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Sandy Denny – I’ve Always Kept A Unicorn

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With the exception of some tentative, fledgling recordings made before she had found her wings as a singer and her flight path as a songwriter, one of Britain’s finest folk singers never recorded an acoustic album.

With Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny helped to birth electrified English folk-rock, singing Dylan songs, original compositions and trad ballads to a backbeat. She followed a similar course with Fotheringay and her heavily produced solo albums featured alumni of her former bands and/or grandiose orchestral arrangements.

Yet there are many who will tell you that Denny was at her dazzling best as an intimate performer in a solo setting, either accompanied by her own six- or twelve-string guitar or seated at a piano. Linda Peters (nee Thompson), who first met her at the Troubadour on the Old Brompton Road in 1966, is convinced of it. “Sandy was much better solo,” she says. “I so wish she had recorded an acoustic album, and told her so. But Sandy loved the craic and the camaraderie with other musicians.”

Roy Guest, who managed her, agrees. “I could never convince her that she didn’t need other musicians. She felt the sound was better with other textures,” he recalls. “But that wasn’t true. She was wonderful on her own and had the ability to be a completely solo artist. She was a great singer and she didn’t know it.”

Further support comes from Mick Houghton, author of an acclaimed 2015 biography of Denny and who came up with the concept for I’ve Always Kept A Unicorn, named after a line in her 1974 piano ballad “Solo” and which also doubles as the title of Houghton’s book. “The pure, solo, and most untouchable Sandy Denny was never captured on record,” he says with regret.

Yet plenty of glorious hints and tantalising fragments are littered around in demos, live recordings and radio sessions and this two-disc compilation generously collects together 40 of them in an attempt to create the solo acoustic album she never made, a painstakingly researched assemblage of stripped-down takes of songs we are more accustomed to hearing with embellished arrangements on recordings by Fairport Convention, Fotheringay and on her four solo albums.

To claim that these unvarnished acoustic takes are ‘better’ than the more familiar ‘finished’ versions would be to miss the point. But the beauty of, say, her first acoustic recording of “Who Knows Where The Time Goes” with the Strawbs, or “Fotheringay” before Richard Thompson’s guitar and harmony vocals were dubbed on to the track, lies in the way the spotlight is directed exclusively on Denny’s voice – and what a heartbreakingly pure and potent instrument it was, seeming to come from the very depth of her soul.

In fact, Denny had the rare ability to carry almost any song without accompaniment and one of the most breath-taking moments here comes on an exquisite “Lowlands Of Holland” from an early Fotheringay session for the BBC’s ‘Folk On One’, sung a cappella because the band hadn’t had time to work out an arrangement.

Several compositions – notably a lovely, intimate version of “Solo” from a John Peel session and a deathless piano demo of “No End” recorded on a Bechstein concert grand – breathe with a simple freedom and an uninhibited emotion that the overblown orchestral arrangements on Like An Old Fashioned Waltz smothered.

The unvarnished voice-and-guitar demos of “By The Time It Gets Dark” and “One Way Donkey Ride” are equally striking, home recordings on which Denny sounds liberated by the absence of what Fotheringay guitarist Jerry Donahue described as her “fear of the studio red light”. “That was good,” she says at the end of “One Way Donkey Ride”, sounding more surprised than boastful.

Much of the material here has appeared on various retrospectives and compilations over the years, although it has never been thematically collected together before. But Houghton and researcher/compiler Andrew Batt hit gold dust when they unearthed three previously unknown acoustic demos for Rock On, the album of rock’n’roll covers recorded by the Fotheringay/Fairport extended family in 1972 as The Bunch. There’s a thrilling joie de vivre to her covers of Buddy Holly’s “Learning The Game” and “Love’s Made A Fool of You” and her tender duet with Linda Thompson on the Everlys’ “When Will I Be Loved” is a sheer delight.

The comparison that comes most readily to mind when listening to the demos for her more introspective songs such as “No End”, “One Way Donkey Ride” and “By The Time It Gets Dark” is the early acoustic work of Joni Mitchell. If Denny hadn’t been so fond of “the craic and the camaraderie” that came with being in a band, she might have made a series of intimate solo troubadour records to equal Clouds, Ladies Of The Canyon and Blue.

We cannot complain that she opted for a different path, because then we wouldn’t have had Unhalfbricking, Liege & Lief or Fotheringay. But 38 years after her death, it feels good finally to have something approaching the Sandy Denny acoustic album that never was.

EXTRAS 7/10: Erudite liner notes by Mick Houghton.

The June 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on Blondie, plus George Martin, Brian Eno, Dexys, The Monkees, Graham Nash, Merle Haggard, Ronnie Spector, Tony Joe White, Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton, The Coral, Max Richter and more plus 40 pages of reviews and our free 15-track CD

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.

Sonic Youth to release 1986 rarities album

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Sonic Youth have announced details of a new album of archival rarities.

The band will release the Spinhead Sessions on June 17 via Goofin’.

The sessions date from 1986, when the band were working on their score for Ken Friedman‘s film Made In U.S.A. These instrumental demos were recorded at North Hollywood’s Spinhead Studios.

According to Fact, Thurston Moore said in a statement that the recordings showcase “spindly, twisting rhythms and quiet rushes of noise and melody.”

The tracklist for the Spinhead Sessions is:

‘Ambient Guitar & Dreamy Theme’
‘Theme With Noise’
‘High Mesa’
‘Unknown Theme’
‘Wolf’
‘Scalping’
‘Theme 1 Take 4’

The June 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on Blondie, plus George Martin, Brian Eno, Dexys, The Monkees, Graham Nash, Merle Haggard, Ronnie Spector, Tony Joe White, Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton, The Coral, Max Richter and more plus 40 pages of reviews and our free 15-track CD

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.

June 2016

Blondie, Brian Eno, The Monkees and Dexys all feature in the new issue of Uncut, out now.

Debbie Harry is on the cover of our June 2016 issue, and inside Harry, Chris Stein, Clem Burke and their storied peers revisit Blondie’s earliest days in New York City. “It was all so fast, the early Blondie period,” remembers Burke. “It was just this rush…”

As he releases new album The Ship, Uncut travels to Brian Eno‘s studio for tea, as Eno muses on David Bowie, Lou Reed, his long career and his sensational new album. “It’s a tenuous connection between the me of now and the me of then,” he says.

The Monkees have returned with a new album to celebrate their 50th anniversary, so we meet Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz to discuss the band’s true identity – “None of us had a fucking clue,” says Nesmith. “It was blind luck.”

For the latest chapter in Dexys‘ strange, wonderful tale, Kevin Rowland has dug deep into his Irish roots for inspiration. “I feel on top of my game,” he tells Uncut in our Dexys feature. “It’s 100 per cent with Kevin,” his bandmates confess. “Every waking hour is about his art.”

Elsewhere in the new issue, friends and collaborators look back at the life of the late George Martin – “At Abbey Road,” explains John Leckie, “he was the boss, he was God.”

Tony Joe White recalls the creation of his first hit, “Polk Salad Annie”, and tells us tales of performing for Russian oligarchs, while Graham Nash takes us through the best albums of his career, from The Hollies to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and on to his acclaimed solo work.

Ronnie Spector answers your queries about shopping with John Lennon, touring with The Rolling Stones and the first time she met David Bowie (“he was standing there naked…”), James Skelly of The Coral takes us through his favourite records, while the new issue’s front section features The Damned, Frank Zappa, Karl Blau, Terry Allen and Max Richter.

Our reviews section includes new albums from Anohni, Marissa Nadler, Eric Clapton and Lera Lynn, and archive releases from The Associates, Terry Reid, the Allman Brothers and much more. We catch the Chris Robinson Brotherhood and Will Oldham & Bitchin Bajas live, and review DVDs and films including The Hateful Eight, Taxi and I Saw The Light.

This issue is also available to buy digitally by clicking here

The new issue also includes a free CD, packed with tracks from Dexys, Ben Watt, Ronnie Spector, Ryler Walker & Charles Rumback, Terry Allen, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and Lera Lynn.

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.

This month in Uncut

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Blondie, Brian Eno, The Monkees and Dexys all feature in the new issue of Uncut, out now.

Debbie Harry is on the cover of our June 2016 issue, and inside Harry, Chris Stein, Clem Burke and their storied peers revisit Blondie’s earliest days in New York City. “It was all so fast, the early Blondie period,” remembers Burke. “It was just this rush…”

As he releases new album The Ship, Uncut travels to Brian Eno‘s studio for tea, as Eno muses on David Bowie, Lou Reed, his long career and his sensational new album. “It’s a tenuous connection between the me of now and the me of then,” he says.

The Monkees have returned with a new album to celebrate their 50th anniversary, so we meet Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz to discuss the band’s true identity – “None of us had a fucking clue,” says Nesmith. “It was blind luck.”

For the latest chapter in Dexys‘ strange, wonderful tale, Kevin Rowland has dug deep into his Irish roots for inspiration. “I feel on top of my game,” he tells Uncut in our Dexys feature. “It’s 100 per cent with Kevin,” his bandmates confess. “Every waking hour is about his art.”

Elsewhere in the new issue, friends and collaborators look back at the life of the late George Martin – “At Abbey Road,” explains John Leckie, “he was the boss, he was God.”

Tony Joe White recalls the creation of his first hit, “Polk Salad Annie”, and tells us tales of performing for Russian oligarchs, while Graham Nash takes us through the best albums of his career, from The Hollies to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and on to his acclaimed solo work.

Ronnie Spector answers your queries about shopping with John Lennon, touring with The Rolling Stones and the first time she met David Bowie (“he was standing there naked…”), James Skelly of The Coral takes us through his favourite records, while the new issue’s front section features The Damned, Frank Zappa, Karl Blau, Terry Allen and Max Richter.

Our reviews section includes new albums from Anohni, Marissa Nadler, Eric Clapton and Lera Lynn, and archive releases from The Associates, Terry Reid, the Allman Brothers and much more. We catch the Chris Robinson Brotherhood and Will Oldham & Bitchin Bajas live, and review DVDs and films including The Hateful Eight, Taxi and I Saw The Light.

The June 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on Blondie, plus George Martin, Brian Eno, Dexys, The Monkees, Graham Nash, Merle Haggard, Ronnie Spector, Tony Joe White, Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton, The Coral, Max Richter and more plus 40 pages of reviews and our free 15-track CD

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.

Jack White to publish Iggy Pop’s book on The Stooges

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Iggy Pop‘s book on The Stooges is to be published by Jack White‘s publishing subsidiary called Third Man Books.

TOTAL CHAOS: The Story of The Stooges / As Told by Iggy Pop will be released in “Winter 2016” according to a press statement.

The book is based on extensive interviews conducted over two days with Pop by author Jeff Gold and contributor Johan Kugelberg. It also features rare and unseen photographs plus additional contributions from White, Johnny Marr, Joan Jett and more.

Pop’s latest album, Post Pop Depression, was recorded with Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme and Dean Fertita as well as Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders.

The June 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on Blondie, plus George Martin, Brian Eno, Dexys, The Monkees, Graham Nash, Merle Haggard, Ronnie Spector, Tony Joe White, Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton, The Coral, Max Richter and more plus 40 pages of reviews and our free 15-track CD

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.

Kris Kristofferson to celebrate 80th birthday with double album

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Kris Kristofferson will mark his 80th birthday – on June 22 – with a new album.

The 25-track collection, Cedar Creek Sessions, was recorded in Austin, Texas in the summer of 2014. The two-disc set was produced by Tamara Saviano and Shawn Camp and features Kevin Smith on bass, Michael Ramos on keyboard and Mike Meadows on drums.

It is Kristofferson’s first album since Feeling Mortal in January 2013.

The album – which is released on June 17 – features new renditions of some of Kristofferson’s biggest hits.

Volume One
“Duvalier’s Dream”
“The Loving Gift” (with special guest Sheryl Crow)
“The Sabre and the Rose”
“The Law Is for the Protection of the People”
“It No Longer Matters What I Do”
“Stagger Mountain Tragedy”
“The Wife You Save”
“Lay Me Down and Love the World Away”
“The Bigger the Fool (The Harder the Fall)”
“Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down”
“Spooky Lady’s Revenge”
“Forever in Your Love”
“Winter”

Volume Two
“Darby’s Castle”
“Me and Bobby McGee”
“Broken Freedom Song”
“Casey’s Last Ride”
“Billy Dee”
“Easter Island”
“For the Good Times”
“Help Me Make It Through the Night”
“Jody and the Kid”
“Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)”
“Risky Business”
“To Beat the Devil”

The June 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on Blondie, plus George Martin, Brian Eno, Dexys, The Monkees, Graham Nash, Merle Haggard, Ronnie Spector, Tony Joe White, Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton, The Coral, Max Richter and more plus 40 pages of reviews and our free 15-track CD

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.

Read Kate Bush’s heartfelt tribute to Prince

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Kate Bush has paid tribute to Prince, who died last week.

Writing on her website, Bush claimed, “We’ve lost someone truly magical”.

Bush collaborated with Prince several times during the 1990s, with Prince appearing on “Why Should I Love You” from Bush’s 1993 album The Red Shoes. Meanwhile, she contributed to Prince’s 1996 album Emancipation.

Bush wrote, “I am so sad and shocked to hear the tragic news about Prince. He was the most incredibly talented artist. A man in complete control of his work from writer and musician to producer and director. He was such an inspiration. Playful and mind-blowingly gifted. He was the most inventive and extraordinary live act I’ve seen. The world has lost someone truly magical. Goodnight dear Prince.”

Yesterday, Morrissey posted his own tribute to Prince in a post on quasi-official website, True To You, where he praised Prince but was quick to criticise the press for not making more of his veganism.

“Although a long-serving vegan and a strong advocate of the abolition of the abattoir, neither of these points was mentioned in the one hundred television reports that I witnessed yesterday as they covered the enchanted life and sad death of Prince,” he wrote. “The points were not mentioned because they are identified as expressions against e$tabli$hment interests, therefore we, mere galley slaves, aren’t allowed to know.”

The June 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on Blondie, plus George Martin, Brian Eno, Dexys, The Monkees, Graham Nash, Merle Haggard, Ronnie Spector, Tony Joe White, Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton, The Coral, Max Richter and more plus 40 pages of reviews and our free 15-track CD

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.

Introducing the new issue of Uncut

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A couple of weeks ago, I was writing the editor’s letter to go in the new issue of Uncut, and pondered: “Do all years seem like this when you reach a certain age, or is the death toll of 2016 thus far just a terrible and weird anomaly?”

I’d been recalling the month’s losses of Merle Haggard, Tony Conrad, Phife Dawg, Keith Emerson, Dennis Davis and Steve Young, among too many others, and how I’d asked that question rather forlornly on Twitter. There followed some discussion about the way social media creates clusters of bereavement, as forums collect and amplify overlapping expressions of grief. But people also pointed out the size of the baby boomer generation, now beginning to enter their seventies, and the vast contribution they have made to the culture of the last half-century.

My letter went on to mention David Cavanagh’s magisterial and wide-ranging salute, in the new issue, to the genius of Sir George Martin – almost certainly the first Uncut feature to include both Jimmy Webb and Bernard Cribbins among its cast of interviewees – before concluding, with what now seems a reckless sense of optimism, “Let’s just hope the obituaries section won’t need to be so overstocked next month.”

So much for that. As I write, still trying to come to terms with the fact that Prince is no more, still processing the similarly distressing news about Lonnie Mack, Papa Wemba and, just this morning, Billy Paul, it currently feels like the grim work of 2016 is only just beginning. The aforementioned David Cavanagh has now embarked on what I’m sure will be the definitive Prince memorial for our next issue. But, in this strange time, we now have the aforementioned new issue, with Debbie Harry on the cover, to promote.

In a time dominated by obituaries, I hope this Uncut once again shows we’re assiduous in celebrating that baby boomer generation’s many heroes while they’re still alive, and framing their work as a critical part of a story that keeps on running, in spite of all the doomy prognostications about the fate of the music business.

This month, our quotient involves Blondie, discussing in compelling detail the seamy New York scene from which they emerged. There’s Brian Eno, back with one of his finest albums in years, and talking with unusual candour about fallen comrades David Bowie and Lou Reed. Ronnie Spector has a great Bowie story, too: “Standing there naked… He spoke so well and soft.”

Age and experience do not always bring a cessation of hostilities, of course. As Graham Nash picks through his career in our Album By Album feature, he takes time to point out to Tom Pinnock that “There won’t be any more CSNY, and there won’t be any CSN either. There’s no magic there anymore.”

What else? We have exclusives on the latest comebacks of Dexys and The Monkees; Tony Joe White on “Polk Salad Annie” (and Russian oligarchs); Anohni and The Associates; Alex “Bill And Ted” Winter on Frank Zappa; stuff from me on the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy with Bitchin Bajas, and that mammoth Grateful Dead tribute; plus a report from a Max Richter gig in Berlin where the audience was broadly encouraged to fall asleep for the duration of the show.

We’re on sale in the UK now. Please let me know, as ever, how we’re doing. I’m on Twitter @JohnRMulvey, and you can send letters for publication to us by emailing uncut_feedback@timeinc.com. Thanks!

The June 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on Blondie, plus George Martin, Brian Eno, Dexys, The Monkees, Graham Nash, Merle Haggard, Ronnie Spector, Tony Joe White, Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton, The Coral, Max Richter and more plus 40 pages of reviews and our free 15-track CD

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.

Listen to Dexys cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”

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Dexys have released a video for their cover of Joni Mitchell‘s “Both Sides Now“.

The track is taken from the band’s forthcoming album, Let The Record Show Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul.

The new album is released on June 3 on 100% / Warner Music.

You can read our exclusive interview with Kevin Rowland about his splendid new Dexy’s album, the band’s current line-up and what else he’s up to in an extensive interview in the June 2016 issue of Uncut, which is on sale from Tuesday, April 25

The album’s tracklisting is:

Women of Ireland
To Love Somebody
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes
Curragh of Kildare
I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen
You Wear It Well
40 Shades of Green
How Do I Live
Grazing in the Grass
he Town I Loved So Well
Both Sides Now
Carrickfergus

The June 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on Blondie, plus George Martin, Brian Eno, Dexys, The Monkees, Graham Nash, Merle Haggard, Ronnie Spector, Tony Joe White, Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton, The Coral, Max Richter and more plus 40 pages of reviews and our free 15-track CD

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.

Billy Paul dies aged 81

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Billy Paul has died aged 81.

According to the soul singer’s website, he “passed away today [April 24] at home after a serious medical condition”.

According to Associated Press, Paul died at his home in Blackwood, New Jersey. He had recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Paul was born Paul Williams in Philadelphia on December 1, 1934. He found success with the Gamble and Huff team, whose Philadelphia International Records also released music by the O’Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes and Lou Rawls.

His biggest hit was the 1972 single “Me And Mrs Jones“, which was an American No 1 and reached number 12 in the UK. The song also won a Grammy.

Paul’s voice made him “one of the great artists to come out of Philly and to be celebrated worldwide,” Gamble and Huff said in a statement.

“Our proudest moment with Billy was the recording of the salacious smash ‘Me and Mrs. Jones.’ In our view, it is one of the greatest love songs ever recorded,” they said.

The June 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on Blondie, plus George Martin, Brian Eno, Dexys, The Monkees, Graham Nash, Merle Haggard, Ronnie Spector, Tony Joe White, Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton, The Coral, Max Richter and more plus 40 pages of reviews and our free 15-track CD

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.

Morrissey: “Prince far more royal than the Queen”

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Morrissey has paid tribute to Prince, who died last week.

In a post on quasi-official website, True To You, Morrissey praised Prince but was quick to criticise the press for not making more of his veganism.

“Although a long-serving vegan and a strong advocate of the abolition of the abattoir, neither of these points was mentioned in the one hundred television reports that I witnessed yesterday as they covered the enchanted life and sad death of Prince,” he wrote. “The points were not mentioned because they are identified as expressions against e$tabli$hment interests, therefore we, mere galley slaves, aren’t allowed to know.”

“Meanwhile, on the same day that Prince melts away in physical form, London and England remain two very different countries, and in London the news media (under tyrannized instructions from Buckingham Palace) are informing the world that Her Royal Slyness is celebrating her 90th birthday, and we are assured that all of the United Kingdom is celebrating a monarch who has ‘served’ (that is, served herself, not the people) for over 60 years. There is no evidence of celebrations, and in fact there are hushed reports of national indifference. In this mental maze the marrow of the matter has been grasped by everyone: monarchy is the new anarchy. It is the face of white supremacy, social repression, tyranny, oppression, thought control, big stick control, minority rule, dictatorship, and, on the streets beyond SW1, unfairness. All that can be honestly celebrated on Elizabeth’s 90th birthday is the reality that she is the end of the family line. What else could her point be?

“Prince, who made something of his life as opposed to having fortune handed to him, is far more ‘royal’ than Elizabeth 2, and he will be mourned far more than she, for she could never make herself loveable, no matter how many paid and promoted non-stories flood the newspapers of the world. The laughing gulls of Buckingham Palace will never allow you to forget who wields the stick. And, of course, we know very well what gulls tend to do on the people below.

“Prince is the royal that people love, whereas Elizabeth 2 was thrust on the people who have never been asked whether or not they want her.”

The June 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on Blondie, plus George Martin, Brian Eno, Dexys, The Monkees, Graham Nash, Merle Haggard, Ronnie Spector, Tony Joe White, Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton, The Coral, Max Richter and more plus 40 pages of reviews and our free 15-track CD

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.

Watch Bruce Springsteen cover Prince’s “Purple Rain”

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Bruce Springsteen opened his show at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center with a cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain“.

The show took place on Saturday, April 23.

This marked the third time during Springsteen’s current River tour that he has paid tribute to a fellow musician following their deaths: he previously covered David Bowie‘s “Rebel Rebel” and Glenn Frey‘s “Take It Easy“.

Springsteen’s River tour arrives in the UK in May, where the E Street Band will play four shows.

The dates are:

Wednesday May 25: Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Wednesday June 1: Hampden Park, Glasgow
Friday, June 3: Ricoh Arena, Coventry
Sunday, June 5: Wembley Stadium, London

Meanwhile, Springsteen will release his autobiography later this year.

Born To Run will be published on September 27 by Simon & Schuster.

According to a post on Springsteen’s website, “the work will be published in hardcover, ebook, and audio editions by Simon & Schuster in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and India, and rights have already been sold to publishers in nine countries.

“Springsteen has been privately writing the autobiography over the past seven years. He began work in 2009, after performing with the E Street Band at the Super Bowl’s halftime show.

“In Born To Run, Mr. Springsteen describes growing up in Freehold, New Jersey amid the ‘poetry, danger, and darkness’ that fueled his imagination. He vividly recounts his relentless drive to become a musician, his early days as a bar band king in Asbury Park, and the rise of the E Street Band. With disarming candor, he also tells for the first time the story of the personal struggles that inspired his best work, and shows us why the song ‘Born to Run’ reveals more than we previously realized.

“’Writing about yourself is a funny business,’ Mr. Springsteen notes in his book. ‘But in a project like this, the writer has made one promise, to show the reader his mind. In these pages, I’ve tried to do this.’

“’This is the book we’ve been hoping for,’ said Jonathan Karp, publisher of Simon & Schuster. ‘Readers will see their own lives in Bruce Springsteen’s extraordinary story, just as we recognize ourselves in his songs.’

The June 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on Blondie, plus George Martin, Brian Eno, Dexys, The Monkees, Graham Nash, Merle Haggard, Ronnie Spector, Tony Joe White, Frank Zappa, Eric Clapton, The Coral, Max Richter and more plus 40 pages of reviews and our free 15-track CD

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.

The 12th Uncut Playlist Of 2016

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Apologies for the delay in posting this; events at the end of last week held things up somewhat. I appreciate it looks odd putting a list together without any sign of Prince, but all my albums are at home on vinyl and, as we’ve all found out over these sad and weird last few days, the internet is strikingly empty of his music.

Some things to be getting on with here, anyhow, and a swift reminder that our new issue of Uncut is out more or less now; it’s the one with Blondie on the cover. More soon…

Follow me on Twitter @JohnRMulvey

1 Dave Heumann – Cloud Hands (2020/Bandcamp)

2 Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real – Something Real (Royal Potato Family)

3 Brigid Mae Power – Brigid Mae Power (Tompkins Square)

4 Bat For Lashes – The Bride (Parlophone)

5 Bert Jansch – From The Outside (Fire)

6 Olivia Wyatt + Bitchin Bajas – Sailing A Sinking Sea (Drag City)

7 Jackie Lynn – Jackie Lynn (Thrill Jockey)

8 Quasi – Featuring “Birds” (Domino)

9 Robert Ellis – Robert Ellis (New West)

10 Shakey Graves – And The War Came (Dualtone)

11 Steve Gunn – Eyes On The Lines (Matador)

12 My Morning Jacket – It Still Moves: Deluxe Reissue (ATO Records)

13 The Impressions – The Best Of The Impressions: The Curtom Years (Varese Vintage)

14 William Bell – This Is Where I Live (Decca)

15 Gunn-Truscinski Duo – March 26, 2016 Three Lobed Sweet Sixteen Spectacular, King’s (Raleigh, NC) (www.nyctaper.com)

16 Alèmu Aga ‎– Éthiopiques 11: The Harp Of King David (Buda Musique)

17 Beyonce – Lemonade (Parkwood)

Cheap Trick: “I hope we’re still obnoxious”

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Cheap Trick take us through their career, album by album, in the current issue of Uncut, out now.

The group’s Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson discuss their best records, from 1977’s self-titled debut right up to this year’s new Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello.

“I hope we haven’t changed too much,” says Nielsen, “I hope we’re still obnoxious.”

“I like the same things as I did when we started,” adds Petersson. “We always see ourselves as a ’60s band.”

The band’s 1979 live album, At Budokan, which effectively saved the group’s career, still remains their best-selling effort worldwide. “I tell people that we made the Budokan famous and the Budokan made us famous,” explains Nielsen. “It’s a real live recording… it’s not overdubbed. I always tell people, our mistakes are real!”

The May 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on PJ Harvey’s new album, Brian Wilson, The National’s all-star Grateful Dead tribute, Jack White and T Bone Burnett’s American Epic, Cate Le Bon, Donovan, Jean-Michel Jarre, Cheap Trick, Graham Nash, Heartworn Highways, Sturgill Simpson and more plus 40 pages of reviews and our free 15-track CD

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.

Prince’s Purple Rain – the inside story

Twenty-five years ago, Prince knew he was a genius. The rest of the world, however, needed a little convincing. How to change this? Teach your band and friends how to act, hire a rookie director who can “tell my life story in 10 minutes”, and convince Hollywood to bankroll a musical.

The result? Purple Rain. A film that grossed $70 million, an album that sold 20 million copies, and the greatest triumph of one of rock’s true superstars. This is the inside story… Words: David Cavanagh. Originally published in Uncut’s December 2009 issue (Take 151). Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns.

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In April 1983, when he came off the road after the five-month ‘Triple Threat Tour’, Prince was 24 and in complete control of his fiefdom. “Little Red Corvette” was accelerating up the US charts, and 1999, his extravagant double album, had outsold its predecessor by over a million. This super-skilled multi-instrumentalist wasn’t slow in proclaiming his genius: “Produced, Arranged, Composed and Performed by Prince,” boasted 1999’s cover.

But Prince still had a mountain to climb. While the video for “Little Red Corvette” had been one of the first by a black performer to receive widespread exposure on MTV, for Prince and his managers, a Michael Jackson-style crossover to white pop and rock fans was a matter of gradual progress, not overnight miracles. The ‘Triple Threat Tour’ had not ventured to Europe, Australia or Japan. Huge numbers of people around the world (and in America, for that matter) had yet to hear Prince’s music. And despite his talent, he was a complicated ‘sell’ to rock audiences. A diminutive, pouting dandy, he made music that was heavy on electro-funk synths, drum machines and X-rated lyrics. “We can jump in the sack and I’ll jack you off” was hardly ZZ Top.

For some five years, Prince’s management team, Cavallo-Ruffalo-Fargnoli, had worked hard to take him from 100,000 sales (his 1978 debut, For You) into the double-platinum echelon (1999). With their deal about to expire, Cavallo-Ruffalo-Fargnoli assumed that Prince’s signature on a new contract would be a formality. Until, that is, Bob Cavallo got a call in early 1983 from his associate Steve Fargnoli.

Cavallo remembers: “Steve says, ‘You’re not gonna believe this. He says he’ll re-sign with us if we get him a motion picture.’ And this is Prince’s quote. ‘I want it from a major studio. I don’t want it from some drug dealer or diamond jeweller that you find. And I want my name above the title.’ I was shocked. I thought, Holy Christ, how am I gonna handle this?”

“It was preposterous,” laughs Alan Leeds, Prince’s tour manager. “A movie starring an artist with only two hit singles? How was he going to carry it to the mainstream? Where would he even find the backing from a studio?”

Reviewed! Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures

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In late 2011, I interviewed Patti Smith for a preview piece about her album, Banga.

Banga was Smith’s first album since the publication of her memoir, Just Kids. Aside from specific details about the musicians on the record or the subjects of the songs, Smith offered a couple of tantalising insights into how she viewed her work. “All our records for me are like movies,” she told me. “I think of them as a movie or a soundtrack of my life at the time that we’re working on them, so that’s what this one will be. The record reflects things I’ve been studying. It could be Gogol or Bulgakov, it could be St Francis.”

“I’ve even taken Polaroids for artwork,” she continued. “The record has been much on my mind, even though it was postponed because the book [Just Kids] was very demanding – but I didn’t forget about the record. I know people listen to songs and they break down records in terms of songs, but I still think that it’s important to offer something holistic that’s thought of from beginning to end. I’m a 20th-century girl and I think of putting together an album in a 20th-century way, while understanding that the 21st century will take it apart. But I still have to stand on some of my process and my concept and the way albums should be presented to the people.

“For me, an artist does work and then they’ll give it to the people and they’ll decide.”

It seems fairly evident that Smith has long-cherished her principles; certainly, as far back as her days in the Chelsea Hotel with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, which provided the narrative spine for Just Kids. Smith isn’t interviewed in Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato‘s documentary about Mapplethorpe, but there is ample footage of her and Mapplethorpe together at the Chelsea Hotel: “a 25 hour art show,” according to their next door neighbour.

Mapplethorpe is undergoing a resurgence of interest in his life and work. Apart from Bailey and Barbato’s film, Just Kids is being developed for TV with Smith’s involvement, while former Doctor Who Matt Smith and Girls actress Zosia Mamet have been cast as Mapplethorpe and Smith in a biopic of the artist’s life.

Meanwhile, the title for Bailey and Barbato’s documentary comes from a phrase repeatedly used by American senator Jesse Helms during his attempts to demonise Mapplethorpe during the 1990s. But in some ways, the controversy Mapplethorpe attracted during his life and after his death – in 1989 from complications arising from AIDS, aged 42 – is the least interesting part of Mapplethorpe’s story.

Raised in the suburbs of New York by Catholic parents, he studied at the distinguished Pratt Insitute in Brooklyn where he met Smith. Based in the Chelsea Hotel with Smith, Mapplethorpe began to develop an interest in more transgressive work. “I went away for a summer. I got back and Robert was suddenly into S&M,” says Bob Colacello, the former editor of Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine. Bailey and Barbato – who covered similarly controversial subject with their Deep Throat documentary – assemble a strong cast of talking heads. Some of the best Debbie Harry, an early boyfriend David Croland, author Fran Lebowitz, who delivers the best line in the film: “He looked like a ruined cupid.”

Follow me on Twitter @MichaelBonner

The May 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on PJ Harvey’s new album, Brian Wilson, The National’s all-star Grateful Dead tribute, Jack White and T Bone Burnett’s American Epic, Cate Le Bon, Donovan, Jean-Michel Jarre, Cheap Trick, Graham Nash, Heartworn Highways, Sturgill Simpson and more plus 40 pages of reviews and our free 15-track CD

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.

Heartworn Highways

To fully appreciate James Szalapski’s sketchy documentary about the music of Nashville and Austin in 1975, you have to understand what the film isn’t. It is not a film about Outlaw country, though it does include footage of David Allan Coe playing a show in Tennessee State Prison.

It’s not even a film about New Country, though that was the working title, and it does include the teenage Steve Earle, who would be a leading player in what became known as the New Country movement a decade later. It is, slightly, a lament for a lost Nashville, because it was made at a time when country music was becoming more corporate, and the Grand Ole Opry was betraying its heritage by abandoning its historic home downtown in the Ryman Auditorium in favour of a soulless new venue in a theme park and hotel complex.

But really, the flashes of old Nashville filmed inside the old Wigwam Tavern are used as seasoning, and their links to the new music celebrated in the film are tangential. Certainly, the denizens of the Wigwam – the tavern’s owner, Big Mac McGowan, “Smoky Mountain” Glenn Stagner, and the extraordinary singer Peggy Brooks (about whom nothing is known) – are right to be bemused by the commercial turns taken by country music in the 1970s. But, then, a conversation in which someone suggested to Guy Clark that he was a country musician would have been a short one.

The film, in essence, is a beautiful accident. Szalapksi, a New York director who had previously worked on the Miss Nude America movie, had a plan, and he executed it. Roughly, this was to capture the mood and the lifestyle of a group of alternative, younger musicians who were operating on the fringes of the Nashville establishment. At the time, Music City was in a post-Kristofferson moment. The success of “Sunday Morning Coming Down” had given hope to a new generation of songwriters, who really had more to do with the folk revival than country. As a filmmaker, Szalapksi took a ‘direct cinema’ approach. There is no narrator, no interviewing. The resulting film is a collage. It has a point of view, but it’s not stated overtly. The music, and the imagery, do the talking.

It is probably a bit harsh to suggest that Szalapksi got lucky when he decided to focus on Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. Both musicians had growing reputations at the time, even if major commercial success remained elusive. They were close friends too, offering different interpretations of a form of narrative songwriting that was particular to Texas. Neither man explains that in the film. Clark, an accomplished luthier, is pictured working on old guitar, while Townes offers a chaotic guided tour of the grounds surrounding his trailer home. (Drink, clearly, has been taken).

Then there is the music. Much of the best of it takes place at a Christmas Eve jam at Clark’s home, with the host, his songwriting artist wife Susanna, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle and others swapping songs. The drunker they get, the harder they play, and they get pretty drunk. Meanwhile, in Austin, Townes plays “Waitin’ Around To Die”, and reduces his neighbour, ‘the walking blacksmith” Seymour Washington to tears. (The sleeve notes suggest that “Unk”, who had only a year to live, may have been playing to the camera, but that seems overly cynical).

A previous DVD reissue added an hour of extras, including more great clips from Clark, and John Hiatt (with hair!) doing “One For The One”. They’re included here. If anything, the extras show how Szalapski didn’t quite know what he had. With hindsight, the comic country monologues of Gamble Rogers should have been sacrificed, and the David Allan Coe material could have gone into a different film. But Szalapski wasn’t to know that history would judge Clark to be the true artist of the period, with Townes as his inebriated Tonto.

EXTRAS: A double vinyl soundtrack LP with five essential songs from Guy Clark, a couple from Townes, and three from Steve Earle. The album ends with a chaotic chorus of ‘Silent Night’, led by Rodney Crowell. Also included, an 80 page book with liner notes by Sam Sweet.

The May 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on PJ Harvey’s new album, Brian Wilson, The National’s all-star Grateful Dead tribute, Jack White and T Bone Burnett’s American Epic, Cate Le Bon, Donovan, Jean-Michel Jarre, Cheap Trick, Graham Nash, Heartworn Highways, Sturgill Simpson and more plus 40 pages of reviews and our free 15-track CD

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.</strong

Watch Sturgill Simpson perform Nirvana’s “In Bloom”

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Sturgill Simpson appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on April 21.

He performed his cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom“, which also appears on his new album, A Sailor’s Guide To Earth.

Speaking to Uncut about why he covered the song, Simpson explained:

“That was my wife’s idea. What happened was I realised, ‘OK, I’m talking about my life but I’m also talking to my son and my mistakes and lessons learned and what I want him to take from that. So I’ve also got to represent that awkward phase that every teenager goes through, where your identity hasn’t really formed yet and you’re trying to figure out where you fit in.’ And my wife said, ‘Well, what were you listening to when you were that age?’ And I was like, ‘Nirvana – who wasn’t?’

“I was that latchkey kid from the broken home so I really felt like those records were for me. There were a lot of days where those headphones and those records got me through some stuff that maybe would’ve been a little tougher without them. And I wanted to capture that. I know it’s not what he wrote it about – what the song’s actually about I can relate to too in terms of other things going on with my job. But I felt the lyrics captured that young, clueless, sexually charged point where you are like a loaded gun, just running around cluelessly. If I was gonna do it, I wanted to try to make it the most beautiful tribute to Kurt we possibly could.”

A Sailor’s Guide To Earth is available now on Atlantic.

The May 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on PJ Harvey’s new album, Brian Wilson, The National’s all-star Grateful Dead tribute, Jack White and T Bone Burnett’s American Epic, Cate Le Bon, Donovan, Jean-Michel Jarre, Cheap Trick, Graham Nash, Heartworn Highways, Sturgill Simpson and more plus 40 pages of reviews and our free 15-track CD

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.</strong

Read Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Aretha Franklin’s tributes to Prince

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Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr, Ron Wood and Elton John are among the artists who have paid tribute to Prince, who died yesterday [April 21], aged 57.

Aretha Franklin called him a “a one-of-a-kind”.

Franklin said that Prince’s death was “such a blow. It’s really surreal. It’s just kind of unbelievable,” in an interview on MSNBC which you can watch below.

She went on to describe Prince as “a very, very unique musical individual who was so into his music – he was music to the max.

“I think that he was a very explorative and as I said he was one of those artists that go into the studio and stayed in the studio – he would sleep in the studio.”

“Myself when I finish recording as an artist I go home and I am through with it until it’s time for me to go back in the studio but some artists just stay in the studio because they love music like that,” she continued.

Meanwhile, NASA Tweeted a photograph of a purple nebula, to mark Prince’s death.

Elton John posted a photo on Instagram, calling Prince “a true genius. Musically way ahead of any of us.”

The cause of Prince’s death has yet to be established, although an autopsy is due to be carried out later today [April 22].

The May 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on PJ Harvey’s new album, Brian Wilson, The National’s all-star Grateful Dead tribute, Jack White and T Bone Burnett’s American Epic, Cate Le Bon, Donovan, Jean-Michel Jarre, Cheap Trick, Graham Nash, Heartworn Highways, Sturgill Simpson and more plus 40 pages of reviews and our free 15-track CD

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.</strong

Prince dies aged 57

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Prince has died aged 57.

Associated Press reports that he was found dead at his home on Thursday [April 21] in suburban Minneapolis, according to his publicist, Yvette Noel-Schure.

No details were immediately released.

Prince has been hospitalised last week after his plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Moline, Illinois.

Released a few hours later, a rep told TMZ that he had been battling a bad case of flu.

The news of Prince’s death was broken by TMZ who cited ‘Multiple sources connected to the singer confirmed he had passed. We’ve obtained the 911 call deputies received for a “male down, not breathing.'”

During his career, the artist born Prince Rogers Nelson released 39 solo studio albums; last year, he released four new full-length records with his latest band, 3rd Eye Girl.

He won seven Grammy Awards, and has received 30 nominations.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8BMm6Jn6oU

The May 2016 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on PJ Harvey’s new album, Brian Wilson, The National’s all-star Grateful Dead tribute, Jack White and T Bone Burnett’s American Epic, Cate Le Bon, Donovan, Jean-Michel Jarre, Cheap Trick, Graham Nash, Heartworn Highways, Sturgill Simpson and more plus 40 pages of reviews and our free 15-track CD

Uncut: the spiritual home of great rock music.</strong