Buyer’s Guide

Mick Ron­son

Classic Rock - - Contents -

He played on some of Bowie’s great­est records, but the tal­ents of the guitar great from Hull stretched much fur­ther.

The self-ef­fac­ing York­shire­man made Bowie fa­mous, was the sound of glam rock and re­vi­talised the Vel­vet Un­der­ground.

Although he had only two solo al­bums re­leased in his life­time (Slaugh­ter On 10th Av­enue and Play Don’t Worry), Mick Ron­son en­joyed a pe­riod as one of Bri­tain’s great­est gui­tarists, thanks to ground­break­ing per­for­mances with David Bowie be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter The Dame’s rise to fame. The ful­crum on Ziggy Star­dust And The Spi­ders From Mars, Ron­son’s skills – player, ar­ranger, mu­si­cal direc­tor – made him in­dis­pens­able, un­til Bowie changed tac­tics for Di­a­mond Dogs.

Never at ease in pro­mot­ing his solo al­bums, Ronno pre­ferred a col­lab­o­ra­tive role, one he’d per­fected in his most sig­nif­i­cant home town (Hull) band,

The Rats. His first ma­jor project was also lo­cal: his con­tri­bu­tion to Michael Chap­man’s sec­ond al­bum, 1970’s Fully Qual­i­fied Sur­veyor. Chap­man said: “That bug­ger’s the best gui­tarist around.”

This was the point when Bowie and his then-pro­ducer Tony Vis­conti first came across the skinny, ret­i­cent Ron­son. Many have no­ticed cer­tain sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the Chap­man record­ing and Bowie’s Hunky Dory, the al­bum sig­nalling the mu­ta­tion of hip­pie bo­hemia into emerg­ing glam rock.

Ron­son’s in­volve­ment in Lou Reed’s Trans­former show­cased his string ar­rang­ing and sharp guitar vi­sion, and helped res­cue a bunch of ma­te­rial ly­ing around in half-fin­ished form. His later work with Ian Hunter was fruit­ful, although the Bowie-ma­nia days were never re­placed. He also did ster­ling work with other side projects, in­clud­ing the Pure Prairie League and Bob Dy­lan’s Rolling Thun­der Re­vue. “I’d fol­low him [Bob] any­where,” Ron­son vowed. “That whole tour was this huge ad­ven­ture. There was Joan Baez, [Roger] McGuinn, Allen Gins­berg. There was Dy­lan. And there I was too. For a lad from York­shire it was truly out of this world.”

Af­ter that, Ronno’s ca­reer was punc­tu­ated with hits, but not many. For ev­ery John Cougar there was a David Cas­sidy. A lat­ter-day Bowie re­union and vi­tal as­sists to Mor­ris­sey’s Your Arse­nal co­in­cided with the knowl­edge that he had in­op­er­a­ble liver can­cer, but he worked up un­til his death in April 1993, aged just 46.

Mor­ris­sey’s gui­tarist Boz Boorer re­called: “I can see him in front of a deaf­en­ing Mar­shall head, di­alling in a sound he could hear, a mas­ter at work.”

Max Bell

The Star­man with his star man.

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