The night Ian Hunter turned 75, June 3 of this year, he was onstage at the City Winery in New York, at a concert billed as his Diamond Jubilee Birthday Bash.
“It was great,” says the former frontman of the British band Mott the Hoople, “but I’m not good at that kind of that thing. I didn’t know what to do in those kinds of situations.”
Hunter, who lives in Connecticut, will be in New Jersey the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 28, for a show with his Rant Band at the Mount Tabor Tabernacle in Parsippany. It won’t be his first concert at this wooden, octagonal building, which was built in 1885 for use in Methodist camp meetings. “It’s a great place, acoustically,” he says. “It’s just about as good as it gets.”
Though Mott the Hoople had quite a bit of success in the early ’70s, with hits such as “All the Young Dudes” and “All the Way From Memphis,” Hunter went solo in 1975. On one of his best solo albums, 1979’s “You’re Never Alone With a Schizophrenic” (featuring songs such as “Just Another Night” and “Cleveland Rocks”), Roy Bittan, Max Weinberg and Garry Tallent of the E Street Band were among the backing musicians.
“I started ‘Schizophrenic’ in London, and I wasn’t happy with the way it was going,” says Hunter. “My manager at the time was a guy named Steve Popovich, who was head of Cleveland International (Records). And Steve said, ‘If you don’t like doing it there, come back here, ’cause the E Streeters will do it.’ And I came back here, and the E Streeters did it.”
Within five minutes of recording at the Power Station studio in New York, Hunter had “the best drum sound I’ve ever had,” he says, thanks to Weinberg and engineer Bob Clearmountain.
“Clearmountain had been doing disco, and Max had just been to school, to find out how to mic his drums. And when the two got together, you heard this enormous drum sound. I couldn’t believe it.”
Hunter says he’s about a third of the way through a new studio album, but it will have to wait until 2016, since the British label Proper is planning to release a 30-CD retrospective of his solo career, next year. “I know, it sounds ridiculous,” he says.
Even Hunter is unsure how they will fill 30 CDs, since he’s only had about 15 solo studio albums. But he has made lots of previously unheard material from his archives available.
His latest album is a live set, “Live in the U.K. 2010,” recorded on a tour that featured a string quartet along with his Rant Band.
Hunter had done a concert in Oslo in 2001, with an orchestra, but years later in London, he saw some string players in the subway in London.
“I thought, we could whittle those arrangements down from the Oslo concert, and take them out, ’cause they were brilliant. And after they overcame their original suspicions — which is what happens in London when you’re buskers, since you don’t get paid that often — once they found out that we were real people and we would pay them, they went for it. And it was great.”
Even at 75, retirement doesn’t seem to be an option for Hunter.
“It’s what I do, you know,” he says of making music. “It’s a two-way street: If you get lucky enough to be able to do what you want, the least you can do is give it your best shot.”
Tickets to the Tabernacle are $55; visit atthetabernacle.com.