Thursday, July 26, 2012

"It Mesmerizes & I Can't Explain"

Mott The Hoople.

They were two bands, really. The pre-Bowie band and the post-Bowie band. I love both, though I prefer the David Bowie glam makeover dudes to the early "Dylan meets metal heaviosity" band that released four records on Atlantic before hitting pay dirt with the Bowie produced "All The Young Dudes."

My goal wasn't to debate which era of Mott The Hoople was better. I really just wanted to share the song "Alice" from 1974's "The Hoople," which I've been playing loud lately. So that's done, up top.

But, it did make me think of this:

Are there artists or bands that started out as one thing and ended up as another and also, what did you like better?

I think the aforementioned Bowie, as well as other chameleons like Todd Rundgren, might not be who I'm looking for, as they changed styles and sounds from record to record.

I'm looking more for one makeover, for better or worse.


bglobe313 said...

Great question. Unfortunately at least at this hour and with a few minutes of thought I don't have any good answers. Here's what I have thought:

- Maybe because I am thinking of him, there's a difference to me between Dave Edmunds pre- and post- Jeff Lynne, but it's not as major a change.

- I think with "Making Movies" Dire Straits switched to being more Bruce Springsteen-based (but then again EVERYONE, including Hunter was around then) as compared to their first two records. But again more a matter of emphasis.

- IF Love had made another record like "Forever Changes", then I would have seen a big switch from the earlier Love to that baroque stuff. But the band (in effect) broke up.

- Hey, here's one more, J. Geils switched from being a bluesy, r and b type band to a new wave novelty band.

Still, not much there. I look forward to other (and better) suggestions.

Ace K.

David Handelman said...

The Rolling Stones and the Beatles, actually. Started as cover bands and pop bands. Then got epic. Even Bruce, really. He was a Dylany folksinger.

Sal Nunziato said...

That's true David, but I think I'm looking for established, or better yet, signed and recorded artists. I should have specified. Bruce certainly fits, but the Stones and Beatles, were big from the debut records.

Jeff Matthews said...

1. Yes, I meant Kas as a compliment.
2. I remember being so knocked out by All the Young Dudes, not knowing any context or any of MtH's early work. I was living across the street from Dick Asher of Columbia Records at the time, and his son and I were friends. We sat around one day with an early test pressing of the Mott album and I remember him pushing his dad to make sure they released All the way from Memphis rather than Honoloochie Boogie as the first single. Years later I met Mick Ralphs and became friends with him - a sweet, simple man who just loves simple straight guitar licks. I bought a couple of guitars from him a few years ago.
3. T-Rex made a similar transition, but started folksy rather than bluesy, before going stripped-down glam. XTC before and after Drums and Wires. Genesis before and after Gabriel. Fleetwood Mac. Radiohead before and after The Bends. None are perhaps as clearcut as the Mott transition, but there are similarities.

Chris Collins said...

Well Fleetwood Mac obviously made big changes. Van Halen replaced their lead singer and sold even more records. Radiohead made more than one left turn i their career. But I think the one I would put forth is Genesis- arty prog-rock band morphs into sleek hitmaker.

Anonymous said...

For what's probably his greatest (4th) album, "No Other," Gene Clark affected a cocaine-induced glam-rock image and a wonderfully over-produced sound, courtesy of Thomas Jefferson Keye, that was significantly different from that on his first three records.

Anything Should Happen said...

I suspect many people cite the MTH Island Years because it's hip to do so.

People know the glam and three of those first four albums were all over the place.

Mad Shadows remains a masterpiece though.

I'm not sure if the changeover was that marked until the end.

All The Young Dudes certainly moves them along, but not too much and a lot had been written and demo'd around the Brain Capers time.

Mott still contains a lot that is similar to Island Days, particularly the two big ballads.

It's really The Hoople that is THE glam album.

I know it's Velvet's before, but what about what Bowie and Ronson did to Lou Reed on Transformer, a much more marked departure.

Anonymous said...

The BeeGees would seem to me the go-to example of the phenomenon you're talking about.

Bruce H

soundsource said...

here's one from left field cause i've been listening to a lot of late sixties rock lately.
Blood Sweat & Tears, started as this great sorta rock, jazz, horn band and became a pop singles horn band.

soundsource said...

I also second Genesis although the transition from prog rock band to pop rock band took a few lp's

wardo said...

I can think of two bands that changed.
1. The Moody Blues started as an R&B combo and turned into the Moody Blues.
2. Also, arguably, Pink Floyd.

James A. Gardner said...

ASH, great as Mad Shadows is (esp. Thunderbuck Ram), Brain Capers is the MTH album that hooked me. Death May Be Your Santa Claus is the quintessential Mott track, I believe.

Sal, the best example of band transformations I know is the Doobie Brothers, starting out as a loose, jammy, biker bar band, and turning into a naugahyde sofa cover.

The Byrds did it twice, from the original three-part harmony, folk influenced rockers, to the Sweethearts cosmic C&W, to the musically proficient, harmony challenged Clarence White edition.

Big Star, from #1 Album to 3rd, changed ... from something to something else. From jangly power pop, with a dark core, to seriously depressed chamber rock, with some nice pop touches?

Alan said...

Sal: Great question. For me: Chris Whitley. The first album "Living with the Law" was a favorite of mine, the guitar sound, the vocals, the lyrics; after which he settled into his "Din of Ecstasy" sludge metal sound, which I did not like. I think heroin had something to do with the change.

Sal Nunziato said...

"...Doobie Brothers, starting out as a loose, jammy, biker bar band, and turning into a naugahyde sofa cover."


Aaron said...

My first thought is Ministry - used to hear a single called "Work For Love" on WLIR. Then all this "Jesus built my Iphone" heavy shit later on. Neither was particularly my cup of tea.

Also worth noting some of the Spirit of '77 Punk bands like the Damned and Stranglers, who went through all sorts of changes, some good some bad. Different sounds for sure.

Shriner said...

I'd argue Steely Dan changed more from a pop-rock band to more "plastic soul".

The differences between "Can't Buy A Thrill" and "Gaucho" wouldn't lead you to think it's the same band, but I don't know if that's a "makeover" or a "natural progression".

DEVO was more guitar-based in the beginning (which I preferred) and more synth based at the end (well, until the reunion album...)

The Replacements started out as a sloppy garage band and ended up as a Paul Westerberg solo act (for the most part). Though you could probably put in a lot of "Angry Young Man" artists in the same category like Paul Weller and Elvis Costello...

jefferson Airplane/Starship -- started out as a folky-rock band and became "Starship" when Mickey Thomas joined. Brr...

King Crimson! Thought I don't know how much of that is another natural progression vs. starting as one and ending up as another. To me, "Discipline" was a departure.

Liz Phair -- low-fi indie rock chick turned into a glam pop star.

And, sadly, The Pipettes. The debut album was fantastic. The follow-up -- awful. They changed the sound (and the makeup of the band) and it failed miserably.

buzzbabyjesus said...

Little Feat went from cool SoCal Mother's spinoff to lite jazz as Lowell George got more interested in drugs than making music.

I thought of King Crimson, but they don't quite fit.

How about the Beach Boys? They went from "Surfin' USA to "Vega-Tables", and "Johnny Carson".

Chris Bell said...

Nick Lowe. This is, in part, due to the fact that he didn't want to be a 60-something bloke squeezing into leather trousers, prancing about pretending he was still 25, and generally looking like fool. (Not that any current musician would ever dream of doing this).

Derek D. said...

Good questions lots of great comments and bands who might fit the bill, eg. Bee Gees, Genesis, but I have to ask if it's really undergoing a makeover and doing a left field, or is it more a case of simply "changing with the times" and embracing changes in popular music?

I think a follow-up question, for 2 points, would be which bands, who had a substantial career, still sounded the same from their first through to their last album. I think you'd be hard pressed to find one who DIDN'T suddenly add synths or have a song with a "disco" beat in there at some point...

Sal Nunziato said...

I still think, at the risk of tooting my own horn, that my Mott The Hoople example works best. It was conscious and necessary. Yeah, maybe Brain Capers was a little closer to "Dudes" then "Wildlife," but my point was less about transition or changing with the times and more about one thing vs. another.

Jerry Lee said...

Rod Stewart, starting with Do Ya Think I'm Sexy. I doubt that he'll ever go back to Gasoline Alley. Great question, Sal.

Anonymous said...

Hello, please, remain setaed.

Fun questions Sal. I see your point about Mott and have been struggling to ID a similar, positive change. The negative ones are easy and fun. Paul Simon gets my snark vote for picking up an electric guitar.

As for a concious change, resulting in a positive impact on the music? How about U2? They were good with War and Boy, and VERY good with October.

But when they teamed up with Eno/Lanois on Unforgettable Fire, they were GREAT.



Paul said...

For me it's XTC. The divide is English Settlement or the touring version of the band and the studio version

Anything Should Happen said...

Rod Stewart is a good example.

I hmmed and ahhed about King Crimson, but again personnel.

Dear old Marc Bolan deffo. Bowie I see your point from Ziggy onwards, but Sixties to the Seventies definitely.

Rainbow maybe from Pomp Metal to AOR.

Peter Case has changed considerably.

ELO from Eldorado onwards.

Depeche Mode.

Anything Should Happen said...

Sorry Paul I just don't see it.

Black Sea to English Settlement to Mummer To Big Express To Skylarking, all natural progressions to these ears.

Jeff Matthews said...

The watershed XTC album was Drums and Wires. Their earlier records are frantic, agitated, and even a little Devo-ish. By the time Black Sea was released they had completely transformed.

Peter said...

How about Bobby Darin? A chap who went from rock'n'roller to folk troubadour.

Bulletins From Mars Hill said...

Obvious answer: The Beatles. They started of as a nice pop band singing cute songs like I want To Hold Your Hand and morphed into the mighty writers, performers, and spokesmen that shaped a generation. To this day they are the benchmark that all bands are measured against

Sal Nunziato said...

Actually Bulletins, not the obvious answer. Not looking for bands that "morphed," which suggests "gradual."

Think of it in terms of going to work as a plumber for 4 years, then waking up as a Sushi chef.

It's not about a gradual change, or a natural transition, or growing as much as it is a gear shift or makeover.

Mott The Hoople

Anonymous said...

from The Dils, LA punk resurface as Rank & File cowpunk on Slash/Reprise got to Rhino and metal then indie as Blackbyrd sample happy post-modern rock on RCA and are now Cowboy traditional under a new name (can't recall: Cowboy.....(something) the Kinsman Brothers

Todd said...

How about Journey pre & with Steve Perry?

Anything Should Happen said...

The Beatles same as XTC it was gradual.

Journey no, it's a front man change.

The Ramones. Only Kidding!

mauijim said...

Bringing up the Ramones, how about CBGB's pals Talking Heads? Started as nerds and ended as 3rd World travel guides and in between were the white George Clinton.

Sal Nunziato said...


"Started as nerds and ended as 3rd World travel guides"

Man, I wish I said that.

kevin m said...

Liz Phair (Exile to teen pop), Psychedelic Furs (debut LP to Heartbreak Beat), The Kinks (You Really Got me to Waterloo Sunset /Muswell and then ten years later back to hard rock) are a few that come to mind

bglobe313 said...

Almost all of the answers were much better and apt than mine (although if anyone cares, do give another thought to how J. Geils changed).

The suggestions that really hit me were:
- Bee Gees and
- Moody Blues

Some of the others had a big change from their beginning to their end, but it was more a gradual shift with each album moving further away from the original approach (the Beatles, too, were kind of like that).

Great topic. Great site.

Anonymous said...

Tom Waits, pre- and post-Swordfish Trombones.

Anonymous said...

the answer you're looking for is Talk Talk.

lesser so, but fitting your paradigm of adjusting to become more commercially viable - Everything but the Girl's embrace of IDM on Walking Wounded and subsequent releases (and Watt as an international dj!).

Anonymous said...

Wilco would be my pick amongst current bands. Started as a pretty good alt-country/roots rock band, before making a hard right turn into artier territory w. "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot." Subsequent albums have been even more so, much to the chagrin of the flannel-shirted faithful. (This was a BIG DEAL to some of my twang-lovin' friends; me, I like both incarnations. - bill buckner