Legendary photographer Mick Rock’s new epic documentary feat. David Bowie
His name might not ring a bell immediately but Mick Rock — yeah, his real name — is as synonymous with 1970’s pop culture icons David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, namely because he’s the photographer who captured their most iconic images.
In fact, the Cambridge graduate was not just a photographer and artist, but more like a close friend and confidant of the biggest names of the era, including the likes of Mick Jagger, Freddie Mercury, Debbie Harry and basically every icon in one of the most definitive decades in modern music and fashion history.
And somehow, despite two decades of binge drinking, drugs, a quadruple bypass and kidney transplant, Rock’s survived to tell the stories of music’s most celebrated. Better yet, he kept an archive of his entire catalog of images, video (he shot the famous Life On Mars? film clip) and interviews — barring those he swapped for drugs and or lost as a result of said drugs and his frequent week-long benders.
And the best of the archive and Rock himself feature as the subjects of director Barney Clay’s new documentary, Shot! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra Of Rock. It’s Rock’s story on his own terms, featuring the untold stories behind some of the most definitive picture’s of music royalty, and the culture, hedonism and all-out debauchery of the glam and punk eras.
It hits theatres, Amazon, iTunes and On Demand this Friday, and we were lucky enough to catch up with him.
THE RED BULLETIN: Mick! You’re as busy as ever …
Mick Rock: There’s so much going on in my life at the moment. I’m just back from Tokyo where I did this thing with TCM, their Rock And Roll Through The Lens auction. I’m in LA for the film’s premiere. Next week I’m going to Seattle to begin work on my Museum of Pop Exhibition. Then Buenos Aires and London.
And you’ve got a little surprise planned for the exhibition that features David Bowie, right?
Late June I’m going to the Museum of Pop and we’re going to do some video. There’s a new virtual reality project with Bowie I’m working on. We’ll set up the goggles and the headphones and all that, and show footage that hasn’t been seen before. It’s one of those totally immersed projects. Then there’s another virtual reality project and there could be a third one. Because what I do have is content! It’ll be up for about four months in Seattle and then it’s going on tour.
Your photos and footage of Bowie are known the world over. Your Bowie Taschen book has become a collector’s item…
That Bowie book has outsold The Rolling Stones book… Of course, the Bowie book is now worth a lot more than the Stones one because David went and died … But the Stones is still a cool book. Fuck Wall Street. You want a great investment, buy my books [laughs].
Founding Pink Floyd member Syd Barrett was another book subject and features in the doco…
Yes. What’s possibly worth more than David’s book is my Syd Barrett book I did with Genesis. He co-signed 320 of them. I remember it was around the time I was doing my first book with David, Moonage Daydream. And David kept bothering me for his copy of the Syd Barrett book. I remember that. I was “Get him a fucking copy. He’s up my ass about it”.
Amongst many other things, Shot! re-tells your meeting of Bowie in the early 1970s…
When I first met David it wasn’t like everyone was trying to photograph him. I mean, it started to happen after the release of Ziggy Stardust. But it took time. When we first met, he was very fascinated to talk about Syd Barrett, who was a friend of mine. That was about all he knew of me, because there wasn’t much more to know probably. And I knew he had met Lou (Reed) and Iggy (Pop) in New York. He didn’t know them as well as I knew Syd however, when they came over that summer [we spent some time]. They were not particularly well known except by - as David might say - know-it-alls - people like David and Me. They were huge to us.
You and David were effectively inseparable for two years…
I regarded his talent as being massive and mine as being modest. Let’s not confuse the two. David looked so spectacular. I mean, let’s be honest, it was impossible to take a bad photo of David. I think in a way he kind of hypnotized me. And remember, in that 20 month period I shot him in 74 different outfits. Now, I have not represented all of them in any book. But I did shoot him in that many. That could be the next book. That could be the one. I could do it. I mean, I haven’t considered it. We’ll have to have another book…
The doco is bad-ass. Lives up to its subtitle as psycho-spiritual.
Barney came up with the name, but I came up with the exclamation mark! My idea was to call it Mad Dogs and Englishmen or something. Not very good. Ask me another one, darling.
There’s a ton of unseen archive footage, including audio of conversations with Bowie and Lou.
I am a bit of a hoarder. Even in my mad days I was keeping things. Barney loved the hoarding. You can see it in the fucking documentary. I can’t tell you how I kept them. If you want me to explain how I was in a state to do that, I can’t.
Your pictures and their subjects are immortal. But there’s a real theme of mortality in the documentary, with flashbacks to your heart surgery in 1996.
I had a kidney transplant recently, too. Thank God that wasn’t in the documentary! Barney already had enough of that mortality stuff. He originally had more but it was too much. Cause I’m not fucking dead! You hear that, Barney!? I’m not dead!
Shot! Will be released Friday, April 7, in theatres and VOD.