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M. King Adkins,
Written by David Bowie
Performed by David Bowie
Courtesy of Warner Records / Parlophone Records Publishing
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The main thrust of this film biography is to attempt to drag Mick Ronson (Ronno to everyone here) out of the massive shadow of David Bowie to whom he was right hand man in the latter's breakthrough years from 1969 - 1974, my own favourite era for Bowie's music. He even has a go himself at one point, referencing Jagger and Richards and Lennon and McCartney putting the argument that one of the two couldn't have made it without the other. It might be heresy to his fans but I have to disagree. One way or another I'm pretty certain that Mick, Keith, John, Paul and of course David would have made it anyway but talented as he was, besides being a great guitarist he could read and write music and score string arrangements (listen to Lou Reed, no less, purr over the strings he set to his "Perfect Day"), but the overriding feeling I came away with was that while he was a good side-man and foil, without any great songwriting talent, imagination or self-promotion, he was never really going to make it long term as a solo artist.
That's not to say he wasn't a nice guy. The usual coterie of family, friends and fellow-travellers (and yes, Rick Wakeman is amongst the latter) line up to pay tribute to a modest, diffident lad from Hull, where he started out as a working-class ground-worker, but who went on to become the golden-haired, platform-booted foil to Bowie's androgynous excess as the latter careered through his ground-breaking Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane periods. It's outrageous to learn that he and the other Spiders From Mars, fellow Hull-ites Trevor Bolder and Woody Woodmansey were paid only £30 per week even at the height of Bowiemania.
I was pleased to be reminded of his irregular but significant after-Bowie jobs such as playing in Dylan's Rolling Thunder Review, producing the Rich Kids and more significantly Morrissey's successful "Your Arsenal" album before he succumbed to cancer at only 46. Nice to see his old mate and supporter Ian Hunter speak so well of him too (go check out his beautiful tribute number to Ronson "Michael Picasso"), plus of course there was a sort of reconciliation with Bowie even if it only amounted to Mick contributing to one track on the "Black Tie White Noise" album and a couple of high profile multi-star tribute concerts.
My main problem with this no doubt well-meaning film was that it too couldn't seem to get out of the shadow of Bowie. It takes ten minutes before really turning to Ronson's story and similarly fails to really focus on him until the last half hour or so. There was next to nothing about his childhood plus I felt we never really learned why Bowie abandoned him in 1974.
Still I was impressed by the archive footage and the filmed interviews with Ronson himself which intersperse the narrative, but I just felt this film got its focus wrong from the title on down at the expense of its main subject.
Story of Mick's life really.
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