Glam rock’s definitive anthem recently turned 49, and this image of a young dude was originally earmarked as the album cover for Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes released in July 1972.
Dude ’72 is the name of the image, and the photo of the London boy posing with a cardboard guitar was taken by “The Man Who Shot the Seventies” photographer Mick Rock, in 1972 while walking the streets of Camden Town.
Mick Rock has photographed some of the most iconic images in rock history, everyone from Bowie, Lou Reed, Queen and Iggy Pop, to Bryan Ferry and Blondie, and had he run with the original concept of Mott’s cardboard rockstar in Regent Park Estate, it may well have become one of Rock’s more recognisable images of the era.
The photo appears in his book, Glam! An Eyewitness Account with the intentionally vague caption: “Why it wasn’t used I can’t remember, nor can Ian Hunter, must have been a chemical shift.”
While the Bowie-penned title track climbed to number 3 on the UK charts, and the album the band’s biggest success to date, the concept importantly captures the glam-emboldened kids in England dreaming of a world beyond suburbia’s oppressive notion of normalcy, assimilating perfectly with the anthem of solidarity for the disaffected, consolidated by the song’s stunning introductory chimes of freedom.
In London, adventure parks for British youngsters sprang up in the 1950s on old bomb sites, and today it’s still there as a recreational area with basketball courts and play equipment. In the background stands the ornate Windsor House on Cumberland Market. Unsurprisingly, Mick Rock’s photo was snapped up all too late, used by Third Eye Blind for their album Out of the Vein, released 2003.
An illustration of a trio of Gatsby-esque frat boys in a 1917 American advertisement for clothing manufacturers ended up replacing the original idea for reasons that aren’t clear. The final sleeve concept and art direction was designed by Mick Rock and George Underwood, fresh off his collaborative work for Hunky Dory, who colour-tinted the vintage illustration that had come from an issue of Saturday Evening Post with old English typeface.
All the Young Dudes put the great Mott the Hoople back on the map. They were a killer live band with four solid but moderately selling rock ‘n roll albums under their belt, but by 1971 they had essentially split up, playing awful gas tanks in Zurich.
Upon returning home to London, Pete Watts had rung Bowie and offered his services as a bass player. When big-Mott-fan Bowie asked why, he explained that they had disbanded. In response, Bowie offered his idols a song he’d written and the opportunity to record it, and his services as a producer.
They all met up at the Mainman offices in Regent Street and it was there where Bowie sat cross-legged on the floor with an acoustic guitar and played them perhaps the best song he ever wrote. Ian Hunter said, “I went cold. I knew that was the one.”
The guitar intro was Mick Ralphs’, and the wry clarion call for a glam-rock army to kick out the old and begin the new at the end of the song, was Hunter’s. With Bowie adding backing vocals, Mott delivered their breakout hit; the dystopian rock ‘n roll anthem ‘All the Young Dudes’.
The album found them moving away from their earlier rock-jam style to exploring more hooks and choruses, ushering in their golden period and coming through with a genuine classic. From their reworking of Lou Reed’s ‘Sweet Jane‘, through an assemblage of originals such as ‘Jerkin’ Crocus‘, ‘Sucker‘ and Ralphs’ ‘Ready for Love‘ (re-recorded a year later as founder of the mega-selling Bad Company), every song hits the target square down the middle.
The album also spawned the release of a great spin-off single ‘Honaloochie Boogie‘, catapulting them to the upper echelon of the charts again and to the lights and glamour of Top of the Pops, before following up with the release of two more increasingly successful albums, Mott (1973) and The Hoople (1974), and a further string of hit singles, staking their place as prominent members of the credible glam-rock club.