“Ziggy played guitar, jamming good with Weird and Gilly.” (David Bowie: Ziggy Stardust, 1972).
In the interest of context, we have to at this point go back a year to early May 1993 and specifically to Madison Wisconsin. Nazareth were playing a gig here and we were joined by Greg Lewerke from Vault Management, an LA-based company. Greg had flown in to help with some tour accountancy matters which right away made him not very interesting to my bandmates and road crew.
I, on the other hand, was very interested in hanging out with him as Greg Lewerke was currently the personal manager of the Hunter/Ronson Band, or Ian and Mick to him. I wasted no time in showing him my address book with Mick Ronson’s phone number in it and asked if it was still current.
“I’ve never actually called him,” I explained after he’d acknowledged the number was correct. “It’s just good to know that I could if I ever wanted to, know what I mean?”
He nodded that he understood.
After agreeing to meet in the hotel bar after our gig for a ‘Hunter/Ronson Fan Fest’ as I put it, we parted company: Me to do a gig, him, who knows but it was probably boring.
“Getting some tax advice?” said Pete as we left the hotel bar as was our wont, pre-gig.
“He’s really cool.”
“Really? In what possible way?”
“He manages the Hunter/Ronson Band Pete. That makes him cool.”
“Ye mean he manages that curly-heided guy who canny sing and that average guitarist you like?”
“Let me tell ye, Uncle Pete,” I cautioned, “I’d leave Nazareth in a heartbeat and pish in your mouth if I was offered a job sniffing the exhaust fumes of the truck taking the Hunter/Ronson Band’s underwear to the laundry.”
“Nah, but I’d probably need to think about it.”
That night I played a bit more ‘Ronson-ish’ and got back to my hotel room excited to join everyone in the bar after the customary shower. Then a knock came to my door. It was Greg with two bottles of Heineken.
“Can I come in?”
“Hey, Greg! Yeah, I was just thinking maybe by the end of the night you could gimme Ian Hunter’s phone number and I wouldn’t ever use it either, like Mick’s.”
“Sit down Bill.”
“Okay. What’s up?”
“Mick’s gone. Passed away last week. April 29th to be exact.”
Now I knew he’d been battling cancer, but last I’d heard it was in remission so this was unexpected.
“I know he meant a lot to you so I reckoned you’d be better off playing the gig tonight before I told you.”
“Right. Thanks, Greg. Can you go now?”
“Sure. See you in the bar?”
“Yeah, just gimme a minute.”
I never made it to the bar. Instead, I rolled myself into a ball in the bathroom and cried til I couldn’t cry anymore.
Now move forward a year, while we were recording in Germany, and I got a call.
“Hey, Billy Boy! Trev here. Listen, there’s a gig being organised at the Hammersmith Odeon in memory of Mick. You in?”
The more observant amongst you will realise the Trev here was Mr Bolder, my good friend and bass player with Uriah Heep, but also part of the original Spiders From Mars alongside Woody Woodmansey and Mick Ronson, and Dame Dave of course.
“Great idea, Trev.”
“Yeah, I’ve been asked to reform the Spiders with Bowie.”
“Aye man. Me and Woody are well up for it.”
“So what can I help with? Tune your guitar?”
“Nope. I want you to be Mick.”
“Wait? What! Why?”
“Cos you remind me so much of Ronson. I’ve told you before you dumb fuck! You play like him and even sometimes look like him onstage. I’ve told you before you dumb fuck!”
“Aye, you have mate. Twice just now.”
“Yeah sorry. Are you in?”
So, I’m being asked to play Mick Ronson at the Hammersmith Odeon with Trevor Bolder, Woody Woodmanssey and David Bowie.
What else could I say?
“See you there, Trev. I’m nursing a semi.”