The Man Who Sold The World
Written by David Bowie
Performed by David Bowie
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For many of us who grew up in the 60s and 70s there were a ton of
musical influences going on. It was the most diverse group of musical
styles to ever come around. Not only that but airplay was diverse as
well featuring numerous styles of music as opposed to today's trend of
single style format. What's interesting in looking back is the
performers and styles that historians and rock critics say were the
most influential but that so few people actually listened to.
For instance while I enjoy the New York Dolls I rarely knew of anyone
at the time who listened to them. And their record sales were
incredibly low. And yet they are hailed as one of the most influential
bands of the time by critics. This is just one example though. There
were others who were hailed by critics at the time and not as popular
as they claim but who went on to become influential. One of those was
Hard to believe right? But if you look back at Bowie's catalog you'll
find that while his hit "Space Oddity" got some airplay it wasn't until
his sixth album that he truly began to rocket to stardom. That's when
people began to go back and look into his past albums. The name of that
album was THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM
MARS. What may be even harder to believe is that one of the main boosts
Bowie got that raised the level of his albums was from his lead
guitarist Mick Ronson.
Ronson came aboard with Bowie after his first two albums and
contributed greatly to both HUNKY DORY and THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD.
But it was ZIGGY where he truly shined. Not only was Ronson a near
prefect lead guitarist who had a style all his own, he also arranged
much of the music and helped produce as well. So it's time he was given
some credit and this look at his life starts that happening.
The documentary is told via filmed footage, stills and interviews with
people who were there, who knew him or who were influenced by him.
Recruited to work with Bowie while a greens keeper at a soccer pitch he
was anxious to do so. Their partnership was one that was seen in their
performances together but rarely found behind the scenes. There was no
animosity but it was Bowie writing the songs and Ronson giving them
We're not presented with the standard fare of stills from Ronson as a
toddler moving forward but start right where his biggest impact took
place, when he was recruited for Bowie's band. We see and hear in the
words of others as well as Ronson himself how he melded right into the
rock scene with ease. We also learn the downside of fame as there is
little fortune for those unwilling to demand it. While Bowie received
the accolades and praise little was heaped on Ronson at the time and
the same was true of the difference in their paychecks as well. Perhaps
the worst of that came when onstage at a filmed concert for the Ziggy
tour Bowie announced it was the last performance by the band
ever without ever having mentioned it to the band.
But Ronson came through all right if not unscathed. He formed his own
band, recorded a solo album and toured but was never quite the front
man that a band needed. He found work on other people's albums as well,
some of which were startling to discover in this film. He was with Mott
the Hoople for a short time, worked with Ian Hunter for a while and
worked on albums for David Cassidy, Roger Daltry, Ellen Foley, Bob
Dylan and John Mellencamp.
There are a number of songs he also contributed quite a bit to that I
learned of while watching this film. With Ian Hunter he was the
guitarist on "Once Bitten Twice Shy". But most notable was that Ronson
was responsible for the riffs heard in Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane". A
riff I've listened to for years and never knew was credited to Ronson.
All the while Ronson was working and living job to job, never achieving
the financial success that he deserved. As the film shows it wasn't
until he worked with Morrissey that he earned enough to be comfortable.
Sadly it was too late though as shortly after he was diagnosed with
Watching the movie I learned so much more about the man behind the
stage presence. In a world where someone always seems to have a bad
tale or two or where someone carries a grudge there are none to be seen
here. All that is found is praise. Not just for his playing, arranging
or producing either, even if that is evident. There is praise for him
as a decent and loving human being as well. That's rare in the rock
No lengthy performance pieces are included but snippet are. They'll
make you want to go back and revisit the songs discussed, hinted at or
featured in clips. When you do you'll discover just how amazing a
talent Ronson was. And you'll hope that anyone else performing at this
level, as this involved in the creating of something special, will get
the credit due long before they pass away.
Bowie fans, Ronson fans and fans of music from those times will want to
give this a watch. Some will want to add it to their collection. But if
you love the music that came from Ronson, then by all means pick this
one up. Then dust off that old LP, plug in the turntable and give him a
listen again. You'll transport to a time when you were young and
carefree and enjoying a great talent, perhaps without even realizing
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