If you were a fan, you probably watched with horror, incredulity and fretful concern at the things Lou Reed put himself through in the ’70s, especially after the critical and commercial rejection of Berlin hardened an already cynical disposition into an unsparing bitterness and what seemed like a headlong pursuit of self-obliteration. Even more than Keith Richards at the time, Lou seemed the rock star most likely to become a casualty of his addictions.
For many, the abiding image of Lou in those years is probably as the cadaverous Rock’N’Roll Animal of the live album of that name, recorded in 1973, that he later disowned, its bombastic live versions of several much-loved Velvet Underground classics never popular with his original audience. These were the days when he would startle crowds by tying-off and pretending to shoot up during performances of “Heroin”, an Iron Cross shaved on the side of his head, his skin turning green, hypodermics handed out to fans afterwards, a new kind of rock’n’roll souvenir, which made a change from drumsticks and plectrums but was generally considered to be in pretty poor taste.
That Lou survived the ravages he inflicted upon himself and returned as the ’80s closed with some of his strongest work – New York, Magic And Loss, Songs For Drella – seemed close to the miraculous and made you think he must be indestructible, would be around now forever, a ridiculous thought, but you live in hope, or something like it.
He had looked frail at his last London show, at the Royal Festival Hall, in August 2012, but polite enquiries about his health were answered with the reassurance that age not illness was the cause. We know now, though, that he was already desperately sick and had recorded his last album, the controversial Metallica collaboration, Lulu, with considerable effort and in no little pain. His death on October 27 blew a big hole in my world for reasons explained in our tribute to him which starts on page 18 of the magazine.
In the world Lou’s now left, Uncut celebrates its 200th issue this month, with an end-of-year bonanza. In traditional fashion, we present our annual review of the past 12 months, which as ever includes our Albums Of The Year as well as the best reissues, films, DVDs and books, as voted for by nigh on 50 Uncut contributors. This year’s lists are contained in a special, free 52-page book, home also to your guide to our Best Of 2013 free CD, featuring tracks, if you’re not already listening to it, by My Bloody Valentine, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, John Grant, Roy Harper, Richard Thompson and more.
For the issue itself, David Cavanagh penetrated Morrissey’s inner circle for a fascinating account of Moz’s turbulent 2013, a year blighted by illness and cancelled dates, but eventually illuminated by the publication of Autobiography, which quickly became a best-seller. Despite the set-backs of the last 12 months, it would appear we can expect to hear a lot more from a rejuvenated Morrissey in the New Year, starting with the imminent release as I write of a live version of Lou’s “Satellite Of Love”. Elsewhere, MBV’s Kevin Shield answers your questions in An Audience With… special, John Grant talks us through his gilded back catalogue. John Robinson, meanwhile, brings his usual expert touch to a look at how The Beatles in their Beatlemania heyday spent their Christmases – in pantomime, would you believe? Neil Spencer spends some time with Nick Lowe, and Can recall the making of “Spoon”, their 1971 hit (in Germany, anyway), while Michael Bonner meets the Coen Brothers to discuss their new film, Inside Llewyn Davis, and one of its stars, John Goodman.
As ever, let me know at the usual address what you make of our Top 75 and attendant lists and what your own favourite albums and films of 2013 were. When it’s finally upon us, we hope you all have a great seasonal holiday. We’ll be back in the New Year with our first issue of 2014, on sale from Thursday, January 3.
JAN ISSUE ON SALE FROM THURSDAY NOVEMBER 28