When you look at the people Mr. Ronson played with in his life, you have to be a little impressed. In many ways I feel that he is not given the credit that he deserves when you look at all the big name musicians that wanted to play with him. When people speak of great guitarists he is seldom mentioned, but he definitely had something that attracted so many others to his services. He had the talent, but he may have lacked the drive to be as good as his talent permitted. As this interview may give an indication of.
The RONSON you give will always remind him of you
or more likely he`ll smash it. Read how Dylan`s old buddy breaks his guitars… then blows out his amp… then blows out his fuzz box. He does not, however, blow out his baked beans.
By Neet O`Noser
The rumours started circulating around Saturday evening, passed on secretively by several Hollywood groupies and a handful of “in” people.
By Sunday the circle of confidants had expanded to include the press and by Monday everybody knew except those too old to care or the too young to know. That evening at Channel 4 in Burbank (shooting home of the television show Midnight Special) Mick Ronson, Carmine Appice, Tim Bogert, Albert Lee, Bo Diddley, Mark Steiner, Barry Goldberg and Roger McGuinn would be teaming up for a super jam to be filmed and televised at a later date.
The audial possibilities alone seemed staggering, and though that evening`s taping never made the legendary mark it was still… uh… interesting.
Backstage, Mick Ronson raced around looking for a cup of coffee. Dressed in ill-fitting Levis (they were too short; evidently he does not realise this look went out in the 50`s and that floor-level fit is now the cat`s meow), white tennis shoes and T-shirt, he presented the perfect antithesis of the Bowie/Mott/Hunter days when silk scarves and high shoes made up his tout ensemble.
It all fits in with his current pre-occupation with Bob Dylan and the American Way in general.
For the ex-Spider, the Rolling Thunder Revue has been like a breath of new life; his most recent work with Ian Hunter was disastrous and the call from Dylan was as welcome as a message from the Messiah.
Mick has finally landed the coffee, and with face made-up for the taping, chats about the Dylan episode.
“It`s so fresh, it`s just like I`ve started playing again. It`s like I`ve got to learn how to play again… it`s that kind of feelin`. And it`s real refreshin`. But I don`t want to put aside the things I`ve done because they`re valuable.”
Ronson is ushered on to the stage along with the rest of the band and immediately Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice break into a breakneck version of the Beck, Bogert and Appice tune, “Lady.”
Bogert, as usual, is monstrous on bass and Mick – anxious to join in – quickly switches on the Fender amplifier and turns up the volume.
A loud hissing is followed by piercing squeals. Perplexed and nonplussed, he quietly requests another amp. This one works fine and after wringing one searing note from the rented Les Paul (both of his other guitars are broken) Ronno stomps on the fuzz box.
Crackling and spitting sounds emerge.
With a smile illuminating his powdered features, he requests another fuzz.
Finally both amp and fuzz are working and joining in with the other musicians – who by this time are all playing – he delivers some effective if not too creative riffs.
In fact, it is this pre-jam jam which will be the highlight of the evening.
The rest of the show is made up of “Not Fade Away”, “Hey Bo Diddley,” and another number, and though the overall sound is nothing to write home about the simple majesty of the affair is intriguing.
The next day, back at the hotel, Ronson is excited about last evening`s play and the whole American attitude towards music. He is in the midst of a scrambled eggs, bacon and hashed browns breakfast, and in between mouthfuls carries on the conversation.
He`s talking about his rejuvenation (he`s 29), which he apparently began in June of 1974 when he visited New York and met up with Bobby Neuwirth.
“I just started hanging around with Bobby, and he told me about the tour, I thought he was jokin`, because I didn`t know Dylan, and when Bobby talked about the tour he made it sound so loose. I thought, `This can`t be right what I`m hearin`. Maybe a bit of it`s right but it`s not just like that.` But yet it was that`s exactly how it was.”
Mick gags on a mouthful of bacon and takes a stiff drink of milk. He`ll anxious to go out shopping for records and guitars (“It`s the first time in years I`ve wanted to go out and buy guitars”) and decides to hit Tower Records first.
The reaction in the store is typical; ladies flit around like moths in flame territory and guys look on enviously. Several ask for autographs and Ronson obliges.
Then it`s outside and back into his silver Rolls Royce at the Tropicana (he leaves the guitar-searching for later) his thoughts run back to Bowie.
Despite rumours to the contrary, that association was a positive one and his enthusiasm when questioned about possible reunions with D.B. leaves little doubt that these feelings were heartfelt.
“Sure, I`d love to play with David again. I mean, I really like him. He`s really clever. He writes a lot of good songs. He can write a lot of good songs.
“I mean, I like the guy. Even though I have said… it`s been quoted something like, `Well, if I ever see him I`m going to give him a kick up the ass.` I don`t literally mean I`m going to beat his brains out. I want to sort of get near him as a friend and not in battle.
“I mean to go in with that kind of approach but only to gain some instant respect, so that some kind of friendship can be locked in again.
“I haven`t seen him for a long time; I don`t ring him and he doesn`t ring me and I don`t know where he is and he doesn`t know where I am. I think that`s a shame because I respect him and I like his music.”
Ronson felt fulfilled in Bowie`s band as a guitarist but towards the end of his stay was becoming more interested in other endeavours, such as producing and arranging. He only started writing with his first solo album, “Slaughter on 10th Avenue,” and never had any inclination to do so with Bowie.
Not only has playing with the Rolling Thunder Revue opened him up to the guitar again but his taste for writing has been whetted. Not that he`s sat down with Dylan and taken lessons (“You don`t trade licks with him… he just plays songs”) but he has put pen to paper in recent days.
“I was never interested in writing when I was with Bowie. They were all David`s songs. And I do enjoy playing other people`s songs. I never wrote any songs at all until my first solo album.
“I got incredibly lazy; I wouldn`t sit down and think about a song, I`d rather sit down and get drunk, or I`d much rather sit down and play with women.
“I`m not into reading or poetry… so I never wrote. I think I`ve read two books in my whole life. Tom Sawyer was one and I can`t even remember the other. So I never had a way with words. I guess I said it musically. But I now want to express myself lyrically too, and I have written a couple of things. I`m singing more too, but only in the bathtub.
“I mean I was happy in David`s band as a guitar player but I never used to really play that much guitar when I was with him. I`d never sit around and play. I`d only play it when we were recording or I was on stage.
“And sometimes in the studio I`d say, `Oh, I don`t want to play guitar yet; and I`d put it away somewhere – because it started becoming secondary to other things that I wanted to do in the studio… production, arranging.
“I used to have to force myself to take it out – which was real strange for a guitar player to do.
“David was real good, real clever. He comes up with some real bright ideas. We used to work really good together for a time. I wanted to see him on the tour.
“But I couldn`t get any tickets.”
Ronson`s metamorphosis since leaving Bowie has been swift. Gone are the sequined fineries and the reluctance to play, and in their place are Levi regalia and an enthusiasm for the strings.
So long as it`s fun Ronson will continue. But don`t get me wrong – he`s no gung ho character.
“See that guitar there?” he asks, pointing to the rented Les Paul. “It`ll stay in its case until I go into the studio with Roger (McGuinn) tonight. I still don`t practise.”
Jams like the one which took place last night have become a frequent occurrence for Ronson, and that`s how his chops are kept up.
He is sure people will see his work with Dylan as a strange coupling, but isn`t worried about it.
“It doesn`t matter what people think as long as I`m enjoying myself. Some people are gonna like it and some people aren`t. Some people will think, `Why`s he playing that hillbilly shit? Why doesn`t he get back to what he was doing?` But I`m still playing some pretty hard rockin` things same as before – but with these different musicians.
“I`m having a good time. All the people on the Dylan tour were really good people… people who could be with each other all day and all night. It`s just like I used to hang out with Bowie… we used to have fun. We all hung around together because it was good for an up-and-coming band to be seen together.”
Mick Ronson at 29 is really just a beginner. After starving in London and Paris years ago, he now charters Rolls Royces and hangs out with Bob Dylan. But he`s still the same person – playing “Blowing In The Wind” through small amps and “Ziggy Stardust” through massive Marshalls.
“I`m just learnin` like everybody else. I could work harder but then I`m just basically lazy.”
Another ad probably not allowed these days. Only in videos.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Rolling Stones, British Country Music Festival, Abba, J.J. Cale, Magna Carta, Dr. Alimantado, Steve Harley, Osibisa.
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