Just the Old Dude

A newly released two-CD anthology of Ian Hunter's solo recording only tells half of the rest of the story

In the four years since The Artful Dodger, Hunter has on several occasions joined his former Mott mates onstage, at conventions and at book and CD signings. Although everyone has ruled out a full-scale reunion at this late date ("What's the point of 'All the Old Dudes,'" remarked Buffin in a recent interview), one of the main stumbling blocks -- the dreaded business disagreements -- seemed to have cooled.

"We had a big problem with the business end of it, and we still have to this day. When you're sitting down with bands who've got ranches and they're opening for you and you've got nothing, there's something wrong here," he says.

"But we survived," he continues. "It isn't so much you're not getting the money, it's that someone else who had nothing to do with it is, that's the galling thing about it. In Mott, we never had a lawyer, couldn't afford one. When I joined the band, I'd never been in a Chinese restaurant, a dry cleaner, in a taxi. I don't think we were stupid people, but we'd come from the backwaters of England and really didn't know how anything worked. So we got taken for a ride. As did a lot of people."

Ian Hunter: Still backsliding fearlessly.
Ian Hunter: Still backsliding fearlessly.
Hunter with Mott: "We'd come from the backwaters of England and didn't know how anything worked."
Hunter with Mott: "We'd come from the backwaters of England and didn't know how anything worked."

When guys like Hunter first strapped on a guitar and played rock 'n' roll, it was mainly as a release, as opposed to a career move. "You went berserk and people used to stand there looking at you. You would be doing some weird St. Vitus Dance 'cause you got so much of a thrill out of it. It was great."

Ironically, the guy who once sang "rock 'n' roll's a loser's game" now has a 29-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son queuing up to play.

"I don't necessarily want to go through this all again," he complains lovingly of his children's musical aspirations. "Both of my kids have more of a commercial ear than I have. None of them do it as deep as me, although my daughter's very good lyrically. She's been really battling away in London. It's really difficult. She plays English groove, I dunno, pop-rock, I suppose. They're in it for a lot of reasons, music being one of them. They're in it for the lifestyle as well.

"My son's got a band called American Degenerate," he says, laughing. "They play gigs in New Jersey schools, gymnasiums, ice rinks. He's ready, but the band's not. He comes up here [to Connecticut, where Hunter lives with his wife, Trudi] and I listen to their rehearsal tapes. They're getting better. He writes commercially; he has a Lennon-type voice but he loves Green Day. He doesn't like what he's good at, which is commercial. I say to him, 'That's not a bad gift to have there. Most people would die to be commercial.'"

But that's just Hunter, expounding like an elder statesman again.

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