I was going through a box of books and I pulled out one with a name of the author in large black letters: Nick Kent. I looked at the guy on the cover of the book. He was dressed in a black, long, slim coat, with a thin scarf, eyeliner, and a cigarette. He wore a look of tiresome fragility and artistic rebellion. I thought, “Hmmm, he looks like some rock star from the 70’s, a cross between Keith Richards and Alice Cooper, but I am not sure I have heard of him.” His demeanor appealed to me—I had a soft spot for all persons who dressed in black.
I read title under his name, Apathy for the Devil. Smart, I thought, the opposite of sympathy. A call-out read, “the author of The Dark Stuff.” I was hooked. I strained my mind to remember where I got this book from. How did I find it? Did someone give it to me? I guess it wasn’t important. What was important was that I was holding it now. I started reading. From the first sentence I knew I liked his style of writing. What happened next was what all great books do to a reader. They steal you away on a journey like a pill that the writer offers you and you swallow it and start hallucinating. I was hooked for the next week and a half. In the world of computers, social media chatter, work, and the responsibilities of a new fatherhood, I was making time and space to read this book as if my life depended on it. I didn’t put that book down until I was finished.
What a ride it was. Starting from Nick’s first sexual experience with a house cleaner under the table, then kicking about London and idolizing records, then first concerts, then the rehearsal rooms, little venues, backstage or at someone’s apartment where another great band started.
He found his passion and rose on the fire that was beginning to burn bright, he was becoming a rock journalist for the infamous NME British music magazine that was responsible to writers like Nick Kent for their young and brave voice on this new spectacle called Rock Music. This obsession spun into a life of wonder, rebellion, dark alleys of drug experimentation and everlasting search for the sound that defined our generation.
Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd with Syd Barret, The Cream, The Stooges he witnessed them all live and raw and at their beginnings. From being blasted on acid while touring with Captain Beefheart, to befriending Keith Richards and their four-day drug bender then meeting B.P. Fallon with whose help he was able to interview Led Zeppelin in their dressing room and finally meeting David Bowie. Although the Stooges was personal favorite and he was always honest at every second. Brutally honest. He wrote:
“Put simply, Ziggy Stardust was ‘show business’ while the Stooges were soul business. The first was deeply glamorous and alluring to behold, the latter was less attractive but potentially more life-challenging to be exposed to.”
Read this interview in NME after Pink Floyd’s concert in ’74 and you will see.
Later on he even tried being the Sex Pistols’s guitar player for a hot second, but their cultural upbringing clashed at the root. It seemed that Nick had a knack for seeking the source where the true art was brewing. Nick was always ahead of the time, always at the rise of the next star. Failed relationships, poverty, bad luck, addictions nothing could stop him from being what he was supposed to be, always at the right place at the right time always narrating, always observing.
Musicians were his objects of inspiration and his writing was dedicated to narrating their stories and not just delivering it as such, but presenting it to us in a form of a novel about each one in their own time and space. He studied people through the cloud of smoke of his cigarette, he wanted to know what made them tick, where did their art come from, and how did they act when they were at their most brilliant moments?
Musicians were the characters of his novel. They had their own lives, conflicts and purposes in a larger scheme of the impact of rock-n-roll on the progress of our civilization and our minds, but this book isn’t about them, it’s about him, Nick Kent. His survival and a battle with the muses of evil: heroin and ambition that strayed many men on a path they couldn’t leave. As only so few were able to touch so closely and narrate to us the source of the greatest music of the last three decades Nick Kent volunteered to act as the Charles Baudelaire of the music’s renaissance era and for that I am thankful to the powers that brought this book to me. READ IT. BREATHE IT.
Buy Apathy for the Devil at Amazon.com or at Good Reads
Review by Dmitry Wild. Edited by Mis R Wednesday.