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The Cybernauts Special Feature

July 2001's Special Feature profiled The Cybernauts and "Cybernauts Live" - their 2CD tribute to Mick Ronson and David Bowie by Spiders From Mars bassist Trevor Bolder, drummer Woody Woodmansey and Def Leppard members Joe Elliot and Phil Collen and Dick Decent.  Read more about them and their album here:

Press Release: 16 June 2001

DEF LEPPARD MEETS SPIDERS FROM MARS

The Cybernauts, a collaboration between two members of Def Leppard (Joe Elliott & Phil Collen), the former rhythm section of David Bowie’s Spiders From Mars (Trevor Bolder & Woody Woodmansey) and keyboard player Dick Decent, released their album CYBERNAUTS LIVE last week. The double CD, containing 22 tracks written by David Bowie, plus one by Jimi Hendrix, one by Lou Reed (Velvet Underground) and one by Craig Fuller (Pure Prairie League), can only be ordered at the band’s official web site at WWW.CYBERNAUTSRULEOK.COM and will not be available in any shops.

Trevor Bolder & Woody Woodmansey

The birth of Cybernauts took place on the day ex-Spiders From Mars-guitarist Mick Ronson passed away. Def Leppard performed a version of Ziggy Stardust in Stockholm, Sweden, as a tribute to Ronson. A year later, lead vocalist Joe Elliott and guitarist Phil Collen were invited by Ronson's sister Maggie to partake in a Mick Ronson memorial show at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. For the event, they hooked up with the Spiders From Mars rhythm section — bassist Trevor Bolder and drummer Woody Woodmansey — and learned songs from Bowie/Ronson albums The Man Who Sold the World (1970), The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust (1972), Hunky Dory (1971) and Aladdin Sane (1973).

In discussing how the project developed from there, Joe Elliott states, "It was a great honor for me and Phil to be involved and pretend to be Bowie and Ronson during the rehearsals and show we did."

"This whole album is, in my opinion, a very worthy testament to the talents of those two people, Bowie and Ronson, who had a huge effect on me as I meandered through my youth" says Elliott.

Three years later, a small series of tour dates were arranged in the UK and the band decided to record the show that took place in Dublin, Ireland, on August 7, 1997. 18 songs from this show have now been released on CYBERNAUTS LIVE. That same week, the band went into the studio to record another 4 tracks. In January 2001, after doing four shows in Japan and releasing the CD for the Japanese market only, the band decided to record another 3 tracks at a Tokyo studio, and all 7 studio recordings are available on disc 2 of the Internet-only release, called THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF THE CYBERNAUTS.

The 2CD package is the band’s musical tribute to the artists who have been most influential to them, in particular, David Bowie and Mick Ronson.

CYBERNAUTS LIVE is available at WWW.CYBERNAUTSRULEOK.COM

17.99 (app. $25 USD - $38 CDN - €30), shipping not included.

Disc One (Live): "Watch That Man," "Hang Onto Yourself," "Changes," "The Supermen," "Five Years," "Cracked Actor," "Moonage Daydream," "Angel No. 9," "Jean Genie," "Life On Mars?", "The Man Who Sold The World," "Starman," "The Width Of A Circle," "Ziggy Stardust", "White Light/White Heat," "Rock & Roll Suicide," "Suffragette City," and "All The Young Dudes."

Disc Two (Studio): "All The Young Dudes," "Moonage Daydream," "Manic Depression," "The Man Who Sold The World," "Time," "Panic In Detroit," and "Lady Grinning Soul."

Total running time: 113 minutes app.

Other MP3 samples available on their site.

Def Leppard Members Release David Bowie Cover CD
by Bruce Simon (Yahoo - June 2001)

A two-disc set featuring Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott and lead guitarist Phil Collen and Spiders From Mars band drummer Mick "Woody" Woodmansey and bassist Trevor Bolder collectively doing David Bowie covers is now available online. The Cybernauts, which also includes keyboardist-singer Dick Decent, played some gigs in the U.K. and Ireland in 1997 and recorded one show at the Olympia Theatre in Dublin on August 7 of that year. A live CD was released in Japan last December, which has since been expanded with a second disc of studio recordings made last December and January. The new Cybernauts Live compilation is only available at the group's website, cybernautsruleok.com, where you can also preview snippets of the recordings.

On the Cybernauts website, Elliott writes, "If people are wondering why me and Phil are doing this, they should check out the original versions of these songs and see why we are who we are. There is so much good material on the original albums, you might understand why we are always going on about them...I listened to [David Bowie's] music night after night as a kid, and in fact, I still do!" He adds, "To be playing these songs live with the original rhythm section of the Spiders from Mars is indeed an honour, for which I can only thank Woody and Trevor, and of course, David Bowie for writing such amazing songs in the first place."

Def Leppard and David Bowie: A Match Made on Mars
(Spin Online - June 2001)

Everyone should give David Bowie props, but even more so if you are a member of Def Leppard… just 'cause. Leppard frontman Joe Elliott, Leppard guitarist Phil Collen and members of Bowie's classic band, Spiders From Mars (bassist Trevor Bolder and drummer Mick "Woody" Woodmansey), recently got together to record 25 Bowie covers (18 live tracks and seven tracks recorded in the studio, the former to come as part of a bonus disc). The two-CD set is called Cybernauts Live. It is called that because Elliott and his crew are calling themselves the Cybernauts. The album contains songs spanning Bowie's entire career, including "Changes," "Ziggy Stardust," "Jean Genie," "Cracked Actor," "All The Young Dudes," and "The Man Who Sold The World." This is all just too fascinating and I felt we should all purchase it (though a little behind schedule, you can now order a copy of the disc via the Cybernauts website). "If people are wondering why me and Phil are doing this, they should check out the original versions of these songs and see why we are who we are," says Elliott in a posting on the site. "There is so much good material on the original albums, you might understand why we are always going on about them. Mick Ronson was such a good guitar player, he is possibly the *only* guitarist that Phil would willingly copy, almost like a kid in his bedroom miming with the old tennis racquet!… It's fair to say that my own musical career went in a totally different direction to the music of David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars, but that doesn't mean that I don't hold it dear to my heart. If I was going to be marooned on a desert island and was allowed to take ten CDs with me, Bowie would be a big part of it, and mostly all the stuff we're doing with the Cybernauts right now." Elliott is an outspoken Ronson devotee, and played in a memorial gig in London after he died. That's how the whole thing came about, and how he hooked up with Bolder and Woodmansey. Not too shabby, really.

JOE ELLIOTT TALKS WITH MARK ADAMS OF BOWIENET, 22 JUNE 2001

When and how did you first become aware of David Bowie?
Top of the Pops 1972, where else, seeing Bowie perform "Starman". God, was I blown away! The image, the song, the whole package..... When I got to school the next day and raved on and on, I got beaten up by the Slade fans!

Were you lucky enough to catch Bowie and the Spiders live? If so, when and where? If not, what was the first Bowie show you caught?
Unfortunately, I never got to see the Spiders (boo hoo) due to a strict parental regime (I was 12 at the time). I never saw David live until the Serious Moonlight tour at Madison Square Garden in (I think) August 1983. If my memory serves me well, he had just had to re-recruit Earl Slick on guitar, as Stevie Ray Vaughan had walked out. I have seen him many times since, notably a bunch of those legendary warm-up shows he does in Dublin, Ireland.

Could you tell us a little about how the Cybernauts came together? Were you already friends with Trevor and Woody before you played with them etc
When Mick Ronson passed away, I'd just done a bit of work with Mick on his "Heaven and Hull" CD, so Maggie (his sister) was aware that I was a fan and friend, so she asked me if I would be willing to participate in a tribute show she was putting together. Being one of the first to commit to it (alongside of Ian Hunter) and having heard that Trev and Woody were doing it, the light bulb went on..... So I asked Maggie if she thought it would be cool to work with the both of them. As I knew Trev from the Leppard/Uriah Heep 1983 tour in the USA, I figured he would have no problem with it. Woody, I hadn't ever met (but I did see U-Boat at the Sheffield top rank in 1976!). I brought Phil Collen into it straight away, because if he knew we were doing "Moonage Daydream" and wasn't there, he'd either have killed me or himself!

Anyway, we got to play for 35 minutes, which was fantastic! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this was the ultimate dream come true for the both of us. Phil got to do THAT solo in "Moonage Daydream", I got to sing all those wonderful songs into a microphone, instead of a vacuum cleaner handle!

Approximately 3 years later, Maggie asked us to do it again, to christen the Mick Ronson Memorial Stage in his home town of Hull, England. As the Spiders were all from the area, it all seemed to fit (I know, I know, me and Phil weren't, but at least I was a Yorkshireman!). By now a very wonderful keyboard player, by the name of Dick Decent was involved. He'd played with Woody and Trevor before, but it was his first time with me and Phil. We were booked to play 2 shows; one in the Hull Arena on the Saturday night and then to open the Memorial Stage Sunday afternoon. Having done the measly 35 minutes 3 years previously, we wanted to play for a bit longer, and do more shows, so we ended up with 5 shows, one of which was in Dublin, Ireland, where I live (coincidentally, it was the night before Bowie played the same venue on the "Earthling" tour). The light bulb went on again! Why not tape it, as I had the gear to do so at the house. So we hurriedly arranged for the said gear to be taxied (!) down to the Olympia theatre. It got there just before soundcheck. And, voila, gig on tape!

It was getting more exciting as it went on, so much so, that we went into Bow Lane Studios on a day off and recorded 4 songs; "Manic Depression", "Moonage Daydream", "Man Who Sold The World" and "All The Young Dudes" (my all-time favourite song in the world, ever!).

During "sit-around time", we'd joke about the name Cyber-this or Cyber-that. How it became Cybernauts, I can't quite remember, but I think it was a combination of myself and Dick Decent raving on about the Cybermen (Dr. Who). It sounded spacey, not unlike (we thought) Bowie's Ziggy Stardust period stuff.

Aaannnyywwwayyyy..... The tapes stayed up on the shelf of my studio for 3 years until Def Leppard had a 4 month tour break. Being the workaholic that I am (!), I decided to dig them out and give them a listen. Boy, was I surprised! I remembered it being good, but it was actually better than I thought! So I decided to have a go at mixing it. Having just bought a ProTools set up, it was the perfect opportunity to see how the new gear worked. Meanwhile, in the land of the rising sun, the rumour mill had started and I was offered the chance to release it in Japan, so having spoken to all the chaps, we decided to give it a go (praying to God that David wouldn't object!). So we released it in January of this year and went down there to promote it, and play 4 more shows. The opportunity to play some songs not on the CD was obvious, so we rehearsed 3 songs; "Panic In Detroit", "Time" and "Lady Grinning Soul" (totally overlooked brilliant song, David should maybe think about doing it one day) on the last day of rehearsals, and we hadn't seen each other for 3 years!. We recorded the basic backing tracks, as we had already discussed the idea of a second CD for the web-only release. So what you hear on those particular songs was recorded in Tokyo (drums, bass and keyboards), California (guitars) and Dublin (lead and backing vocals). Talk about an international project!

Are there any more studio versions in the can, "Width Of A Circle" for example?
Unfortunately not, the temptation to do more is like a drug, but we didn't want to "overstay our welcome".

Are you planning any UK Cybernauts dates?
At the moment, no. We all agreed that as this is a "timeless project" and that we could tour again if schedules allowed, but at the moment we are all back to our day jobs.

The songs on the Cybernauts CD are affectionate and pretty accurate versions of the originals. Your love of the music is obvious, but were you ever tempted to reconstruct the songs?
That's a nice way to put it! We did the radio session version of "The Supermen" (without the timpani drums and ahhhhs), but we all figured if it isn't broken, don't fix it. Not typical of the way David would approach older material, but we just wanted to showcase the two main ingredients that were the essence of this project: Mick's amazing guitar work & David's fantastic song writing ability. We did however, totally rip up "Panic In Detroit" and turn it into some kind of full on rockfest, more in the vein of "Suffragette City" (complete with updated if over-used, "telephone voice" in the middle eight)!

It's clear from Phil's guitar work how he felt about Mick Ronson, but did he ever to get play with him?
Having just clarified this particular question with Phil, he met Mick a few times when Phil was in a band called Girl back in 79/80. The only time Phil was on stage with Mick was at the Freddie Mercury tribute gig at Wembley stadium in '92. With me, the remaining members of Queen, Ian Hunter and David! What a line up! And two days before Mick died, Phil and Ian Hunter sat with Mick shooting the shit..... But he was quite ill by then.

How was it working with Mick on Heaven and Hull?
An absolute pleasure. He came to stay with me in Dublin for a long weekend and we worked pretty solidly all the time he was there. And don't think he gave me an easy time either! He had in mind exactly how he wanted the album to sound and how he wanted me to sing on "Don't Look Down". As it was a two-part, I had to phrase my vocal exactly the same way Mick had on his harmony. I'm used to the tight harmonies, but people sing in different ways and Mick's way was just another learning curve for me.

"Take A Long Line" was a different kettle of fish! Being an old punk song from an Australian band called The Angels, it was a case of getting the vocal as raucous (?) as possible. I enjoyed that one!

After Mick passed away, I wasn't sure what was going to happen to the album, as it hadn't been finished, but was pleased when I heard it was being mixed in New York. Unfortunately, when I heard the first mixes, I knew they weren't right as we'd sat up talking at night after the recording sessions, and he'd pretty much clued me in to how he wanted it to sound. So, I did something I've never done before, I got hold of somebody at Sony Records and told them so! Luckily for me that somebody turned out to be a certain Frankie La Rocka, at the time he was the A&R man for the project. He was totally sympathetic to the cause, as he and Mick went back a long way. So to cut a long story short, three days later I was on a plane to New York, heading for the studio with Frankie to get the whole thing sorted out. Second guessing somebody else's work is not an ideal thing to do, but at least I knew a bit more than someone just doing it "because".

The Cybernauts look at a certain area of Bowie's career, but do you personally still check out his new work?
Oh God, yes!! I have every Bowie CD in existence! I know it probably should be kept quiet, but as of the last count, I have 62 Bowie bootlegs on CD. I think "Earthling" is the best album he has done since "Diamond Dogs". I play the long version of "Little Wonder" at least once a day! Aaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnddddddd, surprising to some, I'm sure, I L-O-V-E "Buddha Of Suburbia". Until "Earthling" came out, it was my fave Bowie CD of the 90s. Is it cool to say I'm a Tin Machine fan too? I love "Under The Gun" soooooooooooo much! Possibly because it reminds me of "I Wish You Would" from "Pinups". Although it's been done to death, if Leppard were to cover another Bowie song, I'd love to have a go at "Heroes".

What's the nicest Bowie/Ronson item you own?
A blow-up-picture of Bowie giving Ronno's guitar head (circa '72)!!

The influences you grew up with aren't obvious for somebody that chose to work in the area of music that you do work within... Do you find that unusual?
I totally understand people "not getting it". I have to say that I have a very varied musical taste. I like anything I deem to be good, be it blues, punk, hard rock, the list could go on forever. It's not unusual for me to follow a Bowie CD with Tom Waits, Sex Pistols, The Who, Zep, or even Jobriath! I'm also realistic enough to know that David probably hates everything Leppard stand for!!! But I'm sure that Willie Dixon wasn't big on Zeppelin, and it's pretty logical that some of David's heroes don't like what he does, but as long as there's some kind of respect along the lines of "hey, everybody to their own", you don't lose any sleep over things like that. I met Iggy Pop a while back, and God knows he wouldn't be a Lep fan, but he was courteous enough to say, "Respect man, for everything you've achieved". That was probably the coolest thing any artist ever said to me!

Top five Spiders era Bowie songs?
First of all, for me this question is impossible to answer, but seeing as you asked..... My Top 5 today is:
1. Moonage Daydream
2. Rock 'N' Roll Suicide
3. Saviour Machine
4. Drive-In Saturday
5. Velvet Goldmine
6. Bewlay Brothers
(oh, go on, pleeeze!)

13. Top five pre/post Spiders Bowie songs?
1. Win
2. Silly Boy Blue
3. Buddha Of Suburbia
4. Growin' Up and I'm Fine (I know, I know.....)
5. Little Wonder/Heroes
(I told you it was impossible!)

14. have you ever met David Bowie?
Yes, I have had the privilege. Briefly at the Freddie Mercury gig, and twice in Dublin at those secret warm-up gigs he keeps doing there (please don't stop doing them!) Oh, and once a BBQ at Bono's house, where co-co accused me of kidnapping him, when in reality it was he who kidnapped me to go sing "Happy Birthday" to The Edge..... In some restaurant about 5 miles away. You had to be there, you couldn't make it up!

May I also add that Mark Platti introduced me to "one of your biggest fans" when Bowie played "H.Q." in Dublin, (1999 warm-up for the "...Hours" album). It was none other then fab Bowie back-up singer, Emm Gryner, who has since become an e-mail buddy of mine. ......Aaaaaaaannnnnnndddddddd has done an absolutely stunningly fabulous piano version of "Pour Some Sugar On Me", which she sent me a while back and had everybody in the band drooling! Nice to see the wheel turning around.

I was asked the other day what would I say to David if I was in one of those invited audience situations?
Simple..... THANK YOU!

---This page last modified: 18 Jan 2007---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)