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5 March 2010 11,953 views One Comment

Nick Kent with DL  – Laughing off  the  matter of a 27 minute Dazed And Confused. Rough Trade Record shop Brick Lane March 3 2010 -Photo T. Zupancic

I have very rarely purchased an album on the strength of a positive album review but I can remember two vivid exceptions. One was a rave review in the Melody Maker in 1972 for the Jefferson Airplane album Long John Silver. ‘’This is the album that will brighten your weekend’’ it said.  I duly laid out the slightly extortionate £2.70 (it had a deluxe cover) and put my faith in the review.

Wrong move.

The album was a complete dud and I sold it to the second hand shop in town within months (Not the best move really as it turned out as it’s worth a bit now!)

The other album I rushed out to buy having been inspired by the review, was Marquee Moon by Television. This was the cover feature in the NME of February 5th 1977. Over two pages Nick Kent waxed lyrical over the prowess of this New York based band fronted by Tom Verlaine .

”This music is passionate, full blooded,dazzingly well crafted and brilliantly conceived and totally accessible to anyone like myself, who has been yearning for a band to break on through into new dimensions of sonic overdrive with the sheer ability to back it up”

He made it sound like one of the greatest albums ever made. Upon purchase that’s exactly how it  did sound  – and some 33 years on it still does.

Melody Maker 0 NME 1

As I read somewhere recently, the Melody Maker scribes seemed something of a conservative looking bunch back in the early 70s. Chris Welch looked like a friendly pub landlord in his pen picture. In stark contrast, over at the NME, Nick Kent looked like he had just been shooting up with The Rolling Stones- and he probably had.

They say never meet your heroes as there’s the distinct possibility of a let down. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a fair few of mine over the years and have generally never been disappointed. I’m more than happy to report that Nick Kent was no exception. 

Nick, alongside Charles Shaar Murray and the late Ian MacDonald, were the hip underground writers drafted in during 1972 to save the NME’s falling circulation. They had 12 weeks to turn it around. They more than succeeded. Within months the music weekly’s circulation had doubled. As an avid NME reader I lapped all this up. I absolutely loved Nick Kent’s maverick writing and still have reams of reviews and features he wrote for the NME lining my archives.  

 Flamboyant, flowery but always perceptive, always opinionated and knowledgeable.  He penned long rambling profiles on the likes of Nick Drake and Syd Barrett. His on the road reports of The Rolling Stones took you right into their world. It helped of course that he was also a big Zeppelin advocator and built a very fruitful rapport with Page and co resulting in a series of memorable Zep interviews, reviews and features.

Back then Nick Kent was a hero of mine and was a massive influence on my own initial notions of putting pen to paper to write about music (mainly Led Zeppelin as it turned out!). Not that I always agreed with his opinions. When he gave The Song Remains The Same movie the brush off (‘’Zep blow it’’), I was in there with naive rose tinted glass retaliation.

Under the pseudonym ‘’Ace Wallbanger’’ I fired off a retort to the NME’s letters page which was duly published.  

Bad Zep review notwithstanding, meeting him on Wednesday night at his book launch at the Rough Trade record shop in Brick Lane was a massive thrill. Far from the arrogant hip gun slinging persona of the 70s painted at the time, Nick was utterly charming. During the Q and A session he showed genuine humility, massive knowledge and an excellent memory considering all that was going on (and up) in that era.

‘’It wasn’t about some power trip I was on’’ he commented, ‘’I genuinely wanted to pass on my passion for what I liked and a band like Televison deserved to be heard’’ 

 His book of 1970s memoirs Apathy For The Devil is a mouthwatering prospect and to paraphrase Nick’s comments in his Physical Graffiti review, I’m looking forward to getting intimate with it’s nigh on 400 pages.

There’s also a great ‘Soundtrack To The Seventies’ appendix in which Nick selects as he puts it ‘’The individual songs and entire albums that make up the music that meant most to me during the years I’ve focused on in this book’’. The 90 odd selections line up a bit like my record collection and will be ideal for compiling a suitable playlist by which to accompany this captivating read.

 The 1970s – lets face it musically it was the place to be…and still is. Coupled with copious amounts of The Who as I plough on with the Live At Leeds feature, plenty of Physical Graffiti plus the Stones and Rod/Faces (thank you John P), that fact has echoed around the walls here these past few days. Nick Kent’s superb book is a compelling overview of the era told from a personal perspective from somebody who was right there – and there’s many a Zep tale to be told along the way. If you are a fan of 1970’s rock music (and reading this you must be) it’s simply essential reading.

Look out from much more from Nick Kent in the forthcoming TBL magazine – yet another reason not to miss out – subscribe now if you haven’t already.

 Talking of which, suddenly its March and there’s a lot to do. Lay out on the magazine is commencing plus lots of collation of text. Mixed in with stuff on The Who, it’s been full on. However, I will be taking time out later today to attend the funeral of an ex colleague. Barbara Sheffield was the kind hearted lady who I worked with during the 70s and early 80s in W H Smith. When I started the job as a 17 year old it was Barbara who showed me the ropes from the till on the toy department. Wonderful innocent days. 1970s days -and I will duly be paying my respects to a lovely lady in the church were I got married nearly 26 years ago.

Who knows where the time goes? as Sandy Denny sung so sweetly… but it goes…and all too soon.

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One Comment »

  • Fiona said:

    Interesting article. I remember your letter being published in NME!Thank you.

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