Beside Bowie:
The Mick Ronson Story

Nearly two years after his death, David Bowie’s story continues to be told and twisted. Like most successful artists, Bowie surrounded himself with a lot of good, talented individuals, and one of them was guitarist Mick Ronson. It was Ronson who helped mold Bowie into the rock icon he became — adding his unique guitar riffs to the mix, arranging and orchestrating many of the songs, and taking the stage with his shiny blond locks and chiseled, masculine image to complement Bowie’s androgynous countenance. Jon Brewer’s documentary Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story opens the book on Ronson’s consummate contributions to the Thin White Duke’s ascent to superstardom.

Much of the film centers on Bowie’s origins as a folk singer and songwriter. To add credibility, much of the story is told through interviews with Bowie’s ex-wife Angela, Ronson’s wife Suzi, former manager Tony Defries, photographer Mick Rock, and any number of musicians from Ian Hunter and Rick Wakeman, who both worked for Bowie and Ronson, to Def Leppard singer Joe Elliot and Queen drummer Roger Taylor. Though the tale tends to fixate on Bowie, it always veers back to Ronson, whose stoic background makes him instantly likeable to even the most conservative admirer.

Emerging from the northern seaside town of Hull, England, Ronson’s talents as a guitarist and arranger prefigured Bowie’s role in bringing glamour and sophistication to rock and roll. This would lead to collaborations with Bob Dylan, Ian Hunter, Lulu, Lou Reed, Morrissey and John Mellencamp — none of which garner much attention in the documentary. Instead, it is Ronson’s hand in Bowie’s pivotal albums The Man Who Sold the World, Aladdin Sane and Hunky Dory that comprise much of the film’s focus. Coming nearly 25 years after Ronson’s untimely passing in 1993, Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story, despite a few gaps here and there, is an endearing and captivating examination of one of rock’s great unsung heroes.

~ Shawn Perry

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