriously, Dan!” website HERE.
I am very excited to be talking to rock and roll legend Ian Hunter about his upcoming Atlanta and Nashville appearances, and what is on the horizon for him and his band, The Rant Band. We will get to that, but first I want to talk about who Ian is as an artist, the secret to his long career and current vitality, and some of the great and varied contributions he has made to rock and roll and music over the course of his career.
Ian, thank you for being on the show to tell us how a kid from Shrewsbury, England ended up with one of the most storied and long lasting careers in Rock and Roll.
I happened to be there at the right time. I was 15, and all of a sudden Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and all these amazing people sort of came to be, and I was a fan. How I got into it? I don’t know. Someone put a band together, and I got a phone call. And that was that.
Your time with Mott the Hoople is the stuff of stories, but your solo career has some incredible highlights. Short Back and Sides is my personal favorite and one of my top five! Tell me about that transition from front man to solo artist.
Well, I got my own way, which I kind of liked. Mott was a very diplomatic band. It (decisions) had to be 5-Null. It could not be 4–1 or even 3–2. That caused a lot of divisiveness. When I left, it was just me and Ronson, and we could say yes or no real quickly. And that was a big plus. The big minus was we did not sell the same amount of records as Mott did but we sold enough.
This was a big risk, but you were supported by some amazing people. How did your bringing your friends together help you create such enduring music?
I don’t know. In most cases they came on to me. I don’t remember going to anyone else. I may have done, but it was, one thing led to another. Queen used to open for Mott and they were in New York so they said ‘Let’s come down and do some harmonies.’ So I said, “Fine,” you know.
And you also did a lot of producing then?
I did a little bit, but I didn’t like it because you get the blame if it doesn’t work, and they get the credit if it does.
You mentioned Ronson, and you did some great stuff in the 1980s and 1990s, but you went through this transition when Mick passed away. What drove you to continue to create? What were those years like for you?
It was pretty bad during that time. We had gotten lazy before that. The 80s had gotten corporatized. Everything had gotten corporatized, including the music, so that kind of put us off a little bit. But, then when Mick passed it was a huge kick in the ass and I thought I had to get down to business. I have been lucky enough to have a little gift and I must treat it with respect.
Beautiful, I love that phrase: “I have been lucky enough to have a little gift and I must treat it with respect.” Recognizing that you have a gift and treating it with respect. In the last 15 years, you have continued to tour and make new music. I have been listening to “When I’m President” a lot. What is the story of that song?
It’s not a story, it’s just a guy in the bar sounding off. Well, you know, we have our favorites and the people we don’t like. We are all a little left and a little right. It’s just a guy in the pub.
You have worked with your kids from time to time. What is the most rewarding part of being a parent with your kids touring with you? Will they be with the Rant Band this time?
Yeah, yeah, yeah! Well, two of them. The third one—my oldest one—he’s in big business on his own. He’s done amazing. The middle two like music a lot and from time to time they get up. They will not be part of the tour, but the Rant Band will be there.
What advice do you have for artists who struggle to get their careers going?
Well, it is changing so quickly and there are so many avenues of getting things out. But the people who stunk up the record industry will probably stink up the web. It very difficult for young ones starting out. It was not easy for us starting out, but it’s a lot easier than for the young ones starting out.
There used to be more songs, more artists, and more albums. People used to put out two to three albums a year and you don’t see that any more.
Well I guess it’s about the touring aspect. People tour a lot now. Touring is the thing that is left.
People have to tour because that’s where the money is, compared to when the labels were in business and we had proper charts. People knew where they were. It’s very difficult now.
Fortunately, I started out with the Rant Band 14 years ago. And we had a real good growing concern. We just got back from Europe and after the states we are going to Japan. It’ll be my first time.
How is it different touring in the U.S. than Europe?
It’s about the same. It’s a bit further away. You see more airports which is a drag, but it was great. Nothing to report.
For a long time I know you were in New York. Are you living in the U.K. now?
I live about an hour and 15 minutes north of New York now.
Your U.S. tour is starting and Atlanta and Nashville are up on the agenda. You are in Atlanta Nov. 7 at the awesome Variety Playhouse. Are you familiar with Atlanta? Have you had a chance to get to see the city ever?
I was there with Ronson sometime in the 1980s. I haven’t been to Nashville either. The whole idea of this trip was to go places we have never been. We do fine in the Northeast and the Southwest. Or, at least go places I haven’t been to in 35 to 40 years. Open it up a little bit.
And finally… if you take highway I-40 east from the Mississippi River toward Nashville, you will be coming all the way from which city?
I would imagine that’s Memphis! I am looking forward to Memphis, I haven’t been there since (I wrote the song), back in 1973!
I am sure we will have a lot of fun at your concert in Atlanta on Nov. 7 at the Variety Playhouse!
I guarantee it!
Thank you Ian Hunter! Everyone in Atlanta and Nashville (and Memphis, Tenn.), get your tickets now. He is what rock and roll really is all about.