Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story review

Stars and family remember the platinum-haired Spider

Art for Beside Bowie: The Mick Ronson Story

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The too-brief life of the lawnmower from Hull who happened to be a genius guitarist and arranger is celebrated in this respectful, workmanlike documentary from veteran music manager and now producer/director Jon Brewer. Talking heads include Tony Visconti, Angie Bowie, Ian Hunter and Roger Taylor, who are unanimous in emphasising ‘Ronno’’s humility and underappreciated virtuoso skills.

After 18 months of the Spiders From Mars, Bowie, says Angie, was persuaded to drop the band by Tony DeFries, who argued that Elvis never needed a regular sidekick. Yet the Bowie-Ronson Wembley reunion at the Freddie Mercury commemorative show in ’92, not long before Ronson died of cancer, provides the film’s emotional sucker punch.

As reiterated here, Ronson made great music aplenty, with Hunter, Dylan, Van Morrison, Morrissey and, most flawlessly, Lou Reed’s Transformer. Even Lou is gracious and awed when he’s shown listening to the strings on Perfect Day. That’s how good Ronson was.

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.