#484: Mott the Hoople, "All the Young Dudes" (1972)

Because it is the first Saturday of the month, and Blaine and I are nothing if not creatures of habit, we stop by Zeek's Petz Store and buy another hermit crab. How did this ritual start? Whiskey? Rum? Vodka? It's hazy.

Zeek's smells like urine, shit, and sawdust, which is to say it smells like a pet store. There are the birds hopping and squawking, the ferrets slithering, hamsters tunneling, kittens mewling. The persistent low thrum of crickets. We have yet to see another customer on any of our crabbing sojourns and I have a sneaking suspicion our hermit purchases might be Zeek's only current source of revenue. A desire to keep Zeek in business could be one possible explanation for the six hermit crabs we now own, but a better one would be this: hermit crabs are fucking awesome.

Zeek looks relieved to see us. He must be figuring our aquarium to be getting full, but never fear Zeek, we will buy all the hermit crabs your cramped, strip-mall store can hold. They are sociable animals and, being sociable guys, we try to respect their right to party.

When we get home, we do a few more ritualistic things: we get drunk; we get out the Montana state map and the darts; we put on Mott the Hoople's All the Young Dudes.

The drunk part is because we like getting drunk. The state map and the darts are how we name our hermits. So far we have a Two Dot (who has no dots at all), Laurel (such a sweetheart), Great Falls (who we call Falls Great because he walks funny), Yaak (talkative little fucker), Wolf Point (total badass), and Boulder (he of the hefty shell). It is a perfect system. We plan to market it as a complete kit–shot glasses, map, darts–to expecting parents.

  Illustration by S.H. Lohmann

Illustration by S.H. Lohmann

All the Young Dudes is a more mysterious piece of the puzzle, harkening back to the total wastage of our first hermit crab purchase. Somehow–perhaps a raking of the dollar bin at the record store, or a chance encounter with a dumpster–the album came to be in our possession that first night. It's not a good record. It's some empty Stones worship at best. But it turns out Bowie wrote them a song, the title track, and that song is god damn perfect for naming hermit crabs. We put it on repeat. That wavering, drunk guitar lick to start it off! All the fucked up kids trying to figure their shit out. And then those young dudes come in, carrying the news. It's like Bowie wrote the song for hermit crabs. Their own anthem, at long last.

Blaine misses the map with his first dart because he's drunk. I miss the map with my first dart because I'm drunk. I look down at the unnamed hermit in his temporary cage and the little guy is clearly worried. He's looking forlornly at the aquarium across the way, full of his brethren. Never fear, I tell him, we'll get you a name real soon so you can join your buddies.

It takes four throws to hit the map, twelve throws to hit a city. And then, finally, we christen our newest crab. He is Red Lodge. He is red. It is a perfect name. We are drunk, but we handle Red Lodge carefully as we unite him with his new best friends, with the six best cities in Montana.

Mott the Hoople, on their tenth, looping cycle, yell about the boogaloo dudes and I’m so happy we have our little boogaloo dudes, shelled up and Montana-christened, ready to carry the news.

We sit there for the next hour, watching them scuttle and play, getting woozy off Mott’s repetition and, also, beer. What a thrill.

—J.P. Kemmick