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Along with Charles Shaar Murray and Ian MacDonald, Nick Kent was one of the finest writers contributing to the NME in the early/mid 70's, and the quality of their prose - opinionated, scathing, funny, knowledgeable - was the reason I would excitedly await the appearance of the paper every week. Of the three of them, Kent always stood out as the most extreme: authoritative in his pronouncements, vituperative in his put-downs and casually allusive in his references to obscure bands or albums. He also appeared to have an intriguing life away from the paper: I remember his emergence as a guitarist with his own band, just at about the same time as Chrissie Hynde - another NME writer - was putting The Pretenders together (the fact that his band immediately sank without trace did nothing to detract from the way in which the ultimate transition from writer to musician appeared to be apposite).

This memoir allows us to see just how intriguing that life really was. He describes his childhood, his early encounter with rock music and London's underground scene, being taken on by the NME (apparently, he was never on the staff, preferring to remain a freelancer) and meeting up with the stars of the day: the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and Iggy Pop amongst others (including Chrissie Hynde, with whom he apparently had a brief romance). This is all good stuff (some of his articles have already appeared in his excellent collection The Dark Stuff), and he provides plenty of detailed anecdotes about his adventures (which continue into the latter part of the seventies, when he found himself briefly in an early line-up of the Sex Pistols). However, it isn't long before this theme gets subsumed by another: his drug addiction. This becomes the main topic of the second part of the book, and is clearly of less interest to the general reader, however fascinated by his life - as opposed to his work - they might have been. Although the stories of the privations he went through in order to get his drugs are pitiful, unsympathetic readers will find themselves losing patience with the way he continually throws his gifts and opportunities away for the sake of short-term stimulation. The pointlessness of it all is a view he shares as, towards the end, he describes the relief of finally getting clean (even including an experience of religious redemption which, given his image and reputation, is somewhat startling).

On the whole, I enjoyed reading the book, but was disappointed in the quality of the writing. The blurb describes it as being "long-awaited [...] sixteen years after [...] The Dark Stuff". I don't know if he's really been working on this book for sixteen years, but - even if it took only a fraction of that time - you'd've thought he'd have at least done something about his opening sentence (p1):

"When you get right down to it, the human memory is a deceitful organ to have to rely on."

Pointing out the fact that memory isn't an organ (it's an ability - like sight - which an organism possesses) might look like nit-picking at this stage, but the shoddy sentence construction continues throughout the book. Take, for example, this one (p291):

"One late afternoon I had cause to visit the place and found myself ambling towards the building in question when something else caught my eye."

Elsewhere, cliches are wedged into place without any thought being given to their applicability, and there are some awkward asides to the reader - e.g. "Did I tell you I'd recently become homeless?" (p275) - which look like lazy writing that wouldn't have survived a careful re-read. I found parts of this almost painful to read, given my memories of the effectiveness of his prose when he was on song in the old days. But the tales in the early part of the book - and his belated realization of the important things in life - make persevering through some of the sludge worthwhile.
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on 6 March 2010
I finished this book in two sittings. Not because it's superficial, but because it's positively riveting, at least
to music lovers who came of age with the golden age of the NME. Nick Kent may not have the quirkiness of a Lester
Bangs, but he wields equal authority, as the inevitable --though always very welcome -- list of favourite albums
and tracks at the end confirms. He is also refreshingly honest and suitably circumspect about his personal trials
and tribulations. For those yet to discover the true delights of rock/popular music (Stooges, MC5, Beefheart, Can, Al Green,
Television, VU, etc.) this will be an education; for those who have, it will call them back to why they love it all so much.
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on 11 June 2011
Enjoyable speedy read. I read this on holiday and it was perfect - being described as "a beach read" is a bit damning in faint praise but there you go. I agree with other reviews here that Nick Kent surpisingly veers into cringey cliches but at least he never gets pretentious. He also favours repeating the use of several words I was not familiar with like "glomming". But his use of the word "diaper" instead of nappy probably annoyed me the most! (Obv to appease his US readership). Its again one of those tales of a druggie's redemption; Junkie a***hole comes cleans and realises he was a c**t to many - see also Boy George, Danny Sugarman etc. So, its not original but flows well. Tales of Led Zep stand out most and his admiration of Bowie is spot on. I am surprised he can remember much though, the state he was in. Bitterness enters when he is 'rejected' by the punk fraternity and he I thought he unfairly laid into Jimmy Pursey who I think was much misunderstood at the time. The ending was a little hurried although I think he mentions he had another book in him, and the stuff about his father dying was moving. However his "seen the light" moment with the Smiths was a bit comical (esp when you remember he constantly ignored fan-boy Morrissey in the early days). Anyway - worth the read but wish there had been some photos!
Miss.P.
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on 11 March 2010
Back in the 70s, the NME was the epitome of cool with the most cutting edge writers who provided the most incisive social commentaries on what was probably one of the most diverse musical decades. Nick Kent was one of these young blades and at the time, was a major source of irritation to me. In particular, some of his barbed comments about Queen were guaranteed to set me off in a bout of teenaged high dudgeon.

However, he was articulate, intriguing and unpredictable, and this excellent memoir provides an extraordinary guide to the Zeitgeist. The music industry with all its excesses eventually consumed him in the most disturbing fashion and his descent into heroin hell is extremely painful reading. However, the book is full of flashing insights into some of the major players, his brilliant analysis of John Lennon being of the many highlights.

But Nick Kent still remains a huge paradox. How could of the most iconic music writers of that decade end up being one of its most celebrated victims? For that reason alone, Apathy for the Devil is a compulsive read and thank goodness he has lived to tell the tale.
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on 26 December 2011
Nick Kent was an English journalist with the New Musical Express, a weekly publication that I used to devour in the 1970s when I first became enthralled by rock music, a passion that has remained with me till now. Together with Charles Shaar Murray, Paul Morley, Tony Parsons, Mick Farren and Julie Birchill, I lived on what Nick Kent wrote about music in his singular style and would go off and buy records purely on his recommendations, and almost always without regret. His compelling memoir took me back to that era, one which now I feel blessed to have lived through as a teenager. Nick Kent conceals nothing and writes with alarming honesty and self-deprecating humour about his rampant addiction to heroin over much of the 1970s, and how it ravaged his own life and that of so many others in the music industry. What remains, however, is the quality of the music that came out of that much maligned decade and about which he writes with such zest: Neil Young arguably at his peak; The Rolling Stones when they still made great music; Rod Stewart before he got lost in the US; the West Coast sound of Jackson Browne and Crosby, Stills and Nash; the glam rock of David Bowie, Mott the Hoople and Roxy Music; and then halfway through the decade punk and new wave with The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Television, Talking Heads, Elvis Costello; and at the decade's end Bruce Springsteen.
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on 15 March 2010
Nick Kent's second book, a memoir rather than the 'straight' (yeah, right) articles of his earlier tome 'Dark Stuff', is a fascinating, on-the-spot overview of the seventies; a decade of despair & devil's dandruff, punk rock & writer's block for our NME-endorsed, self-styled 'gunslinger' with a fetish for James Joyce. Kent takes us by the hand & leads us from his middle-class drop-out beginnings of 1970 to his mid-decade highs & his very own 'winter of discontent'; the truth behind Keith Richard's real 'breakfast of champions', mind-expanding beanos to Brighton with Captain Beefheart, hexadelic flights to America in the company of Iggy Pop & the NY Dolls, sulphate-midwiffery of the nascent punk scene & his inevitable scapegoat fall from grace at both the hands of his IPC editors & a callous gang of petty crooks from Shepherds Bush & Finsbury Park better known as the Sex Pistols. All are recalled with a shudder & a smile by our worthy scribe, who miraculously survived close-quarter encounters with both Sid Vicious amphetamine-powered bike-chain & John Bonham's coke-addled hippie-headbanded ire. As a skinny rat from Manchester once said, "Notebooks out, plagiarists"...Kent is the 'real' street writing man.
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on 20 June 2010
Anyone familiar with the inky pages of the NME in the 1970s will know Nick Kent as one of the decade's shock troops of music journalism. Frequently embedded - to use the modern term - with bands like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, hanging out with Bowie and becoming friends with Iggy Pop.

What's clear from this memoir is that Kent's career choice came at considerable personal expense. Becoming a major league substance abuser, lurching between doomed relationships and on several occasions fearing for his life - most notably when being beaten up by Sid Vicious.

What's perhaps surprising is that as a torch bearer for the punk movement, Kent now feels betrayed by it and has no desire to wax nostalgic.

We now tend to take a rather sanitised view of the '70s music industry. For a sometimes uncomfortable look at its seamier side this is well worth a read.
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on 3 June 2010
I was a big fan of Nick Kent through the '70s, and indeed thereafter, when the NME was received as holy writ in weekly instalments. I remember hugely enjoying his previous book, 'The Dark Stuff' - penetrating analyses of the acts and albums which made the late 60s and early 70s seem an unparalleled interlude of musical creativity and personal freedoms. Maybe I was just a lot younger and more naive then - well, I know I was - for the only phrase in my mind since finishing 'Apathy for the Devil' is 'what a wretched book this is'.

Wretched in its content, which concerns Nick himself more than the acts, revealing what was going on behind the typewriter - for the most part a tireless drag from smack den to smack den, occasionally running into and sharing gear with famous faces of the period - Sid and Nancy, Iggy, Keith and, most damagingly for Nick (though she can hardly be blamed) Chrissie Hynde.

So, grim and desperate times, albeit vividly presented, but actually, this is the book's upside. Far harder to take is its equally wretched style. Did Nick Kent always write so badly - in this terrible, lame, listless, half-baked hipsterese? I can't quite believe that he did, or that he could think it would still function in this millenium. It's shockingly dated, at times almost embarassing to read.

So why three stars? I guess these depend on where you're starting from. I recommend somewhere around page 100, leaving out Nick's phoned-in 'David Copperfield crap'. Start with him joining the NME and you may find it bearable. The names and faces are likely to be enough to carry you along, mixed with the compellingly readable ghastliness of the junkie netherworld. It's still appalling, but it undoubtedly exerts a terrible fascination. But better yet, go back to 'The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings on Rock Music 1972-1993', when Nick Kent really was the leading light of his generation, writing with a vim and a venom that put his competition (on this side of the Atlantic at least) to shame...
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on 3 March 2012
I enjoyed the book. I've always liked Nick Kent's writing, ever since I first started reading the NME as a teenager. I honestly had no idea I was reading the work of a a heroin junkie! Along with Tony Tyler, Charles Shaar Murray, Tony Parsons, Paul Morley and a few others, Nick Kent had a considerable influence on what I listened to in the 70's and 80's.

A gripe:- why do Kindle readers have to put up with shoddy work? Chapter 2 of this book does not have a single apostrophe. Not one! Why? There really is no excuse for such poor editing. Are there photos in the print version? I honestly don't know but there's none in the Kindle version and it seems like the kind of book that deserves a few photos. Anyway, one star dropped for the shoddy work in Chapter 2.
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on 26 April 2014
Nick Kent's 70s memoir starts out strong and splendid, with sparkling writing and laugh-out-loud turns of phrase. Somewhere about half way through though, something changes and the text becomes flabby and scrappy, and it never really recovers. Not so our hero, thankfully, who eventually crawls out of his drug hell (but not, it appears, until the mid-80s). Drugs loom large in this book, as does the Kent ego. Robert Sandall in his cover blurb says "compulsively readable" and I found it so, even when things got stodgy. If you remember the 70s, or wish you could, you'll probably enjoy this book. Oh, one caveat: Nick Kent is a bit of a twit.
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