To music devotees of a certain generation, Nick Kent is a name that has almost legendary status. Each Thursday morning, a crisp new copy of the NME would fall through the letterbox, containing pieces penned by him, accompanied by a picture of the article's subject, taken by Pennie Smith. According to legend - and confirmed here - one such afficionado was the teenage Morrissey, who would correspond with him on a regular basis. As one who also fell under Kent's journalistic spell, it was with some interest that I picked up this book.
Each chapter in the book deals with a separate year of the seventies. These detail Kent's emergence from precocious middle class schoolboy (from London, via Wales and back again) to NME journo and beyond. We're told how he developed his writing style, to be at the forefront of "new rock journalism", under the tutelage of Lester Bangs. The style is inspired by the Hunter S Thompson gonzo technique, the writer emersing himself in the environment around the music, taking in the vibe and sharing the thrills. Along the way he would hang out with the likes of the Stones (who he had met initially at a gig when twelve years old), Iggy Pop and Led Zeppelin, as well as briefly playing guitar in an early incarnation of what was to become the Sex Pistols.
Kent also dated Chrissie Hynde and one of the most memorable passages is an account of how they connected through a mutual love of the Stooges. As Kent correctly states at one part of the book, he was flying the flag for the punk ethic from the early seventies - long before Joe Strummer or Malcolm McLaren had moved in that direction.
But not all in the garden was destined to be rosy. There is much about Kent's drug addiction and how he descended into virtual squalour as the decade progressed. He also became something of punk's whipping boy, most infamously at the 100 Club in 1976 when he was attacked with a chain by Sid Vicious. The impact of that period plays a significant part in this story.
To his credit, Kent writes about his darker days openly, candidly and, at times, with some humour. His world view comes across as a positive one, without overbearing nonchalance or regret. And the anecdotes are legendary. I particulary like the one about Keih Moon, which chimes with a description of a particular incident in Tony Fletcher's biography Dear Boy.
Apathy For The Devil is, in parts tragic, in others uplifting and inspirational. It must have taken a lot of guts to get all this down on paper for the world to read - the result is one of rock's more memorable memoirs. It is recommended for anyone who remembers Nick Kent, was listening to music in the seventies, or who has an interest in the period. The next stage will be to dig out his collected works - The Dark Stuff - which includes his seminal pieces on Nick Drake, Syd Barrett and Brian Wilson. That is what I intend to do imminently.