Skip to content

Me and “Me and Mr. Jones”

Suzi Ronson’s tales of David Bowie, Mick Ronson and the 1970s…

I tried to write a memoir. I have seen and participated in some interesting and even historic things in my professional life (which has nothing to do with David Bowie). In the effort, I produced a lot of words but ultimately gave up. I add too many factual details and forget sensory details. I fall into making arguments that lead to points rather than stories that form an arc. Someday I’ll try it again.

Suzi Ronson, part of David Bowie’s team in the early 1970s, doesn’t suffer from the same problems I do as a writer. Or if she does, the end result — Me and Mr. Jones— doesn’t show it. It’s an enjoyable book. Upon finishing it, I felt like I would miss it. And I already do. Suzi conjures up vivid visual images, sounds, smells, emotions— even tactile sensations. She has such a keen memory for how she experienced moments from a half-century ago or longer that I wouldn’t be surprised if she was keeping notes at the time— or that she made some of it up!

I don’t think she made any of it up. I imagine (but don’t know), that she went through the mental exercise of thinking about what exactly was memorable about a moment that stuck in her head all these years and built out from there. If so, the exercise makes for a compelling series of stories about her introduction to David and Angie Bowie, adopting the rock ‘n roll lifestyle, falling in love and ultimately marrying legendary guitarist Mick Ronson. The chapters more or less can stand on their own as individual anecdotes, but strung together they tell the familiar story of a wide-eyed innocent girl slowly losing her innocence, but in the process experiencing a can’t-be-real fantasy existence, which in this case was the Ziggy Stardust tour, against which all future experiences are compared.

The last quarter or so of the book takes place after Suzi and Mick (not yet married) break from Bowie (or, more accurately, he breaks from them). Despite Mick cutting a couple albums on his own and working with the likes of Ian Hunter and Bob Dylan, the time after the Spiders from Mars seems like sometimes interesting work interspersed with heaps of drudgery and cold water flats.

Bowie goes from being the son of one of Suzi’s clients when she worked in a hair salon to international mega-star. As he became a rock-world icon, so too did he, and his whole operation become iconic in Suzi’s mind. The Ziggy tour was fresh and energized. Everything worked. Everything was glam and glamorous. The show was top rate, the operation was professional. It was— maybe contrary to popular perception— a period before cocaine, when nobody had to worry about paying bills or where they were going to work or what was happening to the money they were making. Jets, big cars and fancy hotels. And nobody (except David and Angie) had to worry about children. All of this would change as Bowie moved on and Suzi returned to Planet Earth.

Suzi’s role in all this began as Bowie’s hairdresser. Her major contribution to the legend was creating Ziggy’s hairstyle. But she took on a larger role involving costumes, informally managing Angie and whatever else she was asked to do. As Bowie receded into Suzi’s rear-view mirror, the professional part of her life also receded and her identity more and more revolved around her relationship with Mick.

The sweetest recurring theme of the book is her still very evident love for Mick Ronson. There’s a scene where Ronson gets called up to play in a bar where Bob Dylan was also present, and the way she describes his playing was transporting. I’m sure it was objectively terrific, but what was really endearing was how to his loving partner —Suzi— it was transcendently sublime.

Mick does come off as having plenty of warts. He drank too much, gambled, had no financial literacy, was prone to get into bar fights and was possibly unfaithful on the road. But on the whole he comes off as a lovable guy. His death in 1993 was not part of the story, but Suzi reminds us that we’ve been worse without him for the past thirty years .

As for Bowie, he comes off as a genius who “made it all look easy.” Charming and visionary, Bowie is never too far from the story even after he ceased being part of Suzi’s day-to-day life.

But there are at least two episodes where David Bowie comes off as a jerk. The first one got a certain amount of press play when the book was initially released earlier this year. Suzi devotes two pages to a story about Bowie hooking up with a boy he spotted attending a concert. Exactly what happened and exactly how old the boy was is not firmly established in Suzi’s telling, but the encounter is not presented as wholesome. We get no insight into what the boy made of the whole thing, but Suzi reports that she felt “violated” by what she saw, and by the extent to which she helped facilitate the encounter.

The other story is not new— Bowie was a jerk when he broke up the Spiders. She mentions that years later, she saw Bowie give an interview in which he admitted as much and blamed it on cocaine. But according to Suzi, there was no cocaine on the Ziggy tour— that, or at least the depths of Bowie’s addiction, came later. Instead, Suzi sees the Spiders as a casualty of Bowie’s ruthless ambition.

But other than that, she paints him as good to work with. And while we’re on it, what did you think of the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

Suzi tells another story that, though she doesn’t make the connection, shows that Bowie was right in recognizing that Ziggy had to be killed off. Months after Bowie broke up the band, Suzi and Mick found themselves in a punk club. Through only in their mid-20s, they had become anachronisms. Glam was dead and they were artifacts of a bygone era (from several months prior). Bowie escaped that fate (and also managed to escape punk, but that’s another story).

Like all good performers, Suzi leaves her readers (or at least me) wanting more. She closes her story with several major loose threads hanging out there. Toward the end of the book she hints at having developed her own cocaine addiction, she gives birth, and Mick seems to be bouncing from job to job. By the late 70s, Suzi and Mick don’t seem like they figured out their lives. I wonder what happened next.

The closing anecdote is a fast-forward to 2016, when Suzi learned of Bowie’s death. An era had truly ended in Suzi’s life. But, in a way it was also the beginning of the next chapter. Suzi was a witness to history who made her contribution — I can relate— but, despite her skill as a storyteller, there probably would have been much less interest in this particular story while Bowie was still alive. There’s more interest in Bowie now than during the last thirty years of his life, and books like this are possible because of that interest. Mick Ronson and David Bowie are gone, but the fantasies they inspired live on.

###

Back To Top