You don’t really get to hear a great deal about Mick Ronson, the legendary guitarist who worked with David Bowie in those critical years, when Bowie’s star was finally on the rise. Ronson died in 1993, but now from award-winning producer/director Jon Brewer comes Beyond Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story. This movie traces Ronson’s humble beginnings in Hull, emphasizing his values and modest, unpretentious personality. As his own musical career moved along steadily but without much success, word of his talent reached David Bowie, who grabbed at the chance to work with Ronson, in what would become a career-long association – apart from collaborations with other greats such as Bob Dylan, Ian Hunter, Lulu, Lou Reed, Morrissey and John Mellencamp. The pivotal Bowie albums The Man Who Sold the World, Aladdin Sane, Hunky Dory, The Jean Genie all were constructed with Ronson on guitar. In 1993, while working on a solo album, Ronson passed away at the age of 46, before receiving the greater recognition he deserved. Now, with archival footage, never before released, and iconic imagery from superstar photographer Mick Rock, this documentary chronicles one of the frequently overlooked cornerstones of modern rock guitar.
For all the quality of the construction and as much detail as this documentary offered, it does fall short in being a linear documentary. Unfortunately, there was too much of Bowie, which at times made it feel like the emphasis was on him as opposed to what Ronson brought to the Bowie sound with his musical scope. There are also a few too many moments with some of the “characters” who appear, which at times, is distracting. It’s almost as if Mick Ronson is the sideman to Bowie in his own story, which I understand may be difficult to pad out for the length of a proper film, given the enormity of David Bowie’s legend. As far as the positive moments, there are certainly many; the warm stories told about Mr. Ronson; seeing some of the T.V. footage from some of the groundbreaking performances; seeing and hearing Mick Rock’s memories, etc.
This is definitely one of those documentaries for the die-hard fans, which, again, I understand. It was enjoyable and informative, albeit a little clumsy. Nonetheless, you will certainly have a greater appreciation for a very fine and understated (in a time of absolute flash and gaudiness) guitar master.
Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story is currently available