Wow, indeed! I don’t even know what to think about today. At the invitation of the band’s sound engineer, Pete Dutton, Dave and I traveled 93 miles from his house this morning to Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales. That’s where Mott The Hoople has been rehearsing for the last couple of weeks. Today’s the last day of rehearsal – the first of the two warm-up shows is tomorrow night, also in Monmouth, at the 434-seat Blake Theatre.
After parking the car, Dave and I first ran into Sid, Mick Ralphs’ long-standing guitar tech. Sid knew Dave, so he walked us around back, where we walked up to a group of folks sitting around, outside the back door to one of the studio buildings.
There sat Ian Hunter and Mick Ralphs, along with a couple of crew guys. Introductions were made all around. I reminded Mick that we had met at the Bad Company show in Raleigh back in June, where I had told him that I planned to attend all of the London Mott shows. He had laughed then, and he laughed again today.
Ian was awesome. He’s quite the friendly bloke, and very fit, considering he turned 70 during early June.
A fellow came walking out the door and walked right up to me and said “Hi, I’m Martin Chambers.” I’d recognized him as soon as I saw him, and was floored at how friendly he is. Martin, of course, has played drums for the Pretenders since the band started. Amazing drummer, and now, an amazingly nice guy.
Turns out that Buffin, Mott’s drummer, is having a few minor medical issues that will prevent him from participating in the reunion shows. There’s a slight chance he may play a bit at the Hammersmith shows, but that’s a decision that will be made daily during that run of shows.
After a few minutes everyone made their way inside. Pete “Overend” Watts, Mott’s bass player looked up at Dave and I, and asked who we were. Dave had interviewed Overend a few years ago when he was working on his book “Heavy Load” (about the band Free), but they’d never met in person. Well, Overend lit up like a Christmas tree and started treating Dave like they were old friends from long ago.
I introduced myself to Verden Allen, the keyboard player. We know each other a bit through MySpace. He knows me as Bobzilla and laughed that I was a normal human being in spite of the name.
The band ran through bits and pieces of a few tunes, and the whole time, all the hair on the back of my neck was standing on end. When they did “Hymn For The Dudes” I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.
As all bands do, they had some nuts and bolts bits to work on, so Dave and I were very politely ushered back out through the open door to the patio in order to give them more privacy. The good news was that we could still hear every note.
After about 20 more minutes, they took a break (Verden was having issues with his Leslie cabinet), and most scurried outside for a smoke.
Turned out the rehearsal was over, so then we all just hung out and the real fun started. Dave and I helped a couple of their crew guys load a dozen cases of backline gear in the truck, and then spent about 45 minutes talking to Ian and Overend.
I asked Ian about his old “H” guitar and the Maltese Cross one. He told me the story of finding the original Maltese Cross one in a pawnshop in San Francisco many years ago. He paid $75.00 for it. What a hoot!
He said he’d recently received a new one as a gift from Joe Elliott (the singer for Def Leppard and a huge Mott fan himself). He excused himself for a minute and went inside, reemerging with the guitar. Here’s Ian and the Maltese Cross guitar.
My favorite anecdote of the afternoon was Ian telling a story about Mick Ralphs quitting Bad Company back in the day. BadCo’s singer Paul Rodgers, a kinda small fellow, is well known as an insufferable bastard, and when he was quitting, Mick said to Paul, “Life’s too short…and so are you!” Hahahaha…
Dave asked if they would be playing “Thunderbuck Ram”, but Ian said that Mick’s voice had dropped an octave over the years. Tough song for him to sing back THEN, so pretty much impossible now. Dave laughed and told him they should do it as an instrumental, instead.
Overend asked me where I was from, and after I told him, he said, “And you’ve come all the way here for THIS?” I told him I wouldn’t miss it for the world. He responded, “But what if we’re shite?” to which we all laughed. It was then decided that they needed to make t-shirts for the London shows that said “What If We’re Shit?” on them. He was genuinely astounded that I wanted to attend all 7 shows. All I could say to that was “You have no idea what your music has meant to me for all these years.” I swear he blushed a bit as he smiled and reached out to grab my shoulder.
There were many more stories, and I was thrilled to be able to hang out with those guys today. It was the highlight of my year!
Tomorrow – first warm-up show…