The Companion

Home Index FAQ Encyclopaedia Timeline Songs Gallery E-mail

Previous page

The Spiders From Mars 2/2

After Ziggy Stardust: And so where were the Spiders......?

After the "Retirement Gig" on 3 July 1973, Bowie and The Spiders From Mars disbanded. With Bowie retiring his character "Ziggy Stardust" it was necessary that his band The Spiders From Mars retire also. There had also been tensions on the 2nd American Ziggy Stardust Tour due to the Spiders being largely underpaid by Bowie's management and requesting more money.  In addition Woody Woodmansey and Trevor Bolders conversion to Scientology also led to some friction between Bowie and the band members and may also have contributed to the eventual split up. And most importantly there was the issue of Bowie moving into new musical areas:

"I had a ... not a falling out, really, but a loss of enthusiasm with The Spiders. They didn't really want to go where I wanted to go. I was already developing a great interest in soul music, and experimental forms. They were pretty much into playing this straightforward rock. Which was understandable - they played it very well." - Bowie

The 1980 Floor Show rehearsals (August 1973)

After participating in The 1980 Floor Show, Mick Ronson embarked on a solo career with Tony DeFries as his manager and RCA as his record label.

"A lot of people thought that Mick Ronson was going to take over from where Bowie was kind of letting it go. 'Cos he was always prettier and more talented.  He had a huge following of fans.  De Fries thought he was his next star." - Leee Black Childers

Promoted as a teenage pin-up star, Ronson released the album Slaughter on 10th Avenue (1974) which failed to meet high expectations that it would be another Ziggy Stardust. A 13-show promotional tour of the UK started at the Rainbow Theatre in April 1974 but proved unsuccessful and plans for extending the tour were quickly abandoned. In September he joined Mott the Hoople playing on the song "Saturday Gigs" - Mott's last single - before they disbanded in December and then teamed with vocalist Ian Hunter in Hunter-Ronson, while touring to promote his second solo album Play Don't Worry (1975) which was also unsuccessful.

"I decided that solo vocal projects for me weren't quite right.  I felt uncomfortable singing as I didn't quite believe in what I was singing.   So I decided to knock my recording career on the head." - Mick Ronson

While Ronson never sought to perform as a solo artist until the 1990's, his credits as a session guitarist and producer from this point on are legendary. In 1975 he joined Bob Dylan's celebrated Rolling Thunder Revue and performed on his live album Hard Rain (1976). He also appears in the film made by D.A Pennebaker about the tour called Renaldo And Clara (1978). He played on and produced Roger McQuinn's Cardiff Rose (1976) and worked with various artists such as Canadian rocker Philip Rambow and jazz-rock singer Annette Peacock.  In 1983, Ronson again played with Bowie at the Toronto concert during the Serious Moonlight Tour for the song "The Jean Genie."

"I was walking through a corridor in Toronto last night, and I ran into someone I hadn't met in eight years. And I said "what are you doing tonight" and he said "not much" so I said "do you wanna come and play with us". He hasn't worked with me for 10 years. I 'd like to introduce one of the original Spiders from Mars: Mick Ronson." - Bowie (1983)

"I did enjoy it, it was great. I was playing through an amp I didn't know though and the stage was very big. I was playing Slick's guitar and I couldn't hear where my sound was coming from. I had heard Slick play solos all night so I decided not to play solos and I just went out and thrashed the guitar. I really thrashed the guitar, I was waving the guitar above my head and all sorts of things. It was funny afterwards because David said, (talking about Earl Slick) 'You should have his face...' meaning he looked petrified. I had his prize guitar and I was swinging it around my head and Slick's going ' my guitar', you know. I was banging into it, and it was going round my head. Poor Slick. I mean, I didn't know it was his special guitar, I just thought it was a guitar, a lump of wood with 6 strings. Later on I found it was his special guitar. I didn't damage it or anything, I didn't even damage a was very funny at the time. Anyway, we had a good chat, it was the first time I had seen him for a real long time." - Mick Ronson

He continued to collaborate over the years with Ian Hunter (they released a joint LP in 1989 Y U I Orta and performed together the same year at the Dominion in London).  He worked with John Mellencamp on his first hit "Jack and Diane" (Ronson helped write, arrange and play acoustic guitar on the single), produced Morrissey's album Your Arsenal (1992) and guested on Bowie's Black Tie White Noise (1993) on the Cream track "I Feel Free" (which Bowie and The Spiders sometimes covered at Ziggy Stardust concerts in 1972).

In August 1991 after visiting a doctor with severe back pain, Ronson was diagnosed as having inoperable liver cancer.  He finally succumbed on 29 April 1993 in London at the age of 46 while completing his last solo album Heaven And Hull. The final song on that album - the live "All The Young Dudes" (from Ronson, Bowie, Hunter and Queen's performance at the Freddy Mercury tribute concert on 20 April 1992) brought Ronson's career around in a perfect circle - being a song written by Bowie and originally produced by both Bowie and Ronson for Mott The Hoople. Sadly, that concert was to be Ronson's final appearance on stage. He is survived by his wife Suzi Fussey Ronson and daughter Lisa.

"The band - The Spiders From Mars - that was the whole situation that sort of got me the kind of fame I had in the early Seventies. The lead guitarist for that band was Mick Ronson and unfortunately, tragically, he succumbed to cancer 3 or 4 days ago... and in his passing I want to say that of all the early seventies guitar players Mick was probably one of the most influential and profound and I miss him a lot" - Bowie on the Arsenio Show (1993)

Mick Ronson (1992)

"He was really up there in the so-called hierarchy with the great guitar players...superb, absolutely superb." - Bowie

Trevor Bolder and Mick Woodmansey

Trevor Bolder also recorded PINUPS (1973) and participated in The 1980 Floor Show, although Bowie had originally intended to have Jack Bruce of Cream on bass for the PINUPS recording session.

Mick Woodmansey returned to Hull after learning that his services were not required for PINUPS (1973).

In 1973 Bolder played on Dana Gillispie's album WEREN’T BORN AS A MAN and then joined Mick Ronson's band along with Mike Garson and Aynsley Dunbar. In late 1973 Woodmansey, Bolder, John Hutchinson and John Cambridge considered forming their own band but, after practicing for an afternoon, this came to nothing.

In 1975 The Spiders From Mars were reformed (however without Mick Ronson) with Bolder on bass, Woodmansey on drums, Dave Black on guitar, Pete McDonald on vocals, and Mike Garson on keyboards. The self-tilted LP was released in 1976 as below:

The Spiders From Mars (1976)

Spiders From Mars album (1976)

However, the album and band were not successful and in 1976 Woodmansey and Bolder separated with Woodmansey forming a band called Woody Woodmansey's U-Boat while Bolder replaced John Wetton in Uriah Heep. In 1981 Bolder joined Wishbone Ash but returned to Uriah Heep in 1983 and has remained there ever since.

Within the songs on "U-Boat" you can find lots of references to Bowie - the opening track 'U Boat' seems to refer to the final Hammersmith gig, and 'Oh La La' is basically the Ziggy Stardust album track 'Star'.

Mick Ronson Memorial Concert

In 1994 The Spiders From Mars were reformed for the Mick Ronson tribute concert with former Nazareth member Billy Rankin on guitar.

The first Mick Ronson Memorial Concert was organised by Kevin Cann and Mick's sister Maggi and held on 29 April 1994 at the Hammersmith Apollo (formerly Hammersmith Odeon). They included the songs "Ziggy Stardust", "Moonage Daydream" and "Suffragette City" in their 2nd half set which started after the complete "Ode to Joy" was played over the hall's PA.  The Spiders From Mars line-up also featured Def Leppard vocalist Joe Eliott and backing vocalists including Mick Ronson's sister Maggi.

The show itself was a mixture of classic 70's songs relevant to Mick Ronson's career and included songs from his new album Heaven & Hull plus songs sung by the performing artists themselves. At intervals two large video screens showed archive promo footage from Ronson's first solo album, Ziggy Stardust material from Bournemouth and Hammersmith Odeon and a preview of Mick Ronson as he appeared at the Hammersmith in 1992 reminiscing about his Ziggy days - later to be screened on the BBC Dancing in the Street music series.

"I guess everybody was hoping Bowie would turn up, but he didn't - would that have been good or bad? Would they have been there to see Bowie, or to help cancer research? My old man had died about a year previously, but I went because I was a Bowie fan, but I had not seen The Spiders as a whole.  I had seen Mick with Ian Hunter at London's' Dominion Theatre but had not seen Woody Woodmansey or Trevor Bolder before.  Unfortunately the Hammersmith Odeon (now known as Apollo) was not as full as it could have been, but there was still the air of excitement that is usually found at gigs. There was some film of Mick talking about the Ziggy times with Bowie, about his 'experimenting' and his musical forwardness. He had a guitar plugged into an amp, played the riff off 'The Jean Genie', which brought out the cheers. There was also some film of the last Ziggy Stardust gig (at the Hammersmith).  There is a double CD out here (in Great Britain) of the gig which I thought was good. As I said, I thought Woody was really good and Trevor was as good as any other bass player. Phil Collen and Joe Elliot (of Def Leppard) did vocal duties and did pretty well too. The stuff from Mick's last album seemed to come over pretty well and was pretty strong, again from what I remember, several 'old' faces made an appearance - Dana Gillespie, Leee Black Childers (I think!), Steve Harley, Ian hunter and other members of Mott the Hoople did their turn and then came back for an encore.  Cockney Rebels, came on and make me smile, but admittedly did go on a bit. There were some other faces that had turned up to play, but honestly, I couldn't remember them if my life depended on it! I think Mick's sister got up and said a couple of words as well, about the money going to build a bandstand in Mick's home town of Hull which I see has come about..." - Lachie (2000)

"It was fun to play those old songs again, although me and Woody have been working together in the studio, its the first time I've been on stage with him since 1975... Its just so sad that the day wouldn't have happened if Mick hadn't died." - Trevor Bolder (1994)

Trevor Bolder, Madeline & Woody Woodmansey (1994)

An after-the-show party was held at the Embargo club, Chelsea where the Ziggy Stardust covers band "Jean Genie" played. Both Woody Woodmansey and Trevor Bolder joined the band and with vocalist John Mainwaring as "Ziggy" played "Width of A Circle" and "Suffragette City".

"It was great doing that! Seeing the band playing before we went on was pretty strange, almost like watching a movie of yourself.   The singer really pulls it off though.  Maybe they should make it into a musical: The Story of Ziggy.  You could make a really good show out of the story.   I always thought Ziggy was a bit like a cartoon character!" - Trevor Bolder (1994)

ROCK & FOLK (French Magazine Dec 1998): You repeated lots of times how highly you thought of Mick Ronson, your work mate of the glam years, that you invited at the end of his life for the "Black Tie White Noise" sessions (in 1991). There is one question left without answer and Ian Hunter has his own theory on the subject: why weren't you at the Mick Ronson Memorial Concert ? (Silence) If it is too embarrassing, you don't need too answer.

BOWIE: No, It is not that at all (very long silence). I think that I will effectively not say anything on this subject. Believe me there are a few good reasons, but I am very happy that you asked me the question because it forces me to think about it. I will certainly answer your question one day...There were of course personality conflicts. The only thing I can tell is that Ian has nothing to do with it.

ROCK & FOLK: What ever the reasons are, you don't have to feel forced to tell them?

BOWIE: Let's say that for now I am on the other side, the only one who knows the full story. But that's OK, I am used to this kind of situation. I will certainly talk about this absence sooner or later.. The truth is I was not convinced by the motivations of this event but, frankly, I prefer to stay silent for the moment, it is too tricky.

Mick Ronson Memorial Concert II

In 1996 Woody Woodmansey and Trevor Bolder undertook a Mick Ronson tribute tour in the UK.  In July 1997 they undertook another UK tour and Joe Elliot and Phil Collen from Def Leppard joined the Spiders on a few occasions.

The Spiders From Mars with Joe Elliot and Phil Collen played again at the Mick Ronson Memorial Concert II in Hull, on Saturday 9th August 1997. The special charity concert marked the opening of the Mick Ronson Memorial Stage the following day in the Queens Gardens, Hull City Centre.

Mick Ronson Memorial Stage

reunion2.jpg (30299 bytes)

Phil Collen (left), Trevor Bolder (second left), Joe Elliot (middle) & Woody Woodmansey (second right) (1997)
who became the Cybernauts in 2001

The Cybernauts

The birth of Cybernauts took place on the day ex-Spiders From Mars-guitarist Mick Ronson passed away. Def Leppard performed a version of Ziggy Stardust in Stockholm, Sweden, as a tribute to Ronson. As noted above a year later, lead vocalist Joe Elliott and guitarist Phil Collen were invited by Ronson's sister Maggie to partake in the Mick Ronson memorial show at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. Three years later, a small series of tour dates were arranged in the UK and the band decided to record the show that took place in Dublin, Ireland, on August 7, 1997. 18 songs from this show were released on CYBERNAUTS LIVE. That same week, the band went into the studio to record another 4 tracks. In January 2001, after doing four shows in Japan and releasing the CD for the Japanese market only, the band decided to record another 3 tracks at a Tokyo studio, and all 7 studio recordings are available on disc 2 of the Internet-only release, called THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF THE CYBERNAUTS.

Read/see more about the Cybernauts

---This page last modified: 25 Dec 2018---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)