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Thursday, April 22, 2010

110/365: Back to the 70's

First: did anyone see a marvellous programme on BBC2 last week called "Electric Dreams?" Those saps didn't seem to promote it very well, but it was a real nugget. A family went back to the 70s, 80s and 90s in three programmes looking at how technology has developed.

I love shows like that, particularly when (ahem) I was there, which I wasn't for the Victorian House and the 1930's House. Contrary to what some of you might think.

In the 70s the family were subjected to a power cut - I remember those - and there was a big fanfare about getting a colour TV, which cost the equivalent of £3000 today. That was why most people rented them. That and the fact they broke down so frequently. I sniggered also at the arrival of the huge chest freezer, just like the one we had in the garage. Mum and Dad would go off to Windwhistle Farm and come back with half a cow (literally) to fill up the freezer. There was very little in the way of convenience foods then except for fishfingers and arctic rolls.
Meanwhile, still in the 70s, I've been reading two books which take me back to the wonderful days of Ziggy Stardust. I was an avid reader of NME and remember very well the writing of Nick Kent - in particular his huge sprawling article on Iggy and the Stooges, long before they were well known. I was a bit disappointed by his autobiography, Apathy for the Devil. The writing is lumpy and flowery in places; there are no pictures, even though his friend was Pennie Smith the photographer, and there are too many mentions of BOFs like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. I think the drugs may have addled his brain. I was hoping for more anecdotes and more about the Main Man (D Bowie.)

Also disappointing was Weird and Gilly's account of the life of Mick Ronson, the virtuoso guitarist in David Bowie's Ziggy -days backing group The Spiders from Mars. Now Weird and Gilly are a couple of die hard fans rather than writers or journalists, and this shows unfortunately. They seem to lack the probing instinct and many big questions go unanswered. I got the impression they didn't want to upset Ronson's family because two of the more interesting  happenings are brushed aside.

The fact that he left his wife and went off with a woman in Sweden, having a son with her, is dismissed in one paragraph. And there is a lot of mention of Ronson drinking a lot, but no-one seems to confront the issue. Was he an alcoholic? Then there was the time he joined Mott the Hoople, while still under contract to MainMan. He lorded it over the band, being chauffeured in a different car and not even speakng to "the lads" who quite justifiably got a bit upset. Weird & Gilly don't seem to question his behaviour or motives.

The desired take-out from the book, as fa as Weird & Gilly are concerned,  is that Ronson was a nice bloke whom everyone liked, and he was FAR MORE than just the virtuoso guitarist in the Spiders from Mars whose solo career bombed.  Interestingly Nick Kent refers to Earl Slick as the greatest guitarist that Bowie had.

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