Thursday, June 16, 2011
5 Minutes With Mick Rock
Mick Rock is a legend. He needs no introduction.
Photos: Debbie Harry, Peter Gabriel, David Bowie, Syd Barrett.
Q1. What was the first record you bought and what effect did it have on you?
I believe it was 'Peggy Sue' by Buddy Holly, and I was hooked on rock n roll forever. Totally magical, totally mesmerizing, and absolutely contagious. An entire new universe. My photographic aspirations were still years away, but the beat was in my blood.
Q2. You were certainly the photographer of choice in Glam rock's royal court. How did you become part of that scene?
My fortuitous pursuit of David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust, starting with 'Hunky Dory' (especially 'Life On Mars') and seeing him play in front of a very modest audience at Birmingham Town Hall in early March 1972. I did an interview, took a few photos, totally convinced of the uniqueness and brilliance of his radiant talent, and couldn't stop looking and listening! Through David I met and photographed Mott The Hoople, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop (including their album covers) and after that anyone who aspired to the 'glam' moniker came to my door, including Roxy Music and Queen. I was a Rock with a role and 'glam' was the key.
Q3. You took some very definitive pictures of Blondie. Who would you consider to be a contemporary artist or band that carries the same iconic status?
Some might say Lady Gaga (whom I have photographed) or Gwen Stefani (whom I haven't), but as delightful as they are, neither really mirror the natural born beauty of the divine Ms Harry in her prime. She was (and still is, of course!) the 'Marilyn Monroe of Rock n Roll'. That's just the way God planned it and it's hard to imagine anyone equalling the charm of her classic image. She wears it with such ease and so little manipulation. Her nearest modern equivalent may be Kate Moss (whom I have photographed.....check out my latest book collection 'EXPOSED'), but of course she doesn't sing or write.....although some might argue that's she's more 'rock n roll' in her lifestyle than any modern rocker! She once told me she'd stayed up for four nights with Keith Richards, so she certainly has the credentials!!
Q4. Do you think that rapid information exchange via the Internet has changed the way photography is viewed?
Probably. Certainly photographers get so much more respect these days. In my youth the sonic output ruled. In the modern world the visual probably dominates, thanks to the power and prevalence of digital technology. So photographers and their spawnings have acquired a much more significant status. I probably do on average around three or four interviews a week and my photos both old and new are constantly being pumped into the public consciousness. That would have seemed like a ludicrous concept when I first photographed Syd Barrett in the autumn of 1969.
Q5. Give me a really off the wall anecdote about one of your pictures. Something that not many people will know.
There is a photo of Andy Warhol wearing a Santa Claus outfit cuddling with Truman Capote. It was shot for the Xmas 1979 issue of 'High Times' magazine, back in the day when it aspired to being more than just a magazine for marijuana aficionados, when a William Burroughs or Norman Mailer might contribute. It was actually the second time Andy was featured on its cover. I remember that Truman was blind drunk and that there was a lot of discussion about who should wear the Santa suit. Andy thought it suited him better, so Truman acquiesced. It was shot at the 'Factory' which was then located at Union Square in Manhattan. There was stuff all over the floor and in every nook. The tricky part was finding a corner to set up my lights. I was in high gear when Andy suddenly pointed to my feet: "Excuse me, " he said quite softly, "I think your standing on some of my canvases." It was a bunched up roll casually thrown to one side, and I had so little room to manoeuvre. It could have been just any old junk. But of course it was in fact probably several million dollars by today's Warhol sales standards. Very sobering. But Andy didn't seem too concerned about it. "I just thought you might like to know," quoth Captain PopArt.