I’m quite excited to share a four star (out of four) review generated by our screening at the 2016 BFI/The London Film Festival #bfilondonfilmfest for my documentary film “Shot! The Psycho Spiritual Mantra of Rock” featuring the life and work of extraordinary Rock and Roll photographer and dear friend, Mick Rock. I describe the film as a psychedelic Rock and Roll jamboree – a very experiential and entertaining journey. Directed by Brit Barney Clay and produced by VICE Films, Straight Up Films and RockEye Productions. We’re looking at a Spring 2017 commercial release worldwide – details TBA. For now, take a read of of this lovely review by Neil Dowden. [SHOT! Review] Cheers!
It was just over 10 years ago when Mick Rock, the iconic Rock and Roll photographer, came into my office with a bag full of photos and a DVD to talk about a crazy JT Leroy indie film project we were working together on for Island Records founder Chris Blackwell’s film company, Palm Pictures. By that time, I had known Mick for a few years mostly from attending his very high profile photo exhibits in New York City with my good friend Jane Stuart. These were not photo exhibits for the quiet wine sipping cheese eating art crowd. Mick is rock star! You’d have to do battle with massive crowds at the door through the mounted police because, if you got in, you were likely to bump into Debbie Harry, Keith Richards, Lou Reed or Mick Jagger – all artists Mick has shot over his 4 decade and counting career. At the end of our JT Leroy film meeting, Mick pulls a DVD out from his bag and proceeds to tell me that he thinks there might be something we can do with a bit of footage he shot over the years going back as far as 1972 from his early years photographing Ziggy Stardust (David Bowie).
Naturally, I was more than quite interested in taking a peek. From the flicker of the first frame of grainy b/w footage, I knew he was sitting on a Rock and Roll goldmine. How much of this footage did you say you shot Mick? I ask. Jump to today, just one week from the world premiere of Shot! The Psycho Spiritual Mantra of Rockat The Tribeca Film Festival in NYC. #mickrockdoc #tribecafilmfest
Mick Rock with Lou Reed at Varvatos for Lou’s Transformer launch.
The film is one of the most anticipated of the festival and is already on everyone’s must see list including Rolling Stone. So much transpired over those 10 years a feature film documentary financed and produced the way Mick and I wanted. We had set our sights pretty high for how we wanted the story told, the look, a unique approach. We weren’t going to make another talking heads, isn’t he just great documentary. We wanted to really tell a story. So many meetings, false starts, imploding TV network executives, directional changes, the birth of Netflix streaming, the success of Amazon Prime and, most recently, the deaths of both Lou Reed and David Bowie, two of Mick’s dearest friends. The whole experience is such a New York story because so much of Mick’s professional life has been centered around New York City starting with Lou Reed. Looking back, it was always the City’s unique energy that projected this project forward. So, I’m going to have my own very New York moment this coming Friday when the lights go down and the flicker of the frames appear on the big screen before a sold out, standing room only NYC audience. It’s been an amazing ride so far. I love this crazy town!
The other night I headed down to The Bowery district in Manhattan to attend a very exciting book signing party for the U.S. release of “Transformer” featuring iconic photos of rock legend Lou Reed taken by my good friend, photographer Mick Rock. Both Lou and Mick were hosted by John Varvatos at his NYC retail store which occupies what was once the legendary rock music club, CBGB’s and a forum for Punk and New Wave artists such as Blondie, Patti Smith, The Ramones and Talking Heads to name only a few. Of course, the neighborhood has changed dramatically since the days of Punk and New Wave. There were certainly no fancy hotels or sidewalk cafes back in those days.
Varvatos managed to keep some of the grime and trash charm that was characteristic of CB’s in his retail store which is now home for his $500 pants and $4,000 jackets. While waiting for Mick and Lou to come out for the Q&A portion of the cocktail party, I took a good look around I recalled standing in almost the same spot at 2AM some 25 years ago anxiously waiting for a band I had booked to go on to play CB’s for the first time and dreaming that I’d be managing a hot new band, getting a record deal if they did well. Unfortunately, like a lot of new bands, they just couldn’t keep it together between the infighting, missed rehearsals and sleeping with each others girlfriends and boyfriends. No big surprise, they never went anywhere and neither did my very short music managing career for that matter. I did end up working for 3 major record labels with great success over the years and I can always say that I walked on the wild side for a night at CBGBs in New York City.
P.S. Pardon the unfortunate Red Sox and Boston reference in the YouTube clip. I decided to repost this video because of the terrific photos of Lou throughout. Lou is 100% New York City.
P.S.S. It was only a couple weeks or so ago when I posted this. Little did I know then, it would be the last time I’d see Lou Reed in action. RIP Lou. Thanks for your artistry and convictions. Mick already misses you terribly. [read NY Times obit]
John Varvatos, Mick Rock and Lou Reed talk about photo book “Transformer”.