Mick Ronson died 22 years ago at the age of 46 from liver cancer. He was probably best known for his association with David Bowie, acting as David’s axeman during his Ziggy Stardust phase. A multi-talented musician, ‘Ronno’ also arranged and produced a multitude of Bowie tracks. Later he collaborated with many other class acts, among them Ian Hunter from Mott The Hoople, John Mellencamp, Morrissey, Dylan, Lou Reed…the list goes on.
Criminally underrated by Rolling Stone magazine as the 64th greatest guitarist of all time - in my view top ten, no problem - his main guitar was a ‘68 Gibson Les Paul, though later on a blue Fender Telecaster took its place on stage.
The YouTube performance I have chosen was taken from the Ziggy Stardust Tour, Hammersmith Odeon, July 1973 - when Bowie killed off the Ziggy character. Ronson looks great, in spite of the dodgy trouserware, long socks and shiny shoes. Resplendent in puffy pirate shirt, dark eye shadow and well-coiffured blonde barnet, he strides around the stage wringing gorgeous walls of feedback from his guitar, before stamping on his Cry Baby Wah Wah pedal - I’m a sucker for wah wah! It’s not that he’s playing a million notes a second, or that he knows his way around every chord structure (which he did anyway); it’s the feel of the solo that counts, the sound of the guitar, the showmanship. Completely off the wall, yet magical at the same time.
Bowie’s appearances bookend the solo - but there’s no doubt in my mind who was the star of the show.
‘Width of a Circle’ - Mick Ronson 1973