After reading Eoghan Lyng’s recent interview with Ian Hunter, I was inspired to consider Hunter’s work since leaving Mott The Hoople in December of 1974. His new album (Defiance Part 1) was recently released, adding to a robust solo career that, since 1975, spans 16 studio albums. All of them have a roster of great musicians, and the following are his top works to date.
5 “Shrunken Heads” -2007
Hunter put a cast of diverse all-stars together for this effort that included Steve Holly (ex-Wings drummer, soon to be a member of Hunter’s Rant Band) Graham Maby (bass, Joe Jackson Band), Soozie Tyrell (violin, E Street Band), Jeff Tweedy (guitar, Wilco) Dennis Dunaway (bass, Alice Cooper) Tony Shanahan (bass, Patti Smith), Hunter’s son Jesse Hunter Patterson (vocals) and the wonderful Mark Bosh on guitar. The result was a rocking album with lots of humor and a view of life through older eyes. Witness songs like, “I Am What I Hated When I Was Young:”
I don’t rob old people’s homes
I don’t steal no cellular phones
I kinda like my Dad and Mom
I am what I hated when I was young
I don’t holler, I don’t hoot
I don’t act like a nincompoop
I don’t hide when the police come
I am what I hated when I was young
4 “The Artful Dodger” -1996
After collaborator and guitarist Mick Ronson passed away in April 1992, Hunter kept a low public profile, eventually re-emerging with his most thoughtful work to date. A main staple of this album is the heart-wrenching ballad “Michael Picasso,” a reflection on Ronson’s passing. Hunter still plays this intimate song in concert, usually to a hall gone dead silent with respect.
3 “Rant” – 2001
This work would become the genesis of his current Rant Band and proved Hunter’s dexterity was still there as a writer on both a societal (“American Spy”) and a personal level. Immigrating to Connecticut (and becoming a US citizen), he looked at his reasons for leaving his homeland of England on the track “Rip Off”:
I don’t wanna be no traitor to the cause
But England is a luxury – not many can afford
There’s people going under – it’s getting out of hand
Whatever happened to our green and pleasant land?
I know, I know – I’m an alien – but what are you gonna do
I wanna live in England – but it gets to you
It gets to you, it gets to you, it gets to you!
2 “Ian Hunter” – 1975
We Mott fans were nervous: could Ian Hunter deliver in his first solo effort, or would he expose himself to be dependent on the others from his iconic band? His deliverable didn’t disappoint, as this collection explodes from its opening chords to the closing ending of the tune “I Get So Excited.” A dynamic of this album comes from Mick Ronson, (also known for his guitar work with David Bowie), who is in full-flight throughout these tracks. Being conscious that he has removed himself from his famous band, Ian greets his fans as a soloist on the very first beat with a British “’ello,” then climbs aboard the album’s highlight “Once Bitten, Twice Shy.” This tune was later recorded in 1989 as a single for the commercial-heavy band Great White (achieving #6 on the US mainstream rock charts). All these tracks shine, making Ian Hunter a classic of the mid-70s rock genre.
1 “You’re Never Alone With a Schizophrenic” – 1979
This could get my vote for the best title for a rock album –ever!
But its luster didn’t stop with the title — even the album’s front cover was clever, a pic of Hunter, finally taking off his permanent sunglasses, only to appear with no eyes at all!
And what a band! Mick Ronson, for the first time since the Ian Hunter album, is back and has the E Street Band’s rhythm section behind him (Gary Tallent on bass, Roy Bittan on keys, and “Mighty” Max Weinberg on drums). Always a fan favorite, the rocker “Cleveland Rocks” stems from this collection, eventually becoming the theme song to the 90s sitcom The Drew Carey Show.
One from the “shocking” category: the album’s sweet ballad “Ships” would be noticed by Arista Records Executive Clive Davis. In 1979, he would encourage none other than Barry Manilow to record the tune as the lead single for his album One Voice. The single reached #6 on the Top 40 charts.
Ian Hunter, himself, has never recorded a record that would chart that high, but at age 83, (and with the rock God’s good grace) there’s still time!
Photo: Ian Hunter (Ross Halfin)
PS — While we’re on the topic of Rock History, you might enjoy our YouTube series of daily one-minute nuggets of memorable moments…