Pretty much every self-respecting music geek I know has a copy of Nick Kent’s The Dark Stuff on their shelf. It’s a time capsule of mostly 70s music journalism that chronicles the misadventures in drugs, sex, the music industry, and madness from icons like Lou Reed, Brian Wilson, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Costello, Roky Erickson, and a whole pile more. Kent was an insider on the scene, doing smack with Keith Richards and getting picked up off bathroom floors by dudes like Rod Stewart.
His new book, Apathy for the Devil, is his first since The Dark Stuff, sixteen years in the making. This time around, he is telling his own story --- from growing up in England to writing for NME, to his downward spiral in heartbreak and drugs. It’s mostly a memoir of music in the 1970s, and incredibly compelling read, not just because of his misadventures (both alongside the rich and famous and as a face-down-in-the-gutter-nobody), but also because of its raw honesty. He tells his story with a mix of humour, sadness, and self-deprecation --- finding a tone that most writers can’t hit in their lifetime.
And for those that love The Dark Stuff, he’s saved a lot of great stories. Bob Marley wasn’t the spiritual prophet he’s made out to be --- he almost beat up Kent in a bathroom because of the way he looked. Kent himself was (sort of) one of the original Sex Pistols, and he tells the story of their formation like you’ve never heard before. Within Apathy for the Devil, you’ll find these stories, and many, many more, from his failed relationship with The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde, to being afraid for his life when raging alcoholic John “Bonzo” Bonham was around. He had unprecedented access to everyone from David Bowie to Iggy Pop, and he’s got the scars and stories aplenty to regale you with.
I was apprehensive when I picked up Apathy for the Devil --- how could Kent, now in his later years, come close to the rawness of The Dark Stuff? Don’t these follow up type books inevitably suck? Thankfully --- nope. I quickly found that I was engrossed; Kent is a fine writer whether he’s was writing about music or not. It’s a different book, to be sure --- but it’s an amazing companion to The Dark Stuff, a fantastic read, and a must for any music fan.