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The Dark Stuff was first published in Britain in 1994 and always available in the USA since its 1996 publication. In the UK the book had been out-of-print for eight years until the 2007 edition appeared. Compiled from 1970s interviews for the New Musical Express plus 1980s magazine articles, this new edition includes the essays Sly Stone's Evil Ways & Phil Spector's Long Fall From Grace, a portrait of French pop icon Serge Gainsbourg, a recent interview with Iggy Pop and a concluding essay titled Self-destruction in Rock and Elsewhere. All in all twenty-two of the most talented and self-destructive artists in rock history are profiled.

Kent was the New Musical Express's star attraction in the 1970s at a time when the publication was selling 300,000 copies per week. It was at the forefront of reporting on the punk explosion, punk personalities, the style and its offshoots. The NME's influential position gave Kent unique opportunities as a rock writer. Kent may be older & wiser but there's something to be said for the energy and enthusiasm of youth, since the recent stuff amongst the new additions is less gripping than the original writings from the 70s and 80s for NME and magazines like The Face, Arena and Spin.

The value of each chapter is directly proportional to the communication skills of those interviewed: that is why the Guns 'N' Roses piece is a complete waste of time and paper and shouldn't even have been included, whilst I loved the Roy Orbison interview although I've never really been into his music. I found the Brian Wilson piece too long and disagree with the author's assessment of the Rolling Stones after the 1960s. Kent seems to think that Jagger and Richards produced their best music in the late 60s and early 70s because they were tormented by the 'wild women' Anita Pallenberg and Marianne Faithfull.

There's a thought-provoking chapter on the ill-fated Brian Jones (Tortured Narcissus) that discusses his contribution to The Stones, his decline and death. Kent's view of Kurt Cobain is a bit harsh and the non-interview with Roky Erickson rather pointless. Kent's 1988 portrait of Serge Gainsbourg is sad and pathetic but he concludes it by graciously praising the French singer's musical legacy. I loved the pieces on Jerry Lee Lewis, Lou Reed, Elvis Costello and Miles Davis and in my opinion the book's crowning glory is the chapter titled Neil Young and the Haphazard Highway that leads to Unconditional Love. Young's care and concern for his disabled child impress more than a thousand stories of excess and substance abuse.

Most of these rock stars thought that they were exempt from the law of cause & effect, with the predictable disastrous consequences. What amazes me is how some of these artists managed to consistently produce sublime music while they were abusing themselves physically and mentally to such a gruesome degree. I suppose that is one of the messages of this book: no matter how low down you are, you can always pull yourself together again. It certainly demonstrates the ability of the soul and the body to restore themselves.

This is great rock writing, on a par with the work of Lester Bangs. The stylistic difference is that Kent's writing is character-based & analytical: looking at musicians in the context of what they're doing and how they're living in order to analyze how this context influences them. Bangs on the other hand wrote from a more intimate, personal perspective, an angle that describes the effect the music had on him, often in stream-of-consciousness prose.

Other classics of rock writing that I recommend are James Young's Nico, Songs They Never Play on the Radio, alternatively titled Nico: The Last Bohemian, Clinton Heylin's From the Velvets to the Voidoids: The Birth of American Punk Rock, Gerri Hirshey's Nowhere To Run: The Story of Soul Music, Let It Blurt by Jim DeRogatis, Scars of Sweet Paradise by Alice Echols, Memories, Dreams and Reflections by Marianne Faithfull, Lipstick Traces by Greil Marcus and Angry Women in Rock by Andrea Juno.
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on 11 August 2009
This is a collection of journalistic pieces for those like myself (and no doubt many others) with a voyeuristic interest in the self-destructive lives of rock'n'roll. Written by Nick Kent over the decades, it provides an interesting insight into the tortured lives, dysfunction and general unpleasantness of many key figures of popular music.

Such lives tend to be littered with self-destruction and the concept of rock and roll may indeed be defined by variable degrees of self-destruction and "dark stuff". Nick Kent's book title therefore is somewhat misleading, suggesting that he is covering new ground where others have covered the "light stuff". However, although much of this biographical information is in the public domain without the help of Kent's writing, the latter is funny and natural in a way that many other writers' self-conscious lean towards sarcasm and meaningless criticism is not. Kent often provides a fresh and less air-brushed perspective on certain icons that seem to be generally untouchable, in what might be considered rock blasphemy, for example his darker and less forgiving take on Kurt Cobain, and this de-glamourisation of cult heroes might be what he refers to as the dark stuff.

This is not more than a collection of previously published magazine interviews/ articles and so there may be much you've read about before, however this is nevertheless an interesting and well-written collection of rock biography that is well worth a read.
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on 19 May 2015
The first half of this book concerns itself with those who, either by dint of their essential personality or by succumbing to drink and (especially) drugs, died at a very young age or simply never recovered from the trials of their psychological damage. So we get insights into the likes of Brian Wilson, Syd Barrett, Johnny Thunders, Jerry Lee Lewis and Brain Jones.
The book then covers those artists who survived against all the odds such as Iggy Pop (who gets numerous articles), Keith Richards, Shane McGowan, Neil Young and Lou Reed.
Finally we get some insights into a few angry young men (no women appear at all) such as Morrissey and Elvis Costello.
The author is well placed to write these stories by virtue of both being present and partaking of various substances himself - although he seemed more often than not to know when to stop!
There are some depressing traits that all the above seem to have in common such as anger, incredible levels of irresponsibility (to themselves and others), self-hate and a real drive to prove the world wrong. I would have really liked Kent to have offered the reader some insights as to whether or not he thought these ubiquitous traits were necessary in the creation of the music. Indeed, the weakness in this book is that Nick Kent doesn't seem to offer any judgements about any of the appalling events covered in this book - although I can see that some people may see that as a strength.
Having said that, this is probably as good a book about the dark side of rock and roll as we are likely to get.
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VINE VOICEon 26 April 2010
Well observed and taughtly written this book will be of interest to all music lovers. Stories of the great and not so great woven into a series of articles that lift the stone and look underneath. Private moments and an insight into the mind of folks like Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, are fascinating. I casn heartily recommend this book
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on 22 January 2011
One of the best books about the rock music business I have ever read. Kent's turn of phrase is simply superb. This excellent collection of magazine articles and commentary races along packed full of colourful, acid observations and dry wit. His subjects are some of the most excessive, complex and self indulgent characters in the history of popular music, ranging from Jerry Lee Lewis, Brian Jones, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed to the Happy Mondays and Shane Magowan. Some pieces are more or less taken from interviews he conducted in the 1970s and 80s while others are more reflective and read almost like obituaries (he is particularly scathing about Kurt Cobain, Sid Vicious and Phil Spector). The book shows Kent's keen eye for the dark side of the rock business, the drug dependency, financial excesses, celebrity paranoia and insecurity which in many cases led to sickness, bankruptcy and death. Its a rivetting and wholly satisfying read for the rock voyeur.
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on 16 October 2014
Another great book from Nick Kent. Having read his "Apathy for the devil" which covers his experiences during the seventies in a most entertaining manner, with a few references to this book, I decided to go ahead and buy it through Amazon, where I found a good used copy for 3 pence ! ( postage to me in Spain was £4 ) exceptional value. The book covers interviews and recollections of various "Stars" of the period, and if you enjoyed the music, you will most likely enjoy the information regarding the characters who created it. I particularily enjoyed learning more about Miles Davis, Roy Orbison & Phil Spector. Enjoy !
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on 13 October 2011
The book is an amazing series of writings on the rock world. Nick Kent is a dynamic and engaging writer who offers an exciting style as well as insider insight. Best read over time (maybe rationing to a chapter a week if you have the will power) as the depressingly repeated pattern of talented rock folk destroying themselves through drugs becomes a bit repetitive and depressing after a while. Iggy Pop recommends the book on the basis that it makes you want to listen to the music of the artists featured and this is absolutely correct.
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on 29 November 2015
This Gentleman made me laugh big time, He is not politically correct and he doesnt care. He went through hell and back and told it like it was with no sugar coating regarding music, real musicians and so called rock stars and music writers. Brilliant !
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on 13 November 2014
A lot of the content is just reguritated stories from other sources that Dick Dent tries to pass off as his own. Disappointing mostly with a few odd gems.
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on 12 June 2015
Great book, by someone who was there if not always on the same planet at the time, buy this and buy Apathy For the Devil by the same author.
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