GASTON - email@example.com
Hoping to win a spot in a recent BowieNet Contest, I entered the Virgin Music Mega Store at Union Square a little after 5 p.m. Thursday afternoon to interview, photograph, and exchange stories with Mick Rock. He was scheduled to sign copies of what can only be called a Mega book titled Blood and Glitter, a coffee table must-have with pictures and quotations of a varietyof glam entertainment figures including the man we all know and love, Mr. David Bowie.
At the entrance to the Virgin (store) stood a modest table covered with copies of the volume and accompanied by a variety of related rock titles, including one small fictitious(?) paperback containing a lifetime of written letters to Mr. B ("Letters to Major Tom").
You could probably spot Mick's book from the space lab, the full color cover with side flaps featuring several million pixels of data bleeding wrap-around style, a twice life size Ziggy Stardust (make-up by Pierre LaRoche) with lips, and forehead circle of a blinding gold that would even make GustavKlimt put on shades. Some of you may remember this same photo was once used as the David Bowie Fan Club's Christmas Card in 1973 with the message inside read "Have a Cool Yule!"
On the scene was winner Kim Smith who identified herself to me and started chatting about the coming events, pointing out several luminaries including Mick Rock himself, behind AustinPowers black shades with an albino purple tint, dressed down in blue denim shirt, loose black jeans and black hightopkeds with white rims, a far cry from the colorful fashion drenched glam prints in this book. But then everyone in New York wears black, and Mick Rock photographed as much of the punk scene as the glam scene.
Near Mr. Rock and perpetually behind viewfinder, a silver haired red faced gum-chewing male with "Mick Rock Picture Show" in Art Deco Garamond white lettering on the upper left quarter of his black t-shirt identified him as the video man, the obligatory cell phone stretching the round cowl of his t-shirt into an unexpected V-neck.
The coffee shop area was populated with various fans, book in tow, awaiting for the signal to get an autograph, several bored New Yorkers in assortments of mismatched summers sweats, severely bleached jeans and sandaled feet badly in need of a wire brush. But it's 6 p.m. in the Big Apple and the prettiest things around are to be found in the pages of Mick's book,although a lovely lass with a rhinestoned "Sex Pistols" t-shirt and just gorgeous pearl toe nails could give the photos a run for the money.
Amazingly, the music gracing the atmosphere was exquisitely appropos, the set list including Roxy Music "Virginia Plain", NYDolls "Trash", Lou Reed's "Satellite of Love", Nico "These Days", Iggy Pop "Real Wild One", Mr. B's "Velvet Goldmine", probably the first time that song has ever heard theairwaves of a public forum. It was heavenly and probably the first time Virgin got it right.
The third Bowienet member, Mr. Eric Schweijlih popped in, introduced himself, exchanged Bowie and Visconti stories and rounded us into a very friendly trio. We were set, although none of us were quite sure what we were supposed to do. A few moments later, the young hirsute Webmaster Alex (who has more hair on one sideburn that I, for shame Gaston, on my entire head) came over and set the stage. Winging it, Kim would take pix with her spycam, I'd jot down notes after I acquire an eames sketch book from the lower level, and Eric was to assist with questions and to help fill in the blanks.
And now to Kim's report...
KIM - firstname.lastname@example.org
Don't let anyone tell you that Mick Rock isn't completely laidback and accessible. I had no problem approaching him when he wandered into the cafe at the Virgin Mega store. He was looked rather lost... which wasn't very good considering he was the man of the hour. When I told him this, he chuckled. He was supposed to be meeting someone from Virgin, but didn't know what the guy looked like. I commented that I was in the situation, waiting for the Alex the webmaster from Bowienet. Mick had great things to say about Bowienet, and said that he loved working on projects with us.
We chatted for a few more minutes before the Virgin guy appeared, and whisked Mick away. Then I found Gaston, the Quintessential Bowie Collector. He was gracious enough to show me some of the goodies he brought along with him--vintage fan club memorabilia and immaculate music magazines featuring Mick Rock photos.
A few minutes later Mick reappeared, Red Bull in hand (evidently he is addicted to them). He spoke of his recent stint in London promoting the "Moonage Daydream" book. He also talked about some other upcoming books he was working on Syd Barrett ("Psychedelic Renegade"), Queen ("Killer Queen"), the Sex Pistols, Rocky Horror, and Blondie. By this time it was almost time for the real interview to begin. And Alex and Eric had appeared. We grabbed a table and hung out until the interview started.
After the fans had their way with Mick, he very graciously signed copies of "Blood and Glitter" for us. He also answered a number of rather technical questions that Gaston posed . I would relay the details but I am not a photographer... most of it went over my head. Mick did say that he was using much computers and other photo technologies a great deal. He spoke of some of the music he was listening to- The Strokes, The Hives, Yeahyeahyeahs. He mentioned that if anyone wants to get a good deal on one of his prints, he could be contacted directly through his website (www.mickrock.com).
And that was a wrap. We posed for some photos (he likes to document everything on film). Then it was off to drinks with other Bnetters at Eric's cordial invitation. Not a bad evening...
Mick Rock Interview
July 18, 2002 - Virgin Mega Store - Union Square, NYC
Mary Huhn from the New York Post began the interview by introducing Mr. Rock and showing some of his most well known photographs from the book "Blood and Glitter. She commented that almost everyone had seen his work whether they knew it or not. She also remarked that he had very early on been in the innermost circles of the burgeoning glam scene as well as the revolutionary musical movement early 70's.
The interview began with the question of how Mick got started in photography. His response, "Sideways". He first picked up a camera while on an acid trip. Unfortunately that momentous first shoot will live only in his mind, for when he came down he realized there was no film in the camera. Mick's earliest subjects were girls. Then he moved onto his friends, many of which who were musicians. "It was an interesting time... and it still is."
One of his first subjects was Syd Barrett. Syd was from his hometown, and they had been roommates at school. Mick got to know Syd with Pink Floyd, and then worked with him extensively on his solo tour. Mick is currently compiling his work with Syd in to a book, "Psychedelic Renegade".
Ms. Huhn asked Mick how he hooked up with David Bowie. Mick explained that early on his career, he would do interviews and write, along with taking photos, in order to support himself. At this point in time, there just wasn't much money to be made doing straight photography. His favorite subjects were what he described as "odd". When he came across Bowie, Mick got some commissions from magazines for his work with him. Mick feels he got "lassoed" to continue working with Bowie because he came so cheap. However, it was a rewarding collaboration because of the many connections Mick made as a result. One of the biggest "firsts" in glam photography to emerge from his work with Bowie was a black and white photo from 1972 depicting Ziggy biting the strings of Mick Ronson's guitar.
When asked about the title of the book "Blood and Glitter", Mick laughed and replied that he had to bleed a lot to get the pictures. He then recanted and said that a friend had suggested the title, which he liked and thought fitting.
Mary Huhn displayed the landmark photo of David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed taken in 1972. Mick has made the comment that it is remarkable that they are all alive (including himself). The picture was taken on a U.S.press junket for Bowie. Reed and Pop had shown up at the Dorchester Hotel, and Mick was determined to get all of them together in one shot. Mick further commented the picture in the book was rather ironic as you can see Tony Defries in the background. At the time Defries was managing Bowie and Pop, and was in hot pursuit of Reed.
Mick was questioned about how he got to be the photographer of the inner circle of glam. He replied that he simply knew them before they were stars. It was never about the money. When he started there was no money. He simply followed his instincts and did what made him happy. "I got off on it. It wasn't by design. I didn't even know that there could be that level of success". Mick said that at the time there were few other photographers around doing this type of work.
The topic of his work with the Sex Pistols was brought up. Mick said that taking his first pictures of them in 1975 was a strange experience. John Lydon was extremely belligerent and abusive towards the crowd. "I thought it was a very interesting way of approaching an audience."
Huhn then asked the question, "did punk kill glam?" Mick answered quickly, "Glam was ready to have its throat cut." He went on to say that punk was not so much a reaction to, but rather an outgrowth of glam. "Johnny Rotten was Ziggy Stardust with a very bad attitude."
On the book "Blood and Glitter", Mick discussed how it was put together. Mick chose to put it together with a publisher in England so that he could include everything he wanted, including the less known characters such as Lyndsay Kemp. US publishers had only wanted to include the big names. Mick then used quotes from his own interviews with his subjects. "David [Bowie] was very articulate", he commented.
Mick talked about his early visits to New York. He described the manic party scene; "I would stay awake for 48 hours, because I knew I could go back to London to sleep." He recalled one Christmas where he and Lou Reed aimlessly walked 60 blocks through the streets of Manhattan in the snow.
On recalling his favorite subjects, he sighted Bowie ("Mr. B") and Lou Reed, with whom he has worked for many years. He also spoke of Freddy Mercury. "He never did anything on a small scale. Except for watching football [soccer] on TV." Evidently, Mercury preferred watching the lads' legs in the close-up manner that the televised game provided.
Of the many people he has photographed over the years, it is David Bowie and Lou Reed that he still stays in contact with most. When he suffered a quadruple bypass surgery five years ago, the first flowers to arrive were from Bowie, and the second were from Reed.
Having such a major health scare has changed Mick's lifestyle. " I am much to old to die young". He now manages stress through lots of yoga, massage and acupuncture. And he is quite fond of energy drinks like Red Bull.
Mick now lives in Staten Island, and shoots in studios around New York.
Click the image above, or HERE, to view the photos from the event