I’ve wanted to do this for years.
A thousand times I’ve heard All The Young Dudes. A thousand times Mick Ralphs’ guitar at the start has made me smile. It always will: it’s utterly joyful, utterly sure of itself and burns way, way fiercer than 99.99999% of intros, than 99.99999% of anything. I love it: it’s life and laughter and hope and pretty much everything any of us ever needed. I want it played at my funeral: just that opening guitar riff. I’ll smile, I promise.
I’ve no idea what the real truth of the Bowie-saved-ailing-Mott-The-Hoople-by-generously-giving-them-and-producing-this-song story/myth/fairy tale is. And it doesn’t matter. ATYD tells us the quest for reality and neat narrative is dull, meaningless, avoidable; it tells us stories are always shifting, twisting, mostly wordless, chimeric. ATYD is, simply, one of the top four or five pop songs ever recorded. The organ is majestic, soulful, spiritual. The words and voices are mad and wry and thrilled. The guitars and drums and bass are the reason guitars and drums and the bass guitar were invented. The whole thing is glorious, silly, overreaching, sly, profound, shallow, poetic, plain, aristocratic, working-class, funny, serious, Seventies, timeless, Nietzschean, colourful, noiry. It’s as English as anything so American can be. It’s hopeful and regretful and celebratory. It’s lights and shades and disposable and forever. It’s wrapped itself around us and won’t ever let us go. It’s one of Bowie’s best songs and it’s utterly Ian Hunter’s.
All The Young Dudes is forty-five years old today and it’s ancient and wise and just-born and free. Happy birthday, old man.