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Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story (2017)

The story of Mick Ronson, the guitar great who helped to create the sound of David Bowie's hugely influential glam rock years.

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Angie Bowie ...
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Ian Hunter ...
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Earl Slick ...
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Bob Harris ...
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Suzi Ronson ...
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The story of Mick Ronson, the guitar great who helped to create the sound of David Bowie's hugely influential glam rock years.

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9 May 2017 (UK)  »

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$11,400, 10 September 2017
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Did You Know?

Soundtracks

The Man Who Sold The World
Written by David Bowie
Performed by David Bowie
Courtesy of Warner Records / Parlophone Records Publishing
Tintoretto Music / RZO Music Inc. / Screen Gems-EMI Music Inc EMI Music Publishing Ltd.
Rest of World - Tintoretto Music / RZO Music Ltd / EMI Publishing Ltd / Chrysalis Music
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User Reviews

Overdue Collaborator Credit

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 David Bowie.

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 real life.

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 inoperable cancer.

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 world.

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 it.


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