Cameron Carpenter: Rock and Roll Rewind – I’m a Dude, Dad!

Cam Profile Pic

Dateline Tuesday September 19, 1979. Ryerson Theatre, Toronto, Canada.

I was three months out of my teens. I can’t remember if I was working for Quality Records for the first time, or, if I had recently been fired, for the first time.  I may have just returned from a cross-Canada tour as the road manager for Edmonton-based band The Models. I do know from my faded press clippings that I was writing for The New Music Magazine and was listed, along with FYI’s David Farrell, as part of the “Toronto Bureau” for Music Express Magazine (interesting to note that famed political spin doctor – and punk rocker – Warren Kinsella – was at the Calgary Bureau, and long-time entertainment writer Graham Hicks shared the Edmonton Bureau with Chocolate Bunnies From Hell front-man P.J. Burton).

Ian Hunter DiaryMy assignment was to interview Ian Hunter, the larger than life former lead singer from Mott the Hoople. He was in town as a solo artist along with former Spiders From Mars Mick Ronson. The opening act for the two shows was the Segarini band. I was a massive Mott fan, owned every album, had the posters from Circus once on my bedroom walls and had devoured Ian’s book “Diary Of A Rock’n’Roll Star”. At this point I was still pretty star struck meeting my rock idols and Hunter was way up there along with Alice Cooper and David Bowie (who I would both meet a decade or so later).

Re-reading this interview I can’t believe how many stupid questions I asked and how downright rude I was with a couple of them. Hunter was gracious and the next night we (Segarini, Hunter, Ronson, and myself) would be together at 2 AM at Bemelmans in Toronto where the infamous “Ronson Falls Into a Plate Of Escargot” incident took place. Here’s the interview, spelling mistakes intact, please feel free to cringe.

The Ian Hunter Interview

Ian Hunter, Mott The Hoople The Jack Tar Hotel, San Francisco 8/70   sheet 693 frame 23

Is the success of the new album (“You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic”) due to your new management and record label?

Steve Popovich“I think it’s the combination of Steve Popovich, our new manager (replacing Fred Heller), Chrysalis Records, Mick Ronson, The E Street Band, and songs that are probably better than I’ve written for a long time”.

The new record is a lot better than Overnight Angels which I refused to buy.

“Well don’t bother. I really don’t enjoy that album at all. It was like the bottom of the barrel. People have their off moments and that was one of mine.

Was it a depressing time then?

“Well, yeah. I was trying to be optimistic but it was an extremely depressing time”.

There was an awful lot of Mott The Hoople songs tonight was that because Mott missed Toronto on their final tour?

“There was only two songs we played tonight that I didn’t write. One was a Sonny Bono song (“Laugh At Me”) and one was a David Bowie song (“All The Young Dudes”)”.

Yeah but most of them were Mott songs not songs from your four solo albums.

“Well that’s like saying that Lou Reed’s Heroin is a Velvet Underground song. But I know what you mean though”.

I just thought there would be more stuff from All American Alien Boy.

“We, no.  Alien boy bombed commercially. I mean what’s the fuckin’ point trying to explain God to people who don’t even know what it is anyway”.

Speaking of God what do you think of Dylan’s new album (“Slow Train Coming”)?

“I’ve only heard three tracks but it’s obviously very powerful. I just haven’t had time”.

Is Dylan one of your idols? Your biggest influence?

“No, he never was. The only reason that Dylan seems big in my book is because I couldn’t really sing at the offset, I could only talk and he was the only man who was talk-singing. I guess I kinda learned to sing off of him”.

You still don’t have a very good voice but you’re a great singer.

“I don’t think music should be the prerogative of those who naturally have a great voice, it’s not fair. Music should be for people who can get an idea across”.

Can I get a rundown on the other band’s doing Hunter songs?

“Well next week Barry Manilow is releasing ‘Ships’ as his new single. There’s a song on the Ellen Foley album that I wrote for her as well as one on the new Ian Lloyd record. The Pointer Sisters are doing ‘Who Do You Love’ from my first solo album”.

You’ve been keeping busy producing too.

“Yeah I did the second Generation X album and Mick (Ronson) and I did Ellen Foley. We’re getting a lot of offers right now. Mick and I listen to tapes almost every night. Mick just did the David Johansen record. We’re kind of waiting around right now. When Mick and I are producing no one can touch us”.

Have you considered writing another book?

“Yeah. The problem with writing a book is you lose a lot of lyrics. But on the other hand for a long time I didn’t want to write anything but recently I’ve felt I’ve had something important to say”.

I noticed a line in “Diary of a Rock Star” that said something to the effect of ‘America is a pain in the ass but it’s great for songs’. Does that still hold up now that you’re living in New York City?

“It’s still the same. When America is good, it is very very good, but when it is bad it is really bad. I kinda moved here for one reason and stayed for another”.

How are the crowds here compared to England?

“They would be a lot crazier in England than in Canada. England is the same as America. Playing at a college campus in Canada, I guess it’s difficult for them to get up and go beserk ‘cause they don’t know whether they’re supposed to or not. Maybe they’re embarrassed. To tell you the truth I feel exactly the same way when I go to a concert. The more middle class and refined you become the more reserved you get. We won them over in the end though”.

That’s typical Toronto. They’ll stand up for your last song so you’ll come back for an encore.

“Well that’s cool. I didn’t have to pay to get in, they did. I think that sometimes people like to listen to what you are doing. I haven’t been here for a long, long time. I don’t want to really sit here and judge. It’s up to them to do what they want. The kids are right, we would be nothing without them”.

They were quiet during the slow numbers.

“It’s usually that way when you have a seat audience. If you have a standing audience you usually can’t do songs like ‘I Wish I Was Your Mother’”.

It was nice to hear that song. You said on stage you don’t do it very often.

“We’ve been supporting now for two weeks. Ten dates with The Kinks and ten with Blue Oyster Cult, this was our first headlining gig so we had more room”.

The Ian Hunter show was one of simplicity. The lighting effects that were used were simple but effective. There was no flash pots, strobe lights, or things of that nature. They weren’t needed. The second night the crowd “went beserk” and the show had a lot of extra zip.

Ian Mick 1979

The show was also recorded for a Chum-FM/City TV simulcast to be shown in the fall. It was the best rock’n’roll show I have seen this year and could/would give Springsteen a run for his money. Just another night of rock’n’roll it wasn’t.

A Clip from the 1979 CITY TV/CHUM Simulcast


Hear Cam spin every Wednesday night beginning at 5 PM at The Kensington Lodge in Toronto.

Cam’s column appears every Thursday.

Follow Cam on Twitter @CC59.

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DBAWIS ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener, The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music

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