August 2014

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This is my last column as editor of Uncut. By the time you read this, in fact, I’ll be gone.

John Mulvey, who for the last several years has been such a stalwart deputy, is the new editor of Uncut, the handover completed just after our last issue went to press. After 17 years at the helm of Uncut, and 23 years before that at Melody Maker – the only vaguely proper jobs I’ve ever had – it seems like a good moment to stand down.

However much it might seem as recently as yesterday that I turned up for my first day of work at Melody Maker’s Fleet Street offices, it was in fact June 1974, fully 40 years ago. I had been to the office once before, when I had been interviewed by a balding man in a purple suit and bright yellow shirt whose aftershave hung in the air like some toxic emission, prolonged exposure to which might leave you in many ways blistered and enfeebled. This was MM’s legendary editor, Ray Coleman. MM had just run an ad I’d seen in Time Out that said they were looking for a new writer, someone under 21 and highly opinionated, both of which I then was. I’d been reading MM since I was 13, and although music was a passion it had never occurred to me I might end up writing about it for a living or anything else, although I had plenty of opinions about the music I loved and even more about the music I didn’t. Crucially, the ad for the MM vacancy also added that no previous journalistic experience was necessary. This was just as well, since I didn’t have any.

The letter of application I’d written included a lot of snotty criticism of what had seemed recently to me like MM’s growing complacency, a tendency to back the wrong bands and an attachment to ghastly progressive rock bands I’d come to abhor long before punk’s subsequent mewling. I ended my application with a preposterous flourish, an attempt to catch someone’s attention: “Melody Maker needs a bullet up the arse. I’m the gun. Pull the trigger.” Ray was kind enough to overlook my raw presumption and to my stunned amazement subsequently offered me a position as junior reporter/feature writer.

In truth, what Ray gave me wasn’t so much a job as a life, which very shortly I was living to the raucous full. It might have helped if Ray had alerted my new colleagues to my journalistic ineptitude. They were all trained professionals – veterans of coroner’s courts, garden fêtes and the pop columns of provincial papers. In the popular drift of office opinion, I’d be lucky to last six months. Ten years later, I was editor, most of my original colleagues long gone and a new generation of writers making their own, often rowdy reputations. Things went well enough until Britpop loomed boorishly into view, dragging its knuckles on the pavement. I fled to Nashville at Britpop’s height to spend a week with Kurt Wagner and his 15-piece country soul collective Lambchop, the idea coming to me over those few days for a new magazine that would in some part champion such music and celebrate also the music that originally inspired me.

Uncut was duly launched in May 1997. There have been many changes in look and content over the 206 issues of Uncut that have followed, but I hope we have not deviated from our original intention, which wasn’t much more complicated than writing well enough about the things we liked to make our readers want to listen to, watch and read, sharing our discoveries and rediscoveries alike. I’m sure this will continue to be the case under John’s astute editorship.

Thanks are briefly due to all the great people I’ve worked with over the years on Uncut and to all the readers who’ve enjoyed the magazine we’ve brought you. It’s been a pleasure to have been in touch personally with so many of you who have shared your memories and opinions. Our conversation is not yet over, though. I seem to have got out of the habit of taking holidays in about 1975 because there was always so much going on – I recall once cancelling a holiday at the last minute to spend a day with Alice Cooper on the set of The Muppets, my girlfriend going off on her own on a vacation I’m not even sure she came back from – so I’ll be taking a break, of sorts. But this isn’t a complete divorce from Uncut. Let’s call it, I don’t know, a conscious uncoupling, something like that. In other words, I don’t plan to entirely disappear quite yet.

In the meantime, all the best and thanks again for everything.


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