- 26 Oct 23
“Nick was one of those guys who lived and breathed music,” says Hot Press Editor Niall Stokes...
Hot Press is very saddened to hear news of the death of former Hot Press writer Nick Kelly.
When he first started to write for the magazine, Nick was often referred to as “not the other Nick Kelly” to differentiate him from the performer (and later filmmaker) Nick Kelly, who had also written for Hot Press, and made his original musical breakthrough with the band The Fat Lady Sings.
Nick Kelly, journalist, wrote for Hot Press for a number of years starting in 1994 with his brilliant review of Morrissey's Vauxhall And I, before going on to work freelance with a variety of national newspapers, notably including the Irish Independent and The Irish Mirror. A huge music fan and an authority on indie in general, he also wrote with great insight on comedy.
As a freelancer, he also popped up regularly on the likes of Today FM, BBC Northern Ireland, Virgin Media and RTÉ. Nick was a hugely informed commentator on music, with an impressive grá for Manchester indie, starting with The Smiths – one of the great loves of his life.
“Nick was one of those guys who lived and breathed music,” Hot Press editor Niall Stokes said. “For a start he took music really seriously. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the artists and bands he loved, with an attention to the detail of their work that was almost academic in its scope. More importantly, he was a fine stylist, who could really write. You knew, if Nick was commissioned to do a piece, that it would land in the copy in-tray in extremely good shape. He had a strong critical sensibility and as an interviewer was both curious and notably intelligent. He made a great contribution to Hot Press and to fans of music in Ireland over the years – and will be sadly missed by everyone who knew and admired him."
Echoing those sentiments, as part of a longer tribute, his friend and former colleague Lorraine Freeney remembered Nick with great affection.
"Music was how we all bonded in those shared Hot Press years in the early 1990s," Lorraine said. "The Go-Betweens, R.E.M., American Music Club, Big Star, The Stars of Heaven, The Pixies, The Smiths, Tindersticks, The Blue Nile, Teenage Fanclub, Richard Thompson… so many more. He loved music so deeply and wrote about it with warmth, intelligence, and disarming bursts of humour. Gentle humour, almost always – not mean. He was as genuine in print as in real life, and just as romantic and idealistic.”
And so say all of us.
In the meantime, here's Lorraine Freeney's tribute to Nick in full:
I can’t remember the first gig I attended in Nick Kelly’s company, but the last is easy— it was AHouseIsDead at Whelan’s, just a few weeks ago. In the thirty-plus years in between those two gigs were hundreds of others (many related to either The Go-Betweens or whichever band Stephen Ryan was in at the time), along with countless nights in pubs and clubs, and adventures in New York, New Jersey, London, Cork, Kilkenny, and somehow, a camping trip to Vermont. Nick, in the backseat of the car making its way through New England, repeatedly expressed delighted wonder at the fact that we were driving through five states (“Five states!!”) to get there.
Outbursts of delight and wonder were a regular occurrence with Nick. You could call it childlike enthusiasm, but it usually felt richer and more complex than that. Something more earned than innocence. A lot of the stuff that occupies other people, the trappings of adult life, didn’t seem to hold much interest for him, especially lately. (This could be very difficult for people who cared about him and his wellbeing.) But a particular cloudy sky or a cormorant resting on a boat or a hairy caterpillar he spotted in the park… those things elicited absolute joy and had him reaching for his phone to take and share a photograph.
Music did it too, of course. Music was how we all bonded in those shared Hot Press years in the early 1990s. The Go-Betweens, R.E.M., American Music Club, Big Star, The Stars of Heaven, The Pixies, The Smiths, Tindersticks, The Blue Nile, Teenage Fanclub, Richard Thompson… so many more. He loved music so deeply and wrote about it with warmth, intelligence, and disarming bursts of humour. Gentle humour, almost always – not mean. He was as genuine in print as in real life, and just as romantic and idealistic. He was such a loyal friend, so generous in his estimation of those he loved. I was beyond lucky that my years in Hot Press coincided with the time that Nick and Niall Crumlish and others I still hold dear were there too, even luckier that the friendships didn’t fade.
A few weeks ago Nick sent me a photo of a Nabokov excerpt that he had just read: “I confess I do not believe in time. I like to fold my magic carpet, after use, in such a way as to superimpose one part of the pattern upon another. Let visitors trip. And the highest enjoyment of timelessness – in a landscape selected at random – is when I stand among rare butterflies and their food plants. This is ecstasy, and behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain. It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love. A sense of oneness with sun and stone. A thrill of gratitude to whom it may concern – to the contrapuntal genius of human fate or to tender ghosts humouring a lucky mortal.”
In return I sent him a prose poem by Mary Oliver that I had just reread that day, and been struck anew by. In hindsight I think it was its very Nick-like quality that struck me.
“If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.”