Season 2 – Episode 8: Mick Rock Tribute

November 23, 2021

This week, Andrew pays homage to the legendary photographer Mick Rock with a replay of a wonderful, rambling chat the two had in 2018. The late Mick Rock, who left us last Thursday, is known for his extraordinary body of photographic work, including iconic images of David Bowie, Lou Reed, The Stooges, Blondie, Queen, and pretty much anyone else you can think of. His life adventure was immortalized in the must-see documentary film Shot! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock, presently streaming on Kanopy and Pluto and available to rent digitally on most of the others. Sit back, listen, enjoy, and join us in appreciation of the wit and brilliance of the one who was — and is — Mick Rock.

Andrew Loog Oldham is the original manager/producer of the Rolling Stones, founder of Immediate Records, writer of STONED2STONED, and ROLLING STONED, and the longtime lead DJ on the Underground Garage channel on SiriusXM. Sounds and Vision is the next chapter.

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Show Notes

David Bowie and Lou Reed performing together
Leonard Cohen on Miami Vice

If writing is thinking on paper, then Mick Rock thinks on film and our rock ‘n’ roll collective is better for his thoughts. I met Mick Rock in late in the 1970s, which was the beginning of the end of the 1960s for the many fortunate folk who had avoided Altamont and the all, and the West Coast denim drabness and madness that mellowed and Manson’d up our lives. Apart from Bowie, Marc Bolan, Chinn & Chapman, and what was left on the street, England had fallen into long play maiaise with the big brands either breaking up, faking up, or taxing out.

I was already living in New York. I had met my wife, the Colombian actress Esther Farfan, in London in 1974 at the Saville Theatre during the Willy Russell play John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert. I was fascinated by her neck and am still getting accustomed to her face that makes my day begin. We had settled up in New York just as Studio 54 opened and reigned and CBGB’s punked and New Waved as New York entered its own form of the 1960s with music, fashion, and highlife everywhere. It was the place to be. John Lennon agreed.

The times were so very good that I know Mick will forgive me for forgetting exactly where it was we met, but rest assured it was some enchanted evening. Most photographers are well-teched pedestrians, and that alas leads to some resentment towards the subject at hand—the moment, the movement, the star. Mick Rock is a rock ‘n’ roll star, and a lovely fellow to boot, as thin, railed on previous occasion, charismatic, and outrageous as any rocker he has snapped. At this he would go coy and protest he’s just a normal boy. He is as accomplished, interesting—interested as any diva I have met.

When we first met in helter shelter New York, I thought he was about to devour me. His need to know about what makes everything and everybody tick is engaging, a part of Mick and a part of his art being Mick; he does not miss a beat and he does not miss a click. He has the ability to channel his subjects because he meets them on a level playing field. To be in a room or on the street rabbiting with him about life and the folks we have both been privileged to work with is a present time joy. His enthusiasm is in the work and the life now.

Time has moved on since those 1960s and 1970s, and so has Mick. Today when bands and artists need more than ever the support and respect that record companies used to give them, whilst taking the rest away, it has become tough out there for an artist to develop and not blow their load getting to first base. Mick Rock was part of that development. He worked with Iggy, Bowie, Lou Reed, Queen, and many others at pivotal moments in their careers. Mick Rock was as happy in a room with George Hurrell, Andy Warhol, Johnny Rotten, or Nico, and they were all happy to work and hang with him. And, of course, he’s still clicking and hanging today, as this book bears witness, with the likes of The Killers, Snoop Dogg, Lady Gaga, Maxwell, Rufus Wainwright, Pete Yorn, etc.

Mick and I first worked together with a Texas band I was recording, The Werewolves. We made videos with the band years before there was an MTV, as in there was no place to show our video. That did not concern us in the slightest. We filmed in the Chelsea Hotel and recreated a scene from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? with the guitarist doing his solo as Bette Davis. We had fun getting it done, and there was so much more.

In a profile on Mr. Cool—Miles Davis—by the erudite, edutaining Kenneth Tynan, a journalist in the 1960s, Tynan congratulates Mr. Davis on his first recording, made in 1948. The jazz legend asks the journo as to when he first heard the recording, and he answers as to having heard it in the past year. “Man,” said Miles, with a broad emphatic grin, “You should have heard it in 1948!” Some fellas learn three chords to impress the ladies. Mick Rock picked up a camera and captured a world. Yours, mine, and theirs. The joy of his work and this book is that you can see all the moments now.

Mick Rock—a brighter light in a very dark room.

— Andrew Loog Oldham, afterword to Mick Rock Exposed: The Faces of Rock ‘N’ Roll

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