“I turned myself to face me”: Mick Rock’s “Shot! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock”

By on June 8, 2018

Shot! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock is a documentary film sourced entirely from the personal collection of photos, audio recordings and film archives of legendary British-born photographer Mick Rock — “The Man Who Shot the Seventies” — including his fascinating footage of David Bowie backstage at a Ziggy Stardust concert, and former Pink Floyd singer Syd Barrett tripping balls on acid during one of Rock’s first photo sessions.

Watch the first ten minutes of Shot! above (from our friends at VICE), and see our Mick Rock segment in tonight’s “Night Flight Highlights” episode (“Rock Photography & NYC Hip-Hop”) which airs on the IFC cable channel.

(Tonight, Friday, June 8/Saturday, June 9, we’re on at a 12am east coast/9pm west coast, but, as always, check your local listings for time/TV channel location).

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Shot! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock — directed by Barney Clay and featuring a musical score by the Flaming Lips’ Steven Drozd — featured theatrical dramatic recreations and lighting directly inspired by Mick Rock’s original photo sessions.

What makes the film so engaging and personal is the fact that Mick Rock was not just an incredible photographer — we’re sure you’ve seen his photos on the covers of iconic albums like Lou Reed‘s Transformer – but he actually became friends with many of the music legends he captured on film, including Reed and David Bowie (to whom the documentary is dedicated) and Iggy Pop.

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Rock also shot Queen (their “Bohemian Rhapsody” single sleeve), Blondie, Mötley Crüe, the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and many, many more.

Clay’s documentary was actually organized around Rock’s own near-death experience in the early ’90s — involving a quadruple bypass surgery, the result of having suffered three heart attacks, hampered by decades of substance abuse — during a period in which Rock began to look inward at his own life; he’s since then led a clean life and practices yoga on a regular basis.

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“…I turned myself to face me, but I’ve never caught a glimpse…,” is what Rock’s friend David Bowie sang in “Changes,”  and Rock eventually began to see how a personal documentary might be the best way to tell his own story.

Rock pilots us through the rough waters of his past life, and tells us how he navigated his way through London’s glam rock scene before crossing an ocean to witness New York City’s snarling punk milieu.

He reviews the familiar terrain of his own rock history, providing a first-person perspective about what was going through his own mind while he snapped the photos, a journey that takes us deep into the new millennium.

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David Bowie with Cyrinda Foxe, Beverly Hills (photo by Mick Rock)

There are fascinating psychedelic visual sequences along the way to lighten the mood, too.

Rock tells us how LSD “opened up my third eye” and influenced the direction of his life, giving him a particular insight into the artists he was shooting.

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Read more about Mick Rock and Shot! The Psycho Spiritual Mantra of Rock below.

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In a recent interview in Rolling Stone (“Mick Rock on Shooting David Bowie and His Life-and-Times Doc ‘Shot!’,” April 7, 2017), Rock talked about working with the aforementioned artists and rock acts, as well as his struggles with personal demons, including cocaine.

Rolling Stone: Did you learn any new insights about yourself from watching your life story?

Mick Rock: No. I still don’t understand any of it, and it was kind of chaotic the way it ambled forward. It’s not a linear thing because my life hasn’t been linear. The only constant for me has been the yoga that I did and that LSD was very important.

And you could say I was very lucky that my first subject was my friend Syd Barrett. But how did the rest of it happen? I clearly had some organic intuitive thing, because a lot of the people I took pictures of were not so well known when I shot them.

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RS: Do you feel you’ve established a certain look?

Mick Rock: It would be foolish to try to analyze it. I’ve never analyzed my photographs. I have a process – an inner process – and I can’t explain it. It looks to me like there’s a bit of high drama at times; I think it’s just that I have an attitude and an obsessive thing.

I come out of rock & roll; you can’t have just one style. I’m not a fashion photographer. Even if you look at my Kate Moss pictures, they’re not shot like regular fashion pictures – nor did I intend them that way.

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RS: You dedicated the movie to “the timeless genius of David Bowie and Lou Reed.” What about them made you want to do that?

Mick Rock: They made an important contribution to the development of my own sensibility. Obviously, I’d shot Barrett probably two-and-a-half years before I ever met David, but I do think that [David and Lou] were also good people.

When I was having trouble, they both helped me out financially. They bought my prints. When I was in the hospital for my heart bypass surgery, the first flowers that were there waiting for me were from Lou and David. Not only were they my true friends, they were also my true heroes. My admiration for their work is strong.

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Read the full interview here.

(h/t Rolling Stone and VICE)

Rent Mick Rock’s Shot! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock from Amazon Video.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.