Sunday, 3 March 2013

Rock in Peace, Mick Cock

At the risk of sounding like a boring old git (which, by the way, I am), I think it's entirely true to say that life brings a lot of revelations as one gets older. Some have to do with decisions made which could have been better, others with roads not taken, still others with the often sizeable gaps between what we think we need in life and what we really need, and some with people we should have gotten to know better. The latter seems to be a particularly relevant theme in my own life, and the passing of time, and of a friend, only underlines this. Sometimes we don't have the time, sometimes we don't make the time, and all too often life pulls us in different directions, despite our better judgement.

Today, in Memphis, Michael Cupp, a.k.a. Mick Cock, left this world after losing a hard-fought battle with liver disease. To those who knew him, or his work, I don't need to explain anything. For the other people reading this humble bloglet, the best analogy I could make would probably be a three-way head-on collision between Iggy Pop, George Clinton and a redneck bastard child of Frank Zappa. Even that description is a massive disservice to him.

With the various bands Mike (he was first introduced to me as Mike, and that's how I always knew him) fronted over the years (the ones known to me are Cock Rock [so far ahead of the curve for Memphis, I can't even begin to describe], Four Neat Guys [in which I had the pleasure of playing with him a few times], Eraserhead, Voodoo Village People [the name a brilliant portmanteau of The Village People and the misunderstood Voodoo Village community in Memphis], Florescent Butt Jam, The Menstruls [a drag band in which I was the drummer on one or two occasions], and Whateverdude), there was always a common thread of spectacle, genre satire, self-deprecation, and fairly gentle mockery of others. Some found it offensive at times, but it was never malicious. I tend to think of Mike as court jester, satirizing everyone and everything around him, but typically placing himself in the most absurd context possible.

However, what I observed about Mike's work was that it was always done with the utmost passion and attention. Even though I only played with him a handful of times in the mid-80s and early 90s, my recollection is that he was the first "amateur" or "primitive" musician I ever played with who impressed me as having a genuine sense of professionalism and confidence. As I noted in my post on the Four Neat Guys, whenever Mike was in the mix, the band sounded much better, more together, with greater drive. He wasn't flashy, or pushy, but upon reflection, I think he understood (even at that young age) that he was a natural and extremely charismatic performer, with a very solid musical talent. His sense of humor spoke for itself, as it will now forever, beyond the grave.

Apart from all the obvious reasons to mourn Mike's passing, I have another. In the autumn/early winter of 2009, I was in a bad place emotionally. My marriage had ended, I was living apart from my kids for the first time, I had taken a sizeable financial hit, and my career was in the throes of the financial collapse (as well as a bit of my own lack of judgement). We had become friends on Facebook at some point I can't recall, but I hadn't actually seen him since the early 90s. One day, for some reason still not clear to me, I got an instant message from Mike on Facebook, engaging me in conversation.

Though we'd known each other socially for years in a fairly superficial way, as a function of playing together sporadically, we'd never really had anything resembling a serious conversation, that I could recall. Yet, in 2009, he was on Facebook instant messaging, asking how I was doing, because, for whatever reason, he was concerned. I explained the situation, and where my head was at. He was entirely sympathetic and was similarly open and transparent about the impact of losing his beloved wife Sylvia, and raising their son, Jarek, on his own. He expressed very poignantly how much he loved Jarek, how proud he was of him, and how close the two of them were. And he was reassuring in his message to me, to stay positive and focus on the people and things I loved, and the things in life which I could actually control.

This was all a bit of a revelation for me, because, in my limited exposure to Mike, I'd always thought of him as someone who tended to deflect things through his sense of humor. Maybe that was the case. I will never know, because I didn't know him well, and that's a regret I feel deeply right now. However, at that moment (in truth, it was a number of IM sessions over a few occasions), his kind words and concern, and the strength he'd found in enduring his crisis, gave me a source of strength. Yes, I had very close friends and family around me, doing and saying wonderful things in my time of need; however, in this case, here was a person who had no real investment in me, still reaching out to see if I was okay, and offering what he could by way of consolation.

I was moved at the time, and I am very moved now, and full of regret that I didn't get to know this man better when we were both much younger, let alone alive. I told him that I was due to play a "comeback" show, with Linda Heck and posse, on New Year's Day, in Memphis. This was New Year's Day, 2010, and not only did he come to the show, but he brought me a Whateverdude t-shirt and handed it to me between sets. We had a brief chat, and that was the last I ever saw of him.

I offer my heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, collaborators, and fans.


  Gift from Mick Cock










8 comments:

Jukes333 said...

Very well done ... Mike will def leave a hole in the Memphis community.

Really dig this analogy - "there was always a common thread of spectacle, genre satire, self-deprecation, and fairly gentle mockery of others. Some found it offensive at times, but it was never malicious. I tend to think of Mike as court jester, satirizing everyone and everything around him, but typically placing himself in the most absurd context possible"

Paul Dudenhefer said...

Jimi, this is a lovely tribute. I hardly knew Mike--I remember him and Cock Rock from when I was still in Memphis in the late 1980s--but I was in tears by the time I finished reading this.

laura jean said...

This is so great. Thank you. xoxo

Anonymous said...

Nice things said nicely about my friend Mick.he was a true original and we will miss him.

John Wright said...

I Met Mick back in the late 80's. A friend gave me his ph# and said call this guy, and ask him when the Voodoo Village People are playing. So I would call from time to time and catch a show, he'd say "Come on out, we'll get ya laid!!" I had a great time watching VVP and FBJ shows over the years, but not nearly enough. I caught their reunion a few years ago at the place next to Kudzu's. I also realize thats a young me at the end of the Biker Sluts video sporting my tee shirt that Mick gave me-I must have been 18 or so. I didn't know Mick as a regular friend, just as a fan, but I really enjoyed his contributions to the scene here. I hate that I never got to play in one of his bands. Thanks for writing about him, he will be sorely missed.

Anonymous said...

Sad day for memphis, with his passing..Saw Mike and his misc bands over the yrs..and video taped 'em as I did with many groups of the era..he loved that I was doing something cool....and don't kid yourself, he was talented..and knew what looked and sounded good.

R.I.P. Mick

W.S. Paley

Anonymous said...

well said J. Enck.. I believe I met Mick when we played his back yard at what was his 30th birthday. He will not be forgotten nor will his acts of kindness and true generosity towards the struggles of the working class, the artists, the musicians, the comics here. He had a big heart and I was lucky enough to get to become close enough to know his motives were genuine and his intentions good. ( not a pump action reatard anymore)

Charles Garrett said...

I am the original guitarist for the band Cock Rock.

Mike was my best friend back in the early days, really it was more than that, we were family. Mike and I started the Cock Rock band and went by the stage names 'Mick' and 'Rick' Cock, the Cock Brothers.

We later expanded the band to include Adam Sater, another very funny guy. I remember one of Adams routines included a guitar solo where he would proclaim to the audience that he was going to play guitar with his eyebrow! The lights would dim, and I would step behind my Ampeg stack and play some crazy tapping, dive bomb, fly picking solo. The moment that Adam would lower his guitar from his eyebrow, I would cut it. The crowd reaction was always hilarious!

Mick and I would do radio interviews and fake British accents, telling listeners that we were on our North American tour. Crowds of people would gather and try to get into the station, and the phones would light up.

On a personal note, when my Grandfather, whom I lived with, passed away, Mike was the guy that was there for me. Mike and his family were my family and I never needed to question his friendship or loyalty.

I have shared so joy and pain and I have had so many great experiences with Mike, that he will live forever in my memory. RIP my brother from another mother.

Charles 'Rick' Garrett