When David Bowie announced the end of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders Form Mars, live on stage at the end of the Ziggy tour in 1973, Bowie’s management company Mainman decided they needed to fill the Bowie sized gap in the music world, and Bowie’s guitarist in the Spiders From Mars, Mick Ronson was duly thrust into the spotlight. Being a huge Bowie fan, I remember buying a second hand vinyl edition of Ronson’s debut album ‘Slaughter On 10th Avenue’ and being enthralled by its other worldliness – some of it sounded a bit like Bowie, but mostly it was Ronson striding out on his own, albeit with some covers chucked in too. Having been with Bowie since 1970, and having always been known as a great guitarist due to his numerous stints in other bands, Ronson was admittedly a reluctant solo artist, yet with his mate Bowie contributing to three of the songs, the exuberant ‘Growing Up And I’m Fine’, ‘Music Is Lethal’ and ‘Pleasure Man/Hey Ma Get Papa’, Ronson’s own solo work blossomed with tunes such as the amazing ‘Only After Dark‘. By all accounts, despite it being a rushed job with only a few months to put the whole thing together it was a relative success both critically and commercially.

In 1975 Ronson was still being touted as solo artist, and a second solo album was again rushed out to keep up with demand. For his second solo album ‘Play Don’t Worry’. Once again Bowie also chipped in, donating a version of ‘White Light, White Heat’ from the recordings Ronson had worked on for Bowie’s seventh album ‘PinUps’, as with his debut, it was a rushed process, with Ronson throwing in more covers, with ‘Angel No.9’ by American rock band Pure Prairie League being a gloriously uplifting 70s rock gem with waling solos, and multi-layered vocals (a 70s rock staple!) adding to the classic rock feel. Glimpses of his own songwriting still shone through on tracks like ‘Billy Porter’, and the title tune ’Play Don’t Worry’ which sounds Bowie-esque ,with Ronson’s signature wailing guitar riffs and melodies shining through.

Ronson’s solo endeavours shone brightly but briefly, as shortly after finishing recording ‘Play Don’t Worry’, he then joined Mott The Hoople, and never really promoted it fully.  Although he continued to be the guitar man of choice for many other bands, he also went on to release various solo singles and tracks on albums throughout the 70s, many of which are compiled here, and it’s those kind tracks that always make these kind of compilations stand out – the rarities, the live versions, the unreleased stuff, and there’s a feast of them on here for any Ronson and even Bowie fan to get stuck into.

As Ronson was musical director for Bowie, arranging many of the tunes on his classic 70s albums, included in this boxset are glimpses into the early stages of some great tunes which made it on to Bowie’s albums –such as a demo version of ‘Soul Love’ which is more of an up-tempo stomper as opposed to the slower seductive version which made it on to the Ziggy album. There’s also a cheeky nod to Ziggy Stardust with a few refrains from that classic opening riff played in ‘Hard Life’, part of the 1976 sessions, which were meant to form Ronson’s third solo album. Plus there’s the unreleased stuff he recorded with Guam, who were Bob Dylan’s backing band for the legendary Rolling Thunder Revue Tour in 1975, as well as rare live tracks like ‘Slaughter On 10th Avenue’ live at The Rainbow London 1974, and ‘F.B.I’ recorded live In New York 1979, which has Ronson in full flow with guitar solos and riffs in abundance.

Ronson passed away in 1993, but this brilliantly compiled box set serves as a reminder that he was so much more than Bowie’s brilliant guitarist, and famed session guitar player, he was a talented songwriter and performer in his own right. A fitting tribute to Hull’s finest musician, and a must for any Ronson and Bowie fans!

You Tube

From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.