Friday, September 23, 2016

Mick Ronson – The Spider with the Platinum Hair – by Weird and Gilly

Mick was, of course, the platinum blond, sex-symbol guitar slinger standing by Bowie’s side during his best records – The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Alladin Sane and Pin Ups. He went on to work with Mott the Hoople, Ian Hunter, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and others along with his own solo career before his untimely death from liver cancer in 1993.

Weird and Gilly are obviously pseudonyms for members of the Bowie fan club who have worked diligently to catalogue Bowie’s work and those of his sidemen. They became friendly with Ronson and were struck by his good nature and talent and so felt the need to tell his tale.

The story begins with Ronno’s home town of Hull, where he grew up musically gifted, learning piano, violin, recorder and, eventually, guitar. These other instruments served him well in his later career as he arranged songs and even did some orchestral scoring. His time in local bands gave him confidence in his abilities and after doing some studio session work, he came to Bowie’s attention and put together what became the Spiders From Mars.

From here the story moves quickly as the albums listed above came one right after the other, with tours in between, and suddenly the Spiders were no more as Bowie decided to move on. As a Main Man (Bowie's management company) artist, Ronson acquired a solo deal, which didn’t pan out financially, then did a brief stint with Mott the Hoople and from there went on to work with Ian Hunter as well as a surprising amount of punk rockers – either as producer or session guitarist or sometimes both. It is fairly incredible how many projects he worked on and especially how many (a majority, apparently)  never saw the light of day for one reason or another.

Unfortunately, liver cancer claimed his health although he continued to do as much as he could throughout his treatments, from producing an acclaimed Morrissey record to performing in front of his biggest audience ever – along with Ian Hunter and David Bowie – for a Freddie Mercury tribute concert, with Queen as the backing band, which turned out to be his last live show ever. But, he did also manage to record one last solo album, Heaven and Hull, which some consider his best. While he also continued to work with other artists until the end, he succumbed to the cancer at the age of 47.

The book includes many eulogies and recounts several tribute concerts (which financed a public stage in Hull dedicated to Ronson) and rounds out the story of a generous, talented man whose life ended far too soon.

Nicely told tale of one of the more influential sidemen of the 70's.