Rock And Roll Photographer Mick Rock Interviewed - "Bowie Is Very Trusting"

The legendary snapper opens his suitcase of stories about Bowie, Iggy, Lou Reed, Kate Moss, Andy Warhol, Snoop and the rest. Yes please...
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The legendary snapper opens his suitcase of stories about Bowie, Iggy, Lou Reed, Kate Moss, Andy Warhol, Snoop and the rest. Yes please...

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Currently the Columbia hotel reception consists of me and a Venezuelan family arguing over the contents of their mini bar. Amongst this simmering tension Mick Rock strides through reception with tasselled hair, biker boots and surgically sown on sunglasses - precisely zero fucks given. 'Is he here?' The 'he' is in fact me and after being pointed in my general direction we sit down to talk Bowie, bugle and just about everyone else in your record collection

You gained a scholarship to Cambridge, but then got busted?

Despite appearances I'm not a complete moron. Unfortunately I got busted twice, it's not like I had a bag of heroin - although there was some there. It was a big deal at the time and gave me my first headline, unfortunately it was 'Caius student arrested for marjuarna.' Joseph Needham was the Don of the college at the time and he let me off . Turns out he was smoking the stuff himself

Being in Cambridge brought you into contact with Syd Barrett and the rest of Pink Floyd

It was the Christmas party of Cambridge Arts College 1966, and I went along and there was a little LSD going around. It was there were I first heard about Syd. When I saw them live he was the centre point of the band, playing and looking the way he looked - he was a vision of the future.

You managed to catch the early days of David Bowie what was he like?

The first time I saw him was in front of 400 people. He's very trusting if he's working with you; he helped a lot of people later on. Iggy was a loser, Lou Reed was a loser going nowhere, we all were losers but he helped us along the way. In many ways I was hypnotised by him during that time. Raw Power by the Stooges was a flop, no one would work with Iggy - mind you that's understandable, he was something that needed to be caged...

Did you find it difficult?

No, not really, I never felt different, I've never been owned by anyone so there was no agenda -  plus I looked a bit like them which helped. I wanted to get the pictures but I was never on anyone's payroll. I wasn't part of the hyenas of Fleet Street who only become more disgusting as the years go by.

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Why did you move to New York?

My first wife finally had the common sense to divorce me. Of course in those days you could lie about your behaviour, harder for you lot nowadays, there was none of this 'What's this picture of you getting head darling.' There were no camera phones, Christ there weren’t even faxes

In New York Lou took you to meet Andy Warhol

Lou took me to The Factory originally. Later on I did some pictures there with Andy and Truman Capote with Andy dressed as Father Christmas. I was doing the session, bouncing round and Andy quietly mentioned 'I think you may be standing on some of my canvasses.' They were just rolled up on the floor to be fair

Did your excesses affect your work?

When I did the Carly Simon session I hadn't slept in days, I was wired to the gills but she connected with it and went with me, I had her ripping up the backdrop, spitting champagne at the camera the lot. Her label freaked out and used these much tamer shoots in the end. But even during the cocaine years I was a fairly jolly fella, a bit irresponsible maybe, fortunately I don't have a hole in my nose - but it is a little deviated.

There's a great shot you took at a party?

It was a party for some young lady at the top of Portobello road, costs God knows how much nowadays. We ended at the top of the house with Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart and a synthesiser. Before we knew it a jamboree had kicked off, next thing neighbours complain about the noise and we've got the old bill charging up the stairs to confront Mick and Rod, luckily I grabbed my camera and reeled off a few shorts - next morning Rod calls me up asking why I haven't sold the shots already.

Is true you shared a joint with Bob Marley?

Big massive tapered thing it was, mind you he was a silly bugger, he didn't have to die. He got injured playing football in London but refused to see a Western doctor - that's when you know you're smoking to much pot, Bob

You later went onto work with the notorious Motley Cru

Vince was hard to find because he had some bird there and he was up to no good, we kept having to drag him back to the shoot, but the rest of them were fine as we were all high as kites and on the same page. I never thought of it as a career all this, it wasn't meant to be anything, it's a career by default really, from hanging about so much because I didn't know what the fuck else to do

You have some great shots of Snoop Dog

I remember asking him how did it feel to go from having middle class white people being scared of him to being the world’s loveable uncle? How the fuck did that happen? He said it felt like he knew was going to make a lot of money - and he's certainly done that.

You introduced Debbie Harry and Kate Moss?

A shot I had of Debbie in a coat and scarf completely covered up made the cover of Penthouse magazine. Sex doesn't have to be all tits out draws down, it's an attitude. It was in a Blondie book and I introduced Debbie and Kate at the launch party, the pair of them two iconic blondes, it was a fucking riot.

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Mick has collaborated with Pretty Green on a new range of Bowie t-shirts.  They're ace. Get them here

He's also just released a paperback version of his EXPOSED book.  That's Christmas sorted, then.