Graded on a Curve:
Mott the Hoople,
Super Hits

I have always had a soft spot for crap “Super Hits” LPs. I know they’re déclassé exploitation packages designed to sucker the neophyte into parting ways with his hard-earned buck, and are the sort of thing your serious vinyl collector sniffs at haughtily before asking, “What reeks? Could it be this crass and repugnant straight-from-K-Tel-waste of perfectly good polyvinyl chloride resin?”

But I don’t care because I’m a crass bastard myself, and I’m totally down with those immortal purveyors of the cheap-o LP, K-Tel and Ronco Records. I gaze upon the Super Hits LPs of this world with a fond and benevolent eye. Shameless cash-ins they may be, but piss down on them from a great height or not, they serve a useful, and indeed necessary, societal purpose. To wit, they’re the perfect vehicles for the fan who likes a band but doesn’t want to buy eight of their LPs when she only loves one or two cuts off each of them.

Take Mott the Hoople. I love several of their albums to death, but should I listen to “All the Young Dudes” and then feel a sudden and irresistible hankering to listen to “Hymn for the Dudes” I have to take LP one off the turntable, fling it willy-nilly across the room, and put on LP two, and so on. Until what I’m faced with is a room with wall-to-wall polyvinyl chloride carpeting. Why, the very thought of putting all those LPs back in their jackets exhausts me. Hence the stupendous genius of the Super Evil Super Hits Konzept. Should I want to listen to “One of the Boys” followed by “Honaloochie Boogie” I needn’t raise the proverbial finger.

The downfall of the Super Hits Konzept, in the case of Mott the Hoople, is that the songs collected on this cheesy compilation completely ignore the band’s first four LPs, the most important being 1971’s great Brain Capers. This is the case because Mott the Hoople switched labels, and the folks who put this wonderful LP into my hands had no rights to the songs put to vinyl before 1972’s epochal All the Young Dudes. As a result, MTH’s Super Hits ignores such landmarks in rock history as “Walkin’ with a Mountain,” “Rock and Roll Queen,” “Your Own Backyard,” and “The Moon Upstairs,” to say nothing of “Death May Be Your Santa Claus” and the delightfully shameless Dylan rip that is “Backsliding Fearlessly.” It also fails to include such super greats from Mott’s golden age (from Brain Capers to 1973’s Mott) as “Hymn for the Dudes,” “Momma’s Little Jewel,” “I Wish I Was Your Mother,” “Ballad of Mott the Hoople,” etc. But that’s the price you pay for trying to condense Mott’s genius to a 10-song rip-off.

I know the folks who put this baby together were dead set on including songs from all of Mott’s Columbia Records LPs, but personally I’d have skipped the three tunes from 1974’s subpar The Hoople—the band’s last LP with Ian Hunter—namely “Roll Away the Stone,” “Crash Street Kidds,” and “The Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” But I can understand K-Tel’s (I mean Columbia’s) reasoning. Omitting songs from The Hoople would have meant Super Hits would have included songs from only two LPs, All the Young Dudes and Mott. Which would have been pushing it, even as far as unapologetic money-grabs go.

But forget, I beg of you, about what you don’t get on Super Hits and focus instead on what you do get. Namely, such timeless Mott the Hoople gems as “All the Young Dudes” (one of the greatest songs ever, and easily better than anything written by Bach, Beethoven, Wagner & Young); the immortal bluster-rock of “One of the Boys” (“I don’t say much/But I make a big noise”); the legendary road song “All the Way From Memphis” (in which Ian Hunter’s “six-string razor” is inadvertently reduced to “electric junk,” and which boasts some wild piano and the saxophone of Roxy Music’s Andy Mackay); Mott’s “lubricated for your pleasure” cover of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane”; the infectious pop totem “Honaloochie Boogie”; the glam metal landmark “Jerkin’ Crocus”; and the very, very heavy “Violence.”

Listening to such tunes one after the other is a glorious experience, ecstatic even. Imagine being punched seven times straight in the face by Mike Tyson, then imagine each of those punches is really a super-enlightening discovery of your inner bliss, and I’ll be damned if I know where I’m going with this. But I think it’s this: listening to them all in a row is a super-delirious experience, and I’m no longer able to think straight.

Super Hits LPs have their shortcomings. They’re cheesy, and as Mott the Hoople’s Super Hits demonstrates, they can be misleading, focusing as they so often do on just one period of a band’s discography. But take a band like, say, Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Do you really want to own six BTO albums? Does anybody really want to own six BTO albums? Hell, I’ll bet you BTO doesn’t want to own six BTO albums. Whereas with a Super Hits package you can shave away all that Canadian blubber and get down to takin’ care of bidness. And that’s a very real public service right there. Shit, listening to six BTO albums would probably kill you. And you don’t want to be dead, now do you?

GRADED ON A CURVE:
B+

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