Reading Nick Kent’s memoirs of his misspent 1970s as an ascendant music journalist (and hell-descending drug addict), I was struck by his simultaneous joy and horror at having helped give birth to punk. ‘Kenty’ is at great pains to point out that America didn’t ‘get’ punk, possibly because its only exponent of the genre was the too-weird Ramones.
Instead, America in the 1970s was gripped by a fever for funk and soul, kick-started by Sam Cooke in the 1960s and really set in motion by the 1969 release of Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul (about which I waxed converted here). Kent is an inconsistent music aficionado: he extols the sophistication of Steely Dan but loathes the Eagles; he revels in the psychedelic wanderings of Hawkwind but finds the seminal post-punk act Public Image Ltd. rather dreary. The biggest revelation of the decade, for Kent, is the Sex Pistols’ breakthrough; on the other side of the pond, however, he raves about Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On.
Kent, in spite of his odd preferences, is right to allude to soul’s importance. All through the 1990s, as punk’s descendants crept back into the alternative shadows, R&B morphed into something chartable and marketable without losing sight of its illustrious forebear. Hayes and Gaye played their part in setting up R&B’s dominance, and their magnum opuses should always be lauded.
But alongside Hayes and Gaye, there was a third man. Continue reading The third soul