Certain Songs #667: Ian Hunter – “Once Bitten Twice Shy”

ian-hunter-ian-hunter Album: Ian Hunter
Year: 1975

Back in the day, when a lead singer got left the band that made his name, he didn’t take a whole lot of time worrying about what he was going to do next.

Nope, usually, he grabbed the nearest available guitar player and just got on with it.

In the case of Ian Hunter, who left Mott The Hoople in December 1974, that guitar player just happened to be Mick Ronson — who had played on a few classic David Bowie albums — and by April 1975, Hunter’s self-titled solo album was in the record stores, anchored by its classic opening track, “Once Bitten Twice Shy.”

Of course, for all of their glam-rock associations, what made Mott The Hoople great was their affinity for combining straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll with Dylanesque flourishes, and so “Once Bitten Twice Shy” starts off with just nothing more than a Chuck Berry vamp and Hunter’s voice.

You didn’t know what rock and roll was
Until you met a drummer on the Greyhound bus
I got there in the nick of time
Before he got his hands across your state line, yeah

About halfway through, there’s a bit of drum break, and “Once Bitten Twice Shy” kicks in with a full blast of compressed, distorted Ronson guitar, and after that it’s time for the whole world to sing along:

I said my, my, my, I’m once bitten twice, shy babe
My, my, my, I’m once bitten twice shy baby
My, my, my, I’m once bitten twice shy baby

Add to that barrelhouse piano, handclaps, and typically thrilling guitar leads and “Once Bitten Twice Shy” ends up an absolutely auspicious way for Hunter to start his solo career while continuing down his well-trodden path.

Video for “Once Bitten Twice Shy”

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