“When it came out people were like, ‘Where in the world did this come from? What kind of music is this?’” Robbie Robertson tells Uncut in an exclusive interview for this month’s cover story celebrating the 45th anniversary of The Band’s landmark debut album, Music From Big Pink.


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Last week started on an absolute high when Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s Alchemy tour rocked up to London’s 02 Arena, turbulence in its wake, some of the crowds they had recently played to evidently unhappy with aspects of the band’s current set, notably the long jams around the songs they are playing from last year’s Psychedelic Pill, especially “Walk Like A Giant” and the extended feedback cacophony of its final 10 minutes, which was spectacularly brutal. Audiences in Birmingham and Newcastle had been from all accounts clearly agitated.


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Consider this the last in a short series of encounters with somewhat cantankerous sorts, following accounts in this space over the couple of weeks of meetings with Lou Reed and Gordon Lightfoot, both of which have stirred some passing interest and lively comment. Today’s subject is Van Morrison, by reputation a notoriously tough assignment, as I would discover.


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Lou Reed was back in the news last week and for reasons other than his recent life-saving liver transplant. It turned out that some boorish actor, a self-styled hell-raiser, Rhys Ifans, by name, had thrown a bit of a strop during a newspaper interview and so one of the Saturday broadsheets, presumably stuck for anything else to fill its pages, canvassed some notable journalists about their most difficult celebrity interview.


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Checking emails over the weekend, I was more than passingly alarmed when I got a message from a friend asking if I’d heard the news about Lou Reed. This sounded somewhat ominous. Lou has looked decidedly frail at recent London shows and he is after all 71 and despite being sober for many years has not always led the kind of lifestyle that could be described as wholly healthy. For a long time, he seemed alongside Keith Richards the rock star most likely to become a casualty of what might euphemistically be described as reckless living. Could the excesses of his past finally have caught up with him?


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I don’t know if you saw it, but BBC2’s David Bowie documentary, Five Years, screened at the weekend, was very entertaining. A lot of the archive footage was familiar, but there were also some splendidly unexpected highlights, like a sequence of Bowie filmed at Andy Warhol’s Factory, which rather vividly suggested that Bowie’s talent for mime isn’t perhaps all it’s cracked up to be in which he pretended to unspool his own entrails and pluck out his heart, a performance that was doubtless accompanied by much sniggering from Andy's crowd.


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I would have bought the issue of Melody Maker in which I first read about Bruce Springsteen on my way into the art school in Newport, where in March 1973 I was in my last term, only a few months away from moving to London and not long after that fetching up on MM as a junior reporter/feature writer, a turn of events that was wholly unexpected and still seems somewhat unreal. Anyway, that was all to come. That Thursday morning, as ever in those days, I picked up a copy of MM at the paper shop at the top of Stow Hill, then eagerly devoured it on the bus into town.


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“I think I was reaching quite high from the beginning. I may not have had any right to be, but I was. I was always interested in people that were older than me and I looked up to them – people really from a different era to me: Johnny Cash, John Lee Hooker, even writers like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. I wasn’t particularly influenced by my contemporaries. They weren’t very good.”


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There’s a great video on uncut.co.uk at the moment of Neil Young singing ‘Happy Birthday’ in affectionate celebration of Willie Nelson, who was, astonishingly, 80 last month.


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The last time I had occasion to write about my old friend BP Fallon in Uncut was in March, 2010, when he’d just released his debut single, produced by Jack White and released by Jack’s Third Man Records as the first in the label’s new Spoken Word-Instructional record Series. “Fame #9” was backed with “BP Fallon Interview By Jack White” and “I Believe In Elvis Presley”, on which White played some viperish slide guitar, with The Raconteurs’ Patrick Keeler on drums. There was also a video, featuring some of BP’s many friends, including Kevin Shields, Bobby Gillespie and Gemma Hayes.


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Inside the new Uncut...


On the morning of July 29, 1966 Bob Dylan became distracted while out riding his Triumph motorbike. Writing about the incident later in Chronicles Volume 1, Dylan rather gnomically recalled, “I had been in a motorcycle accident and I’d been hurt, but I recovered.” Of course,...