He’s gone now – but he has been captured for all eternity a thousand times over – in voice, the moving image and in photographs. It is Douglas Kent Hall’s take of him with the latter I love. It’s of Cocker in his prime, his mouth open in guttural growl, his hands poised in the spasms that came to be the idiosyncrasy most associated with him – his stage paroxysms. Of course we cannot see his jerking in all its glory – in Hall’s image they’re inferred, just as the monochrome infers all about the man in his pomp – the Woodstock Cocker, the ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’ Cocker, Cocker in the period he used to confess he could never remember, so strung out was he in his golden age. So legend goes, during this time his mother, in sorting his laundry, found a cheque in his pocket for a cool million or so. When she asked the obvious, he had no recollection of the person it was from nor what service he had rendered to earn it. Sadly Cocker and that voice was lost to the world last year.
And what of the man responsible for this image, as well as so many other memorable ones of the gods and goddesses during rock’s wild years– what of him? Well he preceded Joe to beyond the silver lining by six years, but he too has left us with an indelible legacy.
Of course, for me, it is all about those rock photographs. They include multiple takes of the Lizard King, Jim Morrison, some of which are legendary. But none the less atmospheric are his stills of Hendrix, Tina Turner, Daltry, Jagger and so on – you name them – he snapped them.
To Americans Hall is also revered for his shootings of ‘real cowboys’ – those that, ‘…as opposed to urban cowboys, drug-store cowboys, rodeo cowboys, or movie cowboys, stay on horseback all day long working cattle.’ (Mark Strand). But Hall himself didn’t knock the rodeo cowboy. – in fact he lauded them, both in word and image in publications such as ‘Let Er Buck’ and ‘Rodeo’. He had a love of this form of ‘entertainment’ since his childhood days growing up in Mormon territory, Utah – although he didn’t abide by that latter persuasion. In the eighties he finally settled down in one place – that place being a small hamlet in northern New Mexico. Prior to that he had roamed the world on assignment once he’d established his credentials. These took him on photographic journeys that were outside the realm of music and cowpokes. He travelled the West pointing his camera at the US’s indigenous tribes. Then there were the body builders such as Lou Ferrigno, Lisa Lyon and Arnold Schwarzenegger when they were in peak condition. After his constant wanderings were over and he was finally semi-stationary with his second wife, he took to photographing the churches of his local region, before travelling to South America for two iconic portfolios – the miners of Minas Geras in Brazil and Peru’s Zen ghost horses. He also had a spell in St Petersburg, capturing Russian life.
As if all this wasn’t enough, Douglas KH was an exponent of various martial arts and a well read novelist – his first employment on leaving college being a teacher of creative writer.
But it’s his early photographs, his rock oeuvre that I am fascinated by. He commenced these way back in 1968 with a move to London, continuing his own fascination in NYC in the early seventies. These images he published in collections such as ‘Rock: a World Bold as Love’.
As with Hall and his photography, Cocker took his music into the new millennium. He’d had sporadic hits later in his career such as ‘Up Where We Belong’ and ‘You Are So Beautiful’, but nothing to match his earlier Beatles covers, ‘Delta Lady’ and ‘The Letter’. He had some great later albums too, such as the gloriously evocative ‘Sheffield Steel’, but could they match ‘Mad Dogs…’ or ‘Cocker Happy’? Joe, though, for this punter will forever be that belter of songs that Hall perfectly captured, sweat and spit flying, face and body contorted – gravelling it out from some repository deep inside with every ounce of effort his mistreated body could muster.
A portfolio of Hall’s images = http://www.photographersgallery.com/by_artist.asp?id=173