When it comes to rock photography, there are several legends that come to mind – Bob Gruen, Ethan Russell and Jim Marshall, for example. But Mick Rock, who died last week at age 72, stood out and embodied the charismatic mojo of his subjects, both stylistically and spiritually. We were lucky enough to interview him on a few occasions and what always struck us as different from the rest was his abiding passion for capturing images and finding new ways to showcase talented, charismatic and yes, iconic figures. to put.
Never resting on his laurels, even in his later years he became enthusiastic when he discovered a subject that inspired him. On our first meeting, he decided that our own daughter (who was about 4 years old at the time) was that inspiration. We had her dressed in a black and red vintage velvet dress and matching hair roses to attend an exhibition of his work at a trendy Silver Lake boutique called Confederacy, so we weren’t surprised she caught his eye. But the sight of this legend doing a full impromptu photoshoot, turning his camera in different directions and walking around her to capture different angles and light (she also punched it while posing for him) was unforgettably surreal and it said something about his approach to art and life. Everyone was special and cool in front of their lens.
A few years later, “Shooting For Stardust- The Rise of David Bowie & Co.”, in honor of his Taschen book describing Ziggy Stardust in the 1970s, brought his work (again) to the attention of everyone and confirmed it. icon status of David Bowie’s alter ego. The Starman, and Rock’s close friend, would die the following year.
Shaggy hair and perpetual dark shades aside, Mick Rock was a rock star in his own right. He had his struggles, just like his subjects, which probably helped him capture their essence. If you haven’t already, we highly recommend checking it out SHOT! the bio-doc about his life (and near-death), available for free on PLUTO TV, now. In the film, he details his early struggles with substance abuse and gives a glimpse of his massive mess of amazing records (we’ll probably never see the photos he took of our kid, unfortunately).
During our first interview, we discussed his most famous photos and he provided some juicy behind-the-scenes insights into each. We’ve reprinted it below.
Dec 21, 2010
Mick Rock’s Top 10 Iconic Rock Images, With Behind The Lens Commentary (And A Few Surprises)
Mick Rock has shot some of the most recognizable portraits in rock music history and is without a doubt the best name in shutterbugdom. But with a candor and style as palpable as any of his subjects, he’s also just as cool. In L..A this weekend for some events related to his new book, Exposed: The Faces of Rock n’ Roll. We had the chance to chat with a charismatic photographer, receiving exclusive shot-by-shot commentary on what we both agreed are 10 of his most memorable shots:
Rock’s immense talent is a given, but as he admits, some of his best shots came from sheer luck, while others were the result of euphoric experimentation. Rock led a debauched, drug-filled lifestyle not unlike his subjects. In the book he talks about ‘inner demons’ and losing himself ‘in the fantasy of living on the edge 24 hours a day’. A near-death experience in 2006 turned things around.
His memories of those raw times (and his work) may not always be vivid, but what he does remember is fascinating. In the book, he indexes each shot with just enough information to provide insight while preserving the mystique of the images. Exposed joins Rock’s impressive library of published works, including photo books focusing on Glam Rock, Ziggy Stardust, Queen, Blondie, Syd Barrett, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Iggy, etc.
“I’m known as a glam rock photographer,” he told us. “But this new book shows a wider reach.” Rock’s glamor background will likely come in handy on a proposed new project, which he’ll only reveal as “a glamor musical” to be discussed with a major producer, and perhaps Toni Basil (who was at the private party in his honor at Confederation Thursday night). Rock also says an art project related to Ziggy Stardust’s 40th anniversary is in the works, as well as a bio-doc on the photo itself.
Here are the 10 most memorable Mick Rock photos, with commentary:
- Bono and Lady Gaga, New York, 2006
(Shot at a private party at The Spotted Pig in New York after the show ‘Gavin Friday & Friends’ (Carnegie Hall). A great example of Rock’s gift for capturing candid moments and a recording that shows that he is still a major player in today’s pop culture).
“It was a long night and Bono, who asked me to film it, was in good communicative shape.”
“I don’t know where the forks came from [this was not a dinner]. It was in the hidden VIP room in the attic.”
- Debbie Harry, New York, 1978
(From a magazine cover session – for Bob Guccioni’s Viva, now long gone – around the time of Parallel lines‘ Edition).
“A shot with a blue background – and ironically more clothes – from this session was later used for the cover of Penthouse.”
“I used plexiglass backgrounds and lit them red and blue for this session. She’s extremely beautiful, but she’s always been one of the guys, and that’s because of it.”
- Mick Jagger, London, 1975
(On the tour promoting Black and Blue, which also featured a giant inflatable penis, a close-up of Jagger’s face turned out to be more sensational than any prop. The corner of the mouth even resembles the Stone’s famous tongue logo).
“I have no idea what he was singing here, but I like to think it was ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’. He looks like he’s singing ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, doesn’t he?
“I think he looks like a rooster here… the lips and the hair. This is always a popular shot in my exhibits.”
- Madonna, New York, 1980
(Bleeker Bob of the famed record store in Grenwich Village, brought the aspiring singer to Rock’s Lexington Avenue photo studio to hang out).
“We took a few pictures, but I didn’t really think about it – or her -. She was unknown at the time and didn’t really impress. But then I was high on the pig, so it’s a bit of a blur.”
- Ramones, New York, 1979
(Album cover for the Phil Spector-produced ‘End of the Century’. The red background was a change for the band, who wanted to use rougher street shots for most of their promo shots).
“I was the photographer’s third choice. They hated photographers.”
“They were difficult to photograph. Very stiff. Didn’t move much.”
“Linda Ramone has bought this print a few times to give to friends.”
- Joan Jett, New York, 1981
(I Love Rock n’ Roll Album Cover. Indicative of the 1980s rock era and images with its bright tones).
“I got a call from their lawyer. They were in a desperate situation. ‘Can we shoot tomorrow? he asked. “And no, you can’t meet her sooner.”
“To me she was a female Elvis.”
“I came up with the color contrast of clothing and background. If you’ve blown as much as I have in those days, you definitely see colors in a different way. ”
- David Bowie and Mick Ronson, UK 1973
(On a British Rail dining car on the last Ziggy Tour, this recording was released on Rock’s Ziggy Chronicle, Moonage Daydream and quickly became a favorite of rock fans).
“A real British lunch with peas, lumps of butter and tea. It’s very prosaic because they look like they’ve landed from another damn planet!”
“I’ve taken a lot of photos like this, Ziggy is sleeping, eating… These guys were my friends.”
- Lou Reed, London, 1972
(The Transformer cover. A photo that manages to make a man in makeup look tough).
“This was a recording of a performance (Lou’s first ever concert in Europe) that went out of focus. But Lou loved it.”
“I don’t think any of us knew how iconic it was going to become. It stuck with race as the definitive picture of Lou’s career.”
- Iggy Pop, London, 1972
(The cover of Raw Power, shot at King’s Cross Cinema, where the Lou Reed shot above was only shot the night before. Rock stands out by shooting two of the most famous album covers (live shots, no less) in two consecutive days! Even without this curiously miraculous coincidence, this one is special).
“This one is unique in that it captures a rare moment of silence on stage.”
“Iggy had no say in the choice of shot. His managers chose it. He hated everything that night—including this one—but later he told me he had grown fond of it.
“He looks like an iguana to me here.”
And the most iconic image of Mick Rock is…
- Queen, London, 1974
(This eerily overexposed cluster of faces was later recreated for Queen’s classic opera-inspired video “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and of course it worked perfectly with the drama of the music. But the visual wasn’t inspired by the music as much as it was an old movie was).
“I showed Freddie a picture of Marlene Dietrich from Shanghai Express and he loved it.”
“The lighting was of course important. The hard part was getting all four of them to burn properly.”
“Finding that Dietrich photo (a friend of mine had just given me a bunch of old Hollywood stills at the time) was a zen moment.”
You can now enjoy the images of Rock and even buy some for the holidays. See more info via his Instagram: