SHOT! The Psycho Spiritual Mantra of Rock Review
You might well expect to hear the name Mick Rock advertised on Radio Fab FM, before seamlessly slipping into his afternoon slot after Smashie and Nicey. It's a name that ties into parody and stereotype as much as it does fate in a career where excess and indulgence came as a pre-requisite. And yet, while his name may not leap out to many, all you have to do is take a look at the album covers of Lou Reed's Transformer, The Stooge's Raw Power, Queen's Queen II and the vast majority of Bowie imagery during the 70s and you'll realise you've been a fan of his work for years.
While the title is something of a mouthful it is a playful take on a kaleidoscopic career seen through a camera lens, one that has allowed Rock to freeze frame musical history. He has experienced enough of his own dramatic peaks and troughs, much of which is a result of time spent partying with rock royalty across the glam and punk rock scenes of the 70s. Rock himself takes us back through a journey that was kick-started by way of his friendship with Syd Barrett due to their years spent together studying at Cambridge.
Providing the cover image for Barrett's first album drew him into the path of Bowie during his early-Ziggy days. Amongst the tens of thousands of prints boxed up in the attic of Rock's home are audio recordings of Bowie, from which we hear brief snippets of their private conversations. This was around the time Bowie was about to be launched into another stratosphere of fame due to the success of Ziggy and it's fascinating hearing him muse on his increasing popularity. The voices of Bowie and Lou Reed are the only voices we hear in retrospect aside from Rock himself, with director Barnaby Clay fully aware that the photographer is more than capable of holding court on his own.
Rock's self-deprecating wit and endless raucous stories inform the many iconic stills he proudly talks us through, be it the ugliness of The Ramones or the perfect photogenic qualities of Debbie Harry. His love of the white powder gradually saw him disappear down a cocaine rabbit hole that led to three heart attacks, before quadruple bypass surgery was needed to keep him in this world. He recalls that at the height of his addiction he was connected to ten dealers in New York, where he was able to buy an eighth without ever having to reach for his wallet, instead handing over an exclusive print from his latest shoot to cover the payment.
The entire film is a trip down memory lane for Rock and an audience still enchanted by the mystique of a golden era that remains almost as powerful now as it did forty years ago. Some of the psychedelic aesthetics used by Clay are a bit too on the nose but he deserves some credit for trying to bring to bring to life a subject heavily reliant on memory and photographic stills. Rock found himself near destitution after recovering from his health problems but two ex-managers of the Rolling Stones got him back onto his feet and the documentary closes out with Rock back in the studio firing his lens at a new generation of musicians.