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Richard Dawson’s favourite albums: “It takes a while to learn your lessons”

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The radical folk warrior on the records that have altered his brain chemistry, from Iron Maiden to Sun Ra…

Originally published in Uncut’s January 2018 issue

______________________________

IRON MAIDEN
IRON MAIDEN
1980

When I was about 12, I used to creep into my sister’s room and try out her records. One of the first ones I tried was this, because of the amazing artwork. It was so exciting. I loved the raw sound of it, but there’s also stuff in there that’s as complex as classical music. I’d only heard pop up to that point, so it really blew my mind. I think when people think about Iron Maiden they think about the cod-rock fantasy thing, which is all well and good, but the first couple of albums are really urban, and feel quite dangerous. I’ve still got it, it’s out on the play pile.

______________________________

SUN RA
ATLANTIS
1969

I could have picked any number of Sun Ra albums, but recently we’ve been listening to this one on tour. It’s really great, you can really hear the room. To me, it teaches something about how to play free music: you don’t have to be wild, you can just be very spacious and loose. It almost sounds like an odd little wooden puzzle, it’s got this clockwork feeling to it. It’s helped us in many a rainy traffic jam, it just keeps your momentum up. I’m totally into the myths too – he wasn’t human, he didn’t identify as such, and he has good reasons not to do so. To me, he’s the cornerstone of all music.

______________________________

DIANA ROSS & THE SUPREMES
REFLECTIONS
1967

It’s a beautiful record, just completely faultless. But it’s so strange – the bass on it is turned up so loud, it’s fabulous. What I really like about Diana is that she has this glassiness about her delivery, which I think makes everything much more moving. I got into this when I worked in a record shop, and it wormed its way in. I didn’t love it at first, but then I started to see it less as a Motown record and more as a slightly odd space band. I had to track down a copy myself – I’ve got it for five or six people since, that’s how much I like it.

______________________________

ORCHESTRA BAOBAB
MANSA
1999

This was recorded in 1978, I think, so you can hear the tape hiss, you can hear all these imperfections on the tape. Also the bass is tuned flat, and it gives the record this full feeling, it’s really amazing. If that bass was perfectly in tune and on the nose, the record wouldn’t sound half as good. When everything isn’t quite fitting together, then things have to bleed over the edges of everything else, and it makes for a really interesting sound. It’s also got one of my favourite guitar solos – it’s almost like a little tweeting bird. I know this isn’t very helpful for a magazine article, but you’ll have to hear it!

Send us your questions for Bill Callahan

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An Audience With Bill Callahan! There was a time, back in the days of Smog – the obfuscatory band name under which Callahan released 11 albums between 1990 and 2005 – when such a thing would have seemed unthinkable.

Interviews were rare and often halting affairs, with Callahan pleading that his personal life was irrelevant to an understanding of the numb and desolate characters who peopled his songs.

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But this year’s terrific Shepherd In A Sheepskin Vest revealed a very different Bill Callahan. Released after a hiatus of six years during which time he got married and became a father, it’s intimate, inviting and surprisingly easygoing.

“We’re not going to get anywhere if we are guarded with ourselves,” Callahan told Uncut earlier this year. And so here he is, generously inviting you, the Uncut readers, to give him a good-natured grilling.

So what do you want to ask one of America’s most celebrated and mysterious songwriters? Send your questions to audiencewith@uncut.co.uk by Monday October 21 and Bill will answer the best ones in a future issue of Uncut.

The November 2019 issue of Uncut is on sale now, with Jimmy Page on the cover. Our free CD features 17 exclusive cover versions of Wilco songs recorded for us by Low, Courtney Barnett, Cate Le Bon, Kurt Vile and many more. Elsewhere in the issue, there’s Kim Gordon, The Clash live and unseen, Angel Olsen, Tinariwen, Bruce Hornsby, Super Furry Animals, Bob Nastanovich on David Berman and Roger McGuinn.

Watch Bob Dylan play “Lenny Bruce” for the first time in 11 years

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Bob Dylan played the first date of his latest North American tour at the Donald Bren Events Center in Irvine, California, on Friday (October 11).

After opening the show with “Beyond Here Lies Nothin'” – presumably in tribute to the song’s co-writer Robert Hunter, who died last monthDylan added a couple more songs to the set list from his preceding European tour.

One of those was Time Out Of Mind’s “Not Dark Yet”; another was Shot Of Love’s “Lenny Bruce”, last played live in 2008 – watch that below:

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Dylan also introduced two new members to his band: Matt Chamberlain, once of Pearl Jam, has replaced long-term drummer George Recile; while Bob Britt – who played on Time Out Of Mind – has joined as an additional guitarist.

You can hear the full Irvine show below:

The November 2019 issue of Uncut is on sale now, with Jimmy Page on the cover. Our free CD features 17 exclusive cover versions of Wilco songs recorded for us by Low, Courtney Barnett, Cate Le Bon, Kurt Vile and many more. Elsewhere in the issue, there’s Kim Gordon, The Clash live and unseen, Angel Olsen, Tinariwen, Bruce Hornsby, Super Furry Animals, Bob Nastanovich on David Berman and Roger McGuinn.

Watch a trailer for Neil Young’s Mountaintop film

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Neil Young has released a trailer for his self-directed film Mountaintop, which documents the making of the new Neil Young & Crazy Horse album Colorado (due out October 25).

“Captured for you in living color, this document is sure to run 92 minutes,” writes Young on Neil Young Archives. “You may be surprised to learn some of the deep secrets of the process as you laugh your ass off in a theater near you.” Watch the trailer below:

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Mountaintop will screen for one day only in select North American cinemas on October 22 – check here for a list of participating cinemas – and in Europe and South America on November 18.

You can read a review of Colorado in the next issue of Uncut, in shops this Thursday (October 17).

The November 2019 issue of Uncut is on sale now, with Jimmy Page on the cover. Our free CD features 17 exclusive cover versions of Wilco songs recorded for us by Low, Courtney Barnett, Cate Le Bon, Kurt Vile and many more. Elsewhere in the issue, there’s Kim Gordon, The Clash live and unseen, Angel Olsen, Tinariwen, Bruce Hornsby, Super Furry Animals, Bob Nastanovich on David Berman and Roger McGuinn.

Wilco – Ode To Joy

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Ode To Joy is not a great title for Google search results, but it certainly succeeds as a statement of no-fucks bravado. Indeed, the follow-up to Star Wars (2015) and Schmilco (2016) is precisely the opposite of the grandiose and anthemic symphony composed almost 200 years ago. Wilco’s Ode To Joy instead gently reframes Beethoven’s celebration of comradeship for a modern audience. Swapping a chorus of literal voices for symbolic ones, it’s a protest record only this sextet could make, one that rings loudest in its simplicity. It favours subtle textures and hushed vocals, and further reveals its wisdom with each listen. If Being There was Wilco’s Born To Run, this is their Nebraska.

Tweedy’s
lyrics don’t stray far from what we already know of his work, but here his poetic observations on self, place and time are loaded with far more meaning than the word count suggests. “I don’t like/The way you’re treating me,” he sings at the start of album opener “Bright Leaves”, layered with ambient synth, feathers of acoustic and electric guitar, piano, gentle bass thumps and the pat of slow-marching drums. “You’ll never change/You’re never gonna change,” he sings, resigned.

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The tempo ebbs and flows throughout Ode To Joy, but the beat tends to mirror the padded boom of feet on pavement, a subtle reminder of the fruits of dissidence and a march toward the future. “Remember when wars would end/Now when something’s dead/We try to kill it again,” Tweedy sings on “Before Us”, which blends the acoustic intimacy of much of his solo oeuvre with the inventive textures and layers of classics like Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Glenn Kotche’s misty percussion and Nels Cline’s electric guitar warbles elevate the tune from mere folk song, though it fits squarely within the canon of that genre’s protest legacy.

Throughout, however, Ode To Joy refuses to allow politics to creep into the narrative in an obvious way, instead focusing on universal themes of love, memory and humanity. Yet what Tweedy doesn’t say is equally as interesting, with the result being that the album can be heard as a subtle indictment of the self, of our current political quagmire and its myopic runoff, or as a challenge to resist an increasingly autocratic climate breeding hate and helplessness. It’s a call to march forth in the face of unrelenting tragedy and chaos, “alone with the people who have come before us”, as Tweedy puts it on “Before Us”.

An increase in tempo at the album’s mid-mark underscores a new lyrical clarity. “Everyone Hides” explores the complexities of the human condition while the vaguely tiki-esque “White Wooden Cross”, complete with George Harrison slide, finds Tweedy contemplating loss via meditations on the homemade reminders that dot so many American highways. “Women and men/Citizens/Carry your own cross/Careless/Care less/You are the albatross,” he sings over a clacking of drums and percussion on “Citizens”, a hootenanny fraught with conflict.

The album culminates in highlight “(Beware) Love Is Everywhere”, a sunny declaration that recalls the stripped-down touchstones of Elliott Smith – all hushed vocals and off-kilter drums – with the addition of a heroic Cline-conceived guitar hook. These two elements gel perfectly, like an earthen meditation layered with the call of a high-flying bird. Even if it was written as a caution to self, as Tweedy has said it was, it endures as a fitting reminder of our greatest weapon, one only we can control. It works, too, as a call to action, by revealing perhaps the most universally understood double-standard in a most tender and profound way. “Right now I’m frightened how/Love is here/Beware/Our love is everywhere,” Tweedy sings, a warning that though love abounds, there’s also never enough of it.

Ode To Joy counters the loose and low-stakes nature of Star Wars and Schmilco in a series of finely honed reflections that adds a new perspective to the conversation of politics. If anything, it’s a good reason to break from the alerts and viral soundbites that comprise so much of modern consciousness, and engage with perhaps the most primal, and thus revolutionary, sound in this digital era: gentle acoustic guitar. And maybe that’s the point. The songs here are simple, but they contain multitudes.

The November 2019 issue of Uncut is on sale now, with Jimmy Page on the cover. Our free CD features 17 exclusive cover versions of Wilco songs recorded for us by Low, Courtney Barnett, Cate Le Bon, Kurt Vile and many more. Elsewhere in the issue, there’s Kim Gordon, The Clash live and unseen, Angel Olsen, Tinariwen, Bruce Hornsby, Super Furry Animals, Bob Nastanovich on David Berman and Roger McGuinn.

Brittany Howard – Jaime

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Brittany Howard has the kind of voice that instantly summons the musical past. And that’s the problem. Her band, Alabama Shakes, tried its best to dodge the very sticky label of throwback Americana, making the acclaimed, fiercely modern Sound & Color in 2015. But the industry still treats the Shakes and Howard as spokespeople for the “good old days”, throwing them a Grammy nomination for a documentary film performance of Memphis Minnie’s “Killer Diller Blues” recorded on a primitive sound system and choosing Howard to induct Sister Rosetta Tharpe into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

The connection was clear – Howard’s gritty, colossal vocals and savage guitar put her squarely on a continuum back to the great female blues guitarists 
of the mid-20th century. But she also bristles at the boundaries of that pigeonhole. Recently she told Garden & Gun, “I’m tired of people guessing who 
I am, making up who I am. 
Like I’m just this throwback Aretha Franklin-like soul singer, which I can do, but there’s so much more to me than that. But I have to show it.”

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Doing so meant putting Alabama Shakes, the band Howard has played with for 
a decade, on indefinite hiatus. After dabbling in side projects Thunderbitch and Bermuda Triangle, Howard now releases her first record under her own name, and Jaime delivers on her mission of self-realisation, distancing her from the Shakes and the revivalist hopes that surround them, while making her case as a genre-free iconoclast in the ‘tony’ neighbourhood of D’Angelo or Prince.

If Howard is still keeping one foot in the past, it’s shifted to a history that’s much more autobiographical than cultural. The record is named after Howard’s sister, who died as a teenager having sparked Howard’s initial interest in music, teaching her piano and songwriting. That tribute signifies the deeply personal subject matter within, as Howard addresses her sexuality, her mixed-race heritage and religious beliefs in songs as unflinchingly and cathartically honest as a social media confessional.

“I create because I have to, because that’s what I like 
to do,” Howard says. “I was 
like, why don’t I create something myself, why don’t 
I just do it the way I want to do it, do something challenging and scary.”

In terms of personnel, Jaime isn’t completely untethered from Howard’s prior projects. Alabama Shakes bassist Zac Cockrell, who has collaborated with Howard since high school, stayed on. Returning 
as well is engineer Shawn Everett, 
the in-demand producer for whom 
Sound & Color was almost as big a breakthrough as it was for Alabama Shakes – he’s gone on to work with The War On Drugs, John Legend, Kacey Musgraves and Jenny Lewis.

In Everett’s LA studio, Howard dived deeper into the uncanny valley between vintage crackle and future sleek they probed on Sound & Color. She’s helped by a couple of ringers steeped in jazz: Robert Glasper, the hip-hop fusionist who has been a featured keyboardist with Kendrick Lamar, Q-Tip and Maxwell, and drummer Nate Smith, who studied under the wing of Betty Carter and has performed with Ravi Coltrane and Dave Holland.

The result, a tidy 35 minutes and 
11 tracks, won’t be mistaken for a jazz album, but the extensive chops of Glasper and Smith expand Howard’s sonic palette in fruitful ways. Without the riffier leads of Shakes guitarist Heath Fogg, Howard deploys a more supple six-string approach, wiggling around her rhythm section on opener “History Repeats” and the flirtatious, defiant “Baby”, or distorting her tone into oblivion (while counterpointing a harp, no less) on “Presence”. The restraint allows the rare moments of soloing – like the EQ-popping fills in “He Loves Me” – to singe brightly.

When the guitar fades into the background, the dynamics expand even further, as on the same-sex slow jam “Georgia”, which progresses from a Rhodes-driven seduction through a church organ bridge before exploding in a climax of neon synths. The cavernous gated drums and swirling keyboards of “Run To Me” let Howard homage “Nothing Compares 2 U” with a romantic, epic lead vocal subverted sonically by being sung into her mobile phone.

Throughout Jaime, Howard also continues to challenge the impressive instrument of her voice in unpredictable ways, sitting more and more at her upper ranges, where it frays with the warmth of a treasured old blanket. She relishes writing melodies that spiral off in unpredictable directions; “Short And Sweet”, the album’s one solo-guitar-and-vocal performance, is as full of musicological tangles as a Dirty Projectors song, effortlessly spanning octaves and navigating abrupt tempo shifts.

Howard doesn’t shy away from the occasional throwback on Jaime, most blatantly on “Stay High”, which sounds like a Curtis Mayfield track beamed in from a transistor radio in 1970, coy drugs/sex metaphors and all. But more nostalgic touch points come from ’80s/’90s R&B – an era that makes much more temporal sense for the 30-year-old Howard’s childhood. “Tomorrow” is a suave exercise in new jack swing, including playful calls and responses with a choir of herself (Q: “Now that we here, what you gonna do with it?” A: “We’re gonna say what the fuck!”) and an icy, cymbal-tapping interlude.

Some of the most impressive moments on the album come when the music and lyrics clash. “Goat Head” launches with a full minute of serene, sample-ready groove before the laid-back vibes are soured, as Howard recounts the details of a hate crime committed against her interracial family decades ago and ruminates on her racial identity (“I’m one drop of three-fifths, right?”). Its photo negative is the thrilling “13th Century Metal”, where she layers a spoken-word self-affirming sermon over an intense jam of distorted organ and drums that concludes with the repeated mantra of “Give in to love”, harmonised to Roy Thomas Baker extremes.

That strain of self-care and personal confidence recurs frequently on Jaime, a salve for the heavy memories Howard excavates along the way. “He Loves Me” takes a Christian stance based around guilt-free positivity – “I know He still loves me when I’m smoking blunts/He loves 
me when I’m drinking too much” – 
and intersperses YouTube samples 
of Houston pastor Terry K Anderson preaching against anxiety with calm humour. If the album’s first track ominously chants, “History repeats 
and we defeat ourselves,” its last track concludes with its own counter-argument: “There’s no weapon against this loneliness/
Except my loving arms.”

That’s a very timely reason to make a solo album in 2019, when “the personal is political” isn’t just a catchy slogan, but valuable advice for survival and mental health. Putting her name on the record isn’t about Howard’s ego, but about seizing her right to creative independence – to make the musical decisions herself and to sing about the subjects she wants, no matter how uncomfortable they 
make us feel. Happily, her quest for personal fulfilment doubles as a creative bloom as well, revealing new dimensions of her talent.

The November 2019 issue of Uncut is on sale now, with Jimmy Page on the cover. Our free CD features 17 exclusive cover versions of Wilco songs recorded for us by Low, Courtney Barnett, Cate Le Bon, Kurt Vile and many more. Elsewhere in the issue, there’s Kim Gordon, The Clash live and unseen, Angel Olsen, Tinariwen, Bruce Hornsby, Super Furry Animals, Bob Nastanovich on David Berman and Roger McGuinn.

Watch Lana Del Rey cover Joni Mitchell’s “For Free”

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Lana Del Rey has been including a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “For Free” in her set during her current US tour.

She’s now shared an acoustic version of the song, captured in rehearsal, for which she’s joined by fellow singer-songwriters Weyes Blood and Zella Day. Watch it below:

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@zelladay @weyesblood

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Last weekend at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, Del Rey brought out Joan Baez to duet on “Diamonds And Rust” before Baez went on to play a solo version of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”. Watch that video here:

The November 2019 issue of Uncut is on sale now, with Jimmy Page on the cover. Our free CD features 17 exclusive cover versions of Wilco songs recorded for us by Low, Courtney Barnett, Cate Le Bon, Kurt Vile and many more. Elsewhere in the issue, there’s Kim Gordon, The Clash live and unseen, Angel Olsen, Tinariwen, Bruce Hornsby, Super Furry Animals, Bob Nastanovich on David Berman and Roger McGuinn.

Second Go-Betweens box set unveiled

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The second of The Go-Betweens’ comprehensive, career-spanning box sets has been announced for release by Domino on December 6.

G Stands For Go-Betweens: Volume 2 – 1985-1989 contains remastered vinyl editions of Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express, Tallulah and 16 Lovers Lane, plus an 18-song double LP of the band performing live at London’s Town & Country Club on May 10, 1987.

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Additionally, the set comes with five CDs of B-sides, radio sessions and rarities, including the 28 demos that Grant McLennan and Robert Forster recorded with Tony Cohen for what was supposed to be the group’s seventh album, before they split at the end of the 1980s.

To view the complete tracklisting and pre-order G Stands For Go-Betweens: Volume 2 – 1985-1989 go here. First 400 orders worldwide get a book from Grant McLennan’s personal library!

The November 2019 issue of Uncut is on sale now, with Jimmy Page on the cover. Our free CD features 17 exclusive cover versions of Wilco songs recorded for us by Low, Courtney Barnett, Cate Le Bon, Kurt Vile and many more. Elsewhere in the issue, there’s Kim Gordon, The Clash live and unseen, Angel Olsen, Tinariwen, Bruce Hornsby, Super Furry Animals, Bob Nastanovich on David Berman and Roger McGuinn.

Hear Caribou’s first new track in five years, “Home”

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Dan Snaith AKA Caribou has released a new single called “Home” – his first new material since acclaimed 2014 album Our Love.

“Home” is based around a hefty sample of a song of the same name by obscure soul singer Gloria Barnes, from her highly sought-after 1971 album Uptown. Hear Caribou’s take on it below:

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“I’m always listening to lots of music and sometimes a loop just jumps out at me – it’s too perfect. That’s how it was with Gloria Barnes’ ‘Home’,” says Snaith. “I kept returning to it, meaning to do something with it but not knowing what. Sometimes making music feels like a process I’m in charge of… but there are other times, when things just present themselves and my job is to follow their lead. It wasn’t until the circumstances of someone close to me mirrored the refrain of the original song that the track all came together.

“When I’ve played it to friends, several of them have said that they feel like it’s speaking to their circumstances, about people close to them. We’ve all had moments when something changes suddenly and catalyses a change in your whole life – when you need to go back to something familiar, pick up the pieces and start again.”

Caribou have also announced a 2020 world tour, dates below:

North American tour dates
16 Mar – Hamilton @The Studio
17 Mar – Toronto @ Danforth
20 Mar – Chicago @ Riviera
21 Mar – Detroit @Saint Andrews Hall
22 Mar – Ottawa @ Bronson Centre
23 Mar – Montreal @ M Telus
24 Mar – Boston @ House of Blues
25 Mar – Philadelphia @ Union Transfer
26 Mar – Washington @ 9:30 Club
27 Mar – Brooklyn @ Brooklyn Steel
UK tour dates
30 Mar – Brighton @ The Dome
01 Apr – Liverpool @ Invisible Wind Factory
02 Apr – Leeds @ O2 Academy Leeds
03 Apr – Manchester @ Victoria Warehouse
04 Apr – Glasgow @ The Barrowlands
05 Apr – Birmingham @ O2 Academy Birmingham
06 Apr – Bristol @ O2 Academy Bristol
07 Apr – London @ O2 Academy Brixton
European tour dates:
21 Apr – Hamburg. DE @ Grosse Freiheit 36
22 Apr- Leipzig, DE @ Werk 2
23 Apr – Prague, CZ @ Forum Karlin
24 Apr – Vienna, AT @ Gasometer
25 Apr – Munich, DE @ Muffathalle
26 Apr – Zurich, CH @ Kaufleuten
27 Apr – Paris, FR @ L’Olympia
28 Apr – Cologne, DE @ E-werk
29 Apr – Utrecht, NL @ Tivoli Vredenburg / Ronda
30 Apr – Brussels, BE @ Les Nuits Botanique / Chapiteau – Botanique
11 Jul – Dublin, IE @ Iveagh Gardens
15 Aug – Berlin, DE @ Zitadelle / Caribou and Friends

Tickets for the UK dates go on sale on Friday (October 11) at 9am from here. Tickets for the international dates go on sale at 10am local time.

The November 2019 issue of Uncut is on sale now, with Jimmy Page on the cover. Our free CD features 17 exclusive cover versions of Wilco songs recorded for us by Low, Courtney Barnett, Cate Le Bon, Kurt Vile and many more. Elsewhere in the issue, there’s Kim Gordon, The Clash live and unseen, Angel Olsen, Tinariwen, Bruce Hornsby, Super Furry Animals, Bob Nastanovich on David Berman and Roger McGuinn.

REM – Ultimate Music Guide Deluxe Edition

Introducing the definitive guide to the music of REM: the new, monster – and indeed Monster – 148 page deluxe edition of our REM Ultimate Music Guide.

Every album reviewed. Revealing archive interviews unearthed.

Also now includes: making The One I Love, the view from the REM vault and a new afterword from Peter Buck.

Buy a copy online here

Stereolab announce final album reissues

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Stereolab have announced that expanded reissues of Sound-Dust and Margerine Eclipse will be released on November 29 via Warp, thus completing their extensive reissue campaign.

Both albums have been fully remastered and expanded with a wealth of rare and unreleased tracks.

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Check out the tracklistings below and pre-order the albums here, including the limited-edition numbered cleared vinyl version.

Sound-Dust
1. Black Ants in Sound-Dust
2. Space Moth
3. Captain Easychord
4. Baby Lulu
5. The Black Arts
6. Hallucinex
7. Double Rocker
8. Gus the Mynah Bird
9. Naught More Terrific than Man
10. Nothing To Do with Me
11. Suggestion Diabolique
12. Les Bon Bons des Raisons
13. Black Ants (Demo)
14. Space Moth Intro (Demo)
15. Space Moth (Demo)
16. Baby Lulu (Demo)
17. Hallucinex pt. 1 (Demo)
18. Hallucinex pt. 2 (Demo)
19. Long Live Love (Demo)
20. Les Bon Bons des Raisons (Demo)

Margerine Eclipse
1. Vonal Declosion
2. Need To Be
3. Sudden Stars
4. Cosmic Country Noir
5. La Demeure
6. Margerine Rock
7. The Man with 100 Cells
8. Margerine Melodie
9. Hillbilly Motorbike
10. Feel and Triple
11. Bop Scotch
12. Dear Marge
13. Mass Riff
14. Good is Me
15. Microclimate
16. Mass Riff (Instrumental)
17. Jaunty Monty and the Bubbles of Silence
18. Banana Monster Ne Répond Plus
19. University Microfilms International
20. Rose, My Rocket-Brain! (Rose, le Cerveau Electronique de Ma Fusée!)

The November 2019 issue of Uncut is on sale now, with Jimmy Page on the cover. Our free CD features 17 exclusive cover versions of Wilco songs recorded for us by Low, Courtney Barnett, Cate Le Bon, Kurt Vile and many more. Elsewhere in the issue, there’s Kim Gordon, The Clash live and unseen, Angel Olsen, Tinariwen, Bruce Hornsby, Super Furry Animals, Bob Nastanovich on David Berman and Roger McGuinn.

The 23rd Uncut New Music Playlist of 2019

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In a big week for new music, long-time Uncut hero Michael Stipe resurfaces with his first single since REM called it a day eight years ago. “I took a long break from music, and I wanted to jump back in,” he says of the synthy, gauzy “Your Capricious Soul”, issued to coincide with this week’s climate justice protests (it’s downloadable exclusively at Stipe’s own website, with all proceeds to Extinction Rebellion).

Also belatedly going solo is Kim Gordon, whose excellent album No Home Record is out on Friday – read all about that here and listen to a new track from it below. Completing the playlist is a newly-unearthed Arthur Russell gem, intriguing collaborations between Cate Le Bon and Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox, and Yann Tiersen and Sunn O)))’s Stephen O’Malley – plus stirring new stuff from Field Music, Big Thief, Mikal Cronin, Girl Ray, Chromatics and exciting new discovery El Khat. Dig in!

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MICHAEL STIPE

“Your Capricious Soul”
(MichaelStipe.com)


NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS

“Night Raid”
(Ghosteen Ltd)


EL KHAT

“Ya Raiyat”
(Batov Records)


CATE LE BON & BRADFORD COX

“Secretary”
(Mexican Summer)

ARTHUR RUSSELL
“You Did It Yourself”
(Audika)

CHROMATICS
“You’re No Good”
(Italians Do It Better)

GIRL RAY
“Girl”
(Moshi Moshi)


BIG THIEF

“Forgotten Eyes”
(4AD)

FKA TWIGS
“Home With You”
(Young Turks)

KIM GORDON
“Hungry Baby”
(Matador)

MIKAL CRONIN
“I’ve Got Reason”
(Merge)

FIELD MUSIC
“Only In A Man’s World”
(Memphis Industries)

MOON DUO
“Lost Heads”
(Sacred Bones)

YANN TIERSEN
“Introductory Movement (feat. Stephen O’Malley)”
(Mute)

The November 2019 issue of Uncut is on sale now, with Jimmy Page on the cover. Our free CD features 17 exclusive cover versions of Wilco songs recorded for us by Low, Courtney Barnett, Cate Le Bon, Kurt Vile and many more. Elsewhere in the issue, there’s Kim Gordon, The Clash live and unseen, Angel Olsen, Tinariwen, Bruce Hornsby, Super Furry Animals, Bob Nastanovich on David Berman and Roger McGuinn.

An Audience With Ginger Baker

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Following yesterday’s sad news about Ginger Baker’s passing, here’s the unexpurgated version of our 2013 interview with the great drummer, conducted by Nick Hasted at his home in Kent. This interview took place around the release of Jay Bulger’s documentary, Beware Of Mr Baker.

The doorbell rings at a modest house on the outskirts of Canterbury, where Ginger Baker has lived since he lost his ranch in South Africa two years ago, his fortune exhausted by his passion for breeding polo ponies. Five minutes later, the front door is grudgingly cracked open. Inside, the notoriously cantankerous Baker, white-haired and wearing a rumpled grey sweater and trousers, lays on his sofa, feet up, watching women’s tennis on TV. He brusquely shakes hands but doesn’t say hello or, later, goodbye. Photos of the beloved polo ponies he had to leave behind in South Africa stare down from the wall above the TV, which he reluctantly turns down for the business of an interview. We are here essentially to talk about Beware Of Mr Baker, a documentary by filmmaker Jay Bulger that traces the drummer’s colourful life and career, from south London to South Africa and beyond. But in fact, Baker talks about his time with Fela Kuti, Cream and his earliest days as a jazz drummer in Soho – as well as being shot at, bribed and fighting with former bandmates.

What did you think of the film?
The film was made at a very bad time for me, really. Everything was unravelling and coming apart. I’ve seen it once. Some of it is good. And some of it is awful. Where he got Art Blakey and Elvin Jones and Max [Roach] on there, that was the highlights of my career, was meeting with them and playing with them. The film is Jay Bulger’s interpretation, really. Because he kept pushing to do things which were just not part of my life. That’s when I got more and more angry. Probably that’s what makes the film.

The most interesting part of the film is your six years in Lagos in the early ‘70s. How did you end up there?
Originally I went to Ghana. And when I was in Ghana it was during the civil war in Nigeria. But all the music I kept hearing was on Radio Nigeria, so I decided to go there. They wouldn’t give me a visa ‘cause there’s a war going on, so I sent two people I knew in Nigeria a telegram saying, “I’m coming,” and the army met me at the airport and said, “Welcome to Nigeria.” It was really quite amazing.

So you were following the music into a war zone?
Well, the war was still going on there, yeah.

Was it quite a culture shock to go from Harrow to Lagos?
No. I enjoyed it. The Nigerians were really good people. I’d known Fela 10 years before that in London, and his band was just packing everywhere in Nigeria. It was one of the great things when Tony Allen his drummer was sick and I did some gigs with him in Nigeria.

When you were living in Lagos, did you go to the Shrine a lot?
Yeah, of course, and every time I had to play “Gentleman” with the band, because that was his favourite number with me and them for some reason.

When you were playing hard in that place, would you get out of your body a bit?
I’ve never played the drums hard. You shouldn’t expel great effort. I mean there was a period when Cream got very loud that I had to play loud just to hear what I was saying.

Were you drumming any differently when you were out there, playing Afrobeat with Tony and the rest of Africa 70?
No. I’ve never played any differently, wherever I play. I play as I feel, or do what I hear.

Obviously politics was very important to Fela at the time. Did you pay much attention to that?
Yeah, I was a member of the Kalakuta party. I was one of the Select Committee. The only white man there [chuckles]. There were two of us that were moderates. When we left, the radical sector took over more, and they got a little bit over the top, I thought. Because Nigeria’s a very tough place, and I was involved in the thing when he sued the police and won the case, it was quite amusing. But then he decided to attack the army. And the army were ruling the country. [Head of State General] Obasanjo was responsible for all the bad things that happened to Fela, including the death of his Mum. He went a little bit over the top. Like there was a political rally over there where over 250,000 people attended at this big football stadium they built for the All-Africa Games, everybody smoking dope. The government were severely worried about Fela, because he was so popular. If he’d have played his cards right, he could well have become the President of Nigeria. We called him the Black President. Unfortunately, he just did some things which really he shouldn’t have done. I was in a very strange position, because I was playing polo, and mixing with all the heads of government [chuckles], so I got both sides of the story, as it were. It’s a tough place, and people with power there are ruthless and very dangerous.

Did you ever feel in any danger there?
Ha-ha, God. Yeah, lots of times, ha-ha-ha. Good thing is, the Nigerian police are not very good shots. And the army. I’ve been shot at by both forces at different times. My driving ability got me out of there…

Why did you end up leaving?
Well that was because EMI destroyed my studio in Lagos, because they considered me a threat to their position in the music business. They told me to my face they were going to screw me, and promptly did so. And so in the end I lost all my money. I lost over £340,000 in 1975. Which is a lot in today’s money. It was all my Cream money. And then I just happened to meet the Gurwitz brothers, and their manager, Bill Fehilly, who was a really cool guy. And they sort of bribed me to leave Nigeria. Well I didn’t have much left there. And I did that thing [the Baker Gurwitz Army].

It was brave to have just followed the music, and vanished from the Western music scene for six years.
I’ve done that several times. After that, I went to Italy, and then to America. And then to South Africa. I was out of this country for 31 years.

Ginger Baker dies aged 80

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Ginger Baker has died aged 80 after a lengthy hospital stay.

News of his death was broken this morning (October 6) by his family.

Peter Edward Baker was born in Lewisham, south London, on August 19, 1939. He started out playing jazz before joining Alexis Korner’s Blue Incorporated in 1962 – where he met bassist Jack Bruce.

The two men performed together in the Graham Bond Organisation and again in Cream, in partnership with Eric Clapton.

Cream released four albums – including the first ever platinum-selling album, Wheels Of Fire – before splitting in 1968. Baker and Clapton went on to play in the short-lived Blind Faith with Steve Winwood and Ric Grech.

Winwood and Grech joined Baker in his jazz-rock band, Ginger Baker’s Air Force. Baker moved to Nigeria in 1971, establishing the Batakota recording studio in Lagos, and began a long working relationship with Fela Kuti. Tony Palmer’s documentary, Ginger Baker In Africa, captured something of the drummer’s early exploits in the country.

He also formed Baker Gurvitz Army with brothers Paul and Adrian Gurvitz, going on to record three albums. They were the first of several short-lived supergroups Baker formed; others included a jazz trio with Charlie Haden and Bill Frisel and BBM with Jack Bruce and Gary Moore.

Other collaborations included Hawkwind, Public Image Ltd, Masters Of Reality and his early hero, Max Roach.

A Cream reunion, in 2005, ended in animosity after only seven shows. His 2009 memoir, Hellraiser: The Autobiography Of The World’s Greatest Drummer, helped Baker enjoy a personal renaissance of sorts, as did Jay Bulger’s 2012 documentary Beware Of Mr Baker, which well-represented Baker’s notoriously volatile and cantankerous qualities.

In 2013, Baker announced that he suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease caused by smoking, and chronic back pain as a result of degenerative osteoarthritis.

Three years later, Baker underwent open-heart surgery.

The November 2019 issue of Uncut is on sale now, with Jimmy Page on the cover. Our free CD features 17 exclusive cover versions of Wilco songs recorded for us by Low, Courtney Barnett, Cate Le Bon, Kurt Vile and many more. Elsewhere in the issue, there’s Kim Gordon, The Clash live and unseen, Angel Olsen, Tinariwen, Bruce Hornsby, Super Furry Animals, Bob Nastanovich on David Berman and Roger McGuinn.

Jenny Hval – The Practice Of Love

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On her six albums to date, Norway’s Jenny Hval has ranted and ruminated across a broad spectrum of gender politics, religion, patriarchy, menstruation, sexualised female bodies, “capitalist clit” and “soft dick rock”. Her sonic explorations have been similarly promiscuous, expanding her indie electro-folk palette with wild swerves into avant-metal, noise-punk, free jazz and more. Like a post-laptop Patti Smith, her stream-of-consciousness lyrics are often raw and rude and bristling with carnal energy. And her wild interdisciplinary live shows are something else again, occupying a performance-art space somewhere between Peaches and Cindy Sherman.

But Hval dials down the art-punk attitude on her latest album, stepping back from visceral lust and disgust to map out a more contemplative midlife overview of intimacy, empathy, social connection and female creativity. Blending her vocals with spoken-word contributions from various friends and fellow artists – Vivian Wang, Félicia Atkinson and Laura Jean Englert – she creates a communal chorus of narrators, a sly shift away from the egocentric focus that drives most singer-songwriter music.

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Most strikingly, The Practice Of Love relocates Hval’s febrile stylistic wanderlust firmly within a more soothing envelope of rippling soft synths and pulsing trance-pop rhythms. This mellifluous makeover is partly a self-conscious retro-rave homage to the Eurodance sound that Hval only experienced tangentially in her youth, but also partly a fruitful repurposing of that underrated, oft-derided genre’s warm-blooded emotional charms. The distant echoes of Robyn and the Pet Shop Boys here are as delicious as they are deliberate.

A collaboration with Wang, opening number “Lions” sets the widescreen tone with its soaring overview of a majestically lovely natural landscape. Over surging electro throbs and squelchy percussive chatter, a coolly detached Laurie Anderson-style narrator calmly catalogues the divine beauty of the trees and rivers. “Where is God?” she muses. “This place doesn’t know, this place doesn’t care…” Is celestial Humanist gospel trance techno a genre yet? If not, Hval just invented it anyway.

Set to a gauzy, gorgeous, gliding machine pulse that recalls The Orb or The Beloved in their early ’90s prime, “High Alice” muses wryly on the reputations of female artists across history. “She reaches back through centuries of old,” Hval coos over warm, brassy instrumental textures. The musical hinterland here is so Balearic, you can practically hear waves crashing softly on the beach as it fades.

The shimmering gallop of “Six Red Cannas” and the breezy tumbles of “Ashes To Ashes” sound like lost classics from St Etienne’s imperial phase, escapist dance-pop that cannot quite conceal its brainy adult anxieties. And “Accident” must surely be the most sublime song ever written about the bittersweet trade-off between childlessness and motherhood, its conversational musings washed along by swooshing synth arpeggios and rolling beats, all building towards a radiant climax of crystalline folky harmonies.

Although this synth-driven, trance-adjacent formula dominates The Practice Of Love, not every track is shoehorned into its sleek, syncopated parameters. Hval’s arty, punky, spiky side is smoothed and submerged a little, but never suppressed. Even at its most unapologetically lovely, this is dance-pop with a sharp eye and a keen mind.

“Thumbsucker”, which features Atkinson and Englert, has more of a jazzy, lullaby feel, its folksy dream narrative delivered in a breathy whisper. And the title track, with Englert and Wang on board, folds warm electronic drones around a multi-voice patchwork of meditations on love and its problematic links with religious puritanism, social heirarchy and more. As the vocal builds from a single poetic monologue to a polyphonic swirl of competing voices, the dissonant effect is oddly harmonious, like a rogue flock of podcasts flapping around each other in mid-air.

Just eight tracks long, The Practice Of Love risks being dismissed as a minor entry in Hval’s canon, especially by scholarly critics who equate dissonance and dissent with high artistic seriousness. But for anyone who enjoys a dash of shimmering disco hedonism with their feminist theory, or who simply harbours a lingering respect for the sun-drenched joy of ’90s trance techno, this album offers a richly rewarding dialogue with mainstream pop. Crucially, Hval understands well the strange, seductive, subversive potency of “cheap” music.

The November 2019 issue of Uncut is on sale now, with Jimmy Page on the cover. Our free CD features 17 exclusive cover versions of Wilco songs recorded for us by Low, Courtney Barnett, Cate Le Bon, Kurt Vile and many more. Elsewhere in the issue, there’s Kim Gordon, The Clash live and unseen, Angel Olsen, Tinariwen, Bruce Hornsby, Super Furry Animals, Bob Nastanovich on David Berman and Roger McGuinn.

Tinariwen – Amadjar

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The stories that are told about Tinariwen elevate the group virtually to the status of myth. Founded in the late ’70s by Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, the son of a Tuareg rebel executed by the Malian government, the group spent their early existence as refugees before returning from exile in the early ’90s to engage in armed struggle against their oppressors. Following the ceasefire they returned to music, and today they live a nomadic lifestyle, playing their music – a soulful and ruminative campfire guitar style widely known as “desert blues” – under the stars. Much contemporary music strikes a rebellious pose, but few deserve the epithet quite as much as Tinariwen.

This kind of myth-making, though, can somewhat obscure the fact that Tinariwen are a living, breathing band. They play festivals across the world, their records chart in multiple European countries, and their music has been hailed as an inspiration by everyone from Robert Plant and Brian Eno to a wave of young Tuareg guitar groups like Tamikrest and Imharhan, whose music builds on Tinariwen’s distinctive template.

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This isn’t to suggest that in any way Tinariwen have become the establishment. In 2012, the group’s guitarist Abdallah Ag Lamida was abducted by radical Islamists, a symbol of how the very existence of their music continues to challenge a conservative ideology. Still, it demonstrates something of the position Tinariwen hold. Here is a group that is both pioneering, yet somehow rooted in deep tradition; concerned with matters hyper-local, even as their music resonates around the globe.

All of this is reflected in the group’s ninth album, Amadjar. While the group’s two preceding records, 2014’s Emmaar and 2017’s Elwan, were recorded in Joshua National Park in California, Amadjar finds the group back on African soil. It was written and recorded in the West African country of Mauritania, which borders the group’s homeland of Mali. Tinariwen travelled by day and wrote songs around the campfire at night, trailed by a French production team who captured the group’s music live, operating a mobile studio out of a camper van. There is zero sense on Amadjar that this is a band in any way playing to an international audience; on the contrary, this music feels hermetic in its focus, guitars picking out bluesy motifs, voices rising together in mournful chorus, all tethered by a simple drum rhythm that approximates the lollop of a camel making its way across the dunes.

Part of this, of course, is down to Tinariwen’s skill at making their music sound free-flowing and natural, even 
as they experiment with their formula. Past albums have featured vocal turns from American alt.rock stalwarts like Mark Lanegan and TV On The Radio’s 
Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe. 
There’s nothing quite so bold here, although several tracks feature Noura Mint Seymali, a Mauritian griot who brings a welcome female presence; sometimes she’s integrated into the broader chorus, other times left to 
ululate freely, as on “Amalouma”, 
a song that offers thanks to the Prophet, even as it threatens Tinariwen’s enemies with oblivion.

Throughout, the sense of live performance is palpable – you even, for instance, hear the quiet conversation of players discussing the take at the end of “Iklam Dglour”. Still, some subtle overdubbing brings a few guest musicians into the fold. The Bad Seeds’ Warren 
Ellis is present on five of this record’s 
13 tracks, echoing the group’s melodies with ramshackle, sawing fiddle. 
Cass McCombs, Rodolphe Burger 
and Sunn O)))’s Stephen O’Malley all contribute guitar parts. And Micah Nelson adds mandolin and charango to “Taqkal Tarha”, a playful, lopsided canter with an absurd lyric to match: “Money has become a commodity/The worm has become a bird/And the monkey has a mirror/With which he gazes at himself every evening.”

This is a running theme throughout Amadjar: the sense of a world that has somehow been thrown out of balance. “Why are men so divided?” asks “Takount”, while “Kel Tinawen” and “Itous Ohar” are heavy of spirit, dwelling heavily on disloyalty and treachery. Perhaps the album’s key song is “Zawal”, a track written by Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni that divides into two rough halves. The first half is a terrifying vignette that sees prayer time interrupted by a terrible dark shape that blots out the sky, sending turbaned youth fleeing in its wake; in fact, it’s a lyrical dramatisation of the first solar eclipse, which flows seamlessly into a rumination on the end times. “Some affirm that God has already put an end to this world,” sings Ag Alhousseyni. But the song closes with him sitting stoically on his mount, venturing on into the desert, bound for who knows where.

Amadjar translates as “the unknown visitor” in Tamashek. The phrase communicates the feeling of being a stranger in a strange land and, as Tinariwen use it, it should probably be understood both literally and as metaphor. Just as American blues music should be understood through the prism of slavery and faint reminiscence of the African motherland, the desert blues of Amadjar draws its soul from a similar sense of rupture; of a homeland rendered unreachable by human conflict, an earthly paradise placed just out of reach.

The November 2019 issue of Uncut is on sale now, with Jimmy Page on the cover. Our free CD features 17 exclusive cover versions of Wilco songs recorded for us by Low, Courtney Barnett, Cate Le Bon, Kurt Vile and many more. Elsewhere in the issue, there’s Kim Gordon, The Clash live and unseen, Angel Olsen, Tinariwen, Bruce Hornsby, Super Furry Animals, Bob Nastanovich on David Berman and Roger McGuinn.

Angel Olsen: “I wanted to come out of the gates swinging”

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The latest issue of Uncut, in UK shops now or available to buy online by clicking here, features a candid interview with North Carolina-based singer-songwriter Angel Olsen about the bold pop reinvention of her new album, All Mirrors.

In it, Olsen describes the sense of liberation she felt when writing songs such as “Spring”. “It started off as an adult lullaby, and then it turned into this weird druggy playground,” she explains to Uncut’s Erin Osmon.

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When searching for a way to open the song, for the first time ever, Olsen sat at the piano and quickly wrote a sunny little riff. “I was like, ‘Whoa, how did that happen?’ I’ve never written anything on the spot in the studio before,” she says. That simple four-count bar has become one of her favourite moments on the album. “It’s an example of how free I felt with these people [co-writer/arranger Ben Babbitt and producer John Congleton] and how open it was to be with them.”

Congleton’s decisive voice, and quick way of working, pushed Olsen beyond the realm of what she thought was possible. “The way that he made them [the synths and strings] merge, I never would have thought to put them together,” she says. “To mix something like that, like Serge Gainsbourg mixed with Brian Eno, it’s like, wow.”

Babbitt adds that Congleton’s mix played a significant role in the tone and style of the album: “He really got his hands dirty in terms of shaping the flow and really exaggerating the differences between songs, or different sections or parts of songs.”

Perhaps bracing herself for the commentary that inevitably accompanies each evolution in her sound, Olsen’s quick to clarify that even if she’s trusted an arrangement or mix to a collaborator, it’s never the case that she was talked into something she didn’t believe in. Everything she presents goes through a rigorous artistic vetting. 
“I try to control everything as much as possible,” she says. “And so someone who says that my sound changed, and it wasn’t me? It’s insulting that someone would think I write all these things, then allow someone to just do them for me. Like really? I don’t think so.”

In the end, Olsen loved the drama and innovation of the produced album so much she shelved her original idea for releasing All Mirrors as a double LP with a stripped-down first half: “I wanted to come out of the gates swinging.”

You can read much more from Angel Olsen in the current issue of Uncut, in shops now with Jimmy Page on the cover – and a free CD of Wilco covers!

The November 2019 issue of Uncut is on sale now, with Jimmy Page on the cover. Our free CD features 17 exclusive cover versions of Wilco songs recorded for us by Low, Courtney Barnett, Cate Le Bon, Kurt Vile and many more. Elsewhere in the issue, there’s Kim Gordon, The Clash live and unseen, Angel Olsen, Tinariwen, Bruce Hornsby, Super Furry Animals, Bob Nastanovich on David Berman and Roger McGuinn.

Tom Petty: “He was committed to being great”

This feature originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of Uncut (Take 258).

MIKE CAMPBELL: “In the hospital, lying in the bed, I talked to him a little bit. He couldn’t communicate but maybe he heard me, I don’t know. It’s hard to put into words, but I had an opportunity on the plane a couple of times towards the end of the last tour to connect, to say all the things I really wanted to say to him. We were able to touch base, to identify our bond and our friendship in a very powerful way. I feel fortunate to have had those moments with him, not knowing what was going to unfold.

“There was something special about the last show we did, a week before he passed, at the Hollywood Bowl. It was our homecoming. It had been a long tour, everything had been sold out, we were at the top of our game. There was one particular moment that stays with me. Near the end I looked over at Tom and his face was beaming; just so much happiness. I remember thinking, ‘This guy loves what he’s doing, and he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than where he is right now, playing with the band in front of these people.’ His love of the craft and of the band and the music was contagious, and I felt it in that moment very strongly.

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“I’m not a retrospective person, but since he passed away I’ve been forced to look back. I was very hands-on with the American Treasure boxset. It was bittersweet. As kids, we shared a dream together. I have a vivid memory of the first time we met. I was living in Gainesville, where Tom had a band called Mudcrutch. They were kind of a country-rock band, and Tom was the bass player. I had a little blues jam band and our drummer, Randall Marsh, auditioned for Mudcrutch. When they came out to this farm on the edge of town to audition Randall, it turned out their guitar player had just left, so Randall brought me out, too. They took one look at me and wanted to leave. I had short hair and cut-off jeans and I weighed 110lb. I had this cheap Japanese guitar which was all I could afford. I could see this look in Tom’s eye: ‘This ain’t gonna work!’ Then I ripped into a Chuck Berry song and all their faces changed. It was like, ‘OK, you’re in the band!’ That’s how it went. We’ve been playing together ever since.

“When we moved to Los Angeles, we were fish out of water. We were overwhelmed by the culture shock at the beginning, but we stuck it out, even when Mudcrutch fell apart in the studio. Some other guys from Gainesville, Stan Lynch and Ron Blair, happened to be out there. They became the rhythm section, and we became the Heartbreakers. Ron played bass and Tom became the singer. He switched over to guitar because he was writing songs on guitar. His songwriting improved tremendously around that time. He came up with ‘American Girl’, ‘Fooled Again’, ‘Strangers In The Night’, all this great stuff.

“When we cut ‘American Girl’, we were still struggling, making 100 bucks a week, but I just knew that song had something about it. It all came together. It had that chiming, droning sound, Byrdsy chords, a nice tough beat, and those powerful words. It was adrenalin from the first note. I still get a fucking thrill every time I hear it, and the words hold up: ‘If she had to die tryin’, she had one little promise she was gonna keep…’ Tom’s genius was he could write so much in just a few words. He was brilliant at that, it came naturally to him. He didn’t have to write a book to get his point across, he could put together three or four words in the right juxtaposition that could mean anything to anybody.

“We started to write a little bit together. He was so prolific, I was lucky to get one in now and then. In the early days it was simple. I never wrote words. I was kind of intimidated, because his lyrics were so impressive to me. I would write a chord sequence and a rhythm, and if I was lucky he would hear something and be inspired by it. He’d come back the next day and have written this great song to my music. That was how we wrote ‘Refugee’, ‘Here Comes My Girl’, ‘Woman In Love’, ‘Rocking Around With You’, ‘Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around’. All those early songs. It’s thrilling to have that relationship with somebody. It’s a deep connection, to sit and write a song with someone, to share your music and have them add to it and make it better. The next thing you know you’re on stage together playing it, and 20,000 people are singing the words back at you. It’s a powerful thing. It’s probably what I miss the most.

“The high point early on was when Damn The Torpedoes hit through the mainstream. We were a great live band, but in the studio sometimes we would get insecure, and we had to do the tracks over and 
over again until we got one take that was good. Our producer Jimmy Iovine suffered through that with us. When Jimmy heard ‘Refugee’ and ‘Here Comes My Girl’ he said, ‘That’s all I need to hear. I don’t care what the rest of the record is. If we get those songs right, we’ll be OK.’ ‘Refugee’ is so timeless. Those lyrics are as real today as when he wrote them.

“Things had changed by then. When we started in Florida it was all for one and one for all. We didn’t make much money, so we split everything equally. When we got out west, it became obvious to everyone that Tom was the leader of the band, and he was also making a lot of management decisions. He was on the phone, making deals, writing the songs, singing 
the songs, directing the band. So we came to an understanding that we should split the pie differently, because this guy is doing 10 times as much work as we are. At first there was a bit of grumbling, but then we thought, ‘No, this is working.’ We let it go and we never brought it up again. Tom was very graceful about it. We all loved the band so much, we never let our personal egos get in the way of ruining that. That’s why we stayed together so long. It wasn’t about the money; it was about the music. Also, we loved each other.

“Tom was a great leader in every sense of the word. He was definitely in control; we were following his lead every step of the way. Fortunately, he was almost always right! Every band needs somebody like that, with that drive, yet it was also a democracy in lots of ways. He would bring in a new song and 
be very free: ‘Just play what you feel.’ What we argued about most was when he felt that the feel wasn’t right. He’d say, ‘It’s not grooving the way 
I want it to groove. OK, everybody stop playing, and let’s just listen to me and my guitar. Listen again, real close, because there’s a rhythm that we’re missing. There’s a sway that I really want.’

“Sometimes there would be tension, but that kind of tension can be very creative. We didn’t shout much. We never got into fistfights or said, ‘Fuck you!’ It was all very constructive criticism. Tom would fight to the death to get it right, but he was a joy to work with. His instincts were so strong, we knew if we did our best to follow his lead it was going to be good. We believed in him, and he believed in us, too. He believed we could get him there.

“Tom would not be pushed around. He was a very powerful personality. With Hard Promises, the record company wanted to raise the ticket price on albums, and our record was going to be the first one out with the new high price. Tom simply said no. ‘I’m not going to be the one jacking the people around for more money. That’s not what we’re about.’ So we refused to record. We went out on what we called the Bankruptcy Tour, and we didn’t record until we sorted out the business. They eventually put the record out at the price we wanted. That was Tom. The reason he maintained his integrity all those years is that he stood up for what he thought was right. Always.

The Heartbreakers tour in 1986 with Bob Dylan came along at the point after Southern Accents where we were kind of bored with each other. It revitalised us, made us interested again. Bob said that talking to the band was like talking to one guy. The whole band was a single persona. As a group, we were of one mind. He liked that. It was great for Tom, because we would do a short Heartbreakers set, and then Tom would assume the role of guitar player and harmony singer in the band with Bob. He was able to step back and be in the band without having to front it. I think that was really good for him. It gave him a new perspective and it gave us new blood. We came off that tour and made Let Me Up (I’ve Had Enough), which is a very raw, live record.

“When it came to Tom making Full Moon Fever as a solo album, it was very organic. He didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘I want to be a solo artist.’ Tom bumped into Jeff Lynne, and they wrote ‘Free Fallin’’. Tom said, ‘Let’s go over to Mike’s house, he has a studio.’ Jeff is a fucking genius, and by the end of the afternoon we had a finished record. Tom and I were looking at each other, like, ‘Wow, that was fun! Let’s do another one.’ Four days went by and we had four finished tracks. We explained to the Heartbreakers that this had become a little side project, but we weren’t breaking up the band. I’m sure the guys felt a little left out, but they got over it. That’s how it happened. No big deal.

“We finished Full Moon Fever in three weeks, and when we turned it in, the record company refused it. They didn’t hear any hits. What the fuck? We thought this was pretty good! Tom said, ‘OK, if they want a hit, let’s go and do a Byrds song.’ So he covered ‘Feel A Whole Lot Better’. That was Tom being kind of passive-aggressive. In the interim, the whole A&R department revolved, and 
a new group of people came in. We played them the same record and they jumped up and down and said, ‘There’s four hits on here!’ Go figure.

Roy Orbison and George Harrison were on that record. Jeff produced. We all knew Bob. So, it evolved into the Traveling Wilburys. It was very comfortable for Tom; I don’t believe he ever felt intimidated. The cool thing about the other Wilburys, and Johnny Cash, and Del Shannon, and all these other amazing people he was fortunate enough to work with, is that it was just about making music. You only think, ‘Man, there’s a Beatle in my house,’ for a little while. That veneer wears off pretty quick. Then it’s just another guy that you’re working with. Musicians have a certain unspoken affinity to one another… They understood each other, and they were having fun. It was a beautiful project, and it was healthy for Tom to be part of a group and not feel the pressure that all the songs and vocals were on him. I think that pressure sometimes got to him. If it failed, it was all on him, ultimately. With the Wilburys, he didn’t have that.

“Of course, after all that he came back to the Heartbreakers with fire! ‘I’m tired of being part of a committee, I want to be in charge again.’ When I hear the band on the first couple of records, 
there is youthful exuberance and just total excitement. Later on, we had the confidence to explore and add nuance. It got a little more adult, a bit more finessed, but basically we kept doing the same thing. He felt the band made him more who he wanted to be than being a solo artist could. That was his choice. He chose the band all the way down the line. It was a brotherhood.

“He was committed to being great. We’d work on stuff sometimes that sounded pretty good, and he’d say, ‘Let’s throw that one out, I can do better.’ He saw through bullshit instantly; he knew what was good and what wasn’t. He knew what was phoney and he knew what was real. He had that in spades. I’d look at him sometimes and think, ‘This guy is on his game. He knows who he is, and he knows how to get it across.’ He was a great songwriter, good rhythm-guitar player, great bass player. Great record maker. He was all those things. Perhaps his defining characteristic as a player was his confidence. Plus, he was really fucking smart.

“As time went on he would find less and less new music to get inspired by. We would check out new things. We liked Nirvana, we thought that was a great thing for the music business, but a lot of the time Tom went back to the stuff that he really loved, from the ’50s and ’60s.

“I was surprised in 2007 when he said, ‘Let’s do a Mudcrutch record.’ Just before that he had been complaining that he never had any free time! Reuniting Mudcrutch obviously wasn’t about the money. He got Randall and Tom Leadon, brought them in, and one thing led to another. I thought that was very kind and generous of him, to bring them into the spotlight and give them something bigger to do with their music than what they had been doing.

“Tom was a great friend. If any one of us needed him, he was there. We didn’t socialise a lot off the tour, especially as we got older, because we’d need a break and we had other interests. A month or two might go by and I wouldn’t even speak to him, then he’d get on the phone and we’d talk for two hours. Even though he was a leader, in a lot of ways, I was a big brother for him. Sometimes I could tell that he’d be a little lost on something; I’d sit down and talk to him and give him perspective. He always seemed to appreciate that. When he was having trouble with his marriage, or his kids, we’d talk about it. We were just connected. We loved each other, and I considered him my best friend.

“The last Heartbreakers tour was phenomenal. We played as well as we’d ever played. We were never going through the motions. Tom loved the band. He was always really proud of the group, and on a good night he believed we were one of the best bands in the world.

“I can’t even conceive of playing those songs without Tom. It would just be too painful right now. He was a powerful force. You just don’t replace him. At his memorial I gave a little speech. The main thing I said is that my intention from this point forward is to honour his integrity and his legacy. I won’t do anything that would compromise that.

“I’m still grieving. I’ll probably be grieving for a long time, but I feel blessed that we had our time, and we wrote a lot of great songs which I think are going to hold up long after I’m gone. Everything is in the songs. The guy who wrote those songs, that’s who Tom is, that’s what he was like. He had a deep love of humanity. He had a deep belief in hope and the power of rock’n’roll, and he was compassionate towards people in pain. And sometimes he was a stinker! I don’t want to paint a rosy-red picture of a perfect person. We all have our flaws, but deep down he had a good heart. I’m very grateful and proud of what we did together. I miss my friend, but we have to go on.”

As told to Graeme Thomson

The November 2019 issue of Uncut is on sale now, with Jimmy Page on the cover. Our free CD features 17 exclusive cover versions of Wilco songs recorded for us by Low, Courtney Barnett, Cate Le Bon, Kurt Vile and many more. Elsewhere in the issue, there’s Kim Gordon, The Clash live and unseen, Angel Olsen, Tinariwen, Bruce Hornsby, Super Furry Animals, Bob Nastanovich on David Berman and Roger McGuinn.

Watch a trailer for Johnny Cash documentary, The Gift

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A new feature-length documentary about the life and work of Johnny Cash will air on Youtube on November 11.

The Gift: The Journey Of Johnny Cash has been directed by Thom Zimny, who collaborated with Bruce Springsteen on Springsteen On Broadway and his new Western Stars film. Watch a trailer below:

Order the latest issue of Uncut online and have it sent to your home!

Springsteen contributes to the film, alongside Rosanne Cash, Robert Duvall, Emmylou Harris and Dwight Yoakam. The original score comes from Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready.

The November 2019 issue of Uncut is on sale now, with Jimmy Page on the cover. Our free CD features 17 exclusive cover versions of Wilco songs recorded for us by Low, Courtney Barnett, Cate Le Bon, Kurt Vile and many more. Elsewhere in the issue, there’s Kim Gordon, The Clash live and unseen, Angel Olsen, Tinariwen, Bruce Hornsby, Super Furry Animals, Bob Nastanovich on David Berman and Roger McGuinn.

Happy Mondays to release The Early EPs box set

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Happy Mondays have announced the release of a 4×12″ coloured vinyl box set called The Early EPs on October 25.

It contains reproductions of the band’s first four EPs: Forty Five (1985), Freaky Dancin/The Egg (1986), Tart Tart (1987) and 24 Hour Party People (1987). Watch a new animated video by Pete Fowler for “The Egg” below:

Order the latest issue of Uncut online and have it sent to your home!

Pre-order The Early EPs here and check out the Happy Mondays’ tour schedule for the rest of 2019 below:

OCT 24 Aberdeen, Music Hall
OCT 25 Dunfermline, Alhambra Theatre
OCT 26 Glasgow, O2 Academy
OCT 31 London, Roundhouse
NOV 1 Southend On Sea, Cliffs Pavilion
NOV 2 Cambridge, Corn Exchange
NOV 7 Brighton, Brighton Dome
NOV 8 Folkestone, Leas Cliff Hall
NOV 9 Portsmouth, Pyramids Centre
NOV 15 Newcastle Upon Tyne, O2 Academy
NOV 16 Scunthorpe, Baths Hall
NOV 21 Manchester, Manchester Academy
NOV 22 Sheffield, O2 Academy
NOV 23 Bristol, O2 Academy
NOV 28 Oxford, O2 Academy
NOV 29 Cardiff, Great Uni Hall
NOV 30 Nottingham, Rock City
DEC 3 Cork, Cyprus Avenue
DEC 4 Belfast, Limelight
DEC 5 Dublin, Vicar Street
DEC 6 Liverpool, Liverpool University Guild Of Students
DEC 7 Leeds, O2 Academy
DEC 12 Norwich, Waterfront
DEC 13 Northampton, Roadmender
DEC 14 Birmingham, O2 Institute
DEC 18 Frome, Cheese & Grain
DEC 19 Bournemouth, O2 Academy
DEC 20 Guildford, G Live

Vinyl reissues of the first four Happy Mondays albums – Squirrel And G-man Twenty Four Hour Party People Plastic Face Carnt Smile (White Out), Bummed, Pills ’N’ Thrills And Bellyaches and Yes Please! – will follow later this year.

The November 2019 issue of Uncut is on sale now, with Jimmy Page on the cover. Our free CD features 17 exclusive cover versions of Wilco songs recorded for us by Low, Courtney Barnett, Cate Le Bon, Kurt Vile and many more. Elsewhere in the issue, there’s Kim Gordon, The Clash live and unseen, Angel Olsen, Tinariwen, Bruce Hornsby, Super Furry Animals, Bob Nastanovich on David Berman and Roger McGuinn.