Dylan Jones: 'I'd heard that the 'NME' kingpin Nick Kent knew things about Morrissey that no one else did. And boy, was I right'

Talk Of The Town
Click to follow
The Independent Online

I first met Nick Kent on the steps of the public library in Holborn some 25 years ago. He was dressed, as he always had been, and as he always will be, in black Chelsea boots, black suit jacket, black T-shirt, and black spray-on leather trousers. Skinny as a rake, the only thing that stopped him looking completely like John Cooper Clarke was the absence of a wayward thatch. But then Nick didn't need a mad haircut to semaphore his arrival: he had his reputation instead.

I'd arranged to meet Nick because I was writing a long piece on The Smiths, and I'd heard that the NME kingpin knew certain things about Morrissey that no one else did. And boy, was I right. During the Seventies Nick had been one of the most important writers on Britain's most important music paper, and although he very rarely contributed any more, he still knew more about the industry's major players than almost anyone else in the business.

Our meeting was somewhat clandestine, but Nick gave me the information, and we went on to have both a professional and personal relationship, and in the years since then he has worked for me at The Face, Arena, The Sunday Times and GQ – always with great success (he also stayed with me at one point, surprising me by being unable to turn on a kettle). Fifteen years ago, he published The Dark Stuff, a collection of his major pieces for the NME, and one of the most important music books of the last 25 years – a book which no pop-culture sponge should be without. And next month Faber & Faber publish Apathy for the Devil, a memoir of Nick's Seventies years, a decade which saw him befriend Keith Richards, nearly become the lead singer in the Sex Pistols, most definitely become a fully fledged heroin addict, have a protracted affair with Chrissie Hynde, get hit in the head with a bike chain by Sid Vicious and – saliently – write some of the most incisive music journalism ever committed to newsprint. If Faber's contribution last year to the canon of rock journalism was Jon Savage's The England's Dreaming Tapes, then they have surpassed themselves this year with Apathy for the Devil.

Honestly, no safety-pinned bookcase should be without a copy.

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'