Blast From The Past – The Rats
LtoR: Geoff Appleby (Bass), Benny Marshall (Vocal/Harmonica), Mick Ronson (Guitar), Jim Simpson (Drums)
The Rats were a rock band, first established in 1963, from Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England.
In May 1998, the independent record label, Angel Air released a CD compilation of their work, entitled “The Rats’ Rise and Fall of Bernie Gripplestone and the Rats From Hull” shown below (right) alongside their original album release.
This track from the album features a very Townshendish guitar riff.
Here they are with “Telephone Blues”
The band on this track is Benny Marshall, Mick Ronson, Woody Woodmansey & Geoff Appleby.
Despite the fact that it was credited to John Mayall on the album, it is not a Mayall song at all, it was credited in error because the song title is also wrong. John Mayall’s Telephone Blues is a totally different song.
The real title of this song is ‘I Can’t Hold Out’ by Elmore James. The Rat’s version is a direct lift from a live bootleg recording of The Jeff Beck Group. The Rat’s didn’t know the title so called it Telephone Blues.
An important contributor to the development of rock and roll in the 1970s, Mick Ronson was raised in the Yorkshire community of Hull, where the shy youth soon immersed himself in the creation of music. During his school years he established a solid foundation for his future career by learning piano, recorder and violin (with some harmonium playing for his local church thrown in for good measure), and although his initial ambition was to become a cellist, by he teens he (not surprisingly) was drawn instead to the guitar – inspired in particular by the playing style of then-Yardbird Jeff Beck.
Ronson joined his first band The Mariners at the age of 17, and it was not long before he was drafted into the more experienced line-up of The Crestas, with whom he began to build a strong reputation within the Hull music scene. His tenure with The Crestas ended in the latter half of 1965, when he made the decision to seek his fortune in London; brief tenures in The Voice (an outfit managed by the leaders of ‘The Process’ cult) and the Motown-oriented group The Wanted followed in 1966 before financial difficulties forced the guitarist to return home.
Back in Hull, Ronson was enlisted into the second incarnation of the local group The Rats, once again establishing himself as one of the top musicians in the area. He recorded a trio of singles and an album (The Rise and Fall of Bernie Gripplestone (1967)) with the band before making another attempt at London in 1968; this second move was met with a similar lack of success, and after only one week its members once again returned to Hull.
The Rats then briefly became Treacle, before reverting back to their original name and then ceasing to exist in 1969. Near the end of his tenure with the band, Ronson was brought into the studio to add his playing to the Michael Chapman album Fully Qualified Survivor (1970), where he was given his first introduction to producer/musician Tony Visconti.
By the start of the following year they were once again working together in the David Bowie-fronted band The Hype: Ronson’s name had been put forward by his former Rats bandmate John Cambridge, and after a successful audition in London the guitarist found himself performing with Cambridge, Visconti and Bowie on John Peel’s Sunday Show.
The Rats were always good enough to have an agent, but a couple of early attempts at recording singles in the mid-60’s didn’t result in anything like success, and the resulting line-up changes meant that breakthrough was always going to be elusive.
The Rats reformed for the Mick Ronson Memorial Concert
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