“The television man is crazy, saying we’re juvenile delinquent wrecks”
Okay, admittedly I am way too excited for this one. There’s just so much to say. So, strap in because I’m about to throw a lot of information at you; a lot of super cool and fun and fascinating information though!!
All the Young Dudes is a 1972 hit recorded and performed by Mott the Hoople. You may or may not have heard of them before, but I can only assume you do know of the great David Bowie. Bowie actually wrote and produced this song specifically for Mott the Hoople, so it technically is a Bowie masterpiece. But we will get into that a little later.
So, who are they?
Mott the Hoople are an English rock band who gained most of their commercial success during the glam rock era of the early to mid 70’s. The band’s lineup during this era consisted of Ian Hunter (lead vocals), Mick Ralphs (guitar and backup vocals), Pete Watts (bass), Dale Griffin (drums) and Verdan Allen (organ and backup vocals).
Bowie took a keen interest in Mott the Hoople and their music. After gaining generally negative reviews from their first two albums, the band was about to call it quits. When Bowie heard about their plans to breakup, he wanted to write and offer a song to them in hopes they would stay together, thus All the Young Dudes was born. Bowie told Mojo Magazine, “I literally wrote that within an hour or so of reading an article in one of the music rags that their breakup was imminent. I thought they were a fair little band, and I almost thought, ‘This will be an interesting thing to do, let’s see if I can write this song and keep them together.’” And you know what? He did.
Bowie not only gave them this song, but he also went on to produce their whole album for them. Bowie also makes a cameo playing guitar and singing backup vocals on this track. When he first offered them this song, they couldn’t turn it down. Griffin (drums) even said in a Rolling Stone interview, “I’m thinking…he wants to give us that? He must be crazy!”
Riffs ‘n Lyrics
What hooks me in right away to this song is the euphonious guitar riff in the beginning by Mick Ralphs. It sounds just like a sweet breeze and a good time. It’s hard to not feel happy when you hear it. Another unique aspect of this song that I absolutely love is the chorus. It’s essentially just the background vocalists singing in harmony and Ian Hunter speaking in between the melody, kind of like a call and response. I think it adds a sort of raw and real feeling to the song, although I don’t quite exactly know the reasoning behind it.
There are many theories as to what this song may be about. Some say it was written with the original intention to be on Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars” concept album, with the line “all the young dudes carry the news” alluding to the news of the apocalypse being spread by the newscasters in Bowie’s song Five Years on the Ziggy Stardust concept album. Some say it is a gay anthem, with references to gender bending, cross-dressing and experimental behavior.
Another theory, which I agree with, says it is an ode to the glam rock era. The line, “Jimmy looking sweet but he dresses like a queen” could allude to the androgynous behavior and aesthetic of glam rock, with many artists wearing makeup, dressing up, and growing their hair long during this era. Bowie was one of the biggest influencers of glam rock. During this era, older generations and the establishment preferred more “traditional” rock and were rejecting this new style, shown in the line: “the television man is crazy, saying we’re juvenile delinquent wrecks.” There’s also a line about the rejection of The Beatles and The Stones and the “revolution stuff,” which boomed in the 60’s. But, during the 70’s and 80’s, glam and metal rock were off-shooting the rebellious hippie movement and creating a sort of “F.U” atmosphere and attitude towards older music and behaviors. Rockers were expressing free love regardless of gender, wearing makeup, growing their hair, graduating to harder drugs, and simply rebelling against traditional norms. It was the epitome of the carefree culture of the youth.
Like most incredible songs like this, one can’t really pinpoint exactly what it was about. That’s why music is so fascinating; the lyrics are really up to interpretation. Great writers show, not tell. So, when you listen to this, think about what you make of the lyrics.
Cool Things to Note
The song began to gain recognition during Mott’s 1973 tour, in which a young Aerosmith actually opened up for. Yeah. Steven Tyler as an opening act. Crazy right? Aerosmith and Mott shared a similar glam rock aesthetic and look. Another glam rock band from this era was Queen, and Queen and Mott became good friends around this time. In 1992, during the Freddie Mercury Tribute, Bowie, surviving members of Queen, Mick Ronson, and Ian Hunter performed All the Young Dudes. It’s an absolutely beautiful tribute which has some incredibly legendary artists sharing a stage together. It’s just magical to watch. I highly recommend you check it out!!!! Here’s the link:
Also, listen to the official recorded version of the song here:
Also ALSO, Bowie has recorded and performed this song on his own, so if you’re interested, make sure you also check out his version here:
And now I’m going to leave you guys with one more link just because I want to. This has nothing to do with the song, but here’s Guns ‘N Roses performance at the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert that I think is also worth your time to watch lol (albeit ANY performance from the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert is worth your time to watch):
Mott the Hoople, love it! I am probably one of the few people that ever bought Ian Hunter’s solo records too, I think I still have one called “You’re never alone with a schizophrenic” Some great songs on that record. I’ll confess a big part of why I got into it was because it had E Street band members playing on it. I was a voracious consumer of everything to do with Bruce back in those dark-mysterious days! Keep up the great work.