Former editor and founder of Uncut Magazine Allan Jones commenced his journalistic career in 1974 at the tender age of 22, when he blagged his way into employment at the then quite conservative music weekly Melody Maker. His youthful exuberance and fearlessness, together with an in-depth knowledge of music and a flair to introduce a fresh style of writing, resulted in him being appointed editor of Melody Maker ten years later. In 1996, disillusioned with the direction that Melody Maker was going, he introduced Uncut magazine to the market. The publication was to become the gospel for what is now known as Americana music, capturing a market of punters eager to be introduced to new music, at a time when Brit Pop was dominant. His novel Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down - Rock and Roll War Stories, published in 2017, features interviews and encounters with a host of household names in the music industry from 1974 to 1994, seldom without incident and more often with a catastrophic conclusion.
For the second occasion in six months Jones is in Ireland, being interviewed on his book and colourful career. His previous appearance had been at Kilkenny Roots Festival in May, where the festival organiser John Cleere had arranged a breakfast interview at The Pembroke Hotel. The second event, courtesy of The Bray Literary Festival, was held in The Harbour Bar in Bray. Jones and his interviewer, playwright and novelist Philip St. John, delivered an eighty-minute discussion which was enthralling, informative and in parts hilarious.
Appearances by Jones are seldom uneventful and the challenge on this occasion included attempting to be heard over the thumping sound transfer from the covers band in the bar downstairs, who seemed to have started their session at the exact timing of his interview. Coupled with this was an announcement by our host when introducing the event, that we were to refrain from applause until the conclusion of the interview, as it upset her terrier, who had taken a front row position at the well attended event. I wondered if the terrier was telepathic, as he spent much of the event growling with his eyes firmly fixed in my direction.
The discussion with Jones visited his fortuitous and somewhat audacious interview with Leonard Cohen, not long into his Melody Maker career. The interview was to have been conducted by his immediate boss and Melody Maker Assistant Editor Michael Watts, who unfortunately was out of the office when the invitation from the record company presented itself. Without making any effort to track Watts down, Jones decided to do the honourable thing and save the day, by attending in his absence. A severe beating at the hands of Black Sabbath’s guitarist Tommy Iommi was also recounted. Iommi had apparently not appreciated the humour in a previous feature Jones has posted, following a visit to Iommi’s country mansion in 1974. An unfortunate encounter with the Black Sabbath’s guitarist some four years later in Glasgow resulted in a bloodied mouth and split lip for the unfortunate Jones. We heard of Lou Reed, an artist that Jones gained practically unlimited access to, bitch slapping David Bowie at The Chelsea Rendezvous Restaurant in South Kensington. The invitation to attend a dinner with Reed and Bowie ended in disaster with Reed storming out of the restaurant leaving a distraught and tearful Bowie at the table. Jones remarked that he never did get to the source of the comment by Bowie that caused all hell to break loose. A fifteen-hour flight from London to San Francisco to conduct an interview with the then mega famous Olivia Newton John was also recalled by Jones. On arrival, the duration for the interview lasted a mere six minutes, denying any opportunity to pose prepared questions, before being given his marching orders by her. An expensive and wasted journey but also an indication of the finances available to the publications in the late 70’s. He also went on to explain that his writings from an early age, contradicted the cardinal rule of professional journalism, by including himself in his interviews and features. Adding that he felt it offered the reader a greater insight into the artist, rather than adopt the formulaic question about the new album, single and tour. He also expected that readers, who may not be an actual fan of the artist, may be inclined to read the article on the basis of the tales he recounted.
The closing question by St. John was most interesting, when he inquired of Jones to consider three albums that he felt, in his opinion, were still grossly under appreciated. Without hesitation Jones named Nico’s Marble Index, Gene Clark’s No Other and Lou Reed and Metallica’s Lulu. Food for thought.
The eighty minutes flew by in what was an absorbing discussion by a most interesting guest and a well researched interviewer. As expected, prior to its conclusion, the terrier had been escorted from the room, allowing the afternoon to close to rapturous applause.