Monday, December 26, 2011

Ian Hunter - Diary of a Rock'n'Roll Star

I have owned several copies of this book over the years, but they seem to keep disappearing, or at least getting lost among all of the other books, magazines and what-have-you that we own. But, it is always worth finding again and re-reading, because it is a true r'n'r classic.

Ian decided to keep a diary on this short American tour at the end of 1972, just after Mott the Hoople had released All the Young Dudes and were just starting their rise to fame. In America they were still opening most shows and here he tells the tales and travails of a band that were only at the beginning of their notoriety.

Of course, they had been to the states before (by this time the group had been together for at least 4 years, released 4 albums out and had almost broken up completely) but here they are getting some of the gain for their pain. But, it is still reasonably new to all of them and Hunter has a refreshing naivete about travel, American hotels, the sites of the cities and the excitement of the chase for guitars via local pawnshops. Presciently, he talks of Mosrites and Gretschs gaining popularity in the future and that young musicians should not shy away from such models (he played a Guild at the time and sings its praises, as well). Ha! I wonder if he has looked back at these musings and realized just how right he was!

Of course, the real charm of the book is the amazingly truthful and accurate way he talks of being on the road. From the boredom to the last minutes rushes to the re-routing due to weather (they were traveling commercially and at the mercy of the major airlines) to the bad sound checks to the gigs that they thought were going to be abysmal that turned out to be terrific. The one thing that I found odd was the number of gigs that they were willing to cancel - for good reasons, but with a willingness to disappoint fans with a no-show rather than a poor performance. Having missed all too many bands that I really wanted to see because of no-shows (that were either never rescheduled or I could not get to the new gig), this seems a bit callous, regardless of the reasons.

But, Ian is honest throughout, retaining several embarrassing moments of drunkenness and sloppiness and even - after innumerable complaints of fans not respecting his privacy - a funny tale of a drunken visit to Graceland after the final gig of the tour and literally sneaking into Elvis' house! He doesn't meet the man, but was thrilled to have done it, rather than being chagrined.

This is a great r'n'r read and one that you don't want to end. I only wish that he kept similar diaries on the subsequent tours - I would love to see the comparisons! This should be required reading for any musician!