Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mott the Hoople, "I Wish I Was Your Mother" (1973)


Sometimes I get the feeling this song might have fit just as neatly on Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde—Ian Hunter clearly was a student, and this is pretty well imbued with various familiar Dylan tricks and stylings, such as the phrasing, and the way he pushes the vocal from just below his throat, giving it a strained and exhausted feeling, not to mention of course the whole upside-down, inside-out, and vaguely surreal thrust of the lyrics, which effectively free-associate off a theme that would seem to trace back most directly to classic Freudian preoccupations (I'm not sure how often Dylan actually went Freudian quite this explicitly, but set that aside for the moment). Most of all, as I realized the other day walking around with the tune stuck in my head but not sure for a few minutes what it was, it sneaks up on you in the form of a gentle lullaby, inflected by gorgeous mandolin textures. That's at least disconcerting in the context of the album it comes from, Mott, an extended, determinedly narcissistic meditation on the foibles of glam-rock and maybe, by extension, a wider rock 'n' roll lifestyle then extant. Hotel rooms, airports, 'ludes, your instrument, and the notebook you write in. It's a perfect ending to a very good album, reaching deep and offering parallels in the most unexpected places. Today it occurred to me that, in a way, it throws a spotlight on Lillian Gish in Intolerance (and, later, in The Night of the Hunter), rocking the cradles of history and longing and human foolishness on the porch of time, suffering the pains and secret joys only parents know truly. The rest of us, like Hunter, can only gape in yearning, and maybe someday write a song as complex, profound, and beautiful as this.

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