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The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings On Rock Music

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Rock journalism on: Brian Wilson, Guns'N'Roses, Roky Erickson, The New York Dolls, Sid Vicious, Roy Orbison, Elvis Costello, The Smiths, Neil Young, Jerry Lee Lewis, Miles Davis, The Pogues, Lou Reed, Syd Barrett, The Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, Kurt Cobain


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Rock journalism on: Brian Wilson, Guns'N'Roses, Roky Erickson, The New York Dolls, Sid Vicious, Roy Orbison, Elvis Costello, The Smiths, Neil Young, Jerry Lee Lewis, Miles Davis, The Pogues, Lou Reed, Syd Barrett, The Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, Kurt Cobain

30 review for The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings On Rock Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kimley

    Rock 'n' roll, the great visceral release for the middle class. Everyone fantasizes at some point about either being the bad boy or doing the bad boy (or both as the case may be)*. Nick Kent looks at the truly dark side of living the rock 'n' roll life - not the glamorous, delightfully-high-with-a-groupie-on-each-arm side - but the OD on heroin in a bathroom alone side, the losing your mind until you're a vegetable side. And Kent has the street cred to pull this off, having been a rock 'n' roller Rock 'n' roll, the great visceral release for the middle class. Everyone fantasizes at some point about either being the bad boy or doing the bad boy (or both as the case may be)*. Nick Kent looks at the truly dark side of living the rock 'n' roll life - not the glamorous, delightfully-high-with-a-groupie-on-each-arm side - but the OD on heroin in a bathroom alone side, the losing your mind until you're a vegetable side. And Kent has the street cred to pull this off, having been a rock 'n' roller himself and genuinely friends with many of his subjects. And I did frequently wonder how he managed to pull this off and remain friends with the people about whom he wrote such scathing portraits. I kept thinking of the scene in the movie Almost Famous where they call the doe-eyed, aspiring rock journalist kid "the enemy". But despite his friendship, Kent does let us know that many (most?) of these rock-n-rollers are indeed assholes or seriously fucked-up at best. The essays run the gamut from 60s icons (Brian Wilson, Syd Barret, Brian Jones and more) to 90s icon Kurt Cobain and many more in between. The selection of musicians discussed was right in my comfort zone of music taste and even the few people discussed here that I don't care for (Neil Young) nevertheless made for mostly interesting essays. Guns and Roses however sound like they may be even more boring as people than their music but that's a minor quibble. The Iggy Pop and Miles Davis essays were among my favorites perhaps because they both managed to come back from the near-dead and that can generally make for a more interesting tale than someone who shoots up and dies. The essays are frequently an amalgamation of multiple interviews that he'd done over many years of an artist's career and Kent has a way of writing the dialogue and describing a person so you really feel like you're present at the interviews. So, go ahead and curl up on your sofa with your snuggie and read about the dark stuff and be glad you're not a heroin addict. *Sadly, there are no rock-n-roll chicks in this book. Kent had a fling with Chrissie Hynde so I guess he just decided to stay clear of the bad girls. -------------- Before Reading.... Another find at Amoeba. Some sample chapter titles that make this look promising: The Cracked Ballad of Syd Barrett Brian Jones, Tortured Narcissus Sid Vicious - the Exploding Dim Wit Morrissey, the Majesty of Melancholia and The Light That Never Goes Out in Smiths-dom

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dario

    [Review of the Faber&Faber “Faber Social” 2019 edition]. This is a collection of twenty-six portraits of influential rock musicians. They are stories of happy extroverts who become sad introverts, geniuses who leave their mark on music but not on healthy family life, and also, a lot of drugs, alcohol, debts, and fighting. Such is the price to pay to create good music. My verdict on each section Sources and Acknowledgements: A very informative four pages on the history of each chapter, when/wher [Review of the Faber&Faber “Faber Social” 2019 edition]. This is a collection of twenty-six portraits of influential rock musicians. They are stories of happy extroverts who become sad introverts, geniuses who leave their mark on music but not on healthy family life, and also, a lot of drugs, alcohol, debts, and fighting. Such is the price to pay to create good music. My verdict on each section Sources and Acknowledgements: A very informative four pages on the history of each chapter, when/where it was first published, etc. Though it already makes a mistake because the cover says “Selected writings on rock music 1972-1993” and the most recent article on here (Serge Gainsbourg) was published in 2006… :/ Foreword by Iggy Pop (from 1993): Unnecessary. It’s barely a page long and doesn’t feel eccentric enough, which is what I would expect from Iggy Pop. I suspect he dictated it to someone (maybe Kent himself) who transcribed/summarised it for him - maybe for the sake of them being mates. Brian Wilson: A bit lengthy, but nonetheless an interesting and engaging portrait on the Beach Boys mastermind, especially his deteriorating mental state and how he survived it. Jerry Lee Lewis: Fun, narrates his rise, fall, and rise again - without being verbose. Roky Erikson: I get that Kent’s attempt at interviewing him failed miserably because Erikson was barely communicative, but could more have been fished out from him? Unless it was done on purpose to reflect the impossibility of interviewing him, thus the impossibility of getting a detailed article about him? Very inconclusive overall. Syd Barrett: One of my favourites on here, great portrait of Barrett, the early Pink Floyd, Barrett’s exit (from the band and from reality) and his solo career. Brian Jones: Another one of my favourites, Jones as a tortured man is described excellently, as well as going into detail with regards to his personal life. Rolling Stones: Jagger and Richards are portrayed like big twats here, destroyed by their addictions and their egos. New York Dolls: The band members are portrayed in a bit of a douchy way, with attempts from Kent at redeeming them without glorifying them. Lou Reed: Wonderful and poignant. Sid Vicious: Tragic and brutal. Elvis Costello: Amazing how Costello collected a book with the names of all the people that made him angry, and used them as inspiration for his songs as a way of revenge, and how he tells Kent he almost made it in one of his songs because Kent didn’t see him when he was an opening act to Dr Feelgood. Quite brilliant. Morrissey: Hate him or not, this was a decent and fairly concise insight. Shane McGowan: Another portrait of a madman, but I enjoyed it. Guns and Roses: Against my expectations, it was interesting, even though I’m not fond of them. Happy Mondays & Stone Roses: Didn’t really like this one (90% can be summarised as “Ecstasy’s f*cking class, mate”), but then again I’m not fond of Happy Mondays, though I do like some Stone Roses songs. Iggy Pop 1: Another 90% drug consumption piece, but Iggy Pop is undoubtedly an interesting person with plenty of amusing things to say. Miles Davis: Brilliant, my favourite one in the whole book - yes, Davis much like everyone else in this book was no saint, but he was a different musician, not just because he didn’t play rock, but because he was simply a whole other being, a whole level of musicianship and artistry. “His philosophy is shaped from one simple point of view: He is Miles Davis, and you’re not.” (p. 297). Roy Orbison: Another lovely piece rendered more poignant by the fact that he was interviewed shortly before he died. Great insight into his mindset, comes across as a very wholesome person, making it stand out compared to all previous pieces about extreme lifestyles. Neil Young: Interesting read but very, very long. If you’re not a Neil Young fan (luckily I consider myself to be one) you’ll have a hard time. For the most part it’s just a long Wikipedia article about his discography. Kurt Cobain: A short obituary, focussed more at portraying Kurt Cobain as a tortured human soul rather than a rock deity. I particularly loved this quote: “How much of a tragedy is it really when someone who so ardently craves to embrace the void twenty-four hours a day finally gets his wish?”. Iggy Pop 2: Could have easily been edited into the first piece on Iggy Pop earlier on. Prince: Another eccentric rockstar, but described well - particularly how much he stood away from others (and still does). An important document especially in light of his recent death. Johnny Cash: Very dark, yet very insightful account on a talented yet troubled musician. Eminem: Immortalises the rise of Eminem well (1999-2000), though on the whole, it feels quite dated - especially taking into account Eminem’s current career. Sly Stone: Sad how he went from genius to coke-addicted maniac. Probably the only musician on here with no conclusion - no death, no sobriety, no self-acceptance, he remains a coke-addicted maniac right through the end (and is he still one now?). Serge Gainsbourg: Very honest and personal, especially in how repelled he was by him, despite openly re-evaluating his career at the end. Also for once doesn’t try to write a biography by him like the others, just sticks to when he met him in person. Phil Spector: A portrait of a madman, who perhaps became a madman because the press at the time inflated his ego - at least that’s Kent’s interpretation. “Self-Destruction in Rock and Elsewhere”: A short conclusion about self-destructive rock personalities, a summary of sorts for the whole book and a conclusion that self-destruction in rock is a necessary evil - but rockstars have to be careful not to die from it. Overall this was an enjoyable if inconsistent read, as I didn’t love every single section. It’s worth mentioning how this is very much a document of a time when music journalism was still relevant: before Wikipedia, Pitchfork, Youtube album reviews or Mojo Top 10 documentaries. Kent is a good writer, but considering this is a reprint I feel more effort could have been done in editing some sections. Some parts could have been shorter, a few phrases on the artists/bands now could have been added (such as something about Prince’s death)… but that is just my opinion. Good to keep as a reference. Favourite sections: Syd Barrett, Brian Jones, Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, Shane McGowan, Miles Davis, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David Cooke

    As with so many collections, this book is exceptionally uneven. There are also a few issues with the author that get in the way: 1) he dwells a lot on the scene of which he was a part, and those punk, etc. drug-filled blah blahs get tiresome; 2) while most of the time his snarky and clear attitude worked to inject life into the story, sometimes his personal feelings got in the way of the journalism; 3) he's definitely a dick; 4) there are no women in the book. This last one was pointed out to me As with so many collections, this book is exceptionally uneven. There are also a few issues with the author that get in the way: 1) he dwells a lot on the scene of which he was a part, and those punk, etc. drug-filled blah blahs get tiresome; 2) while most of the time his snarky and clear attitude worked to inject life into the story, sometimes his personal feelings got in the way of the journalism; 3) he's definitely a dick; 4) there are no women in the book. This last one was pointed out to me by someone else before I started reading the book, and coupled with #1 it does make the collection feel a bit shallow at points. That said, there are some big pluses. This book dives head-first into trying to tell rock'n'roll from the ground, less a criticism and more of a matter-of-fact account, without feeling dry. I appreciated the frankness, and I really loved how in a lot of instances the goal seemed to confront the mythos of rock iconography and just say, "Look, some of this is tragic, but a lot of it is just bullshit they bring on themselves because to make some of this art you've got to be fucked in the head/a bit of a dick/self-indulgent/etc." Best chapters for me: 3/4 of the Brian Wilson chapter; Jerry Lee Lewis; Syd Barrett; Brian Jones; Miles Davis, Neil Young. However, sometimes he clearly needed more editing or just better content. There's a chunk of stories mostly in a row that just drive home the "rock stars do a lot of drugs, and that causes problems" motif, and the writing often in these cases just rambled. Being about contemporaries of Kent feel like he was writing too close to home, and it didn't work. Worst chapters: Stones/Babylon (which has interesting tidbits but rambles), New York Dolls, Shane McGowan> Guns'n'Roses>Mancunian Candidates (worst consecutive chapters bar none), Lou Reed, Iggy Pop (4 Faces) because it was too long and winding (even though the content and concept was a good one), Eminem (although I like the initial conceit). I would have to say that I would only recommend to most people specific stories as opposed to the book as a whole. While I definitely learned a lot out of many of the chapters (even the bad ones) that helped yield a more complete vision, of which I personally am glad I've read it in its entirety, it's ultimately too flawed to be for anyone but the most hardcore music aficionado (or people who really dig Kent's scene from the 70s/80s, towards which this is definitely skewed).

  4. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    *Back-dating reviews based on snips I find* Originally, I had the idea of this book skewed. I thought it was a string of interviews with the people in question throughout this book. At first, it took a little to get into since it wasn’t what I had expected but when I grasped what Kent was actually doing, I read through this book at unimaginable speed. Profiling many musicians through his own experiences and interviews with others as well as the people in question, he paints so many pictures most w *Back-dating reviews based on snips I find* Originally, I had the idea of this book skewed. I thought it was a string of interviews with the people in question throughout this book. At first, it took a little to get into since it wasn’t what I had expected but when I grasped what Kent was actually doing, I read through this book at unimaginable speed. Profiling many musicians through his own experiences and interviews with others as well as the people in question, he paints so many pictures most would never have considered prior to this. Sid Vicious, for one, is acclaimed for his behaviour at times, but never before have I seen him depicted as ‘an explosive dim wit’. I’m more than accustomed of hearing how intelligent Nancy was, if anything, and linking him with that. I also never knew how, dare I say, fucked up Brian Wilson was. The longest profiling of the book, it really surprised me to know all the troubles and odd personality traits he held. Honestly, I’ve never looked at the Beach Boys like that. At best, I knew their music and the fact that the Wilson brothers were involved; the Beach Boys were just a happy, successful band I was aware of growing up. You never know the shit the legends go through. Kurt Cobain is profiled as a cult hero, but Kent depicts him as a man who is never satisfied when his dreams come true. That much is clear to anyone who reads his interviews throughout his life, but history and press dictates him to be a hero and for his death to be a tragedy. I’d never considered it not to be a tragedy, but a blessing for someone who simply did not want to be here. Nick Kent was capable, and presumably still is, of asking the questions the get the answers people want. My first interview of 2012 was yesterday and the interviewee was someone who should go to rehab – someone his band mates plead with to go to rehab – and I couldn’t bring myself to ask about it. Try as I might, I’m not quite there yet. Nick Kent is a master of his art and, in turn, presented a really good, interesting read. He did note at the start he asked his favourite journalist to teach him his ways. So, Nick, if you’re reading… I have my notebook ready, come teach me your ways.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jade

    A great selection of journalism from a great writer. Kent takes you into the lives of the world's most notorious performers and builds a world of both tragedy and humour, which makes you feel at home with each indivdual. The only problem I found in this book was that it got a little samey throughout the middle, only because nearly every character has the same drug and alcohol problems. Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of reading and am now wanting to take my taster session into a f A great selection of journalism from a great writer. Kent takes you into the lives of the world's most notorious performers and builds a world of both tragedy and humour, which makes you feel at home with each indivdual. The only problem I found in this book was that it got a little samey throughout the middle, only because nearly every character has the same drug and alcohol problems. Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of reading and am now wanting to take my taster session into a full on 5 course meal.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mk100

    With this collection of essays and interviews, Nick instantly became one of my favorite Rock 'N' Roll writers ever. His work is so incisive and clever, so uncompromising and unwilling to bow to the claims of celebrity, that I think he easily stands with Lester Bangs (with whom he apprenticed) as the great diarists of The End Of The World As We Know It and (Nick feels fine), His own descent into more than a decade of heroin addiction is extremely harrowing, and mainly told separately in Apathy Fo With this collection of essays and interviews, Nick instantly became one of my favorite Rock 'N' Roll writers ever. His work is so incisive and clever, so uncompromising and unwilling to bow to the claims of celebrity, that I think he easily stands with Lester Bangs (with whom he apprenticed) as the great diarists of The End Of The World As We Know It and (Nick feels fine), His own descent into more than a decade of heroin addiction is extremely harrowing, and mainly told separately in Apathy For The Devil, one of the great RNR reads ever.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alastair Doughty

    This was a re-read of one of my favourite anthologies of music journalism, exploring the seamier side of the scenes. The chapter on Syd Barrett is a beautiful and honest melancholy tribute. My favourite is the chapter on Miles Davis, "Lightening up with the Prince of Darkness". This contains the genius observation that the logic of Miles' position in any exchange is based on the premise that "he is Miles Davis and you are not". Never have I known such a brilliant summary of the formidable nature This was a re-read of one of my favourite anthologies of music journalism, exploring the seamier side of the scenes. The chapter on Syd Barrett is a beautiful and honest melancholy tribute. My favourite is the chapter on Miles Davis, "Lightening up with the Prince of Darkness". This contains the genius observation that the logic of Miles' position in any exchange is based on the premise that "he is Miles Davis and you are not". Never have I known such a brilliant summary of the formidable nature of the man.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kyra Hendricks

    The different sections were written wonderfully and gave you this insight on rock music history that are almost extremely expected but still seem worse when he describes it. It was the perfect read for people who enjoy rock music from the 60s to late 90s. I'm glad I happened to just pick this book up.

  9. 4 out of 5

    minnie

    Rock Journalism from someone who seemed to always be an insider, but wrote about it all ,for us to read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Serdar

    Worth it for the Beach Boys chapter alone.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Greg Latanick

    Great stuff, Kent rules. The chapter on Brian Wilson alone is worth the book, and the rest is filled with mostly astute insights on other great rock n rollers.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Carole Tyrrell

    I had already read the first edition of this book when it first came out in 1994 and really enjoyed it. It included two of my favourite pieces of rock journalism by Nick Kent, Brian Wilson and Syd Barrett two voyagers on the sea of drugs and mental disintegration. One of whom came back and it can still be disconcerting to see someone of the stature of Brian Wilson looking very confused and worried in performance on TV and the other, Syd Barrett, vanishing into silence. However, I didn’t much car I had already read the first edition of this book when it first came out in 1994 and really enjoyed it. It included two of my favourite pieces of rock journalism by Nick Kent, Brian Wilson and Syd Barrett two voyagers on the sea of drugs and mental disintegration. One of whom came back and it can still be disconcerting to see someone of the stature of Brian Wilson looking very confused and worried in performance on TV and the other, Syd Barrett, vanishing into silence. However, I didn’t much care for his book of memoirs, ‘Apathy for the Devil’, as it felt too much as though he was on the fringe of things, always grabbing at rock stars coat tails whilst saying to the reader, ‘I really was there – honest’. But this expanded and revised edition of ‘The Dark Stuff’, published in 2007, is Nick Kent at his best, writing incisively and wittily about his subjects. I have already mentioned the Brian Wilson and Syd Barrett pieces but his article on the doomed ‘Sid Vicious; The Exploding Dimwit.’ was another welcome re-read. Other highlights include ‘The Daze of Guns ‘n’ Roses;’ – whatever happened to them? – and a less than reverential assessment of Kurt Cobain amongst others. All in all there are 22 of the most talented and self-destructive rock stars featured with an afterword on self-destruction and its place in music. Kent isn’t in awe of his subjects and none of his pieces are puff pieces, kowtowing to celebrity which is refreshing these days. But is there still a place for rock journalism now in the era of blogs and online music publications? I grew up in the ‘70’s when there were several weekly and monthly music publications available. The NME at its peak sold 300,000 copies weekly with Nick Kent and Charles Shaar Murray as their star writers. They guided me through glam rock, punk rock, Brit rock and grunge amongst others. The Dark Stuff is an interesting and often entertaining selection featuring performers from each of the golden decades of rock – the ‘50’s with Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison, the ‘60’s with the Rolling Stones and Brian Jones, the ‘70’s with Sly and the Family Stone and Iggy Pop and then coming more up to date with Kurt Cobain and Prince. There’s also the unexpected inclusion such as Serge Gainsbourg, The book begins with a short introduction by Iggy Pop who describes Kent as ‘a true rock and roller; someone who cared.’ Mr Pop features twice in the book and is a real survivor unlike others. The spectacular implosion, mainly from drugs, of Sly Stone is a salutary lesson and revealed why he disappeared so suddenly from the music scene. Phil Spector’s decline is also discussed in detail. It’s amazing that performers can still produce incredible music whilst in the grip of dangerous substances and virtually lying in the gutter. Kent has a fascination with rock’s outsiders. In ‘Lightening up with the Prince of Darkness’ Kent talks to Miles Davis, discusses his drug addiction and his restless urge to change direction and take the risk of alienating his fans. This desire is exemplified in Davis’ quote ‘I’ve got to change. It’s like a curse.’ It’s the ones that don’t change that are less interesting for me. The Stones have always left me a little cold although I enjoyed reading Kent’s piece on them. Lou Reed was another highlight as was Neil Young and the Haphazard Highway that leads to Unconditional Love. The concluding piece on Self-Destruction raises several interesting points; is it best to destroy yourself and your career and go out in a blaze of glory as with the members of the notorious 27 Club? Or to redeem yourself, pull yourself from the brink of death, take the Las Vegas residency and soldier on? It can be horrible to watch a genuine talent such as Amy Winehouse shine brightly and then vanish while admiring them in a weird way. I couldn’t see Winehouse taking the Kerry Katona route of going into rehab and then hawking tales of her addiction hell. However the Stones still do their turn around the stadiums of the world – one day they will all die and will no doubt be playing from the beyond the grave via a séance link-up. But then there’s Sid Vicious. A genuine talent for self-destruction as he never felt he had a choice. But not a doomed star as he lumbered from disaster to disaster with a genius for being able to cop the right attitude and have a handy way with a fist. He certainly wasn’t going to end up promoting butter. In my opinion, self-destruction shows a willingness to take risks and for some there’s no direction home again. I really enjoyed the re-reading of The Dark Stuff and realised how rare good, insightful music journalism is these days. Whenever I read the NME now it doesn’t feel the same as it seems to be crammed with colourful bits and pieces about the music scene without any articles to really capture your interest. Must be a sign of getting old. These days music is bought online and the rituals of finding and listening to it have changed. No more the Saturday afternoon browse in your local record store to see what’s new , the hiss of a new vinyl record under the needle or the bookmarking of a life experience by a song. The Dark Stuff was a book that was well worth revisiting.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Peter Landau

    Do today’s pop stars act like the goons Nick Kent profiles? I hope so, and that there’s someone there to capture the absurdity. These studies in excess mostly focus on the drug and drink side, but there are a few who are as driven to create. Most are obsessed, though a couple just stupid. All the pieces, however, are entertaining.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nikolas Kalar

    "It was real 'heart of darkness' music in the classic Kurtzian sense and a lot further down the river of no return, sonically speaking, than their debut." This is the kind of writing by Nick Kent, talking here about the Stooges' second album Fun House, that makes me enjoy this collection more than the previous collection of rock oriented essays I read by Lester Bangs. As much as he is music man, Kent is also a literary man, with writing that surpasses self-obsession that I felt tripped up Bangs "It was real 'heart of darkness' music in the classic Kurtzian sense and a lot further down the river of no return, sonically speaking, than their debut." This is the kind of writing by Nick Kent, talking here about the Stooges' second album Fun House, that makes me enjoy this collection more than the previous collection of rock oriented essays I read by Lester Bangs. As much as he is music man, Kent is also a literary man, with writing that surpasses self-obsession that I felt tripped up Bangs work. But, of course, they are totally different writers. Bangs wrote of his thoughts on music, Kent interviews musicians. Much like Bangs collection, I jumped around here from artist to artist as they interested me. His subjects are wide ranging and include Syd Barrett, the New York Dolls, Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, the Smiths, Iggy Pop, Kurt Cobain and Prince. The essays were thoroughly conducted and entertaining, spanning the decades from 1974 to 1999. More often than not, this collection amalgamates various Kent interviews from various periods, so we get to hear Iggy Pop in his own words (for better or worse) both from his drug induced stupor of the 70s (which eventually sent him to a mental institution) to his relatively clean and sober period in the 90s. What keeps me from liking this collection as much as I would otherwise though is Kent's attitude toward his subjects. He is less than sympathetic toward rock n rollers proclivity to alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide and other forms of tragic deaths, particularly in his brief article about Cobain. Kent also suffers from what I feel many music writers suffer from. They don't want to write about musicians, they want to be musicians and as such there are many flippant passages of Kent expressing his unwavering coolness, or the lack of coolness of those he is interviewing. It is interesting to hear the artists in their own words, and we have Kent to thank for asking the questions, but is is however less interesting to hear what he has to say about it. If you're a fan of any of the artists mentioned, it is worth a shot.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    I ate up these dark, unedited versions of the rockers' lives. Well, let's clarify "rockers." The thing about Kent's book is that... Well, some weren't what I consider rock and rollers. To be clear, I'm 22 years old. Brian Wilson to me was a pioneer and one hell of an interesting story, but the Beach Boys? I was expecting those crazy stories we all hear about Led Zeppelin, etc. However, the book is worth the read for more than a few stories (Rolling Stones, The Smiths, Brian Wilson, Miles Davis, I ate up these dark, unedited versions of the rockers' lives. Well, let's clarify "rockers." The thing about Kent's book is that... Well, some weren't what I consider rock and rollers. To be clear, I'm 22 years old. Brian Wilson to me was a pioneer and one hell of an interesting story, but the Beach Boys? I was expecting those crazy stories we all hear about Led Zeppelin, etc. However, the book is worth the read for more than a few stories (Rolling Stones, The Smiths, Brian Wilson, Miles Davis, Kurt Cobain) and got me listening to some of those bands again (well, not the Sex Pistols that's for sure) as well as clarifying exactly who some of these "pioneers" (and/or fuck-ups that either wasted their talents on drugs and a strong case of the crazies) were (Syd Barrett of the Pink Floyd, Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, Axl Rose). My rock history is officially expanded. And man, are there a lot of drugs. And boy were some of these dudes sad-sack, crazy dudes. Neil Young, you're one in a million. I know that now. I would have liked more of a history and background on the various bands rather than just interviews. But this is a compilation of Kent's various interviews and writings, so it's to be expected. I suppose I'll have to pick up more in-depth biographies for that type of stuff. Any recommendations are much appreciated. Two more things: Where the hell was Led Zeppelin? And what was that shit about Eminem and Prince... A little out of place, wouldn't you say?

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jarvo

    Nick Kent is a fabulous writer, and to some extent I feel a bit parsimonious in only giving this three stars. It is a collection of his journalism from the seventies and eighties, much of it culled from the NME his eminence he did much to establish. It is missing a str or two because I felt that there were just a few too many pieces which didn't necessarily leave me feeling that much more enlightened - see the peices on Elvis Costello, Morrissey and The Stones Roses as examples. Admittedly the l Nick Kent is a fabulous writer, and to some extent I feel a bit parsimonious in only giving this three stars. It is a collection of his journalism from the seventies and eighties, much of it culled from the NME his eminence he did much to establish. It is missing a str or two because I felt that there were just a few too many pieces which didn't necessarily leave me feeling that much more enlightened - see the peices on Elvis Costello, Morrissey and The Stones Roses as examples. Admittedly the last named might have more or less nothing to say for themselves, but not so the first two. However the best of the pieces (eg those on Brian Wilson or Syd Barrett) put any other British writer in the shade. Pieces on trying to tag along with Keith Richards and stay alive, on what its like to be in the deranged presence of Jerry Lee Lewis and one debunking Kurt Cobain were also particularly noteworthy. The book does have a sort of unifying themes in its emphasis on how little it takes to make a young man with an adoring audience and easy access to drugs self-destruct. If you read his autobiography (Apathy for the Devil, which I'd well recommend) you will see that he knows where of he speaks. (Interestingly the collection does not include Nick Kent's obitury of Nick Drake, although it did a lot to keep the lamp burning for one of our finest talents. I believe he thinks that Drake was a young man with serious problems who was not well served by his doctor and hence does not belong in a book about self destruction)

  17. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Neylan

    Of course I remember Nick Kent. In the sense that I remember all those self-declared musical savants of my youth: Paul Morley, Lester Bangs, Charles Shaar Murray, Paul du Noyer, Julie Burchill and of course Nick Kent. But I seldom remember which was which except Gary Bushell (because he was occasionally funny but more usually a complete tool) and Geoff Barton (because he alone championed my then-beloved heavy metal and wrote the highly misleading sleeve notes to my first Deep Purple album, which Of course I remember Nick Kent. In the sense that I remember all those self-declared musical savants of my youth: Paul Morley, Lester Bangs, Charles Shaar Murray, Paul du Noyer, Julie Burchill and of course Nick Kent. But I seldom remember which was which except Gary Bushell (because he was occasionally funny but more usually a complete tool) and Geoff Barton (because he alone championed my then-beloved heavy metal and wrote the highly misleading sleeve notes to my first Deep Purple album, which destroyed his credibility forever the moment I found out). And what I realise now about Nick Kent is that he's not that good a writer. Not terrible, but largely unremarkable. As a young journalist he sat at the knee of the genius Lester Bangs, but all he seems to have learned was how to write at great length. These stories are almost novella-length, as if they're pitches for full-length biographies. They're padded out with lengthy quotes but devoid of sparkling writing, apart from the occasional flourish. The word that springs to mind is 'workmanlike'. We have long narratives but little insight or poetic imagery to bring the music to life; nor much sympathy for the subjects under discussion. So these tales are moderately interesting if you care about the subjects, but since this a book about the 'dark side' we have too many transcripts of interviews with incoherent, spaced-out washouts (notably Lou Reed and a genuinely disturbed Roky Erickson). He wants to tell stories, but he never shows much enthusiasm for his subject, which makes the exercise generally disappointing.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Insightful glimpse into the world of music creators -- from Johnny Cash to Sid Vicious. The chapter on Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys is worth the price of the book. Kent has a gonzo writing style which he carries off well. "the bulbous boom that is Barry White was serenading various species of pond-life" "If his talent as a composer was simply non-existent, his lack of success as a father was to prove rather more significant. Put simply, the man was a sadist and what he practiced on his three son Insightful glimpse into the world of music creators -- from Johnny Cash to Sid Vicious. The chapter on Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys is worth the price of the book. Kent has a gonzo writing style which he carries off well. "the bulbous boom that is Barry White was serenading various species of pond-life" "If his talent as a composer was simply non-existent, his lack of success as a father was to prove rather more significant. Put simply, the man was a sadist and what he practiced on his three sons was child abuse of the most vicious kind." (writing about Brian Wilson's father) "they beat out this muddy, brutal, ecstatic music that grabbed anyone in its path roughly by the scruff of the neck and hurled them headlong into the very wilderness of the senses that lies stretched out just beyond man's deepest primordial fears." (on Iggy and the Stooges) "they played a strange disjointed music that mostly consisted of creepy, moodily-paced verses .. that suddenly exploded into barbaric, bludgeoning choruses full of homicidal guitar riffs and bombastic drumming that sound like the sonic equivalent of a bunch of sadistic thugs gleefully beating some hapless victim to death in a back alley." (on groups like Korn and Limp Bizkit)

  19. 5 out of 5

    emilee

    Although Iggy Pop's introduction states that Kent 'has a side to his history as sordid and generally unsavoury ... as anyone described in this book', I struggled slightly with the tone used across the chapters. Kent never felt particularly sympathetic to his subjects, seeming to revel a bit too much in their struggles and shortcomings. I suppose that's the nature of a book like this, though - a book about self-destructive artists is inherently going to be somewhat exploitative of other people's Although Iggy Pop's introduction states that Kent 'has a side to his history as sordid and generally unsavoury ... as anyone described in this book', I struggled slightly with the tone used across the chapters. Kent never felt particularly sympathetic to his subjects, seeming to revel a bit too much in their struggles and shortcomings. I suppose that's the nature of a book like this, though - a book about self-destructive artists is inherently going to be somewhat exploitative of other people's suffering. That said, Kent is a great writer and tells these stories well, even drawing me into certain chapters that I didn't think I was interested in at all. It does want for a better editor - there were many typos and grammatical errors. Additionally, like many albums, the book is somewhat front-loaded and I felt my attention wavering towards the end, but I suppose that's subjective based on which of the artists you're most interested in. Overall, this book is a great collection of music writing, containing many interesting anecdotes unlikely to be found elsewhere, and serves as a good jumping-off point for further reading and research. I enjoyed it and can see myself referring back to certain chapters in the future.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Othniel

    Nick Kent, as well as being one of the legendary UK music journalists, is also something of a rock'n'roll insider (former lover of Chrissie Hynde; performer on one of the great, lost post-punk singles, "My Flamingo" by The Subterraneans), as well as having a well-documented history with illegal substances. It comes as no surprise, then, that this book, a collection of features and revisited interviews, largely focuses on the damage wrought by drug use. Beginning with a novella-length account of t Nick Kent, as well as being one of the legendary UK music journalists, is also something of a rock'n'roll insider (former lover of Chrissie Hynde; performer on one of the great, lost post-punk singles, "My Flamingo" by The Subterraneans), as well as having a well-documented history with illegal substances. It comes as no surprise, then, that this book, a collection of features and revisited interviews, largely focuses on the damage wrought by drug use. Beginning with a novella-length account of the nightmarish history of the Beach Boys, Kent provides us with detailed impressions of several troubled geniuses (Miles Davis, Syd Barrett, Kurt Cobain, Sly Stone), as well as measured takes on the lives of less self-destructive heroes (Morrissey, Neil Young, Elvis Costello). Naturally, several luminaries come across as thoroughly unpleasant (Brian Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis, Phil Spector); and even Kent's elegantly workmanlike writing can't make someone like Izzy Stradlin appear interesting. There are some ripe descriptions and clever insights here, but "The Dark Stuff" is best avoided if you wants to keep your illusions intact.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jeb

    A fascinating collection of articles by rock journalist Nick Kent, who spent much time interviewing and hanging out with the baddest, the saddest and ugliest characters in the rock scene. There are more misfits and brooding cats here than you can shake a drumstick at. The netherworld of rock 'n' roll is portrayed in all its glorious decadence. Petty ego-trips, insane drug intake, infantile bickering, and sad musings; all this is what made, makes, and will continue to make rock music the magnific A fascinating collection of articles by rock journalist Nick Kent, who spent much time interviewing and hanging out with the baddest, the saddest and ugliest characters in the rock scene. There are more misfits and brooding cats here than you can shake a drumstick at. The netherworld of rock 'n' roll is portrayed in all its glorious decadence. Petty ego-trips, insane drug intake, infantile bickering, and sad musings; all this is what made, makes, and will continue to make rock music the magnificent beast it is. While some of the articles really don't fit into the overall theme of this collection, the ones that share the common thread of maladjustment and misery are something to behold. The article on Roy Orbison was especially poignant. Here's a man who had more than his share of suffering in life, but carried himself with such grace and calm, that it makes everyone else in the book seem like a bunch of little brats. But then, we need our brats too. Rock 'n' roll is a restless animal that should never be tamed.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    This book is a collection of chapters (or essays) on musicians with a dark side whether its drugs, aggression or a grandiose sense of self worth. Regardless of being a fan or not of the various subjects I found this utterly compelling and informative. Artists I know well (e.g. Brian Wilson or Mick Jagger) are shown to be just as you might imagine in their prime whereas the chapters on artists I have read less about (e.g. Jerry Lee Lewis or Roky Erikson) serve as tasters to the madness of their c This book is a collection of chapters (or essays) on musicians with a dark side whether its drugs, aggression or a grandiose sense of self worth. Regardless of being a fan or not of the various subjects I found this utterly compelling and informative. Artists I know well (e.g. Brian Wilson or Mick Jagger) are shown to be just as you might imagine in their prime whereas the chapters on artists I have read less about (e.g. Jerry Lee Lewis or Roky Erikson) serve as tasters to the madness of their characters and encourage further investigation. I have read a great amount of music biographies & publications and Nick Kent's journalism is some of the best writing I have ever had the joy to read. Fantastic; a must read for lovers of sex, drugs and rock n roll (or at the very least those who enjoy witnessing excessive behaviour from a distance!)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Godzilla

    A wonderful, diverse collection of interviews compiled from Nick Kent's long career. There truly should be something for every music fan in here, or else you're not really a music fan! Given Kent's history he's the perfect foil for tales of excess and depravity, and he pulls few punches. I even sensed that he's not overly fond of Sid Vicious! The writing is good, even better when you realise that some sections have been pulled together from a few different interviews over the years. I learnt a lot a A wonderful, diverse collection of interviews compiled from Nick Kent's long career. There truly should be something for every music fan in here, or else you're not really a music fan! Given Kent's history he's the perfect foil for tales of excess and depravity, and he pulls few punches. I even sensed that he's not overly fond of Sid Vicious! The writing is good, even better when you realise that some sections have been pulled together from a few different interviews over the years. I learnt a lot about some artists I hadn't previously given much time to and may be investing in a wider selection of music too. The book certainly inspired me to take anotehr look at a few characters I'd overlooked before

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    Been a while since I read this one, but it falls into the "wanted to live like" category of Withnail and I, Zeppelin's The Song Remains the Same, and (gasp) at one point, a heady mixture of Colette, de Sade's Justine, and Anna Kavan. Oh, being 20 is a consistent kind of stupid. Read this off the back of seeing Jarman's "Jubilee" and was increasingly obsessed with the birth of punk and that time in Britain, all stinking garbage, strict social mores and invisible povo youth. Kent was there, gettin Been a while since I read this one, but it falls into the "wanted to live like" category of Withnail and I, Zeppelin's The Song Remains the Same, and (gasp) at one point, a heady mixture of Colette, de Sade's Justine, and Anna Kavan. Oh, being 20 is a consistent kind of stupid. Read this off the back of seeing Jarman's "Jubilee" and was increasingly obsessed with the birth of punk and that time in Britain, all stinking garbage, strict social mores and invisible povo youth. Kent was there, getting cranked, beaten up outside gigs because of his big mouth. Don't think I'd want him as a flatmate, being so attracted to destruction, but compelling reading.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Rex

    A great read for the fan of Rock n' Roll through the ages. Something for every rock fan is here - from Brian Wilson to the 1970s Stones to the Clash to Nirvana to Guns n' Roses (and many more). Laid out in a manner that allows the reader to bounce around and pick their way through in whatever order they see fit. Highly readable....the dark side of Rock n' Roll exposed. Great for those who don't want to read an entire biography of a rock band or artist...or who are looking to whet their appetite A great read for the fan of Rock n' Roll through the ages. Something for every rock fan is here - from Brian Wilson to the 1970s Stones to the Clash to Nirvana to Guns n' Roses (and many more). Laid out in a manner that allows the reader to bounce around and pick their way through in whatever order they see fit. Highly readable....the dark side of Rock n' Roll exposed. Great for those who don't want to read an entire biography of a rock band or artist...or who are looking to whet their appetite a bit.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Shelby

    This collection of rock journalism covered the early 1970s through the mid-2000s, specifically the drug casualties and more extreme artists that the writer came into contact with in that period (Brian Wilson, Brian Jones, Keith Richars, Iggy Pop, NY Dolls). I found much of the writing to be a pretty rote chronology of the respective rockers' careers though, spiced up with a laundry list of substances they were consuming and a few stories of depravity here and there. My enjoyment of the book was This collection of rock journalism covered the early 1970s through the mid-2000s, specifically the drug casualties and more extreme artists that the writer came into contact with in that period (Brian Wilson, Brian Jones, Keith Richars, Iggy Pop, NY Dolls). I found much of the writing to be a pretty rote chronology of the respective rockers' careers though, spiced up with a laundry list of substances they were consuming and a few stories of depravity here and there. My enjoyment of the book was based more on the subject matter than the writing itself.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Eric Stone

    Was it Frank Zappa who once described rock music writing as being by writers who can't write for readers who can't read? That isn't quite apt for this collection of profiles, but it's not far off either. Like too much "new journalism" it's more about the writer than his subjects and a lot of it is deliberately obtuse and addled. A friend who normally has pretty good taste in books recommended it to me. He was wrong. I didn't give it one star because it wasn't quite terrible. But it wasn't good, Was it Frank Zappa who once described rock music writing as being by writers who can't write for readers who can't read? That isn't quite apt for this collection of profiles, but it's not far off either. Like too much "new journalism" it's more about the writer than his subjects and a lot of it is deliberately obtuse and addled. A friend who normally has pretty good taste in books recommended it to me. He was wrong. I didn't give it one star because it wasn't quite terrible. But it wasn't good, either, and slightly less than average.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sonya

    Great essays on American and British Rock n' Roll scene. When Kent titled it 'The Dark Stuff' he wasn't kidding. It's about an insane amount of drugs, sex, betrayal, and tragedies all packed into the 60s till the early 90s. You'll discover some of your favorite RnR classics like 'Sloop John B' by Beach Boys or 'I'll be Your Mirror' by The Velvet Underground were often created from a soup of drugs, obsession, zeal, and miserly contemplation. Regardless, I still appreciate Kent's role as a tell-it Great essays on American and British Rock n' Roll scene. When Kent titled it 'The Dark Stuff' he wasn't kidding. It's about an insane amount of drugs, sex, betrayal, and tragedies all packed into the 60s till the early 90s. You'll discover some of your favorite RnR classics like 'Sloop John B' by Beach Boys or 'I'll be Your Mirror' by The Velvet Underground were often created from a soup of drugs, obsession, zeal, and miserly contemplation. Regardless, I still appreciate Kent's role as a tell-it-as-it-is interviewer. Great stuff!

  29. 4 out of 5

    AL

    It's about rock music, so I'll like it just for that automatically. It's about punk rock and post punk England, again an automatic like. Then I read it and am less enthused, as this is the writer who got his head kicked in by Sid Vicious and was the annoying rock critic cliche in the Channel 4 Smiths documentary back in the day. Suffice it to say Nick Kent is a self-important twat who just happened to be around during a cool time in British music. Well, goody goody gumdrops for him. Nick Kent ca It's about rock music, so I'll like it just for that automatically. It's about punk rock and post punk England, again an automatic like. Then I read it and am less enthused, as this is the writer who got his head kicked in by Sid Vicious and was the annoying rock critic cliche in the Channel 4 Smiths documentary back in the day. Suffice it to say Nick Kent is a self-important twat who just happened to be around during a cool time in British music. Well, goody goody gumdrops for him. Nick Kent can piss off. He's full of bollocks.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Jackson

    Nick Kent isn't quite the UK's Lester Bangs, but these lurid, scaborous, hilarious, and highly opinionated profiles are unerringly insightful. A fine interviewer and prose stylist, Kent's pieces on Brian Wilson, New York Dolls, Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, Elvis Costello, The Smiths, and Sid Vicious capture their subjects at their moment of incandescent glory and then track the often messy aftermath.

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