‘God knows why we influenced all these people. Sometimes I can’t see what all the fuss is about. Maybe it’s that bit of magic. Maybe Mott The Hoople had that, I don’t know if it did or not. If people say they love Mott, I just can’t see it, I don’t know why. But it’s nice to think people really liked what we did. It’s also funny to think that people are probably as mad on Mott The Hoople as I am on The Monks and The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Poor devils!’
- Overend Watts
It was eccentric producer Guy Stevens who decided that, for such a strangely named group as Mott The Hoople, the name Peter Watts was perhaps a little commonplace and declared that Pete’s middle name Overend had just the right allure of glamour and mystery for the bass player. Despite later attracting some strange connotations, particularly in the USA, Overend was in fact a family name that originated several hundred years before in Westmorland.
Born in Yardley, Birmingham on the 13th May 1947, Peter Overend Watts moved to Ross-on-Wye at the age of thirteen via Worthing in Sussex. Hearing the guitar playing of The Shadows’ Hank Marvin for the first time and the sight, not long after, of an electric guitar in a shop window was enough to ensure that young Overend would never be quite the same. Learning the basics on his dad’s acoustic guitar, Overend progressed quickly and for Christmas 1961, he received his first electric guitar, a Hofner Colorama 2.
At Ross Grammar School, Overend played in a number of bands with future Mott The Hoople drummer Dale Griffin., continuing to play semi-professionally once he’d started work as a trainee architect. By December 1965, Overend had switched to bass guitar and turned professional alongside Mick Ralphs in The Buddies, gaining valuable experience in Europe, sometimes playing up to fourteen hours a night in the German clubs.
Further personnel changes followed and names became mere flags of convenience to gain work; as The Doc Thomas Group they worked every summer between 1966 and 1968 in Italy, recording an album there which was released in January 1967 on the Dischi Interrecord label. Evolving into the Shakedown Sound and then Silence, the group moved to London early in 1969 and by June that year, they had found Ian Hunter, signed with Guy Stevens and Island Records and become Mott The Hoople.
Mott The Hoople quickly built up a fearsome reputation as a dynamite live attraction playing no holds barred, gloriously ragged rock’ n’ roll and much of the group’s raw energy emanated from band’s propulsive engine room; the thunderous rhythm section of Overend Watts and Dale Griffin. Apart from his musicianship and his too-little credited arrangement skills, Overend has to take credit for much of the look of the band, instilling a belief that they needed to look good too. To stand out in a band as visual as Mott The Hoople were takes some doing, but it would have been hard not to notice Overend Watts in his thigh high platform boots, silver hair with a custom made bass guitar in the shape of a swallow! Describing Overend in his 1972 US Tour Diary, Ian Hunter wrote, “He’s solid as a rock, always sunny, no matter what sort of mess he’s currently in and he always tries to keep the egos up. When I think of Pete I think of kindness, gentleness, eccentricity – a complete upper in every way.”
After the sad demise of Mott The Hoople in December 1974, Overend, together with Dale Griffin and Morgan Fisher regrouped and, enlisting new personnel, formed MOTT, recording two critically acclaimed albums for CBS before grinding to a halt in December 1976. With MOTT, Overend became the band’s principal songwriter, a remarkable step considering his limited song writing experience. Overend next formed British Lions, an exciting pairing of MOTT with ex-Medicine Head vocalist John Fiddler. Their eponymous debut album and live shows received favourable reviews, but ineffectual management and the rise of punk led to the band folding in April 1979, leaving their second LP to gather dust in the vaults.
Overend next moved into production and formed Grimtone Productions with Dale Griffin and during the early 1980’s worked with a number of artists including Department S and Hanoi Rocks. Despite some success, Overend became disheartened and effectively removed himself from the music business, first running an antiques shop in West London, before moving back to Herefordshire to open the Dinosaw Market selling eccentric retro, antiques, clothing, mad memorabilia and music. The emporium was a Hereford landmark for 15 years.
Today, Overend is perhaps the most elusive ex-member of Mott The Hoople, happy to spend his spare time carp fishing and walking the length and breadth of Britain as well as working on his long awaited solo album for Angel Air. 2009 will see the publication of Overend’s walking journals under the typically humorous Watts-like title of ‘The Man Who Hated Walking.’ He now spends most of his spare time on a former croft in the Scottish Isles.