Blast From The Past: Mick Ronson

God damn, he was great.

Always been a Ronno fan; loved his tone on all the Bowie albums and thought his collaboration with Ian Hunter was the perfect dynamic for both men. And while his first two solo albums (Slaughter On Tenth Avenue and Play Don’t Worry) didn’t hit those heights, they were enjoyable nevertheless. In later years I marvelled at how his magic touch would lend a spark to artists as diverse as Ellen Foley, John Mellencamp and Morrissey. I have plenty of great Ronson memories but thought of this one the other day when I came across an old review.

When I moved in June of 1981 I didn’t know a soul in my new town, but found out that Ronno’s band The New York Yanquis was playing a beach club about an hour from my apartment. I swear I was the only one in that club who was aware of the magician on stage, despite his more conventional appearance. Everyone else seemed to be getting hammered and ignoring the legend on stage, who simply went about his business blowing my mind.

It was the first gig of that tour, and the band had just gotten a cease and desist order from the Yankees baseball team, but even that introductory story didn’t make a ripple in this crowd of Budweiser swilling drunks. So he just played a myriad of rock and reggae and soul, backed by Shane Fontayne (guitar), Frank Cambell (bass), Tommy Gun (keyboards), and Wells Kelly (drums), with Ann Langte and Dede Washburn on vocals. I even got to talk to him for a while that night; he was exhausted and probably a little depressed but seemed relieved to know that at least someone recognized him and was excited about the band. It was the last time I’d see him.

His death hit me hard in 1993, and I assumed that there would never be another album since the others never sold that well and glam was the furthest thing from the current grunge on the radio. How delighted I was to come across Showtime in 2000, let alone the wonderful collections that followed.

Here is my review from Amplifier Magazine in 2000…

The first officially released live collection dedicated to Mick Ronson’s solo work is yet another stunning testament to the late guitarist’s versatility and passion. Showtime culls tracks from a 1976 performance of The Mick Ronson Band alongside excerpts from the 1990 Hunter/Ronson band tour. Lesser known tracks like “Takin’ A Train” and “I’d Give Anything To See You” shine while the cover of “White Light, White Heat” explodes with energetic fretwork. Extended versions of the instrumentals “Slaughter On Tenth Avenue” and “FBI” are highlights, but “Sweet Dreamer”, as always, is the emotional showstopping performance that will leave you with heart in mouth.

Limited editions of this release include a bonus disc featuring four tracks recorded in Sweden in 1991, later versions of which appeared n the posthumous release Heaven and Hull. The label is reportedly assembling more Ronson releases including a CD spotlighting his instrumental work. Keep it coming folks, this is magic!

Listen to clips here.

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3 Comments

Filed under Music, Reviews

3 responses to “Blast From The Past: Mick Ronson

  1. NinaS

    Wow. Thank you for shining the light on the peerless majesty that is Mick Ronson. I could not agree more. I loved, loved his tone and influence on the ZS and the Spiders from Mars lp’s, and in recent years have enjoyed his later recordings. He was an especially talented man and too often underrated or just plain overlooked. The first concert I ever went to was a Bob Dylan & The Rolling Thunder Revue show, of whom Mick was playing with. I didn’t realize it at the time (I was only 14), but I was getting to see the man who in time would become my fav guitarist of all.

    Remarkable as well to me is that invaribly whenever someone who knew him is asked about him, they always first talk about what a genuinely nice, down to earth guy he was. He is sadly missed and I’m grateful we had him for as long as we did, short though it was. For anyone who isn’t familiar with him, he is a treasure and you ought to check him out.

  2. drbristol

    Thanks Nina. I could write a novel about Mick moments, but better doled out a dollop at a time.

    The first day Ziggy Stardust came out, a friend slapped a pair of incerdibly expensive headphones on my skull, said “you HAVE to hear this” and backed across the room, smirking. When it was over I was certain that the headphones were *fused* to my cranium. I highly recommend at least one headphone listen, especially since you no longer have to frantically wave to get said friend to flip the album over…

    Still in my top 5 albums ever, often #1.

  3. Thank you for this post about true magician. Especially for memories about Yanquis concert. I heard the bootleg of it, very special treat, and I loved a lot that Mick could do things very different from people would expect. Wish I could be there.

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