Ricky Gardiner, Guitarist With David Bowie And Iggy Pop, Dead At 73
Ricky Gardiner, a Scottish guitarist best known for his work on classic records by David Bowie and Iggy Pop in the late 1970s, has died from Parkinson’s Disease. Bowie producer Tony Visconti shared the news in a Facebook post today, having learned of it via Gardiner’s wife Virginia. “Another guitar genius and personal friend passed into the next world last night,” Visconti wrote. In a separate post on Twitter, Iggy Pop wrote, “Dearest Ricky, lovely, lovely man, shirtless in your coveralls, nicest guy who ever played guitar. Thanks for the memories and the songs, rest eternal in peace.” Gardiner was 73.
Born in Edinburgh in 1948, Gardiner got his start in 1960s teenage rock bands including the Vostoks, the Kingbees, and the System, though he claimed on his official website to be able to sing Italian arias as early as age 2. In 1969 he co-founded the prog-rock band Beggars Opera in Glasgow; they toured hard around Europe and found success in Germany, including an appearance on the popular TV show Beat-Club. In 1970, before the release of their second album Waters Of Change, the band added mellotron player Virginia Scott, who later married Gardiner. The band’s initial run wrapped up in 1973, but the following year a new version of the band including Ricky and Virginia began recording for Jupiter Records out of Germany.
That put Gardiner in the right place to link up with Bowie and Iggy during their legendary Berlin era. He can be heard all over the first side of Bowie’s landmark Low, released in January 1977, playing rhythm guitar on “Breaking Glass” and lead on everything after that. His involvement in those sessions led to Bowie recruiting Gardiner to play in Iggy Pop’s band on the 1977 tour supporting Pop’s Bowie-produced March 1977 solo debut album The Idiot. This band became the main recording unit for Pop’s next album, Lust For Life, released later that same year. Gardiner wrote the music for “The Passenger,” one of the album’s most iconic songs, and collaborated with Bowie on “Success” and “Neighborhood Threat.”
After Bowie and Iggy moved on from Berlin, Gardiner founded his own studio and continued on as a solo musician, eventually branching out into the realms of ambient, classical, and experimental computer music. His solo albums included 1985’s The Flood and 1987’s Precious Life. In the mid-1990s he developed electromagnetic hypersensitivity, a conditioned he believed he contracted through exposure to high levels of computer radiation and magnetic fields, which limited his ability to record in a modern studio environment. But he continued writing and recording in some capacity; according to NME he released an album called Songs For The Electric as recently as 2015.