Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Mick Ronson - Billy Porter (a-side)

“Who else can play my stuff like him”?Ian Hunter

Mick Ronson is in many ways the unsung hero of Glam Rock. He is known predominantly for his guitar and production work with David Bowie between 1970 - 73 on albums such as Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, and also for work with Ian Hunter and Mott the Hoople as well as on Lou Reed’s Transformer album.

Ronson first teamed up with Bowie in 1970 and was responsible for much of the production and arrangements on many of Bowie’s best ‘glam era’ albums. He began his solo career in 1973 when Bowie had disbanded the ‘Spiders from Mars’.

Billy Porter is taken from his second solo album ‘Play Don’t Worry’ released in 1975. Only four songs on the album were written by Ronson of which Billy Porter is one. All the guitar work and most of the vocal work were performed by Ronson as well as some bass, keyboards and drums.

He spent many years as a session musician working for amongst others Elton John but eventually returned to Hull disillusioned with the music business. It was while working as a gardener for Hull Council’s Parks department that he was recruited to play in Bowie’s backing band at the time ‘The Hype’ Having failed in earlier attempts in London he was at first reluctant to accept the job.

Ronson made his debut with Bowie on John Peel’s Radio 1 Sunday Show in February 1970. The hype played their first gig at the Roundhouse the same month with a line up that included Tony Visconti (Bowie’s producer) on bass. The band’s gimmick was to dress up in super hero costumes, Bowie was Rainbowman, Visconti was Hypeman and Ronson was Gangsterman.

This is often thought to be one of the catalysts that kick started glam rock and Marc Bolan is thought to have been at one of the Hypes earliest gigs getting ideas for his glam rock style.

After leaving Bowie and the Spiders from Mars he had a brief stint as part of Mott the Hoople and collaborated with Mott front man Ian Hunter as well as working on his own solo material. Mick and Ian Hunter worked together on and off for the next 20 years.

In 1993 he again worked with Bowie on his Black Tie White Noise album and produced Morrissey’s Your Arsenal album in 1992. Mick Ronson died from cancer in 1993 and had a third solo album Heaven and Hull released posthumously in 1994.

The Mick Ronson Memorial Stage now stands in the park where he once worked, Queens Gardens in his hometown of Hull. There is also a street named after him on Bilton Grange Estate, not far from where he lived.

The opening track on his second album is Billy Porter it didn’t sell in great quantities but is still brilliant. It’s a quirky song that you wouldn’t expect from guitar hero Ronson.