Nick Kent

Nick Kent was one of Britain's most renowned and, sometimes, notorious rock journalists in the '70s, when he was a regular contributor to New Musical Express. Kent started writing professionally in 1971, at the age of 19, starting with the underground publication Frendz. He started working for NME the following year, and certainly took the living-on-the-edge credo of the rock lifestyle seriously, to the point of flying to Michigan and visiting Creem's offices, unannounced, to ask Lester Bangs if he could teach Kent in the fine points of rock journalism. Around this time, NME reorganized its editorial policy to become much more hip and contemporary-minded, which gave Kent an opportunity to tackle difficult and daring subjects. Kent was especially interested in writing about, and interviewing, some of rock's most tortured, drug-addled geniuses. He did one of the first substantial pieces about Syd Barrett, and wrote lengthy articles on legends like Lou Reed, Roky Erickson, the New York Dolls, Brian Wilson, Elvis Costello, and the Rolling Stones that did not always show these heroes in their best light. In fact, Kent seemed to have an appetite for controversy, decadence, and melodrama, or at least a knack for drawing these elements out in his subjects over the course of interviews. Stories from the NME era, as well as ones he wrote for other publications in the '80s and '90s, appear in the anthology The Dark Stuff, his first (and, as of the late '90s, only) book. Kent perhaps got a little too involved in the lifestyle of the musicians he was covering, and by the mid-'70s had enough problems with hard drugs that it was adversely affecting his writing and career. It was around this time that he played a tangential role in the emergence of the Sex Pistols. Kent got to know Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren in 1974, and helped educate him about music past and present. Kent met the Sex Pistols and has written that he helped redirect their interests from the Small Faces and '60s pop oldies to pre-punkers like the Stooges and Modern Lovers. At one Sex Pistols gig, Kent was attacked and bloodied with a bike chain by Sid Vicious; British punk historian Jon Savage speculated that the Sex Pistols' "I Wanna Be Me" was about Nick Kent. Kent, incidentally, had a short relationship with Chrissie Hynde around 1974, at a time when Hynde was an NME writer and a worker in Malcolm McLaren's fashion shop, not a musician. Hynde told Savage, in Savage's punk history, England's Dreaming, that Kent, suspicious that Hynde had been seeing someone else, once came in the shop to whip her with his belt, precipitating McLaren letting her go and her rapid departure to Paris. Although he is still most famed for his stint with NME in the '80s and '90s, Kent wrote for many publications, including The Face, Spin, and Details. In 1988, he moved to Paris, where he worked in television in addition to continuing to write for magazines and daily papers.
Richie Unterberger, Rovi