Reviewed: January, 2021
It can be said that Hard Rock and Metal fans are an obsessive bunch. Not only do they know the names of their favourite artists, songs, band names and so on but they also know the year those albums came out, who produced the album and the names of managers, engineers and…photographers! That is where Mark Weiss comes in.
What North American 80’s Hard Rock/Metal fan didn’t grow up reading Hit Parader and Circus? Mark Weiss photographer to the 80’s stars became as well known as some of the stars! From albums covers, to live shots to countless magazine shoots Weiss was the ‘go-to’ guy back in the day. Even if you don’t exactly know his name, you know his photos. Now it is time for him to tell his story and he decided to do it in lavish style.
THE DECADE THAT ROCKED is a monsterous coffee table, hard-cover, photo book that acts both as his autobiography and an illustrated voyage of the 80’s Hard Rock/Metal scene. This bad boy clocks in at almost 400 pages long. Talk about eye-popping colour! It’s on glossy paper with full-blown, techni-colour, Koda-chrome color. There is even a fold-out poster. This is absolutely glorious to look at.
The book has no shortage of rock star endorsements, dozens of them scattered all through the book, little quips and quotes and Rob Halford gets the formal foreword and Eddie Trunk gets the last word.
Weiss takes us on a brief autobiographical journey through the 70’s in New York when he started to dabble in amateur photography, hustling his shots at high school, sneaking into concerts and occasionally getting caught! He cut his teeth on the New York concert scene with the titans of the time, Led Zeppelin, Ted Nugent, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Kiss and more. There are any number of cool rare, never-before-seen’ photos including a chance, ‘off-the-cuff’ chance shot of a young Bon Jovi aged 18!
As his hobby and craft developed he became a full-time photographer working for various rock magazines, and then record labels and eventually it got to the point where the bands themselves would just call him and hire him. Weiss was entrenched in the scene before that word even existing in this context. We follow him, chapter-by-chapter, year-by-year on a visually splendid adventure.
What I found really enjoyable, is that THE DECADE THAT ROCKED is more than just the photos. Many, many photos have the story behind them. The story behind the cover shot of Bon Jovi’s multi-platinum smash SLIPPERY WHEN WET was fascinating. Most Bon Jovi fans know there was a racier version that got pulled, before the current, wide-spread (and boring) version. However, I’ll bet most don’t know that there were actually two or three sessions BEFORE the wet T-shirt version! We get treated to the whole story from behind the scenes and all the outtakes we have never seen of the album covers that might have been. There are many stories of how these photos shoots came to be especially with Ozzy who would basically go along with whatever crazy scheme Weiss would cook up like Ozzy the Easter-bunny or Ozzy the mad housewife. One thing I found quite interesting is that many of Weiss most iconic shots are not in this book. However, we get to see lots of shots from those sessions that never quite made it and they are all as good as the ones we know and love.
Perhaps the only thing that maybe I felt he could have included was some gear talk or a few words for aspiring photographers, or a bit more tech/industry talk. However the focus was on the glitz, the glamour and the girls! I suppose shooting topless girls draped over a rocked star is a fringe benefit of the job. I get the sense that the decade that rocked is a slightly, shall we say, ‘sanitized’ version. When you are hanging out with Ozzy and Crue in the 80’s I’m sure it got pretty crazy, but Weiss has the good sense to avoid airing too much dirty laundry. He keeps it fun and positive just like the vibe of the decade.
I must admit I am a bit behind the times on this review. There are already well over 500 five star reviews of THE DECADE THAT ROCKED on Amazon but I am more than glad to add my voice to the choir that felt this was a fantastic blast from the blast. Watch for my interview with Weiss as well!