Every student of 1970s rock should have a copy of Slaughter On 10th Avenue – and the addition of Play Don’t Worry and the treasure trove of extra material on here make it a desirable item for anyone on the periphery of this man’s world.
Mick Ronson needs no introduction to either anyone following David Bowie’s career in the 1970s or indeed any self-respecting guitar connoisseur. As a member of Bowie’s legendary Spiders From Mars, Ronson made himself a household name and a household face, thanks to his outrageous glam image combined with his magnificent guitar technique. For a while, it seemed as if nothing could go wrong for this Hull-based maestro, and that the world was spread out before him. Then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t.
When the Spiders broke up, Ronson was highly sought after in terms of a solo career, and in 1974 he released his first solo album Slaughter On 10th Avenue to critical acclaim and respectable sales. Then he followed it up with a slightly weaker second release Play Don’t Worry, but his name and face were still highly prominent in the music press of the time. However, in a development nobody could have foretold, that was to all intents and purposes the end of a brief but memorable spell in the limelight, certainly as a solo artist. Part of this was due to Ronson’s preference toward being a foil for someone else rather than the man leading the show, as his stage shows hinted at. Part was also due to the distraction of his briefly joining the imploding Mott The Hoople and subsequent partnership with Ian Hunter which was regularly hit by management conflicts. Whatever the reason, no further Ronson solo recordings were ever released until after his death in 1994.
Happily, what we have here is the prime stuff – those two solo albums, along with a host of related bonus tracks occupy two discs, while a third contains recordings made in 1976 for an unreleased third album, and a fourth has demos and live tracks. Few would claim that this material, or the two albums themselves, are flawless, but what does shine here can hold its head up with the very best that even his friend and mentor Bowie could offer.
Slaughter On 10th Avenue is his first and best album, most would agree. The title track, a version of the Richard Rodgers composition, contains some guitar work so lyrical that it can almost make you weep, while the uptempo Only After Dark remains probably his most famous solo composition. Best of all, however, is the hugely dramatic Music Is Lethal, an Italian song given new English lyrics by Bowie. There is even a version of the Elvis Presley ballad Love Me Tender, which is performed beautifully. Play Don’t Worry is, as Ronson himself agrees, more patchy, but its best tracks such as the single Billy Porter and another big, chest-beating Italian ballad The Empty Bed , along with a version of the Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat, are a match for the debut.
Every student of 1970s rock should have a copy of Slaughter, that is for sure – and the addition of Play Don’t Worry and the treasure trove of extra material on here make it a desirable item for anyone on the periphery of this man’s world. And read the new liner notes as well – it’s my bet you’ll learn things you never knew about Ronno. I did, for sure.