Mick Rock Interview - Crazed Imaginations

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Rocky Horror fanzine Crazed Imaginations interviewed Mick Rock in the April 2002 issue (#80). We can't share all the photo goodies with you (he gave us the rights to print them only once for the issue), but enjoy the interview excerpts!

At least in 2002, you could contact Mick Rock directly and buy high-quality photos from his giant Rocky Horror library. A (signed) 8x10 was $300...

In His Own Words

“David Bowie took me to see the original London staging of The Rocky Horror Show. It was his third time. “If ‘Glam’ is a musical, then it’s Rocky Horror,” he declared. Certainly London’s most fashionable movers swarmed to devour it. At the time, my diary noted: “It’s a brilliant fusion of rock ‘n roll and cinematic references. It comes on like nouveau camp gone wild, but in spirit it’s closer to good old fashioned music hall.” A year or more later Jim Sharman, the director, and Richard O’Brien, the author, who also played Riff Raff, invited me to shoot stills on The Rocky Horror Picture Show film set. Other than the production continuity photographer, I was to be the only lensman allowed near the set. Certainly I was flattered. All the photographers I knew would have offered up their first born for the opportunity.”

--Mick Rock in Mick Rock: A Photographic Record 1969-1980 Copyright 1995

.... Did you do any work on the Rocky Horror Show? “There was a second production of the Rocky Horror Show—it was moved down the King’s Road to a different theatre….I shot the new production stills for that. Philip Sayer, who sadly died a few years ago played Frank, and he was pretty good. But Tim was a hard act to follow, so everyone’s forgotten about Phil.”

A Mick Rock photo stamp

How did you become the “Special photographer” on the RH set? “David Bowie had become a huge deal and Lou Reed had a hit with ‘Walk On the Wild Side.’ They [the RH team] contacted me –must have been late ’73, early ’74--The Rocky Horror Picture Show was shot in late ’74. There were so many things going on for me: I was also working with Queen at the time. So many people wanted to work with me because of my involvement with Bowie and Lou Reed, especially.”

“When the movie came up, I was the ‘special photographer’—there was the unit photographer, and 20th Century Fox owned those pictures. They gave me complete access to come and go as I wished. I was probably there about 50% of the days [they shot]. Nobody paid me, but I made a few sales to magazines at the time. That’s why I own the copyright to all those pics.”

Any idea about how many photos you took on the set? “I’ve got a lot of stuff, including them hanging around, getting made up, goofing for the camera. I did special setups. I also shot while the cameras rolled. I shot B/W and color. It’s hard to say how many . 2-3000 at least.”

You, David Toguri, and Pierre Laroche all worked on the film and all worked with David Bowie. How do you feel that influenced the look of the film? “Not really. Except that Jim Sharman and Richard, who seemed to make all the decisions on who to surround themselves with, knew exactly the feel of what they wanted and we all formed part of the atmosphere and sensibility. We were just pawns in their bigger game!! David Toguri was a very sweet, low-key, professional guy. “Pierre, as I recall, drove everybody up the wall in those days, because he was a wild queen….he actually was not on the set. The makeup was based on designs by Pierre LaRoche. He was a brilliant makeup artist: certainly the best of his era, but he was a difficult person to deal with. He was a true prima donna, and he tended to want to take over any situation he was involved with. You couldn’t have him parading around the set as if he owned it. Another corpse, unfortunately. But he did some wonderful work….” .... Early collections of RH photos often feature a few with your stamp on the back. Did you sell RH photos directly to the public? “Very briefly. In the late ‘70s I did a very limited deal with a company in New York, who ripped me off….” [Ed. Note: the poster magazines, still much beloved by collectors everywhere for the gorgeous photos and interviews.]

You’ve featured Rocky Horror in a couple of books now; how you do feel it fits into your work as a whole? “I’m delighted that this is on my roster of classic images: I love the movie and I love Richard O’Brien. Thumbs up for Richard O’Brien! RH is absolutely glam and absolutely rock n roll, and a totally unique work of art. No matter how many times you see it as a movie or a play, it delivers: it’s great entertainment, such a brilliant fusion of Richard’s passions. Richard O’Brien is a gem. Rock on, Riff Raff…”