Have Rock, Will Roll

by Mick Rock

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Legendary photographer Mick Rock shares the goodest of times from his iconic oeuvre
 David Bowie and Mick Jagger, 1973 

Bowie_MickJagger1973(c)MickRockPHOTOGRAPHY © MICK ROCK 2016

“That was taken at what I often call ‘the last supper.’ This was the after party of the final ever Ziggy Stardust public performance, and there were a lot of people there, I know Jeff Beck was there, I know Ringo was there—because I’ve got pictures of them— and a whole bunch of other people. Of course they’re both pissing their knickers. It was taken at the Café Royale, in Piccadilly in London, and it would have been July of 1973, I remember it well—it went on all night. But that was the Ziggy farewell party.”

Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol, 1978 

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“Oh that was taken at the Windows on the World in the Twin Towers. It was a restaurant right up the top of the World Trade Center, and it was a Dolly Parton after party. She had played at a place called The Bottom Line, and I remember John Belushi was there, and the guy taking the photograph was a guy called Earl McGrath, he was actually the President of Rolling Stone Records at the time. There was Andy and of course Mick and Andy had known each other for a while, and in those early days I’d get a lot of great party pictures.”

Freddie Mercury and Roger Taylor, 1974 

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"It was for the launch of Sheer Heart Attack. You know I did a few album covers for Queen back in those days, and a whole bunch of pictures. And they were obviously having a good time. It was in 1974 in London. I would shoot parties back then, but parties for the people I was working with already that I was already friendly with. I mean I’m too much of a big girl to be a paparazzi, I only ever took photos of people that wanted me to take their photographs, and clearly they’re quite happy, and they were comfortable having me around.

I’m a wide-eyed young man, and I’m romping along, and I’m atop all these characters, and I’m right in the thick of it, and the only photographer in the thick of it, I mean unlike today when if anything looks a little bit interesting you get 50 people taking photographs of it. Back then I was the only photographer around in that particular scene. There weren’t that many rock photographers generally, and normally they were directly affiliated to a publication, but I was like a free radical just floating around. I had gotten to know these people, and I had gotten a certain cachet for my association with David [Bowie] and Syd Barrett.

Queen were a very bright bunch, and of course they grew into this amazing band. Freddie was the one I was closest to. He was also the most visual in the band—he had been to art college, and he had actually designed their logo and their lettering. So, that was another party. I thought there was something special about that photo you know? And the way Freddie looks—his eyes were half closed, so he’s off to some chemical land you know?”

Bryan Ferry and Amanda Lear, 1974 

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"Oh well Bryan’s really drunk, and you can see the waitress is poised at the side. That was taken at Biba’s. Biba’s for a while—there was a lady called Barbara Hulanicki and her husband floating around London with their little shop, and they took over this great department store that had closed down—but right at the top they would have something that they called The Rainbow Room—I mean there have been other Rainbow Rooms, I know, including in New York—but that was The Rainbow Room, and right at the top of the building they would have these great parties, and people played there too, The [New York] Dolls, The Pointer Sisters, Screaming Lord Sutch, Albert King... they would have all these great performers, and all the fashionable people of that glammy London scene would show up including Bryan Ferry and Amanda Lear.

And people like that picture, partly because he’s fucking drunk and you can see it. The Rainbow Room was where Bryan May met Mary Austin, and he introduced her to Freddie Mercury. She was the lady who really got all of his money. And notwithstanding of course that he came out later, and on the other hand he was—how should I put it— mildly bisexual, coz he did have a couple of relationships with ladies of a physical nature, and he left her all the money. She looked after him at the end of his life. I mean he left money to the boyfriend who subsequently died but he left the estate to Mary.”

Lou Reed and Nico, 1975 

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“I’m in London at a place called Blakes Hotel where Lou used to stay when he came to London in those days, and she happened to be in town, and [John] Cale happen to be in town. Lou and I had been trying to get all three together to photograph them, and this was like ’75, and they hadn’t played together for several years. Anyway I did shoot Lou with Cale a little bit earlier that evening, and then three of us, Lou, me, and Nico hung out at Blakes Hotel. And I took a ton of pictures of them which I love, and you can see she’s a little bit past her visual prime, and she was no longer blonde. Well I think she had been hammering it a little bit you know, in terms of this and that, but they were obviously very close. I mean they had had their affair, and of course they were forever associated through that first Velvet [Underground] record and with the Warhol cover.

They were just hanging out getting drunk and I was recording it. He liked that. He wanted that record of those two together. That was something that he orchestrated. He said ‘Oh we’ve got to go and get pictures with Nico, Mick,’ and so we did. Of course I like the fact that she’s got a drink and he’s got a cigarette. Lou and I had become very close—obviously through the association with David initially—but also the Transformer cover forever gave us a bond, and I photographed him throughout the ‘70s. I took a lot of pictures of Lou, but that particular session was very special, but it was a session that was off the cuff. I was there, Nico, Lou. ‘Do you mind if I take a few pictures?’ ‘No, go ahead we’d love it.’”