from sad syd to sid sack

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.


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