Down and out in Nick’s dark streets

Nick Kent
Nick Kent

There are books you know, even before turning that first page and cracking the spine that will change your life.

Then there are the books you read purely because you hope that is exactly what they will do.

For me it was Nick Kent’s The Dark Stuff: Selected Writings On Rock Music, and it fell into the latter category.

I was a young lass of sixteen and, as with most teenagers, I was full of angst and a bit lost in the youthful wilderness that comes with being stuck in almost an age limbo between adolescence and adulthood.

And it was then that I stumbled across the moody writings of rock journo veteran, Nick Kent.

So, much like the Pied Piper, along came Nick at just the right time to lead me deeper and deeper astray into the seamy underworld of rock n’ roll – and I never even looked over my shoulder with a cautionary glance before following him down to the unknown.

Being a music obsessive and would-be writer, I knew that it was THE book to read, a sort of musical bible if you will.

The hallowed pages held nineteen riotous pieces on the seedy rock world and its finest inhabitants from Brian Wilson, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison, to Sid Vicious, Kurt Cobain and my beloved Rolling Stones.

And as I sat down to begin my education from the master, I knew I was in good hands after the first chapter on Beach Boy Brian Wilson.

But The Dark Stuff is special because I didn’t expect it to have any effect on me, let alone ignite the beginning of a long love affair (albeit unrequited) between myself, Mr Kent and his typewriter.

(Okay, there’s is perhaps a chance that he uses a computer for work, but I like to think of him hunched over a typewriter clacking away in the wee small hours with a glass of sherry).

But what fascinated me even more was how one book can lead you to have an epiphany and see the world through a different pair of eyes. And just how much that it actually teaches you about life and yourself.

The artists featured – and many more that didn’t make it into the book – managed to consistently produce awe-inspiring music while still putting their body and their mind through the wringer with booze and drugs to such a gruesome degree that death must have surely been imminent on more than one occasion.

And I suppose the most important message that I took away from The Dark Stuff was this:

No matter how low down you are, no matter how close you are to rock bottom, or to quote the great Bob Dylan: “It’s not dark yet but it’s getting there,” you can always pull yourself back from the abyss and put yourself back together again.

Each story demonstrates so clearly and in technicolour guts and glory style, the amazing ability that the soul and the body has to restore themselves back to their former self.

So thank you Nick Kent, I doff my hat to you, sir. For you not only taught me about the many artists who would soon become by musical heroes, but you also taught me that you may be down, but you certainly ain’t out.