Monday, February 22, 2010

from sad syd to sid sack



not so much a scoop as a sunday afternoon dip.

The more tremulous amongst us will recall the laudanum tinctured scribblings of frock coated raconteur, Nick Kent.

For a sustained period in the 1970's, Kent was Lester Bangs' very English counterpart; waxing lyrical on the pages of the New Musical Express with a necromancer's eye for illumination every bit as keen as a freshly resurrected Richard Dadd.

A Victorian wastrel with an appetite for the sordid and burlesque.

So. I am scouring the Sunday papers, disaffected with usual compendium of bad news print, when I stumble across a spread with Vicious and Rotten bleeding out in saturated colour. Nick Kent has a new book out, "Apathy For The Devil", a 400 page annecdotal account servicing his fixation with the brightly burning and the dimmed. And the office machinations of a successful periodical at pains to capitalize on every passing fad.

I am less interested in the column inches allowed Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons than Kent's personal dealings with Malcolm McLaren, the Fagin of the 'old' King's Road. I watched Parsons recently on a celebrity Mastermind. His specialist subject was "Punk Rock: 1977 - 1979" and quite frankly, he was shit. The boy looked at Johnny and promptly forgot.

I digress. What was arresting in Robert Sandall's review of "Apathy For The Devil" - a ridiculous title; as absurd as my new masthead, brothers and sisters - is the coverage it gives to Kent's being drafted in by McLaren to teach the newly assembled Sex Pistols those rudimentary chords to a number of songs by The Stooges. Concerned, it would seem, that the journalist was an undermining influence, on Jones in particular, McLaren quickly instructed Glen Matlock to get rid of him.

To quote directly from Sandall's article, Kent was unperturbed:

"I was a middle-class druggie fop and they were working-class spivs who would steal the gold from their mother's teeth."

And that was that. Save for the fact that one year later, at the 100 Club, Kent was subjected to an "unprovoked bicycle chain attack" by Matlock's substitute. Stitched in place with all the glee our Malcolm could bring to bear.

So much skullduggery. Of course. By all accounts - and I do mean all - Simon John Ritchie posessed all the traits of an emotionally retarded playground bully.

Lacking any talent beyond the strictly photogenic, he always sappeared quick to step out from behind his bass to play to maximum applause. Smack the f@cker in the teeth and he'd back down. Lose your bottle and he'd pick it up off the floor and jam in it in your face.

And there lies the rub. If Nick Kent had not been stoned when everybody else was hoovering up the amphetamine sulphate, he might well have got the boot in first. Don't feel too sorry for him though. One good smack deserves another.

El Sid turned blue on heroin while his mother idled through his last convulsions. Right next door. Nick Kent lived to tell the tale.


There's a karmic symmetry to that.

And I'll wager Nick Kent never dashed his cat's brains out on the bathroom door.

NICK KENT'S "APATHY FOR THE DEVIL: A 1970s MEMOIR", pp408, @£10.99, FABER.

19 comments:

Brushback said...

The new masthead is absurd, but it's also kinda cool.

ib said...

Thanks, dude. I may as well now pepper the reply with such affectations as 'dude' given the lamentable state of the this latest development.

I was kinda bored with the old one; cobbled together as it was in the first instance.

Anyway. I haven't yet decided if this 'eyesore' will go the distance, either. If I find myself suddenly cultivating a mullet I will almost certainly pull it.

Jon said...

I kinda like it, the masthead that is. You never know Ib, mullets might be poised to make the transition to ironically hip. I recently came across a young shit with one of those ugly fu manchu mustaches that were so popular in the early '70's. He looked exactly like one of those insufferable shitrakes that R. Crumb used to ridicule and he was smugly convinced that he was the coolest dude in town, dude.

Anyhow, Drake never really crossed the Atlantic. We knew who he was and that was it. Burchill and Parson's "Boy Looked At Johnny" was hugely influential in my circles. Subsequent reading would indicate that they never wrote another worthwhile word. I'll admit I read an amusing piece by Burchill in defense of "Neds", but, despise the odd laugh, it was shit.

ib said...

Eh, Kent not Drake, but the slip is understandable.

Both, in a sense, were peculiarly English but Kent actually sppent quite a bit of time in the States circa '74 or '75. Spent some bad times shooting the shit with Iggy. Or did he stop at chasing the dragon ?

He was a big New York Dolls admirer, which was how he came to be introduced to McLaren back home in England.

Anyhow. He was a far better writer than either Parsons or Burchill, I feel. Never had too much time for that pairing at all.

So... Thanks for the vote of appreciation on the masthead. It is deeply cheesy, of course, but I was hankering after something which shouted "Roll Up!".

Funny. I once sported one of those ridiculous Fu Manchu moustaches myself. Very briefly. It began life as a half-assed token of participation for a Halloween party and I - ill advisedly - grew rather fond of it.

Still, Crumb's more conservative facial topiary was not so much better, I don't believe.

Jesus. The tv is tuned to the Vancouver Winter Olympics as we 'speak'. Our Scottish entry in the ice dancing competition just skated out to the strains of an old Johnny Cash number. Decked out in matchng plaid and denim and cowboy hats.

Now, that is style.

Jon said...

Oops, Kent. As to Crumb's stupid mustache, Crumb is trying to look stupid and unfashionable. How can you tell if he's succeeded?

"Decked out in matching plaid and denim and cowboy hats"?

You're from Scotland. You're a figure skater. This is your big moment. How do you want the world to see you?

How about something involving tartans and cowboy hats?

Brilliant!

Ramone666 said...

Nick Kent was an original, a fine writer with a style of his own and good taste in music. You reckon that new book is any good? I´ve got a collection of his NME stuff (The Dark Stuff) I can heartily recommend. Dude.

ib said...

Ramone666:

Dude. "The Dark Stuff" was pretty good. You just reminded me. I borrowed a friend's copy years back and I have a horrible suspicion its lurking somewhere in the back of the hall cupboard.

Or did I return it ? I had better check.

I think Kent's new book looks even better, from what I can gather. Rather than reprints from the NME archives, "Apathy For The Devil" looks to be a no holds barred account of his exploits behind the scenes; backed up with a good deal of relevant autobiographical shit.

He gives an account of how new darlings Parsons and Burchill erected a barbed wire fence around their shared desk in the NME offices. And how they intidimated the older staff to such a degree that one developed stomach ulcers.

Good stuff.

ib said...

Jon:

Yes. We Scots are quite rightly celebrated the world over for our maudlin behaviour.

Shameless and often hideously contrived to court approval. I am wondering, though, why they did not choose to get themselves all spruced up in lumberjack outfits ?

When in Rome...

You're right about Crumb, of course.

Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

What is so funny about fu manchus?

Jon said...

Fu Manchus match perfectly with airbrushed van conversions with crushed velour interiors. They allow you to say things like, "When coke keeps you warm at Big Sur man, that's good coke."

Actually, I mock them because I could never grow one. My last mustache made me look like the actor, Wilfred Brimley. I was in my thirties at the time. I later grew a ghastly scraggly looking Van Gogh sort of beard and mustache combo. I am now clean shaven so that I will not be the butt of facial hair wisecracks by the likes of me.

RossK said...

Suddenly turning into Wilfred the Quaker in one's 30's, even if only fleetingly, would be enough to make any man crazy.

Thanks for the Kentian re-load lb, must confess that I'd pretty much forgotten about the dude.

(if only....I'd been able to kinda/sorta Legs McNeil a long time ago in such fashion, I would be a lot happier now)

RossK said...

kinda/sorta 'forget' the esteemed Mr. McNeil I mean.

.

ib said...

And what's so wrong with crushed velour, while we're at it ?

Outwardly ghastly and given to tearing, that shit is classic. The comfiest sofa fabric known to man.

File next to lurex and naugahyde.

Ross K:

Roderick McNeil, eh ? We had "Zig-Zag" as a "Creem" substitute, before it went punk in 1977. And the legendary "Sniffin' Glue" in the summer of '76, which died of poor circulation. I have never had the good fortune to hold a copy of "Punk" magazine.

Jon:

You lost me on the Brimley. I had to look that one up. I thought for a second you meant Wilfred Bramble. Bad enough. Of course, the moment Brimley possessed a browser tab I caught your drift.

Not so much The Chin Syndrome, as a coccoon curled over the upper lip.

The full Fu / goatee combo I have never successfully cultivated. I have a little bald patch nestled in the corner of my face which necessitates a comb over.

Jon said...

Poor Nick Kent got lost somewhere in there didn't he? What a funny discussion this turned into. Good to know all of your reader's opinions on '70's facial hair and upholstery.

RossK said...

lb--

In a more karmic way, McNeil kind of did to Lester Bangs what Ritchie did to Kent.

He, McNeil, actually cops to it here.

.

ib said...

Well. I needed the pointer. I read the interview with Helen Wilson, and I can't quite decide whether McNeil is a prick or if his coverage of events in El Salvador (con)fused a few circuits along the way.

I see coke is still ubiquitous; not to be confused with adrenalin.

I mean, god bless comic books and bubblegum. I was amazed too that the Ramones didn't sell more records; Wait a minute. They did. Probably just as many as the Velvets, first time around, if you can be bothered to count.

And I am left wondering what might have been if the shambling Bangs had accidentally keeled over and crushed both Legs and pickle.

At least he would have saved himself a few cold beers.

ib said...

"Facial Hair & Upholstery".

Sounds like the book Lester never got to finish.

ib said...

Of course. I am being unfeasibly harsh on McNeil. Might have been the side of the bed I fell out that morning. Who knows. Which way the wind blows.

RossK said...

Unfeasibly?

No.

I don't think so.

.