Hynde and Kent wearing Vivienne Westwood.
Journalist Nick Kent not only wrote about rock and roll, he lived it. And it almost killed him. In his new memoir Apathy For The Devil: A Seventies Memoir, Kent describes his crash and burn lifestyle among London’s rock royalty and some of punk’s royal assholes during the 1970s. Like Lester Bangs and Hunter S. Thompson, Kent was not content to merely observe the action, he had to become a part of it.
From snorting massive amounts of blow and heroin with Keith Richards and witnessing David Bowie screw a groupie in full view of Bowie’s wife Angie to being revived from a drug overdose by Rod Stewart and almost dying in Iggy Pop’s arms, Kent seemed to have a knack for infiltrating scenes few journalist could get close to and few would have had the guts to. Perhaps it was his own rock star good looks, mod fashion sense and druggy excess that made him appear as glamorous and dangerous as some of the rockers he wrote about. While Bangs was mastering the slob aesthetic, Kent was wearing threads from boutiques like Sex.
Kent also managed to piss alot of people off. After writing a tell-all piece for NME in which he quoted some less than flattering remarks Page made about film maker Kenneth Anger, Kent was confronted by Anger who lived up to his name by shouting “I just have to crook this little finger and Jimmy Page will automatically be transformed into a toad!”
Even though Kent was an early member of The Sex Pistols and introduced them to American punk, his relationship with Malcolm McClaren and the band took a very nasty turn.
Kent ended up playing guitar for two months in an early line-up of the Sex Pistols, whom he taught the songs of Iggy Pop’s proto-punk band the Stooges. Distrustful of Kent’s growing influence over the Pistols’ main guitarist Steve Jones, McLaren got the group’s bassist Glen Matlock to fire him, a departure Kent didn’t mourn at the time — because “I was a middle-class druggie fop and they were working-class spivs who would steal the gold out of their mothers’ teeth” — but which had murderous consequences. A year later while attending a Sex Pistols gig at the 100 Club, Kent was the victim of an unprovoked bicycle chain attack by Sid Vicious, sustaining a terrible head wound that he was too stoned to feel at the time but that, he later realized, nearly killed him.”
In 1973 Kent fell in love with Chrissie Hynde, who had yet to find her rock and roll muse and was working in a boutique on King’s Road. The relationship ended badly in 1974.
While she was working at Malcolm McLaren and Viviene Westwood’s Sex Shop, Hynde later told Jon Savage - in his essential history of British punk, England’s Dreaming - a jealous Kent came into the shop looking to whip her with his belt, causing her to flee to Paris.
Nick takes some credit for inspiring Hynde to pick up a guitar and form a band. He claims to mentoring Hynde, which sounds arrogant or possibly delusional until you listen to Kent’s musical output.
In 1975 Kent formed a band called The Subterraneans with Rat Scabies and Bryan James, who both later moved on to spearhead The Damned. In 1980, The Subterraneans (with Scabies on drums) recorded “My Flamingo” and “Veiled Women.” It was the same year that Chrissie’s band The Pretenders released their debut album and there’s a remarkable similarity in feel, attitude and sound between Kent and Hynde’s music. Is this the result of two lovers absorbing each other’s style? Or mentoring? Whatever the case, Nick’s tunes are every bit as good as most of the music coming out in the late 70s/early 80s. You can hear both tracks in the video below.
A new edition of Apathy For The Devil: A Seventies Memoir is being released in February. You can snag a copy here.
Thanks to Exile On Moan Street for the turn on and the photo.
Nick Kent talks about Apathy For The Devil after the jump…
Posted by Marc Campbell |
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