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(Credit: Columbia Records)

Music

Mott the Hoople and the riot that banned rock from the Albert Hall

Hereford rockers Mott the Hoople formed in the late 1960s and struggled through the early ’70s as one of the blooming numbers of glam-rock groups trying to make it big at the time. Their fame and fortune came in 1972 when they were brought back from the brink by David Bowie, who charitably wrote their biggest hit and breakthrough single, ‘All the Young Dudes’. 

Tracing back to 1971, the band was still in the doldrums as they struggled to find their big break to commercial success. On July 8th of that year, Mott the Hoople were scheduled to play the first of a two-night stand at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The opportunity to play at such a grand arena was doubtlessly among the group’s career highlights up to that point. Unfortunately, they would never return for the second night. 

On the first (and only) night at the Royal Albert Hall, rowdy fans amongst the bustling audience began to take the energy of youthful hijinks to a new level. A report on the historic venue’s website documents a correspondence between the Albert Hall rep Marion Herrod and John Glover, an executive at Mott the Hoople’s label, Island records, at the time.

The report notes that Herrod was “rather alarmed” after listening to a radio report describing Mott as a band “at whose concerts the audience habitually participate and one which often causes a ‘riot’.” After voicing her concerns, Glover managed to placate any anxiety in the run-up to the Albert Hall gig.

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“The report you heard on the radio about the group was greatly exaggerated,” Glover wrote in response. “Mott the Hoople usually get a very good receptions at all their concerts; but as far as we know, there have never been any riots or damage caused to any of the places where they have appeared.”

After such persuasion, sod’s law had it in for Glover and the Hoople. As the evening unfolded, a riot began to erupt, just as Herrod had feared. As she told Glover the following day: “Some members of the audience in Second Tier boxes became so enthusiastic and jumped and stamped around so much that the ceilings in two boxes in the Grand Tier below fell in. It is for reasons like this that we here do not like concerts at which the audience stamps and dances.”

After the roof partially collapsed, a riot broke out in the crowd in which several members of the audience were injured. Subsequently, Mott the Hoople owed the Hall £1,467 (over £8,000 today) for damages to the premises and were forced to cancel their second evening at the Hall.

After the financial and promotional setback, Mott the Hoople were in dire straits, having released two underperforming albums that year, Wildfire and Brain Capers. By the end of 1971, they had made plans to disband, and would have, had it not been for the Starman

The July 8th concert tipped the scales and led the Royal Albert Hall to put a temporary ban on rock groups entertaining at the venue in early 1972. While Mott the Hoople’s infamous night was the peak for destruction, elsewhere in the year, 22 other rock concerts had also ended in damage to property and violent outbreaks. 

The Who were one of the most prominent contemporary acts to fall victim to the ban, and in 2015, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend were issued an official apology for the ban ahead of their concert in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust.