An Evening in the Company of Mick Rossi
The Peer Hat, Manchester: 18th August 2018
Following a UK Tour which included a show at Rebellion Punk Music Festival in Blackpool. Mick Rossi, guitarist from one of the most underrated bands ever (in my humble opinion) Slaughter and the Dogs (SATD) came to The Peer Hat, a music venue and bar in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Tonight’s event was billed as An Evening in the Company of Mick Rossi to include conversation and acoustic songs. Organised by long standing SATD fan Moz (Maurice Murray) this looked to be something a little different and unique, and I was intrigued to find out more.
Mick Rossi was born and bred in Wythenshawe, a suburb of Greater Manchester famous for its hospital and council estates. (I don’t actually know if he was born there, to be honest, but let’s assume he was). As a teenager he was one of the original members of SATD alongside Wayne Barrett, Brian (Mad Muffet) Grantham and Howard Bates. Mick now lives in Beverley Hills. I wanted to find out more about how Mick took the the road from Wythenshawe to L.A.Arriving at the venue the background music before (and between) the acts was mainly the music of David Bowie and you’ll find out why as the evening progresses. Support came in the form of Rick Sarko, I’ve never heard of him before. A quick google search and Wikipedia tells me that he was a member of Manchester Punk Band The Freshies, fronted by the late Chris Sievey better known as Frank Sidebottom, a claim to fame if ever there was one. Tonight, no sign of any papier-mâché heads, just one man, in his big mouth t-shirt and his guitar. Rick said he’s know Mick since 1975 and has always followed his progress. Rick’s ‘songs’ were more urban poetry set to music than songs. First ‘Puppies in a Plastic Bag’ a Tesco bag to be precise, which Rick claimed was a happy song!
Next a traditional folk song ‘I shit on your Grandfather’s coffee table’ then came Rabies or Zombies or rabid zombies (I didn’t catch the title), someone got their leg chewed off in India, so not quite a happy song! Rick told us he was going to finish off with a traditional courting song, which was translated from old English to new last Thursday. Froggie Went a Courtin‘ it was not! Moz got up on stage, when I say got up it was only about 6 inches high but still a stage of sorts. Moz said ‘Rick Sarzo’ which led to a round of applause and one more song. This final number was more of a song than a poem called ‘ Gonna Get High’
It was steadily getting busier, there was no bar in the downstairs venue, which you enter from the bar area, so it was time to nip back upstairs for a refill! In the bar I spotted an original Dog (SATD), a Drone and the bass player from V2, members of some Manchester’s finest punk bands out in force.
Back downstairs to the venue room where the stage was set with a table and chairs, two stools and a couple of guitars. Moz introduced the evening announcing that we were missing out on Britney Spears and Liam Gallagher adding that without SATD there wouldn’t be Oasis. He felt that this guy, and indicated to Mick, should have been much better known but he was so genuine. Also up on stage was Phil Smith and we find out where he fits into the story as the evening progresses. Mick thanked us for showing up before taking a seat.
It transpired that Moz was asking questions, or prompting, as required. He started off by mentioning an event at Sound Control, which was a setting the record straight show with Mick Rossi and Wayne Barrett see here. That was about SATD, this evening was to be about Mick and how he remembered events; to bring us up to date on what has happened to Mick over the intervening years.
Look on this as a kind of biography, a story from the horses (or dogs) mouth. With Moz asking questions and Mick telling us how he remembers events. I noted as much as I could but I can’t write shorthand so I haven’t got every single detail. Hopefully you will get a flavour of the evening and learn something new about Mick Rossi!
Throughout the evening Mick Ronson is mentioned once or twice, to avoid confusion I will refer to Mick Ronson mainly by surname.
After Do It Dog Style Mick and Howard brought in Phil Rowland and Billy Duffy. They were all huge Ronson and David Bowie fans. Mick sought out his first manager Ken Pitt. Even back then Mick sensed Billy had something (Billy went on to be in The Cult), he also now Lives in L.A. The newly formed band was called Studio Sweethearts. Vic Maile, who had produced Tom Robinson’s 2-4-6-8 Motorway, produced their one and only single I Believe which was released on DJM Records in 1979. Mick said he would do anything to be close to David Bowie, his (Mick’s) wage at the time was £25 (I didn’t catch whether that was weekly or monthly!) and at the time he thought he was loaded! He went to Ken Pitt’s house one day where he saw a Gitane Cigarette in the ashtray, the brand he knew Bowie smoked. He thought, to himself, that Bowie was there. He kept looking at the cigarette and eventually he asked Ken ‘Is he here?’ to be told ‘I Can’t tell you! You’ve gotta go’ so near yet so far.
The first song we got this evening was the Studio Sweethearts I believe. Mick said he really does like this one, a song he can connect to. The comment was fitting, at that moment, as he had to be connected i.e. plug in his guitar. He was playing leaning on the stool but playing guitar stood on one leg, perhaps from the Ian Anderson school of music. He said he didn’t think he’d played that song in twenty years, in fact he didn’t think he’d ever done it live. Moz then quipped ‘Apparently you didn’t believe as you didn’t stay together!’
They moved to London to Islington where they lived in a flat above Dave Vanian (The Damned). He then mentioned a film with Tony Wilson, where someone was spitting on his back and someone said ‘Get SATD back together.’ Muffet moved to London, then Wayne. They were still signed to DJM records. Mick says it was a bit of a blur. They started writing and rehearsing Bite Back then Muffet wanted to move back to Bench Hill, so he was left with record deal and Howard. The record company told them ’We’re gonna bill you whether you record an album or not, so he drafted in Eddie Garrity (as was). They did a couple of covers, Mick recalled that he struggled with the song writing, He contacted Dale Griffin the drummer from Mott the Hoople and Keyboard player, Morgan Fisher. One interesting thing he remembered about Dale Griffin was that he had a different finish to his boots each day!
Mick told us a little story about a time he was in Arizona/Phoenix, he was in a club, about 10 years ago. It was raining and he noticed a couple run to their car and fire up the engine which brought the stereo to life. He heard the words ‘Oh you stole your Daddy’s car’ blast out. He wondered how the song had traveled from Wythenshawe to there. That little story led to the next song ‘East Side of Town’ which ended with him raising his arm in air and announcing ‘That’s a good fucking song man’ and yes, it is indeed a great song.
Moz said he wanted to start from 1980. Mick laughingly said he couldn’t remember much because of illegal substances! After Bite Back he founded the band Monsters. He went down to Hull? (I think he said Hull, correct me if I’m wrong) and met Bobo (Phoenix). He feels blessed to have been on a stage with Bobo, as with Howard & Phil, however he said unfortunately Bobo was a strange guy. He recalls that they got a record deal, and at this point he looked perplexed and said he didn’t want to speak ill of him. The gist being that maybe they could have gone somewhere if Bobo had wanted to. He wrote the next song Angels of the Night with Bobo, an amazing guy, a genius who in his opinion should be up there with Bowie.
After Monsters came The Duellist who did a DVD and live album. This band meant a lot to him. All of a sudden Mick reached out and caught a fly in his hand announcing ‘I feel like I’m Renfield from Dracula’ he was certainly fast, if he wants to give up the current job then he could start a new career as a flycatcher!
SATD needed someone to do Rebellion Punk Festival so he drafted in Phil Smith, at this point Phil spoke, for possibly the first time as he said ‘One day! One show’ however Mick then called him to play in Japan. An Audience member shouted out, you were on the cover of Melody Maker.
After The Duellist he ended up with Martin Degville of Sigue Sigue Sputnik and wrote some songs with him, Martin is an individual but cool like Eddie, now Edweener, he said ‘Be who you are, it takes a lot of balls’ which resulted in a few titters from the audience, because it really does take a lot of balls. If you want to know why find out here. He remembers going to grab him (Martin) one day as he wanted to play him a song. Martin’s went off but as he did so his wig fell off and was laying on the floor. Mick ended up playing the song to the wig! This resulted in a heckle about wild wigs.
We then moved on to Talk Talk. Mick told us he played some songs with them, he did some stuff in Italy, there was a live show which he had to learn phonetically on the plane on the way over. He did some TV work with Pete Wylie who called him to go to Italy to play a big festival in Girona, Sinful.
Moz then asked ‘Morrisey, what’s the story?’ Mick recalled that Morrisey was an introvert, he wore a duffel coat with the hood pulled up.
Mick recalled that he needed someone to show him the way. He built a bond with Ronson, at this point he got a bit emotional, and after wiping he eye he said we should be humane, try and empathise as we get older. Back then he said he ‘I wanted to be Mick (Ronson), eventually you find out who you are’ When he (Rossi) first time met him (Ronson) he was mad into Bowie. When Ronson released his solo album Slaughter on 10th Avenue Mick bunked off school and got tickets to a gig at the Free Trade Hall, he said there were 500 people there who all thought Ronson was looking at them and he (Mick) was one of them. He thought Ronson was looking at him.
Two days later Ronson played a gig in Sheffield, Mick waited backstage and when the band left he and his friend ran after the coach. Block by block the others dropped off but he kept on running and suddenly the coach stopped, the doors opened and Ronson said ‘Come in’ after all that running Mick said he was panting and he was so shy. Ronson said ‘Say I saw you at front’ and invited him to a party that night in Sheffield. Mick recalls that he met Susie, Ronson’s wife. Ronson asked where they were staying and he replied ‘We’re bunking on the platform. Ronson went away and later came back with a hotel room key. Mick said he had never been in a hotel before and made the bed before he left!
Ronson asked him ‘What do you do?’ he told him he was a guitar player and Ronson asked him to let him know how he got on, Mick asked ‘How?’ (as in how would he let him know) and that’s how he got Ronson’s phone number. Although it was expensive to call back then, he would sneak the phone from the hallway into the living room when his parents were in bed and had to speak in a whisper! He remembers that when he called Ronson to tell he had a record deal, he was so happy.
Mick said to Ronson ‘You should play on a record’ (SATD record) and he did ‘he came down to play on Do It Dog Style’ Mick sustained a relationship with Ronson, and through him became friends with Ian Hunter (Mott the Hoople). When Mick was learning how to write songs Ronson said to him ‘It’s what you leave out that’s important. You can say more with feeling in four to five notes.’ Mick told us that he uses only two pedals on stage. At this point a member of the audience shouted out ‘Mick Rossi! Can I just say’ and got a clap going ‘You’ve summed up how it was.’ Moz added ‘It’s from the heart’
Moz said we could spend all night talking about Ronson but he wanted to take him back to Dublin. By this stage Mick had met Sile, his wife, an actress who he had seen in plays and he moved to Dublin. Then lo and behold we got back on to the subject of Ronson. Mick said he would feel good just hearing his voice, like with Joe Elliott (Def Leppard). Mick recalls a time he got a little emotional and Ronson gave him a hug, which told him without words it’s alright.
Next chapter in Mick’s life was co-writing and starring in Played. Mick was by now living on Sunset Boulevard, (unfortunately how he came to be there from Dublin wasn’t mentioned tonight. Maybe a story for next time?). He was now blagging people to appear in films, he said if you are true to yourself and honest things happen. Gabriel Byrne from Ireland now lives in West Hollywood and he said they should do a movie, punk rock style, just pick up the camera and start shooting. Joanne Whalley, from Stockport, was married to Val Kilmer but now divorced, however she said Val would do it and she gave Mick his number.
Mick phoned Val and left a nervous message, he got no reply. Two days later he left another garbled message, after three days he left another. After eight days with no reply he called again and this time Val answered and said ‘I’m Val Kilmer. Got a beard. Got to go?’ Mick called again and left a message asking Val if he wanted to do a movie for fun. The phone rang and Val said ‘Meet me at Chin Chin’ a Chinese restaurant on Sunset Boulevard. Mick met him and over Egg Fried Rice (I don’t really know what they ate I’m just imagining the scenario!) Val asked –
‘Money?’ answer ‘None’
‘Trailer?’ answer ‘None’
‘Wardrobe?’ answer ‘Own clothes’
‘Lights?’ answer ‘Two’
To which Val announced fuck it – I’m in!
All the films are on Vameo films, with some great stars. Moz added that they are available on DVD and it was also mentioned that Mick did a record with Val. (He co-wrote and produced Val’s debut album)
Then it was time for another song which Mick said was for Mrs Karen Flynn, the song Dame to Blame and afterward Mick said singing that song makes him realise what a powerful voice Wayne (Barrett) has. Then he said he was going to do another song this one from SATD’s latest album Vicious a song about a relationship breaking up from a man’s point of view. He told us to listen to the lyrics. (The song is called ‘Stranded’ and you can listen to the lyrics here). After cheers he said ‘Thank you’ and that he was really enjoying this, ‘Thank you for coming out. Big it up for Moz. Someone shouted Johnny T, he played few strums, sang the first line ‘When I was at school’ then with a dismissive hand gesture said ‘Nah’
Every year he tours with SATD and Moz said a couple of years ago someone persuaded them to to get the full line-up together. (I wonder who that was?) Back in 97 Moz wanted to get the four original members back together because he thought Do It Dog Style was the best album ever and Cranked Up Really High the best single ever. Since 1997 it had been his goal to get them back together. It took from 1997 until 2015, when they played at the Ruby Lounge on 9th October 2015 he said it had been brilliant to see the four back together (and yes it was, I was there proof here!).
SATD could have been big but it wasn’t to be. Mick said it was a privilege to be able to do what he does. He said John Lennon had the right philosophy, be good. He said to Moz ‘Moz you’ve got the tenacity of a bulldog’ which received cheers. He remembers looking out at all the smiling faces on the night and says they had a ball.
SATD are still touring and have just finished a UK tour with Mark Reback on drums and Dan Graziano on bass, he mentioned former members the late Noel Kapoudjian ‘God rest his soul’ and bass player JP Thollet, both played in the band for several years.
Mick did two albums with Christopher Wicks, in The Glorious he said he thought Christopher was from Wilmslow, but someone shouted Levenshulme! True? False? I don’t know but he’s currently living in L.A. too, although the songs are very Manchester-y. The last album was called Afflecks Palace. (You can buy it here).
The last official SATD album Vicious was released on Cleopatra Records. The record company wanted tons of guitars. Wayne and Mick rented a huge house in San Francisco they both had songs and gave them to company to pick the ones they wanted, Mick thought it was a good record and said the reviews were great.
Now we were coming to the end of the evening and Moz said before he finished off he had a few questions via Facebook: –
Did Mick Ronson ever play on an album?
He played on Mystery Girls and Quick Joey Small. He also mentioned that Ronson gave his guitar to Hard Rock Café (more info here)
What was his Biggest regret?
That we didn’t stay together and tough it out, synergy! He says he met Noel Gallagher who said to him ‘Fuck me! I’ve got all your records!’ to which he replied ‘I’ve got all yours’
He felt that four lads from council estates coming to share their part in musical history was meaningful which received a shout out of ‘Here, here!’ They should have stayed the course, they would have gone on to be higher profile.
At this point a member of the audience who I recognised as, Stan the Man, from V2 said ‘I am a lifelong fan, every step forward, you took another back.’
When Mick Ronson gave you his custom built Les Paul did you ever play it?
Yes on The Duellist stuff and at Holidays in the Sun.
Phil then told us a story about going looking for the missing guitar, he found the luggage and there was only one guitar. He opened up the case to find it was the Ronno guitar and he’d got responsibility for it.
Moz said there were just two more questions: –
Personal life. What’s an average day?
Back in London it was gigs, coffee, speed.
Now, get up early about 7am and take Marlow, his dog, for a walk. He then makes breakfast for him and his wife. He does yoga 5 days a week. He’s currently trying to do a TV show, set in Manchester.
Moz had just one last burning question: –
Do you think original line-up will ever take to the stage again?
Mick said it was a privilege. All the bickering means nothing. My philosophy is love everyone and love every thing. Would it ever happen? It could do. He got a big jolt of happiness. Never say never, life is too short to go around with darkness, try and find light. It’s possible if the elements are right.
(Basically – watch this space!)
Mick said he was going to leave us with one song ‘I’m Waiting for my man’ and asked ‘Can you sing with me?’ and the audience were singing along. At the end he said ‘Good night’ but after lots of whoops and calls for more he came back saying would do a couple more songs. He said ‘I need some hush for this it’s important’ and told us a story about a time he was in the studio with Pete Wylie, Bob Dylan and Ronnie Wood. Ronnie had to bum a tenner off Bob! (Hope Bob got it back!).
When Ronson passed he was devastated. Then one day he woke up to twenty messages all saying David’s (Bowie) gone. Mick remembers seeing David Bowie on Top of the Pops, he was sitting on the floor with tea and rich tea biscuits, he felt a void when he passed. He thought David was innovative, in music, fashion and art. He wrote a song in twenty minutes it flowed out ‘Singing with Angels’ his own love letter to David Bowie. It was a personal thing but he would be honoured to share. It was a beautiful song and at the end he looked up, as if looking up to heaven and said ‘Goodnight Mr Bowie’ and saluted.
That wasn’t all there was one last song. Mick said he was so touched and thanked us for turning out. A big thanks to Moz, who got lots of applause before Mick added ‘ That man has a heart of gold.’ The last song was David Bowie’s ‘Rebel Rebel’ before a final arm up in the air and goodnight from Mick.
Show over there was still one thing left to do. Moz held up a print and told us there were only three of these prints in existence, it was the artwork for the Mick Rossi signature t-shirt and Mick had agreed to auction his off for charity. He had mentioned Marlow earlier, the rescue dog, he has in L.A. so had chosen a similar charity over here in the UK, Homeless Hounds he didn’t mind how much was raised, a fiver or anything. The audience managed to raise a little bit more than £5 with the bidding going up to £100.
Moz said a final ‘Mick Rossi and Phil Smith. Thank you’ and a final round of applause rang out.
It’s not every day you get the chance to get up close and personal to a member of one of your favourite bands. It was a one-off evening and gave fans the chance to find out more about Mick Rossi and life after Slaughter and the Dogs. He was happy to tell us the story of his interesting and eventful life, yet he has still remained true to his Manchester roots and came across as a very genuine, humble guy.
Slaughter and the Dogs Links: –