Destruction Through Motion:
Life After Glitter with IAN HUNTER and MICK RONSON
by Jeffrey Morgan
CHAPTER ONE: GERM WARFARE
The instant he came to, The Writer knew he would never make it out of bed, let alone to the interview itself.
He swallowed, felt a raw constriction of withered flesh and winced. Goddamn the common cold anyway. His skull pounded as if the Blue Cheer were using it for a rehearsal hall. Would he have tied one on so tightly the previous night had he known he would wake up like this?
Damn right he would've.
Staggering into the bathroom, he stepped into the shower stall and administered emergency shock treatment via the cold water faucet.
His ablutions at an end, he slowly inched open the front door and scanned the morning headlines:
'KNIFE WIELDING MADMAN THREATENS FIVE HOSTAGES'
'DAUGHTER A JUNKIE AT 14, TV'S BURNETT REVEALS'
'PRE-DAWN DRUG RAIDS SEIZE $2.5M IN SPEED'
All in all, a fine day for rock 'n' roll, The Writer thought, picking up the paper and heading into the kitchen. Plugging in the kettle, he heard footsteps in the living room.
'You making coffee?' Tacker asked, opening the liquor cabinet. She extracted a magnum of scotch and uncapped it. The Writer paled. 'S'matter? You sick or something?'
'This'll fix it,' she said, getting a glass out of the cupboard. 'I know lots of people who swear by scotch when they've caught a cold. One shot and they're good for the whole day.'
'I'll bet they are,' The Writer murmured to himself, watching Tacker fill the tumbler to the brim with scotch. 'Unfortunately, I'm going to be needing my voice today.'
'Oh, yeah. Who is it this time?' she asked, submerging a couple of ice cubes.
'Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson. You know, Mott and Bowie,' replied The Writer, carefully measuring out a level teaspoon of Maxwell House.
'Ah,' exclaimed Tacker knowingly. 'Two from the Dubious Gender Hall of Fame, eh?'
'You keep talking and you're going to be late for work,' The Writer admonished.
Tacker drew the glass from her lips. 'I don't have to be in until noon today. Which reminds me: I'm going shopping afterwards. Do you need anything?'
'Yeah, get me a new throat,' The Writer said dryly, slowly sipping the coffee.
Tacker grinned and poured herself another stiff one.
CHAPTER TWO: ON THE BEACH WITH THE FAMILY MAN
Working with Ronson is good...he refuses to get too serious - Ian Hunter
'Care for a coffee?' Mick Ronson leaned over with an empty cup and saucer.
Loaded up with enough antibiotics to deep-six a speedboat, The Writer nodded in mute agreement. Anything stronger and they'd be scraping him off the floor.
Looking around for psychic support, The Writer keyed in to the fact that the whole scene was fast beginning to resemble something twisted our of Family Feud: all that was missing was Richard Dawson introducing the opposing team.
Across from him, Suzi Ronson - Mick's raven-haired wife of three years - sat busily playing with their two-year-old daughter, the blond Lisa. Over to one side, Suzi's parents sat in silence and watched as their son-in-law squeezed a slice of lemon into his glass of Perrier water.
Parents? Admittedly, it certainly wasn't the most conducive setting for a rock 'n' roll interview he had ever been in.
A waiter came over and filled The Writer's cup with a crude-smelling black liquid.
'Sugar?' Ronson handed over several small packets of the white powder. If only.....
Dressed in blue flood jeans and short sleeve shirt (his current stage outfit - so much for Eleganza), Ronson looked for all the world like an English gardener on vacation with his family. Only the trademark platinum blond hair betrayed any hint of a past identity as a Spider From Mars.
'It was great,' Ronson said in reference to the three years he'd spent as Bowie's musical director. 'I had a good time, it was very good. I must admit, though, I felt a bit lost after it all finished.'
The Writer averted his gaze from the smoking cup. 'You trying to tell me that you didn't know Bowie was going to give you the sack?' he asked.
Ronson leaned back. 'Oh, yeah, I knew about it. It was just decided that it would be best for whatever we'd done to leave it more of a memory than to keep going out and playing it and playing it. I think it's lasted a lot longer than if we'd carried on doing it as just another show.'
'I take it then that your aborted solo tour in the U.K. afterwards wasn't your idea,' The Writer pressed on. Suddenly, he heard the ocean on his left ear. He tried to ignore it.
Ronson nodded. 'When I badly want to do something, I do it. I didn't want to do the tour badly enough, so there was no sense me doing it. I'd just as rather have done without that whole stage of my career, actually.'
The Writer felt the pressure drop in his right ear. He forged on. 'Whatever happened to Bowing Out, the live Hammersmith album?'
Ronson nodded. 'Nothing. I don't know why it wasn't released. It may be released someday. When, I don't know. De Fries - '
The Writer leaned forwards. Now he was getting somewhere. 'Yeah, what about de Fries? You must owe him an arm and a leg. Hell, Bowie's in it up to his funny eye. How much do you owe him?'
'Oh, we're still good friends,' Ronson evaded deftly. 'I'm still involved with him in a small way. He's a hard man, though. A hard businessman.'
'Speaking of Bowie,' The Writer said, 'have you been listening to any of his current stuff?'
Ronson put on a pair of black/green wraparounds. 'Nah,' he said, looking into a far corner.
'Do you care?'
'After being associated with Bowie for so long, have you found any of the queer backlash he generated coming back on you?'
Ronson shook his head in a detached manner. 'Nah.'
The Writer leaned back and tried to unclog his brain. 'I suppose hanging around with guys like Roger McGuinn and Dylan erased all that...'
Ronson cracked an amused grin. 'Yeah, that got me out of it pretty neat.'
The Writer took another quick look around the table. 'Could this be the real Mick Ronson? A guy who lazes around the house and cuts the grass?'
Ronson made a face.
'No?' The Writer suggested. 'How about doing the dishes?'
Ronson grew thoughtful. 'I like cooking. I tell you, one thing I don't like is making beds. I'm not much good at that...'
Suzi's parents smiled.
The Writer pretended to look at his watch. 'Thanks for the coffee, Mick,' he said, trying to ignore the still untouched cup of quagmire before him, 'but I've got to be heading off. Deadline, you know. Got to write up The Story.'
Ronson smiled and extended his hand. He said something but The Writer couldn't hear what it was through the breaking surf.
CHAPTER THREE: WAR GAMES WITH THE INSECT KING
when I badly want to do something, I do it - Mick Ronson
'It was, like, Marc Bolan and Slade and Gary Glitter and all those people - although they could sell albums, they were predominantly singles artists and they had an alarming lack of taste when it came to dressing.'
Ian Hunter flicked an ash into one of the hotel ashtrays beside him. Across from him, The Writer sat wheezing out various questions concerning Hunter's past ten years in the music business. The current topic of discussion had to do with the definition between the terms 'glitter' and 'flash' - although The Writer himself wasn't exactly sure if that, indeed, was what they were talking about.
'Y'see,' Hunter continued, 'Mott never liked to be associated with them, although we liked to think that we were like Slade, the Stones, or something like that.'
'Mott's still remembered by many as a glitter band. Which she wasn't. Glitter's real cheap and nasty. And I really don't think we were cheap or nasty.
'There are interesting comparisons and contrasts between punk and glitter in that - '
Hunter interrupted quickly. 'The punks are a little bit more ignorant so they let it show more; what they're up to. But it's always chess games, it always was. Everybody was vying for top position. As you get older, you get to think, well, it's either going to be or it's not going to be - and it doesn't really matter.'
The Writer mentioned the dense political behind-the-scenes back-stabbing that always seemed to be a part of Mott the Hoople.
'Mott was, like, a real strange band,' Hunter explained. 'Apart from play, they didn't really do much for the band. We had two lawyers managing us - so we needed creative leadership which we didn't have for the management aspect. Somebody had to do the publicity. Somebody had to do - and it was always me. Plus, I had to write all the songs as well.
The Writer nodded thoughtfully. 'A lot of pressures, huh?'
'Yeah, there was a lot of weight on me shoulders - especially after Mick Ralphs left, anyway, because then I became responsible, really, for all the music that Mott did. Which I didn't like. People get this impression that I dominated Mott. I was the only silly bugger that wrote 24 hours a day.'
The Writer nodded carefully. Suddenly he felt as if he'd been flung into a human mine field. He decided to try and defuse the situation by mentioning his relationship with Ronson.
'Working with Ronson is good for you because he refuses to get too serious about anything. The first time we toured we played to half-empty houses because we didn't have an album out. Lots of people had heard of Mott the Hoople but hadn't heard of Ian Hunter and lots of people had heard of David Bowie and they hadn't Mick Ronson. Which seems strange if you're writing for a paper, but it's ostensibly true of a lot of areas.
'That first band was real good, but Ronson had de Fries and I had Fred Heller and he was on RCA and I was on Columbia and we just couldn't fight 'em. It was just hopeless. Mick particularly couldn't fight because he was in financial difficulties at that time.'
The Writer smiled slightly. 'I noticed you cross yourself every time you come to the line about T-Rex in 'All The Young Dudes.''
Hunter looked up and grinned. 'Well, he's dead isn't he? I love doing that, I think it's nice. I had a lot of respect for him. He wrote some great songs. He's a real funny guy. Incredible ego. I've never known an ego like Bolan's. I liked him. He was a lot more talented than people ever gave him credit for. Especially over here.'
'Speaking of credit,' The Writer began, 'do you think your getting the wide-spread recognition that you deserve?'
Hunter put out his cigarette. 'To get acceptance, you have to appeal to some kind of lower common denominator. It's hard for me to go across the board because I'm going above someone's head or I'm not hitting on it hard enough. That's how I define it to myself and it suits me fine. It doesn't really bother me. It really doesn't.'
'So how does it feel to have all your albums deleted?' It was a cruel question, but one which The Writer knew had to be asked.
'I feel angry about it. When I do an album like All American Alien Boy - I mean, it's like a year of my life and it's a good album. It's not a popular album. It needed to be approached very carefully from a marketing standpoint. But when no effort is made at all - when the thing is dropped cold after four weeks...
'I got a telegram from Bruce Lunduall, the president of CBS, telling me, 'This album is amazing. It bewilders me.' That was for Overnight Angels - which they never even released. It wasn't until I got off that label that I was able to start writing decent music again.
'Ian Hunter is respectable. Alien Boy is extremely boring, but probably the best thing I've ever done. Overnight Angels could have killed me stone dead.'
'It's a shame you stopped writing your rock 'n' roll diary - 'The Writer began.
'Well, the tour was over,' said Hunter, lighting another cigarette.
'Yeah, but if you'd kept on going, you could've been the Anais Nin of rock 'n' roll. Just think of it: eight, maybe nine, massive diaries more than for the - '
'Yeah, right,' Hunter laughed. 'In other circles, that'd be absolutely true. That's why I've never written another one.
'I'll tell you, it doesn't pay. It was a best seller in England for two years and it's amazing what they pay you. I don't know how writers make a living.'
Indeed. The Writer mulled that one over for a while. Walking through the Hilton lobby, he silently cursed the hellish cold which still plugged his ears. He had considered taking one of the express elevators up to the 51st floor to unplug them, but then decided against the strategy at the last minute. Why risk any further destruction through motion to his numb racked body? Hadn't he already been put through enough?
Every step he took echoed up the spine and into his cortex. Faintly he could hear Blue Cheer running through their Vincebus Eruptim album.
Take a hint, he thought to himself between guitar solos. Go home.
CHAPTER FOUR: OUT OF THE WRECKAGE
The Writer heard the front door open and shut. From his vantage point beneath the covers in his bed, he could hear Tacker come down the hall and into the bedroom. She switched on the light and 300 watts of illumination bled through the sheets and into The Writer's eyes.
'Feeling better?' The Writer slowly pulled the covers down from over his face and saw Tacker grinning at him, holding three bottles of wine - two white and one red.
'Jesus,' he moaned, 'you don't give up do you? What're you having? A party?'
'That's an idea,' she said, setting the bottles on the night table next to the bed. 'Let's have a Farewell To The Seventies party.'
'To hell with the Seventies. I'm going to declare war on the Eighties.'
Tacker pulled out a package of plastic cups from a small brown paper bag. 'How did the interviews go?'
'They went,' said The Writer covering his eyes with his hands. 'Hunter wanted to know how writers could make a living out of writing. I told him they didn't. At least not the good ones. Hell, I've got to get these tapes transcribed into story form by tomorrow night and in the mail for the deadline the next morning.' The Writer shut his eyes in dismay. 'There's no way I can make it. Where am I going to get the full-bore fortification to complete the task? How on earth am I going to dredge up enough energy to face the beast?'
Feeling a full glass of something being eased into his hands, The Writer opened his eyes and stared at the Final Solution before him.
It was red.