Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mick Ronson

During my first week on the job at Trident, David Bowie came in to cut 'Hunky Dory'. David cut quite a dashing figure with his long blonde tresses, his yellow patent leather Mary-Janes and Oxford bags. He was confident, outspoken, handsome, eager to give an opinion about anything, approachable and very easy to talk to. Thanks to a batch of dodgy tea I'd made (due to some milk that had gone bad and tasted fishy) David decided to call me Harry Kipper and from then on, everyone at the studio called me Kip. When he wasn't bust singing, he'd talk about the music that influenced him and pointed me in the direction of The Stooges and The Velvet Underground. I wasn't really familiar with either, although a neighbour, Veronica Curry, had the first VU alb and I'd seen the Stooges discs at Harum Records in Crouch End. In return for the excellent tips, I lent him a couple of albums by The Pretty Things and The Yardbirds and never saw them again, much to my dismay. During my time at Trident, he also recorded The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (that's me, turning the phasing knob for the strings in 'Moonage Daydream', an 8-hand mix), Pin Ups and Diamond Dogs. The last time I got to work with David was when he came by to get some acetates of 'Rebel Rebel' made. By this time, I was working in the disc-cutting room at Trident, as Ray Staff's #2.
Mick Ronson was quiet and introverted in person...even humble. He was one of the nicest people I ever met. He was genuinely friendly and I really enjoyed the times I spent with him, watching him work. When he wasn’t tracking his guitar parts, he’d be reading 'The Theory of Music', pencil in hand, 'staff paper' on his lap, learning how to write the notes for an orchestral arrangement. I vividly recall him (stiffly, but successfully) conducting his first 40 piece orchestral session. Mick's arrangements were beautiful and helped David reach a much wider audience. Check out the strings on 'Starman'. His parts for Lou Reed's 'Transformer' gave Lou's career a massive boost, too. Mick smoked roll-ups, liked his tea and, while every one else would send me out to get curries from the Shahbag or sandwiches from The Sandwich Scene, he liked me to cook him beans on toast for his dinner during the overnight sessions. His thick Yorkshire accent was
undisguised and as real as it gets and sounded funny coming from a man who wore the tightest Stirling Cooper jeans and shirts you could ever imagine.
The first time I ever came to Manhattan in the mid 70s, I was walking up 7th Avenue in the West Village enjoying the sights when I hear, “Kip! what’re you up to?” It was Mick. We chatted, and I immediately felt at home. On my second visit to Manhattan, I’m walking along Broadway, this time, looking for Stirling Sound and out of the blue, there’s Mick again, smiling and carrying on as if both of us had just bumped into each other outside The Ship on Wardour St. The last time I saw him, he was very sick with liver cancer, his golden aura now a faint yellowy-grey. We were in the bar at the Halcyon Hotel on Holland Park and he was looking for some production work. Later, Ian Hunter wrote 'Michael Picasso' about Ronno. It's a real tear jerker for anyone who met him.


Anonymous said...

Was the Sandwich Scene on Wardour St.?

Anonymous said...

Did Bowie record his own guitar for Diamond Dogs or did Mick perform his guitar playing for the LP for the Song Diamond Dogs? Why would Mick be in the studio for Diamond Dogs and not record his guitar playing if so?