Seducing the world: Scott Richardson

I'd first tracked down Scott Richardson, singer of Michigan band Scot Richard Case (and before that, legendary garage rockers The Chosen Few) for my Iggy book, back in 2006 or so. He took a lot of finding, but it was worth it – there is both lyricism, insight and objectivity to his memories. I'd known he was briefly involved with Angie from Open Up and Bleed, but when it came to researching Starman, Scott seemed to have moved on yet again. I searched widely with no luck – until fortuitously, with writing well underway, I reviewed a new Ace album devoted to Michigan's A Square Records, featuring the SRC. Alex Palao, the label's compilation guru, put me back in touch with Scott, and it turned out he was even more intimately involved with the MainMan scene than I knew, working closely with Mark Pritchett, Mick Ronson, and the Pin Ups sessions, moving to a MainMan house in LA, and slated to record an album before the organisation imploded. He was also an objective observer of the “internecine jealousy” - Bowie's mixed admiration and envy of Iggy. Most profoundly, as Angie's 'official' lover, he embodied the emotional confusion of those times. This was a long, fascinating interview. It touched on many issues – there isn't room here for all his great observations on Iggy and Lou, but there's a fascinating suggestion here of how the unflappable Mick Ronson was, like Bowie, at the end of this tether by the time of Pin Ups. Was Ronson's subsequent, well-documented reluctance to push himself due to musical post-traumatic stress? Perhaps the planned Ronson biopic will tell us more. In the meantime here are a few snippets.

I'm guessing you bumped into Angie when she'd brought back the Stooges from London to Ann Arbor, Michigan?

Actually Ron Asheton introduced me to Angie. I met her on LSD trip.  Yes, in Ann Arbor. 

So tell me how you got involved.

Well, the Stooges came back from doing Raw Power, Ron introduced me to Angie and she took me to Cleveland to meet David.  The Spiders From Mars were playing in Cleveland and we met and eventually I got invited to go back to England and hang out, which I did.  I was there through a whole bunch of Ziggy shows and through the Aladdin Sane period and I wound up working on Pin Ups in France with them.  So it turned into quite a while.

David had a formidable work-rate over that period, he'd survived with aplomb for a long time, then it seems in the later stages the strain was starting show. What was your impression of what was going on?

He was completely on a work ethic when I knew him.  It was way before the degradation.  There we were hanging out, the two of us, and going to casinos late at night. And from that time period  everything was completely professional -  he was just on it around the clock.  He was a machine.  He was the consummate pro as far as I was concerned, the guy that I got to see.

You observed so many aspects of what was going on, but I particularly want to ask you about Angie and David's relationship. There's no doubt, speaking to people, that in the early days she was the woman who made it happen, not only for David -  she found houses for MainMan bands, found cooks for them.

I will say this. They had an impossible arrangement going on. And it was absolutely brilliant in what it represented.  In other words they had the open marriage and the open relationship that the fans all knew about. And they utilised that to seduce the world - and it was actually incredibly effective.  Now my little part in it, if it did end up causing any distress I absolutely apologise for that, because I think ultimately what they were trying to do with each other really backfired.  I don’t know in privacy how it all went down between them.  I just observed the fact that he was pulling everybody left and right and she was doing the same thing and as fantastic as that was for the publicity of the Ziggy Stardust era it was ultimately  incredibly destructive.

Ultimately, although they wanted to push the boundaries, it's obvious they couldn't banish that traditional emotion, of jealousy.

The things that he counted on her for got diminished by the fact that there was so much sex going on.  Man, I lived in the Haddon Hall house and I used to wake at the bottom of a pile of bodies everyday, I can't tell you what it was like.  I thought having been on the road on America and done all that stuff I knew what the rock n’ roll life was.  I didn’t have a clue until I went to England. Really.

You and Angie were lovers. But she introduced you to David and you became friends. So we're talking about a very complex, maybe messy set of relationships, aren't we?

Absolutely. The thing about her was, that I admired her so much as a human being, for everything she did, what the two of them did. To this day I’m very grateful to both of them to the time I was able to spend because I got to see the whole thing up close.

And were you nervous about the nature of your friendship with David, or were you simply going with the flow?

Pretty much.  But it was all fascinating, the whole time, I was fascinated by the fact that he was not only doing his own thing, but the thing I was the most fascinated by was the fact that he was doing it with other people like Lou.  Because the SRC has toured the mid West with the original Velvet Underground we knew them all very well.  We all got dosed on acid by Stanley Owsley at a Dead show that we all played in Chicago in ’68 and we had to take the Velvets to the hospital and get them shots.  So I’d known Lou and Betty when I was over there and I was really fascinated by the fact that Bowie was enlarging his territory by utilising Mott and Lou Reed and Iggy, today I think that was the most brilliant thing about that whole scenario.

I've spoken to Jim [Iggy] quite a lot about his relationship with David, which at that time was mutual respect mixed with jealousy. But you had known Lou before, how was his attitude towards all this?

I believe he was more secure. I believe to this day he was always more secure, had a better sense of self than Jim did. I really believe he was happy for all the attention, and I really believe Transformer happened at the exact right moment in his career. Although of course to this day I can't believe that Bowie's mix of Raw Power came out as badly as it did.

You helped choose some of the songs on Pin Ups and Bowie also asked you to work with Mick Ronson for his album. Obviously Mick's attitude was complex – he was ambitious for his solo album but also, as Suzi [Ronson] and Ian Hunter point out, he could be relatively lazy without someone to push him. How did Mick seem about the changes he was going through to you, a collaborator?

First of all, as I saw it, he was a co star of the whole thing, the Aladdin Sane period.  When we recorded Pin Ups he did everything in the studio.  He tuned everybody's instruments, he worked on all the arrangements – she could say he was lazy and that's fine, but what I saw was a guy that had a tremendous burden on him: of not just being the key live player and the band-leader but really the guy who was responsible for getting all those arrangements down.  Really he worked all the time. I never saw him when he wasn’t.  He was whipped from it, he was working so hard.  Looking back on it now and listening back to it, he was absolutely brilliant.  He was the guy  responsible for the whole thing. In the way that James [Williamson] came in and did Raw Power, but even more so, Ronno was the force to be reckoned with musically. And I think he was completely at sea about his future. Because to look back on it now, to break up a band like that that had a real integrity of their own, even though they were hired players, is astonishing. To me it is.  I have to credit Bowie with having a lot of:  ‘I’m not coming back.’

As a footnote, Scott l gave me wonderful observations on his old friend, Stooges founder Ron Asheton, as used in my obituary of Ronnie.