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Monday, 23 January 2017

Overend's Just A Rock And Roll Star

The death of Pete "Overend" Watts has particularly saddened me. I can understand the people who bemoan Facebook's Professional Grievers for people they have never met. I can also see the argument, as someone in his Fifties, that these musicians are now at an age when death should be less of a surprise. However, we keep being told that people are living longer, doesn't always seem that way to me.

I recently suffered a heart attack that caught me, family and friends by surprise. There was no indication of it and the after effects are not physical. I did everything I was asked of, stopped smoking, lost three stone, ate differently, but what it has left is on the way I think. No longer the resident wit, it's made me more reflective, more aware of what is around me and the things that I do and don't appreciate.

That's one reason that I may feel his loss more than I perhaps should. Another is to understand the teenage era around Mott The Hoople. The internet may have made music harder to make a living from, but for the fan it opened up a new world. I come into contact with people I would never have met in any other way.

But in the 70's, 80's and plenty of the 90's, you didn't have this access to artists. Where as now you may exchange emails, messages with the bands themselves, drink in the pub with them before the gig and know everything that they are doing daily, then you had to dig to find out more. Music Press News, Radio which wasn't force fed playlisting, fan clubs, fanzines, school mates, you devoured music from any source you could. You usually only met fans at gigs.

Because of this you became fanatical about the bands you liked. Single releases were great, but the true fan knew every word on every album and couldn't understand why everyone else weren't into the band. If you liked a band, you bought a single, if you were a fan, you bought the album. Bands were held on pedestals, demi-gods, you'd rarely meet them and if you did, it was like talking to royalty.

Mott The Hoople were a fans band. From All The Young Dudes onward, the songs were about the fans, the songs were for the fans, ticket pricing was cheap, the fans were encouraged to interact at gigs. People like Mick Jones of The Clash confirmed that as he tried successfully to make his band have the same bond with people. You felt closer to the artists.

Of course, it's easier to be like this when you are selling records and times were very different. I don't yearn for those days, you can't change change. Indeed as a Mott The Hoople fan, I listen far more to the Island Years than the Glammed Up CBS times these days. But all this gives an explanation of why I feel his death more than other artists.

There's also a realisation that with Buffin gone and Mick Ralphs very ill, there's not much left of MY band, Ian Hunter and Verden Allen fly the flag.

I first came across Mott The Hoople as a very young nine year old. My dad took me to see them at Liverpool Stadium. It was all a bit loud, but the gig was fantastic. I'm not sure if I was supposed to be allowed in, but my dad knew a lot of the people from Liverpool Venues and I was staying over with him that night, so it may have been take me or don't go.

Overend saw me and rubbed my hair playfully, saying shouldn't you be in bed. It stayed with me forever. A couple of years later, I was a fanatic, led by those glam singles. We had tickets for Preston when Ronson was in the band, but of course Hoople had gone and the UK Tour was cancelled.

Overend was everything that Mott The Hoople were about in those years, the Bass Guitars, the platform boots, the whole look. He was a star. I collected everything Mott The Hoople, Mott and Hunter solo and still do. I bought bootlegs wherever I could get them, Bluecoat Chambers, dingy houses in Hazel Grove after adverts in Melody Maker.

As the internet began, I joined the Ian Hunter and Mott The Hoople Yahoo group and managed to get more stuff and arrangements were made for meet ups at Hunter gigs. I still say that the best ever internet fan group was that Yahoo group. Lovely people, all loving the band in the same way that I did, but all objective. I still hate Ian Hunter's Overnight Angels album.

I felt Mick Ronson's death, he was and still is my guitar hero, but Overend's seems even more poignant. He defined Mott The Hoople and 69 still feels way too young.

Those 2009 Reunion gigs will stay with me forever. The people you met, the musician fans who attended and seeing grown men crying. We never thought we'd see them again and I'm so glad that we did. 2013 saw them tour again, but it didn't feel like 2009. Ian Hunter continues to release great albums and tour, but it doesn't have that Hoople effect.

So this is an unusually self indulgent article, I'm far more for discovering the new, but it's fair to say that it feels good remembering my past and the rock and roll star that was Overend Watts.


  1. Nice article Don, thanks.Have you read his book, its a joy.

  2. Great! Thanks for sharing, Don. Feeling more than a bit of the same.

  3. hi Don, first time to your site, via powerpopulist, nice to read this article. i had no idea so much of mott was gone. saw Mott in Harrisburg PA for $4.50 when the Mott album was flying high, with Queen as the opening band (!) and Aerosmith as second band. Then saw the short-lived Hunter-Ronson Band in Philadelphia a few years later. Both great shows and good times. Overend wrote great meat n potatoes rock songs. Born Late 58!

  4. Hi Johnny,

    Mott were my band, the first that meant anything fan wise really. I saw the Hunter Ronson Tour, the last tour I saw Ronno on, he was gobsmacking that night.