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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 13 May 2017
this book is really about the music scene in the seventies from the ultimate insider brilliantly written kent at times can be stunningly eloquent any serious music lover should read nick kent he really does nail it
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on 2 August 2017
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on 30 March 2010
Frenzy Reunited

This is a fresh and entertaining account of "pop" and its artists through the 1970's as recorded by Nick Kent,an incredibly precocious contributor to the New Musical Express. It only palls towards the end when Nick's drug habit dominates the pages with the daily depressing dross of an addict's life, in contrast to the pace and progress of the earlier story.

Still it was a welcome bonus for him to leave a list of the albums and artists which formed his musical landscape during that era and this ends the book on a "high" (no pun intended).

In one sad sense Nick enjoyed none of the rock star's booty but endured all their disappointments. But I doubt he sees it that way since the writing is so vital and immediate. Like many of us who survive a hard life, it is refreshing to relive those early heady emotional days but from a safe distance.
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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 24 March 2017
For a man who spent so long under the punishing fog of heroin and methadone addiction, he has managed to break free from it and produce quite an eloquent, forthright and outstanding piece of work that captures the mood and spirit of popular music in the 70s as well as any writer has in any other book on the era.

At one point he reflects on his situation, “Did I truly merit this sorry, sorry fate? Well, yes and no. Much of my bad fortune-specifically drug addiction and homelessness-I’d brought upon myself. They were nobody’s fault but mine. And I’d done a lot of bad things over the past three years. I’d been too arrogant and too vain, too immature and too judgemental, too wayward and too goddam hot headed-and that was just the short list. But I never ever let myself become one of those all the way bad people who lose all sense of personal humanity and conscience. My heart just wasn’t in it. My inner moral compass was still halfway functioning throughout this whole wretched era.”

It’s not just his own demons he has to contend with, there are no shortage of big, bold bands here. Kent was in amongst it, managing to get up close and personal with the likes of Led Zeppelin, The Stones and Iggy Pop amongst many others. This book is crammed with some brilliant and cutting analysis. Roxy Music are described as “Lord Snooty and his pals in lurex.” The Slits as “a bunch of talentless exhibitionists.” or what about his thoughts on Sham 69 frontman, Jimmy Pursey, “He represented everything I despised most in the late seventies: rank, vainglorious, talent-free opportunism masquerading as ‘the voice of the oppressed’.” He sums up his thoughts on the manufactured image of the sixties, “Woodstock and Altamont are seen as polar opposites in a mass media generated parable of light and darkness but they were just two ends of the same mucky stick, the net results of the same disease: the bloating of mass bohemia in the late sixties.”

“Action and interaction are what count if you really want to lead a life of surprises.” He insists and he certainly adopts this attitude during the early 70s when he relocates briefly to the States, getting involved with Lester Bangs with some memorable results. He also goes into quite some detail concerning his relationship with a Pre-Pretenders Chrissie Hynde (Hynde gives a differing and more concise and restrained account in her recent biography “Reckless”. that is, she rarely mentions it).

Kent does a good job of capturing the mood of London during the emergence of pub rock on the live circuit, which would eventually give birth to the likes of Dr Feelgood and Ian Dury & The Blockheads. I had no idea that Kent was briefly a member of the Sex Pistols for a couple of months during 1975. His (initial) friendship with the truly appalling Malcolm McLaren was also fascinating stuff and McLaren’s inevitable betrayal of him was sickening as it was cowardly. His squatting and frequent interactions with Sid & Nancy were interesting though also very depressing. At one point Sid boasts to him that he had recently overdosed 13 times within the last 12 weeks.

Overall this was a cracking read and Kent really manages a lovely balance of gossip, depth, darkness, light, intelligence and insight and it has that extra edge of intensity and conviction because he was there and involved with so many of the biggest and best bands of the time. He knows what he’s talking about, he isn’t afraid to attack any sacred cows and does it in a reasoned and informed way. Sure it has it’s cringe moments and you are not going to agree with everything he says, but that is beside the point, there is some great writing in here and this is a book that has many of the great attributes and ingredients that make for a cracking biography.
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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 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 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!
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on 1 March 2014
In one of the early chapters of Nick Kent's musical history (and his story) of the Seventies, the author talks about how he had to teach a pre-Sex Pistols Malcolm McLaren everything he'd missed by turning his back on Sixties music. And that's how this book worked for me - a guide to a whole decade of music journalism that I missed first time round by not being a reader of NME. It's a fascinating tale, with Kent as a Zelig-like figure turning up with all the big names and emerging talents - crashing with Iggy Pop, touring with The Stones, sleeping with Chrissie Hynde, jamming with the Sex Pistols, and cowering in front of just about everyone else who took exception to his reviews, his fashion sense or his self-confessed drugged-up flakiness. Time, abstinence and a mystic experience in a Swindon church have given Kent a new perspective on his seventies-self, and it's this honest, confessional tone that makes this such a compelling book. By his own admission, after the promise, energy and achievement of the early years, Kent's career-defining decade tailed-off dramatically as Rock and then Punk gave way to New Wave and Electro, and the man who was effectively the Sixth Sex Pistol, had shot his bolt before 1978 had even started.
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