Till Death Do Us Part
14 June 1975
by Chris Charlesworth
NEW YORK: 'Yeah, I've read that people are accusing me of abandoning England,' said Ian Hunter. ' I don't feel sorry about it. The only thing I feel sorry about is that I can't bring all the people - who complain with me. Then they'd know just why I'm here. I really feel sorry for those who can't just get up and leave like I could.'
Ian Hunter has just settled into a rambling redwood house in Chappaqua, an hour's drive north of New York City, where his current roommate is Mick Ronson and his American wife, Trudy, is happy to be back home. And it was Ian himself who invited me over to enjoy dinner and talk about the growing rumours that Hunter - Ronson wasn't as tight a bond as had been implied four months ago.
Despite problems on the recent US tour, mainly concerning an inefficient sound system; Ian and Mick are stuck together like glue, even though there are various parties fighting tooth and nail to keep them apart, on record at least. The Hunter-Ronson marriage is a complex relationship involving 'in-laws' who don't see eye to eye on several subjects. But the marriage seems to be based on a mutual respect for one another. Ronson obviously admires Hunter as a songwriter, while Hunter is full of respect for Ronson's guitar playing.
At the house in Chappaqua Ian and Mick are working on new material together in the basement, which has been kitted out as a rehearsal room with taping facilities. According to contracts the next album will be a Mick Ronson album; but that doesn't mean Ian isn't playing a full role - or that Mick is in charge of the operation.
They think they'll be off the road for at least six months and probably more working on enough material to present a new show of new songs without having to resort to hits from their respective back catalogues.
'Me and him haven't had a row since the day we started,' Ian stated after dinner when I posed questions about the rumour that the twosome were heading their separate ways. 'What happened in Philadelphia was that the group got blamed for bad sound when it wasn't our fault.
'I know we didn't sell out on the US tour but we didn't sell out in England either, apart from one or two that included the Hammersmith Odeon. When we came over here we expected to sell out in various areas where Mott had been big or where David Bowie had been big, but that didn't happen because a lot of people didn't know who Ian Hunter was, or who Mick Ronson was.
'We never played to a bum crowd. One show in Toledo, Ohio, was pulled out by the promoter, but the rest we pulled out because of the PA system. What we did after the Philadelphia Spectrum date was to find out how many dates we had to do without being legally sued, and do them with a different sound company every night to test out which was ok and which wasn't. There were five we had to do and as we knew the tour was over we decided we could learn something from it in this way.
'We felt it was a back door tour. It came before the album, which was a stupid mistake that won't happen again, but we didn't flop. It's a baby band, only four months old and we didn't want to go out and say we were ex-Mott The Hoople and ex-David Bowie because then the press would have said we were trading on our past histories.'
Next the subject turned to the tricky question of their joint albums which, apparently, are solo albums by either one of them, 'It's a strange situation,' admitted Ian. 'My manager will look after my interests before Mick's, and Mick's manager will look after his interests before mine. They both think we're solo artists in the making and that we're only together temporarily. I fact everybody in the world seems to think that we're only together temporarily, apart from me and him. We just sit here and keep working and hope that they will sort themselves out.'
But would Mick contribute more to his album than Ian? 'That's not the point,' said Ronson, entering into the conversation for the first time. 'I may very well contribute more, but all that means is a few thousand extra dollars in my pocket. The point of the exercise is to make a good album and personally I don't care whether Ian writes all the material or whatever.'
'I'm gonna be truthful with you,' butted in Ian. 'I don't think Mick did his vocals right on his last album, so I'm gonna be there on this one to make sure he does his vocals right. He's all for doing them up front and dead, and I don't think he should. He helped me with my vocals on my album and I'm gonna do the same for him.'
'Look,' continued Ian. 'I'm not trying to tell you that we're a couple of lovebirds sitting on a bench, but I am saying that we're going to continue working together for as long as it suits us. Actually, we're trying to find a name, a group name, instead of Hunter-Ronson. That'll confuse people even more because that group might not appear on the album, if you see what I mean.'
Ian looks perplexed. 'Look. There must be a lot of confused people, but I'll say this. Things change, at the moment we're fighting for a Hunter-Ronson album, but it's difficult. I don't care about Ian Hunter solo albums. Ian Hunter can do a solo album when he's 45 years old. I want to get the name Hunter-Ronson known. What's the point in playing with someone you respect if you can't make an album together?'
'On the last tour we tried having both of us out at the front on an equal footing but I don't think it worked. That didn't happen because I wasn't doing my own thing and neither was Mick. On the next tour I shall be in the middle and Mick will be at the side. People will probably say that Ian Hunter has taken over, you know, pushed Mick back, but it's not that at all.'
Ian is adamant that they won't be going out to tour again until they have a catalogue. 'I don't want to go out and play a little bit of Slaughter, a little bit of The Hoople' a little bit of Hunky Dory a little bit of Mott and a little bit of the Ian Hunter album. I want to go out and play a total catalogue, starting with the album we've just done, which I consider to be a Hunter-Ronson albun anyway, and also playing the album we're gonna do next.'