Friday, February 22, 2013

Mott the Hoople -- "All the Way from Memphis" (1973)

Well it's a mighty long way 
Down rock 'n' roll 
From the Liverpool docks 
To the Hollywood Bowl 
And you climb up the mountains 
And you fall down the holes -- 
All the way from Memphis!

Mott the Hoople doesn't really have anything to do with Memphis, but they were a great band and this is a great song with  a great piano part -- so what the hell.

Record producer Guy Stevens gave the band its name, which is the title of a 1966 novel about a sleazy guy who works in a carnival.  Stevens had read the novel when he was in prison.  (Stevens, who produced the Clash's London Calling album, named the band Procol Harum after a friend's cat.)

Mott's most famous song is "All the Young Dudes," which David Bowie wrote for them when he heard they were about to split up.  (Bowie was a big fan of the group.)

"All the Way from Memphis" tells the story of a rock guitarist whose instrument is mistakenly shipped to Oriole, Kentucky.  By the time he catches up with it a month later, it's just junk.  The song was inspired by an airline's losing a guitar belonging to lead guitarist Mick Ralphs when Mott was touring the U.S.  

If there's a message here, it's that life on the road can be a drag for rock 'n' rollers.  (The same is true for authors of wildly popular blogs, boys and girls.)

"All the Way from Memphis" is featured in the opening scene of Martin Scorsese's 1974 movie, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, a chick flick which is nothing like Scorsese's previous movie (Mean Streets) or his next movie (Taxi Driver).

Here's the opening scene from Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, with Ellen Burstyn (who won the "Best Actress" Oscar for her performance) trying to keep the peace between her bully of a husband and her teenage son, who insists on playing Mott the Hoople at maximum volume while dear ol' dad is trying to read the newspaper:

Alice had a remarkable cast.  In addition to Burstyn, it featured Diane Ladd (who was nominated for the "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar), Kris Kristofferson, Harvey Keitel, and Jodie Foster (who was 12 going on 21 when the movie was filmed).  Vic Tayback reprised his movie role as a diner owner who hires Alice as a waitress in the CBS sitcom based on the movie than aired from 1976 to 1985.

Here's "All the Way From Memphis":

Click here to buy this song from Amazon:

1 comment:

  1. That video would not go over so well in my neighborhood--we have quite a few families of the Asian persuasion on our street. Historical note: one of the first images ever sent by television was of a figurine of Felix the Cat. This was back in the 1920s, using the primitive Nipkow disc system. Also, the cartoon kitty is the "mascot" of Felix Chevrolet, in Los Angeles just north of the USC campus. And if you bring up the August 2011 edition of the Old Curiosity Shop, my visit to Memphis is chronicled there.