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Nick KentApathy for the Devil: A 1970s Memoir
Nick Kent (Faber & Faber)

Another month, another account of talent undermined by hard drugs. Alongside Charles Shaar Murray and the late Ian McDonald, Nick Kent was a star player during the NME’s mid ‘70s heyday, bringing his reflexive prose style to seminal pieces on Syd Barrett, Brian Wilson and The Rolling Stones. More than any of his fellow writers, however, Kent also hung out with his subjects and shared their spoils – to increasingly disastrous effect. Some of the anecdotes accrued during this period are priceless – Kent’s attempt to explain Steptoe & Son to Iggy Pop; Keith Richards’s perplexed fury at the rise of the ‘Boppin’ Elf’, aka Marc Bolan – but the overall trajectory is a descent into darkness. By the end of the ‘70s, Kent was writing much less and scoring much more, existing in that weird twilight world where normal life is jacked in favour of chasing the next hit of junk. Fortunately, there is a happy coda – Kent cleaned up in 1988 and is now a contented family man living in Paris. Whilst a familiar tale in many aspects, Apathy for the Devil’s vivid character portraits and delicious turns of phrase mean that it deserves a place on your bookshelf alongside Kent’s superlative selected journalism, The Dark Stuff.
David Davies

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Japan And Self ExistenceJapan And Self Existence
Mick Karn (MK Music)

Before we begin we should clear something up. Mick Karn is not the world’s greatest bass player, probably not technically even in the top ten (by his own admission he seldom bothers to pick up the instrument when he isn’t working on a music project), what he is however is one of the most recognisable players in the history of rock, no mean feat given the instruments primary use - i.e. to be buried away in the mix somewhere right up the back - and that, along with an unerring ear for monumentally quirky bass lines, is why he is such an important and influential bass player. So why the hell is he struggling to make ends meet when most of his ex-Japan compadres are doing pretty-well-thank-you? It’s certainly not due to poor solo material (pretty much everything he has released is well worth a listen, and some is simply superb). Nope it’s down to a mix of management shenanigans, band power-struggles and his own innate inability to press the right flesh. All of which is outlined herein with a frankness that is occasionally squirm-inducing, and in a style which is hugely readable, entertaining and should be required research for anyone just setting out on a music career.
The Oracle

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Nick Kent The Dark Stuff
Nick Kent
(Faber & Faber)

First published by Penguin in 1994, The Dark Stuff is a compendium of interviews and profiles drawn from legendary scribe Nick Kent’s work for publications including the NME, The Face, The Guardian and Libération, alongside a number of purpose-written pieces. Reissued by Faber with an extra 100-plus pages of recent articles, it is now an even more indispensable purchase by a writer who long ago gained accession to the (very) small elite club of rock journalists (Shaar Murray, MacDonald, Hoskyns, Marcus – and that’s about it) whose work actually warrants revisiting years after initial publication. Kent, more than any other music journalist with the exception of Lester Bangs, famously attempted to live the rock life, and his excitement at this swirling, ever-expanding demi-monde glows from nearly every page. In some cases revised or actually written years after the event, the pieces on the Stones, Lou Reed, Roky Erickson and Iggy Pop are especially evocative, while the newer material yields masterful studies of Phil Spector and Sly Stone. Long cleaned up and living in Paris, Kent is a writer with a keen eye for atmosphere and context, and The Dark Stuff is the page-turning proof of his undiminished talents.
David Davies

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