Mick Ronson Biography


Born May 26, 1946 and raised in the Northern England city of Hull, Mick
Ronson learned recorder and violin in school, and played the harmonium in
his church. The shy youth expressed a desire to become a music teacher, but
secretly aspired to rock stardom on the level of his idol Jeff Beck, whose
guitar style Ronson strived to emulate. After short stints in a rock group
called Voice and a soul outfit called Wanted, "Ronno" joined the Rats, a
Yardbirds-style r&b group. The Rats recorded a few 45s ("Spoonful," "I Gotta
See My Baby" and "Parchment Farm") for the UK Decca and Oriole labels; but
after a disastrous tour of France, Ronson returned to Hull and found work as
a municipal gardener.
In 1970, David Bowie was putting together a new band. After releasing nine
singles and an album under a variety of names, the former David Jones
finally scored a hit with "Space Oddity," a song inspired by the Apollo moon
landing. He wanted to follow it up with a new concept, and when Bowie heard
about the Rats' talented guitarist from ex-Rat John Cambridge, Mick Ronson
was called up to London and immediately put to work on a BBC radio session
Bowie had scheduled. Soon Mick was living in the Haddon Hall household Bowie
shared with girlfriend Angie and musician/ producer Tony Visconti,
sleeping in the stairway. Their first band was called the Hype,
When a new drummer was needed, Mick called down ex-Rat Mick "Woody"
Woodmansey--and soon the new band was working on Bowie's classic album, The
Man Who Sold The World. Ronson's prominent guitar work resounded throughout
with a loud, heavy sound at a time when no one knew what "heavy metal" was.
With the album finished and Bowie concentrated on songwriting, Ronson
returned to Hull. There he recorded a single, "The Fourth Hour of My Sleep,"
under the name Ronno.

The guitarist was near to giving up on professional music-making when Bowie
called once more, and Mick returned to London. With Woodmansey and another
ex-Rat, bassist Trevor Bolder, in tow, the band began the sessions for
Bowie's brilliant Hunky Dory LP (1971). Mick did the arrangements for half
of the songs, which favored strings, piano and horns.

Building on this album's critical success, Bowie and Ronson soon set out to
create one of the undeniable milestones of rock: The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy
Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (1972). The brilliant songwriting,
androgynous sci-fi imagery, and Bowie's charismatic stage work were
groundbreaking. But equally crucial to the album's reception was its unique
sound, which combined strings, keyboards, and acoustic guitars with a
crunching rock power trio. Mick Ronson was as responsible as anyone for that
sound: He co-arranged the entire album and performed all the keyboard parts,
as well as playing the guitar hero role.

Ziggy turned the world on to glitter rock and polysexual decadence, and made
instant superstars of Bowie and "the Spiders." As band leader, Ronson became
a star in his own right through several sold-out tours and Bowie's next two
albums, Aladdin Sane and Pin Ups (both 1973). The Bowie-Ronson team somehow
found time for additional projects, and together they revitalized the
careers of Lou Reed and Mott the Hoople; an album they partially produced
for friend Dana Gillespie was less successful. Eventually Bowie announced
his "retirement" from the stage; in fact, he was only retiring his band, but
an exciting era in rock history died as a shocked audience cried mascara-
filled tears.

Mick Ronson wasted no time launching a solo career. He released the
Ziggyesque Slaughter On Tenth Avenue in 1974, followed the next year by the
more straight-ahead Play Don't Worry.

Ronson then briefly joined Mott the Hoople, playing on the song "Saturday
Gigs." When Mott broke up, leader Ian Hunter formed a productive partnership
with Mick, who produced and/or played on Hunter's next five solo albums and
toured with him in the Hunter-Ronson Band. They reteamed on 1989's

Ronson continued to guest on others' sessions, including albums by Pure
Prairie League, Ellen Foley, Kinky Friedman, Annette Peacock, Genya Raven,
Slaughter and the Dogs (!), and "Johnny Cougar" (on his first album, as well
as Mr. Mellencamp's American Fool album).

Mick was part of the supergroup that comprised Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder
Revue tour of 1975. He appears on the Hard Rain live album, and also appears
in Dylan's cryptic, improvised film made on the tour, Renaldo And Clara. The
guitarist's funny bit as a stubborn backstage security goon was one of the
brighter moments in this four-hour opus. Another Rolling Thunder player,
Roger McGuinn, enlisted Ronson to produce and play on his Cardiff Rose album
(1976). Other Mick Ronson productions include albums by the Iron City
Houserockers, David Johansen, Dead Fingers Talk, the Payolas, and Glen
Matlock's post-Sex Pistols group, the Rich Kids.

Mick was now producing records for a generation that had grown up on his own
music. Despite his 1990 cancer diagnosis, Ronno kept right on working, this
time with Morrissey on his acclaimed album Your Arsenal (1992). Meanwhile,
new sensations like Suede appeared with records that bore an obvious
"Spiders" influence.

Mick was working on his third solo album up to the time of his death. The
result is Heaven And Hull, which Def Leppard's Joe Elliott calls "Mick's
most consistent work to date...not just an album for old `Ronno' fans but
for a whole new generation of people who appreciate great songs."

The introspective songs on Heaven 'N Hull are the voice of a man at peace
with himself and with his world. It is a world that is much richer for the
music of Mick Ronson.

When Mick Ronson died of cancer on April 29, 1993, the music world lost a
man of many talents: songwriter, arranger, producer, multi-instrumentalist,
and a brilliant guitarist whose searing lead style provided the earthly
grounding for a new generation of rock flamboyance in David Bowie's
character of Ziggy Stardust.

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