The story behind ‘All The Young Dudes’ – the first song David Bowie wrote for another artist.

Almost 50 years after it was recorded, All The Young Dudes Bowie’s anthem for displaced kids, still sounds fresh today and continues to be covered by artists of every genre.

To this day, many claim it’s the best song he ever wrote. But why did Bowie write it, what’s it all about, what makes it such a special song and why did he give it away? Let’s take a deep dive and find out.

The background: 1972 was the year that Britain officially joined the European Union, year the Watergate scandal broke and the year when terrorists killed nine Israeli hostages at the Olympic Games in Munich.

It was also the year that Mott the Hoople had their first taste of chart success since forming three years earlier in 1969. Although they’d developed a reputation as a great live band, following a couple of commercially unsuccessful albums, what Mott the Hoople needed was that elusive hit single that would get them radio airplay.

Having issues with their record label and unclear which direction they should be heading, Mott were about to split. It was March 1972. Enter David Bowie, then a relatively unknown singer and what would be a final throw of the dice for the band

There’s some confusion as to how Bowie first came into contact with Mott the Hoople and precisely the circumstances that led him to offer them All The Young Dudes.

Most likely, the conduit was Mott’s bassist Overend Watts, who fearing Mott was about to come to an end, had been asking around for a gig, and had spoken to Bowie.

Bowie didn’t recruit him, but was shocked to hear Mott had decided to split. “Don’t do anything, I’ll work something out, you mustn’t break up,” said Bowie.

In 1976, Mott’s drummer, Dale Griffin, recalled Watts had always been a big Bowie fan and phoned him up. “He’d got his number from a tape David sent us of Suffragette City, which he thought we might like to do for a single.

Although Mott rejected the offer, Suffragette City would end up on Bowie’s concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

Even though their paths hadn’t crossed, it seems Bowie had a soft spot for Mott. Indeed, speaking in 1972 about how the song came to be, Bowie said: “It was the first song I’d written for somebody else. I thought they were a very good band. I told them I’d write them a hit single. And I did. It was easy.”

Thirty years later, in a 2002 interview with Mojo magazine, Bowie reminisced: “I literally wrote it within an hour or so of hearing their breakup was imminent. They were a fair little band, and I thought, ‘This will be an interesting thing to do, let’s see if I can write them a song and keep them together.’

He did exactly that. And it changed everything for Mott the Hoople.

The first time he shared what was to become All The Young Dudes was at his manager Tony Defries’ house, when he played it to Pete Watts. Watts recalls: “David played it to me on a 12-string acoustic. You could tell straightaway it was a great song; he’d got the chorus words, but he hadn’t got all the verse words.”

Bowie first met up with the band at GEM’s offices on London’s Regent Street, where he played them All The Young Dudes. Speaking in 2016, Hunter recalls: “The first thing I knew is I could sing it, because I’m not that universal as a singer. And second, there was no doubt about it, it was a great song.”

Recalls keyboardist Verden Allen: “Bowie was a little nervous when he played us the song. We were all crowded round him in a circle. We went on tour and he sent us flowers and congratulatory telegrams to our dressing room, telling us the studio was booked.”

The recording: The challenge was getting Mott in the studio to record the song, since they had alienated their record label, Island. So while Tony DeFries schemed to get Mott out of their Island deal, the band entered London’s Olympic Studios on Sunday 14 May 1972 for a recording session held in complete secrecy in the dead of night.

Producing the song in Studio 2 was David Bowie and Mick Ronson who were working with engineer, Keith Harwood.

The session featured:

  • Ian Hunter — lead vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards
  • Mick Ralphs — guitar, backing vocals
  • Overend Watts — bass
  • Dale “Buffin” Griffin — drums
  • Verden Allen — organ, backing vocals
  • David Bowie — rhythm guitar, backing vocals

There was no time to rehearse or plan anything. As Buffin, recalled, “To record it, Bowie played it to us, and we played it back to him.”

Bowie had recorded a guide vocal to assist Ian Hunter in singing the track, which was laid down in just two hours.

During that first brief session, guitarist Mick Ralphs came up with the vibrant opening lick with its bending notes that would become one of the song’s most distinctive features.

Returning to the studio the following night, Hunter recalls, Bowie seemed depressed. “He felt the song was flagging toward the end — that nothing was happening. He was at the point of deciding not to use it as a single when I remembered an encounter I’d had with a heckler during a recent gig at the Rainbow. He was annoying me and I ended up pouring beer over him.”

Hunter recreated the incident, and introduced it into the song as the ad-libbed ending that begins, “Hey, you down there, you with the glasses” a line taken from a 1950s radio show called the Billy Cotton Band Show.

It was Bowie’s idea to cram the band members into the studio toilet, where the hand claps during the chorus were recorded.

All The Young Dudes was released by CBS on Friday 28 July 1972. Its production is credited to David Bowie and Mick Ronson. The B-side was a Hunter/Ralphs composition, One Of The Boys.

Bowie then decided he wanted to produce the whole album, so in July 1972, the rest of the tracks, which included a Mick Ronson strings and brass arrangement for Sea Diver, were recorded at both Olympic and Trident Studios in Soho.

On Sunday 13 August 1972, Mott The Hoople, played a gig at the Civic Hall, Guildford, Surrey. Bowie attended the show with Lou Reed and Tony DeFries, joining the band onstage for All The Young Dudes.

What the song is about: Before exploring the song’s meaning, we have to ask what exactly is a ‘dude’? Well, apparently it’s a ‘fop or dandy’ who lives in a big city.

The word was first appeared in print in 1876, in Putnam’s Monthly, a U.S. periodical published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons featuring articles on literature, science, art and politics.

Its roots can be traced to the Scottish word ‘duddies’. Puttnam’s used it to mock how a woman was dressed (as a “dud”/dude). From the 1880s onward it was being used by rural dwellers in the US to refer to their visiting smartly dressed city counterparts. By the 1960s, dude had been adopted by the surfing community.

Regarding the song’s title, it appears Bowie originally had the word ‘Droogs’ in mind. Droogs being the slang term for ‘friend’ in Anthony Burgess’ cult novel A Clockwork Orange, which was later turned into a movie by Stanley Kubrick. There’s some evidence of this from a 1974 lyric sheet for Future Legend, the opening track of Diamond Dogs, which bears Bowie’s crossed-out title, Fugue for the Dude.

Around this time, Bowie had been trying to put on a theatrical production of George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, but had been thwarted by the novelist’s widow who controlled his estate and didn’t like Bowie’s vision for adapting the book. Those ideas eventually materialised into Diamond Dogs, his concept album set in the dystopian Hunger City.

It seems the song — or at least a forerunner of it — was already in existence and had intended to be part of Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust album.

All The Young Dudes shared similar themes to another Bowie song, Rock ’n’ Roll Suicide, the final track on Ziggy Stardust. Read between the lines and it’s more about a pending fictional apocalypse than anything else. Indeed Bowie himself once claimed the song wasn’t intended to be an anthem for glam, that it actually carried a darker message of apocalypse. Although as with a lot of Bowie imagery from that period, it can be incoherent. In many ways, that’s what makes it a great song, it means different things to different people.

According to an interview Bowie gave to Rolling Stone in 1973, the dudes are carrying the same news that the newscaster was carrying in the song Five Years from Ziggy Stardust; the news being the fact that the Earth had only five years left to live. Bowie explains: “All the Young Dudes is a song about this news. It’s no hymn to the youth, as people thought. It’s completely the opposite.”

Musically, the song is powered by a triumphant, ringing opening guitar riff, the organ that runs majestically throughout the song, the strumming of what sounds like 20 acoustic guitars, and a heap of monstrous power chords, but most of all by the song’s wonderful melody.

The lyrics: David Bowie has always had a way with words, his often enigmatic lyrics have sent many a fan looking for meaning as they pondered the deeper significance of what he’s singing about. For me, those he wrote for All The Young Dudes are some of the most evocative of any song I know and among the most memorable Bowie has ever penned.

The lyrical content is particularly interesting as it contains so many unusual idioms and numerous name-checks. But as much as they tell a story, it is the ‘sounds’ of the words — and the phrases he used — that really elevate it into something very special. For me, so much of that is down to Ian Hunter’s phrasing and half-singing, half-speaking delivery: no one, not even Bowie himself, sings it better.

Billy rapped all night about his suicide
How he’d kick it in the head when he reached twenty-five
Speed jive, don’t want to stay alive when you’re twenty-five
And Wendy’s stealing clothes from Marks & Sparks
And Freddie’s got spots from ripping off the stars from his face
Funky little boat race
Television man is crazy, saying we’re juvenile delinquent wrecks
Oh, man, I need TV, when I’ve got T Rex
Hey mister, you guessed, I’m a dude, dad

All the young dudes (hey dudes!)
Carry the news (where are you?)
Boogaloo dudes (stand up, come on)
Carry the news
All the young dudes (I want to hear you)
Carry the news (I want to see you)
Boogaloo dudes (I want to talk to you, all of you)
Carry the news (now)

Lucy looks sweet ’cause he dresses like a queen
But he can kick like a mule, it’s a real mean team
But we can love, oh yes, we can love
My brother’s back at home with his Beatles and his Stones
We never got it off on that revolution stuff
What a drag, too many snags
Now I’ve drunk a lot of wine and I’m feeling fine
Got to race some cat to bed
Oh, is that concrete all around, or is it in my head?
Yeah, I’m a dude, dad

All the young dudes (hey dudes)
Carry the news (where are you?)
Boogaloo dudes (stand up)
Carry the news
All the young dudes (I want to hear you)
Carry the news (I want to see you)
Boogaloo dudes (I want to relate to you)
Carry the news
All the young dudes (what dudes?)
Carry the news (let’s hear the news, come on)
Boogaloo dudes (I want to kick you)
Carry the news

(Hey, you there)
All the young dudes
(With the glasses)
Carry the news (I want you)
Boogaloo dudes (I want you in the front)
Carry the news (now)
(Now, you’re his friends)
All the young dudes (now you bring him down)
(’Cause I want him)
Carry the news
Boogaloo dudes (I want him right here)
(Bring him, come on)
Carry the news (bring him)
(Here you go)
All the young dudes
(I’ve wanted to do this for years)
Carry the news
(There you go!)
Boogaloo dudes
(How’d it feel?)
Carry the news

Immediately, there’s a sense of ominousness and loss, whether in the way the chorus, opening in triumph, soon descends into minor chords, or how the lyric opens with a kid rapping about how he’s going to kill himself when he gets to be 25. Indeed, the opening line’s reference to suicide was poignant as Bowie was the very same age when the song was recorded, and suicide would loom large in his life.

As a lyricist, Bowie liked to use rare or even invented slang terms, but from the context, you can tell that “kick it in the head” means suicide, while “speed jive” stems from “jive talk” and means “to make a long story short.”

That being said, another interpretation of “speed jive” could be “nonsense spouted by someone doing amphetamines”, something Bowie was also well-acquainted with.

One explanation for the word “boogaloo” is it’s a reference to a popular 1960s dance that involves swivelling and shuffling movements, but perhaps more likely is being the action of actively rebelling against the government, when said government tries to enforce tyrannical rule upon its citizens, such as taking away their rights to arms.

Curiously, boogaloo is in the news right now. In America, the Boogaloo movement are considered to be a group of violent extremists, more specifically, Trump supporting white supremacists.

The lyrics also name-check T. Rex, fronted by Bowie’s friend Marc Bolan as well as referencing the two biggest bands of the sixties: “My brother’s back at home with his Beatles and his Stones/We never got it off on that revolution stuff” Revolution was of course also the name of a Beatles song.

Others name-checked by Bowie include his trend-setting friends from the gay discotheque, Yours And Mine (beneath El Sombrero restaurant on Kensington High Street.) There’s suicidal Billy, stealing Wendy, butch queen Lucy, the queen Jimmy and star-faced Freddie (aka Bowie’s clothing designer Freddie Burretti — nee Burrett).

The line “Wendy’s stealing clothes from Marks & Sparks” was changed after falling foul of the BBC’s broadcasting restrictions at the time surrounding advertising. The reference to “Marks & Sparks” — a colloquial term for British retailer Marks & Spencer — was changed to “unlocked cars”; Bowie retained this amended line for his studio version and subsequent live performances.

“Boat race” is Cockney rhyming slang for face.

“There’s concrete all around” could well be a townperson’s view of England in the 70s when there were vast construction projects turning inner cities into concrete block. “Or is it in in my head?” likely refers to something being so ghastly it was hard to believe it was real.

All The Young Dudes was released in July 1972 and made №3 in the UK charts, and by November it reached №37 in the U.S, where Columbia touted it as “the next national anthem.”

Musically, the song was a huge departure for the band, so much so that many of their fans thought they’d sold out, saying ‘It’s not the Mott we know.’

Bowie then went on to produce Mott’s album, also titled All The Young Dudes. It was recorded in London between May and July at Olympic and Trident studios and released on 8 September 1972.

In November 1972, Bowie introduced the band on stage at the Tower near Philadelphia and performed the song with Hunter (released on All the Way from Stockholm to Philadelphia in 1998 and the expanded version of All The Young Dudes in 2006).

Bowie’s own studio version, recorded in December 1972 during the sessions for Aladdin Sane, went unreleased until 1995 when it appeared in mono on the album RarestOneBowie.

Some five decades on, All The Young Dudes has arguably become more famous than the band that recorded it.

Unquestionably, it’s a classic song, but like so many great songs it’s great for many reasons, both musically and lyrically.

It has a wonderful sound. Bowie’s production is superb, especially in the chorus. It has a memorable guitar riff, one of the most distinctive of any song. Apparently, it’s not easy to play and listening to others try, it’s almost impossible to recreate the tone of the record. Something else that helps make the song sound so interesting is less upfront in the mix, and that’s Verden Allen’s organ.

And of course it has brilliant lyrics sung so well by both Ian Hunter and those on backing vocals. Many people have done versions of the song, but no one can sing it half as good as Hunter.

The artwork: I have to say, I never cared for the album cover. I didn’t like the artwork, the brown colour scheme or the typography. It just looked far too old-fashioned for me and didn’t seem to fit either the band or the song.

The band weren’t keen on it either. As Buffin recalled: “We didn’t like the sleeve. It was dull and boring, a typical seventies browny sort of colour. But what do you do? We’d had works of art before and they hadn’t sold, so what did it matter?”

It turns out that the cover wasn’t what was originally planned. At first, a black and white photo of a young boy holding a guitar was going to be used, but in the end CBS went with a vintage illustration. The original drawing (by Chicago illustrator J.C. Leyendecker) actually came from a 1917 advert for men’s suits that Bowie’s artist-friend George Underwood tinted.

Photographer Mick Rock was responsible for the art direction. So why was it chosen? One can only assume that the accompanying slogan “For Young Men And Men Who Stay Young” must have struck Rock as an appropriate reference. The Olde English typeface came from Chicago’s Society Brand Clothes logo.

Has the cover aged well? Personally, I don’t think it has. It still looks old-fashioned and ill-fitting to what it was packaging. That being said, like many things, familiarity means it’s less jarring now than it was back then. It also should be noted, that later Mott albums had much better sleeves.

Origins of the band: The precursor to Mott the Hoople was a band called Silence who consisted of vocalist Stan Tippins, guitarist Mick Ralphs, bassist Overend Watts, keyboardist Verden Allen and drummer Dale Griffin.

Mott came about after Ralphs and Watts had travelled to London to audition for Free. Although they failed to impress producer Guy Stevens, the audition went well enough to schedule an audition for Silence at Spot Studios. However, the night before, Stan Tippin’s jaw was broken during a scuffle at a Liverpool Cavern show. The band auditioned without Tippins, and earned a second audition the next month for the entire group. Stevens wasn’t impressed with Tippins, who voluntarily withdrew from the band rather than hinder the success of the others.

Silence cast about for a singer-pianist, without much success. Finally, on 5 June 1969, Bill Farley of Regent Sound Studios rang Ian Hunter, who’d been recording demos at the studio. At first the 29-year-old Hunter said no, but after a few calls decided to take the bus down to Denmark Street. He played Dylan’s Like A Rolling Stone to an indifferent audience, with the exception of Guy Stevens. Ian told Guy that he was on salary at Leeds Music, and would need regular pay. After a few rehearsals and a name change, Mott The Hoople were born.

Where are they now?

Mott the Hoople: All The Young Dudes was the first of a remarkable run of five classic British hits for the band: Honaloochie Boogie, All The Way From Memphis, Roll Away The Stone and The Golden Age of Rock ’n’ Roll.

Following their final album called The Hoople, the band bid farewell in October 1974 with Saturday Gigs a love letter to their fans chronicling the band’s history from the 1969 Roundhouse gigs to their week-long 1974 Broadway engagement in New York (with Queen, the only time they were ever the support act) and their fizzled out European tour that same year.

To this day, at the end of every Def Leppard concert, Joe Elliott tells the crowd, “Don’t you ever forget us, and we’ll never forget you!” They were the fade-out lyrics of his favourite band’s farewell single.

In 1975, Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson left the group to start work on Hunter’s first solo album.

Watts and Griffin, with the addition of vocalist Nigel Benjamin, guitarist Ray Majors and keyboard player Morgan Fisher, who had joined Mott the Hoople in 1973, briefly carried on as Mott. The quintet immediately set about recording the Drive On album, which was released in September 1975. Mott played a short UK tour followed by a three-month tour of the USA. On 16 February 1976, barely a month after returning from America, Mott entered Manor Studios to record their second album, Shouting and Pointing.

The group scheduled a six-date UK tour in June 1976, but were forced to cancel the first three gigs due to an injury to Ray Majors’ hand. Mott then departed for another US tour, and returned to the UK only to learn that CBS was dropping the band. Although they had received generally favourable reviews, Nigel and the band both realised that the new lineup wasn’t working. The group fulfilled their obligation for a UK tour in October and November, after which Nigel quit and was replaced by John Fiddler. The band, with Fiddler, changed their name to the British Lions, but they had even less success than Mott during their short performing and recording life.

Fast forward to 2009. The original Mott the Hoople, who made eight albums during their five-and-a-half year existence, reformed to mark their 40th anniversary — although Buffin, suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, was only able to play drums during the encores.

Ralphs: “We hadn’t played together for nearly 40 years, so we spent a lot of time talking because we hadn’t seen each other. But when we eventually got around to playing it was really great. There was still a lot of life in those old songs and I hear All The Young Dudes on the radio and it still sounds pretty good to me. It hasn’t really dated, unlike some records from that generation.”

They toured again in 2013, but since then they’ve been faced with a series of tragedies including the death of Buffin in 2016 and Overend Watts the following year. In 2016 guitarist Mick Ralphs suffered a stroke and has been out of commission ever since.

Illness also affected the 2019 plans for Mott the Hoople’s 1974 reunion tour. The lineup, consisting of Hunter, Ariel Bender and Morgan Fisher plus members of Hunter’s Rant band, were scheduled to tour a set based around the 1974 albums The Hoople and Live, plus the non-album greatest hits. The UK leg including the band’s biggest ever show at London’s 18,000 capacity O2 Arena, went ahead, but all the US dates had to be cancelled due to Ian Hunter having a “severe case of tinnitus.” The band’s front man was advised by his doctors to stop performing until his condition subsided. Said Hunter, “I’m afraid I’m not very well.”

Ian Hunter: Like many musicians, Bowie included, Ian Hunter wasn’t his real name. In fact, he adopted his middle name, Hunter, in preference to his actual surname, Patterson. Born on 3 June 1939 in Oswestry, Shropshire, he was the first son for Walter Walker Patterson and his wife Freda. His policeman father was a Glasgow-born disciplinarian of the old school, and a homophobe who wouldn’t allow a guitar in the house. His mother, Freda Potts, was from Wellington, Shropshire. His brother, Bob was eight years younger.

As a young man, Ian spent some time living in Northampton where he fell in with “what my dad considered the wrong type of people”. Hunter claims he’d had 44 different jobs before becoming a full-time musician.

He dabbled in local bands including one from Northampton called the Apex and a London outfit called the Scenery. But he also had some journalistic training, albeit briefly, that would stand him in good stead later on.

No fan of responsibility, by his own admission, he’d married Diane Coles at 18 and had two kids — Steven and Tracey — by the time he was 20.

In June 1969 he was called to audition for the band that would become Mott the Hoople.

By the time Mott had recorded All The Young Dudes, Hunter had already turned 33, making him eight years older than Bowie and older than all of the ex-Beatles. He’d also married again, this time to Trudi, an American who would go onto become his manager.

In 1974, he authored Diary of a Rock ’n’ Roll Star, his account of Mott’s 1972 US tour. To this day, it’s often talked about as being one of the most authentic pieces of first-hand reportage in the history of rock.

In 1975, Hunter embarked on a solo career with his self-titled album that included his only UK hit single, Once Bitten Twice Shy.

Since the 70s, he has lived in America and now resides in New Milford, Connecticut with his wife Trudi with whom he has two children: a son Jesse Hunter Patterson and a daughter, Tracie.

In June 2020, he celebrated his 81st birthday.

Mick Ralphs: With Ian Hunter at front and centre, founder member and guitarist Ralphs began to feel marginalised both in the group dynamic, and with his preference for an earthier brand of rock ‘n roll. So in 1973, Ralphs left the band to form Bad Company alongside former Free vocalist Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke. They were managed by Peter Grant, who signed them as the first artists on Swan Song, the label owned by Led Zeppelin. Bad Company enjoyed a meteoric rise with hit singles like Can’t Get Enough, Bad Company, Rock ’n’ Roll Fantasy, Shooting Star and Feel Like Makin’ Love, among others. Their first two albums, Bad Company (1974) and Straight Shooter (1975) were also hugely successful.

In November 2016, Ralphs suffered a stroke. By May 2017, he was continuing his recovery in a care home. He celebrated his 76th birthday on 23 March 2020.

Overend Watts: Born Peter Watts on 13 May 1948 in Yardley, Birmingham, he spent most of his early years in Worthing, West Sussex where he went to Worthing High School. In 1963 his family moved to Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire and it was at Ross Grammar School that he met lifelong friend, Dale Griffin. They played together in many local bands, including The Anchors. By the end of 1965, Watts was a full-time musician and was touring Europe with The Buddies, which didn’t include Griffin, but did feature Mott’s future guitarist Mick Ralphs.

Watts, Ralphs and Griffin were all members of the Doc Thomas Group, who made an album in Turin, Italy, released in 1967. This outfit morphed first into Shakedown Sound and then Silence. They moved to London in 1969 and, after replacing singer Stan Tippins with Ian Hunter, secured a deal with producer Guy Stevens and Island Records. He assumed the name “Overend” at the suggestion of Guy Stevens.

Second in visibility to Ian Hunter, Watts was immediately identifiable thanks to his silver hair and thigh high platform boots. He wrote Born Late ’58, the only track the band recorded that was credited solely to, and sung by Overend Watts.

When Mott the Hoople disbanded, Watts continued to play in bands, first with Mott and then with the British Lions.

After retiring from performing in 1980, he formed a production company, Grimtone Productions, with Dale Griffin before opening The Dinosaw Market, a retro store in Hereford selling specialist clothing, unusual antiquities, instruments and rare music.

In February 2003 after selling the store at the age of 55 he turned his energies to carp fishing and walking. He spent much of his time at a croft in the Scottish isles.

In 2009 he joined the original members of Mott the Hoople for a series of five 40th-anniversary concerts at London’s Hammersmith Apollo. He reunited with them once again four years later, culminating in a final show at the O2 Arena, London in November 2013.

That same year, Watts published a book The Man Who Hated Walking, an account of his trek along the 630-mile South West Coast Path.

He died at St Michael’s Hospice, Hereford on 22 January 2017 after battling throat cancer. He was 69.

His first solo album, He’s Real Gone, was released posthumously in September 2017.

The sleeve quotes from the lyrics of Ballad Of Mott The Hoople, from 1973’s Mott album: “Buffin lost his childlike dreams/And Mick lost his guitar/And Verden grew a line or two/And Overend he’s still a rock and roll star.”

Buffin: Born Terrence Dale Griffin on 24 October 1948 in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire.

At Ross Grammar School he met Pete Watts. Together they played in various bands, Griffin on drums and Watts on bass. It was Watts who gave him his nickname “Buffin”, amending the sobriquet Sniffin’ Griffin’ to “that bugger Griffin” and finally “snigger Buffin”.

After leaving school, Buffin and Watts joined the Doc Thomas Group, where they met the guitarist Mick Ralphs and singer Stan Tippins. They spent the summer of 1967 performing in Italy, recording an album in Milan. By 1968, however, the group split and in 1969, Buffin, Watts and Ralphs plus the organist Verden Allen re-formed under the name Silence and relocated to London.

In London, Silence were spotted by record producer Guy Stevens who brought in vocalist Ian Hunter and changed the band’s name to Mott the Hoople.

When Mott disbanded, Buffin and Overend Watts formed a production company, Grimtone Productions, and produced albums for the likes of Hanoi Rocks and The Cult.

He then joined the BBC where he produced many notable John Peel sessions for Radio 1 from 1981 to 1994, including Pulp, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana and Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark.

At 58, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2009. By now he was living in Usk, Wales.

On 17 January 2016, just one week after Bowie’s death, he died in his sleep. He was 67.

Verden ‘Phally’ Allen: Born Terence Allen on 26 May 1944 in Crynant, Neath, Wales. He moved with his parents to Hereford around 1960. A classically trained pianist, after seeing Pete Watts and Dale Griffin play with The Anchors at the Cabin in 1963, he decided to join a band.

Six years later, in 1969, he joined Silence alongside Buffin, Overend Watts and Mick Ralphs. It was Guy Stephens who also made Allen change his name from Terence to Verden (which came from his father’s name, Verdun)

Verden played his last gig with Mott the Hoople on 18 January 1973. In February, he announced he was leaving.

He recalls “Coming back from Switzerland there was talk of splitting up, but I couldn’t see it happening. OK, we didn’t have a hit, but we were still going down great live. When we told Chris Blackwell we were going to pack it in, he said “If you do that, I’ll see to it none of you work again.” I was bloody happy he said that — after struggling so hard, I didn’t want to pack up. The ironic thing is that when we had the hit with “Dudes” I went and left, like an idiot. I could kick myself in the arse now.”

Following his departure, in 1974 Verden formed Cheeks with his old friend Martin Chambers. The band never had any success and folded in 1976 when Chambers and fellow band member James Honeyman-Scott left to join Chrissie Hynde in The Pretenders.

He now plays with another band, Soft Ground and lives in Wales.

David Bowie: Born David Robert Jones to Peggy Burns in Brixton, south London in 1947. His father, John Haywood Jones, came from Doncaster and worked for a children’s charity as a promotions officer.

Bowie died in New York City on 10 January 2016 after an 18-month battle with liver cancer. It was two days after his 69th birthday.

Mick Ronson: Ronson was plucked from his role as a gardener for Hull City Council to join Bowie’s band, not long before he began recording his 1970 album The Man Who Sold The World. A year later, Ronson and Woody Woodmansey got the call to come to London, and with the addition of bassist Trevor Bolder, would form Bowie’s band (later dubbed The Spiders From Mars)

In summer 1973, Bowie announced the end of The Spiders From Mars live on stage. This also signalled the end of the Bowie/Ronson creative partnership. Aside from the covers album Pin Ups, they wouldn’t work together in the studio together again for 20 years.

After finishing his sessions for Pin Ups, Ronson returned to the Château d’Hérouville studios outside Paris to record his debut solo album, Slaughter On 10th Avenue.

Within months, Ronson was back in another band, joining Mott The Hoople for what would be their final single, Saturday Gigs.

Ronson went back to his solo career. Bowie didn’t take part in follow-up album Play Don’t Worry either, but allowed Ronson to use the backing track from his cover of the Velvet Underground’s White Light White Heat considered for the American attempt at a Pin Ups album, but soon discarded.

While Slaughter was being mixed, Ronson returned to the studio with Bowie to create demos for future Diamond Dogs tracks 1984 and Dodo. His work wouldn’t appear on the finished album, but his trademark guitar style featured on Rebel Rebel.

Ronson produced and played on Ian Hunter’s debut solo album, Once Bitten Twice Shy.

In 1975 he moved to New York where he met Bob Dylan, who invited him to join his band, the Rolling Thunder Revue.

In the late 1980s, Ronson’s health began to cause concern. He was diagnosed with liver cancer.

On Easter Monday 1992, together with Bowie and Hunter, he kicked off a poignant version of All The Young Dudes at the tribute concert for Freddie Mercury at Wembley Stadium. It was to be the last time he performed on stage.

On 29 April 1993 he died from liver cancer. He was just 46. He left three children, Lisa, Joakim and Nicholas.

Keith Harwood: (1950–3 September 1977) As well as working with David Bowie (on Diamond Dogs in 1974), Harwood engineered the Rolling Stones albums It’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll (1974) and Black and Blue (1976) with brothers Andy and Glyn Johns, as well as several Led Zeppelin albums, including Houses of the Holy (1973), Physical Graffiti (1975) and Presence (1976).

In September 1977, he had been engineering the Rolling Stones’ Love You Live album at Olympic Studios. On his way home, he fell asleep at the wheel and his car went off the road in Queens Ride, Barnes, and hit a tree, killing him instantly. Just two weeks later, Bowie’s good friend Marc Bolan — whose band T Rex are name-checked in All The Young Dudes — died in a car accident at the very same location.

Olympic Sound Studios was a renowned independent commercial recording studio, considered as important as Abbey Road. It was used by the music industry’s rock and pop bands. The Rolling Stones were among its first clients, recording six consecutive albums between 1966 and 1972. Other artists who recorded there include the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Who, David Bowie and Queen. More recent users have included Adele, Arctic Monkeys and Duran Duran.

Originally known as Byfeld Hall, the building was constructed in 1906 and as a theatre for the Barnes Repertory Company. In its first decade it was a venue associated with the bioscope, an early form of cinema combined with music hall and instrumentation. In 1925, it became the Barnes Theatre and from the 1930s to the post second world war era, it was a cinema. In the 1950s, it became a television studio, before becoming a recording studio in 1966.

Virgin Music acquired the studios in 1987 and two years later refurbished the exterior and gutted the interior. They closed the studio in February 2009. The building was sold in 2010 and after laying empty for four years, it re-opened in October 2013 as the Olympic, a two-screen cinema and café.

Guy Stevens: It was Stevens who gave the band its name, Mott the Hoople, the title of a 1966 cult novel by the New York author Willard Manus. The main character, Norman Mott, prefers to work as little as possible and earns money on the side by running every scam going. He’s also a gambler who travels with a freak circus and winds up sailing a hot-air balloon over Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Keen that Mott would be surrounded by mystique, it was Stevens who also got the band members to change their names: Ian Patterson became Ian Hunter, Peter Watts became Overend Watts, Dale Griffin became Buffin and Terence Allen became Verden Allen.

Tony Defries: Before getting into music management, Defries began his career as a fashion industry agent representing various photographers and fashion labels.

He went on to launch and manage the careers of numerous artists including Iggy Pop, Mick Ronson, Mott the Hoople, Dana Gillespie and John Cougar Mellencamp, but it was his relationship with David Bowie that he remains best known.

In 1969 Defries and his business partner Laurence Myers formed the GEM Music Group, an independent music label, music publisher, rights management and personal management company. The following year, Olav Wyper, the head of Philips UK, recommended David Bowie to Defries as Bowie was dissatisfied with his manager Ken Pitt and needed help.

Defries managed Bowie’s career during his rise to global stardom, but later fell out with him in a contract dispute. He established a rights management organisation called MainMan.

His contract with Bowie shared royalties fifty-fifty, a split Bowie later came to resent, leading to the artist sacking Defries in 1975.

Nigel Benjamin: He auditioned for Mott on 18 April 1975 and was offered the job. When Mott disbanded, he formed another short-lived band, English Assassin, before moving to Los Angeles, where he became involved in the burgeoning glam metal scene there, joining local glam group London, which included guitarist Lizzie Grey, bassist Nikki Sixx, keyboard player John St. John, and drummer Dane Rage. Friction in the band eventually caused London to split up.

Nigel later recorded music for TV commercials in Japan, before trading in his microphone for a successful but less visible role behind the scenes in the music industry.

Not much was heard from him until 2003, when he popped up on an episode of the Discovery Channel reality TV show Monster Garage, hosted by motorcycle-builder Jesse James. In the episode, Nigel is a member of a team trying to build a mobile skateboard park out of a Winnebago.

In 2009, Nigel surfaced again and began work on his first solo album In The Absence of God.

He died on 31 July 2019, aged 64. At the time he was living in a cabin at Pine Mountain Club, in Los Padres National Forest, 1 1/2 hours north of Los Angeles. He had heart problems in recent years.

Ray Majors: After the demise of British Lions, Majors formed Partners In Crime with ex Status Quo member John Coghlan. He released a solo album First Poison in 2000, and another The 7% Solution in 2014. He has successfully fought Stage 3 throat cancer.

The cover versions: All the Young Dudes has been covered by numerous artists including:

Aerosmith, Angel, Jimmy Barnes, Adam Bomb, Billy Bragg, Blue Zoo, Catherines Cathedral, Cybernauts, Alejandro Escovedo, Rolf Harris, Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson, Gene Loves Jezebel, Ian Hunter (solo), Cyndi Lauper, Massive Attack, Mongo, The New Standards, Ozzy Osbourne, Portugal The Man, Mick Ronson, Enrico Ruggeri, The Skids, Switchblade Kittens, Travis, The Church, Tesla, The F-Ups, Two Cow Garage, World Party (featured on the soundtrack to Clueless), Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs (duet) and John Frusciante & Wavegroup for the video game Guitar Hero: Aerosmith.

Live versions include: Ringo Starr on his live album King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Ringo & His New All-Starr Band, Judas Priest, Shortparis, The Smashing Pumpkins (with Bowie).

One of the attributes of a great song is how other artists want to do their own versions and no matter how it is interpreted, the tune lends itself to vastly different treatments.

Here are some of the most interesting covers:

I think this was the very first cover version: by Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson from his debut solo album
This is a fabulous live version by David Bowie recorded in Philadelphia.
This is Bowie in 1997 from his 50th Birthday show at Madison Square Garden with Billy Corgan
This is Bowie live at the Isle of Wight festival in 2004
This is the New York cast recording from Bowie’s last theatre project, Lazarus
I really like this sweeping classical version from pianist Jackie Perks from 2016
This version by Shortparis is arguably the strangest cover. I can’t say I like it!

About the author: Based in Sussex-by-the-Sea, on England’s south coast, Gary is a creative writer and image-maker. He specialises in out of the ordinary portraits of musicians and people with interesting faces, as well as photographing some of the world’s finest flowers and gardens. With no concerts or major events taking place during lockdown, Gary has turned his attention to creatively capturing the landscapes of West Sussex. On the writing side, he has already penned deep dives into two classic songs: Bryan Ferry’s ‘These Foolish Things’ and most recently, ‘Ghost Town’ by The Specials.

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Creator of images that are out of the ordinary, reviewer of live music and live events and interviewer of interesting people

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Gary Marlowe

Gary Marlowe

Creator of images that are out of the ordinary, reviewer of live music and live events and interviewer of interesting people

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