Straight outta Herefordshire, Mott the Hoople coalesced when members of two groups-the Soulents and the Buddies-meshed, forming the Doc Thomas Group. Finding it tough going in England, they made the hop to Europe and landed in Italy with a resort residency. Returning to the UK, now playing as Silence, they recorded some demos and hooked up with the Island label. Known for being smashed/blocked, Island label "exec" Guy Stevens was now in charge. He renamed the group and canned the singer, Stan Tippins-poor guy didn't have the "right look." (Fortunately, Tippins ended up being their tour manager.) Stevens tapped Ian Hunter to sing and play piano, and he ended up being perfect. Over the next couple years, they recorded four albums and toured like crazy, building a solid fan base via their live show, but... by their fourth album, Brain Capers, they still lacked a radio hit. They were hung up. They were really a live band, but that hadn't yet translated into their studio recordings, and as their fan base started to stagnate, they verged on splitting. Enter David Bowie. He offered "Suffragette City," which the band declined, so he instead offered "All the Young Dudes." It was a perfect Mott the Hoople song not written by Mott the Hoople, and it gave them their first radio hit, so massive that the boost reinvigorated the group.
After the success of the subsequent album, All the Young Dudes, Mott transformed from a laid-back, Dylan/West Coast–ish group on record to a stack-booted glam/boogie rock band. They'd become their own producers and translated their live action into the studio, and the jump was REALLY fantastic. Still, founder Mick Ralphs quit, so they tapped ex–Spooky Tooth guitarist Luther Grosvenor, aka Ariel Bender, to fill the gap. When he left, about a year later, that story ulti-mott-ly ends with guitarist—indeed a Spider from Mars—Mick Ronson joining. With Ronson, they carried on for a bit longer, but soon Ian Hunter bowed out—he couldn't take it, and the band, as Mott the Hoople, sorta came to an end... or at least that's where the documentary ends.
The Ballad of Mott the Hoople does a great job of simply, directly chronicling the bumps and jumps of a somewhat underrated but extremely important band. My only niggle is I wanted full live clips, like all of 'em, in the extras. WTF?!!