The story behind Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson Feat Bruno Mar’s

It feels slightly odd to be meeting Mark Ronson on a rainy industrial estate near Caledonian Road, north London. A certain glitziness attached itself to his name even before he was famous – his mother is a New York socialite, his father a music business grandee, his stepfather a rock star – and glitziness is a commodity in fairly short supply in this particular area of King’s Cross. Now resident in London – handy for Paris, where his wife, model and actor Joséphine de La Baume, has most of her work – the industrial estate is where Ronson keeps his recording studio. Inside, it is substantially more alluring than its exterior suggests: gold discs and Grammy awards, framed vintage gig posters and flickering scented candles.

A courier arrives with a gift and a card from his record company, celebrating the arrival at No 1 in the charts of Uptown Funk, a collaboration with singer Bruno Mars that Ronson laboured over for six agonising months. He claims that he worked so hard on it that his hair started to fall out; at one point, the stress of trying to come up with a suitable guitar part caused him to vomit and faint.

“We did 45 takes of it and I just couldn’t get it, it sounded like horrible bullshit, so we went to lunch, walked down to a restaurant. Everyone was saying: ‘Dude, what’s wrong with you? You’ve gone totally white.’ Because I was going on pretending everything was just fine; you don’t want to admit that you’re just not there, you’re not where you want to be. And I went to the toilet and just … fainted. I threw up, and fainted. They had to come and carry me out of the toilet.”

Still, it all worked out OK in the end. En route to No 1, Uptown Funk managed to break a British record for being streamed the most times in a week: 2.3m times, evidence of how thoroughly the track dominated the Christmas party season. Anticipation for his forthcoming album, Uptown Special – co-produced by Jeff Bhasker, who has previously worked with everyone from Beyoncé to Ed Sheeran to Lana Del Rey to Kanye West – is extremely high. No wonder your record company has sent you champagne, I say. “The ‘record company’,” says Ronson, mordantly. “I arranged to have that delivered myself to make me look good in front of a journalist.”

He made a similar joke last time I met him, in Manhattan, seven years ago. A fan came up in a restaurant, mid-interview, and started gushing about his second album, Version. “Thanks for making me look good in the Guardian,” Ronson called to her as she left.

In fact, Ronson spent a suprising proportion of our time together dolefully insisting he didn’t lead a glamorous, charmed life while giving every impression of leading a glamorous, charmed life. The previous year, he had co-produced Lily Allen’s debut album, Alright, Still, and Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black. The former went on to sell 3m copies, the latter 20m. Version had become almost as ubiquitous: you couldn’t turn the television on without hearing Ronson’s cover versions of Coldplay’s God Put a Smile on Your Face and The Zutons’ Valerie, also sung by Winehouse.

The tabloid press seemed almost as fascinated by him as they were by her and they wouldn’t leave her alone for five minutes, this being the start of Winehouse’s horrible descent. Record producers tend to be shadowy, backroom figures, but Ronson was almost needlessly handsome, dated supermodels and came from a family so famous in New York society that Tatler magazine had claimed, perhaps a little hysterically, that anyone who didn’t know them should leave Manhattan. He had recently played Tom Cruise’s wedding to Katie Holmes.

Over the course of the few days we spent together, Ronson was mobbed by female fans and hounded by tabloid reporters, one of whom thrust a recording device under his nose and demanded to know if he had “a message for Amy”. “If I did,” he frowned, “I’d probably ring her, not say it into your tiny Dictaphone and have her read it in the papers.” As if to underline his status as the hottest producer around, a young British singer and her manager turned up at the studio where Ronson was recording his radio show. The singer was looking to work with him on her debut album and offered to make herself useful by popping out to buy everyone beers. It was Adele.

 

Read the rest of the story at the Guardian



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