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Nick Drake: The Life

Nick Drake: The Life

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The assumption has been that smoking dope defined his days, and probably didn’t help when it came to his descent into mental illness. Blackwell ploughed ahead with his most mysterious charge’s release, even though Drake had no interest in artwork or press. RU: Another one – which appeared in the most unlikely place, a teen-oriented magazine, and contained some useful information. RMJ: I think it speaks well for Joe that, although he strongly disagreed with Nick on the subject of the instrumentals, he ultimately did what Nick wanted, not what he wanted.

So I think that was a more specific area of conflict for Joe: ‘Why are these instrumentals on here when I know you’ve got another good song? Yet he seemed disturbed that he didn’t have more success and recognition, especially maybe after the second album, which is in some ways a step forward from Five Leaves Left but didn’t get significantly more acclaim. To Nick Drake fans who may baulk a little at the no-punches-pulled nature of the book, please remember he was ill and that the illness was not the person. I think his parents were actually rather liberal and permissive, within parameters that were normal for that time, and they did allow Nick a lot more freedom than he might have expected or than some of his friends might have had. He did occasionally walk a neighbour’s dog, though, so that’s something, and I guess they would go down that path.

But the realisation that a lot of it was actually repetitive and that, whilst different anecdotes have slightly different weight, ultimately you only need one of them to give the picture, was liberating. Reading this immensely detailed and thoroughly engaging biography is something of a mixed joy for a fan like me . I suppose the other major area that really came through strongly for me, from all people I spoke to, is that until late 1969 – so, shall we say, for the first 21 full years of Nick’s life – he was a happy, outgoing, productive, popular, forward-facing person. You believe that the problem of turning yourself from an amateur into a professional can be solved merely by transferring yourself from Cambridge to somewhere where you are surrounded by, and under the influence of, professionals in your chosen field.

Richard Morton Jack’s authoritative doorstop is, though, the definitive word on Drake, insofar as the story of a deeply inward-facing man can be told by others. His own clear, flowing prose acts as a link between the many quotes from Nick Drake's family, and others he knew during his life. And in the last quarter or so of the book I wanted, without being depressingly grim myself, to convey a sense that the outcome was, in a sense, inevitable, and that the counter-narrative that has arisen that there could have been a different outcome, that Nick’s overdose was possibly accidental and so on, just wasn’t the case. Because of the access I’ve had and the material his sister has already shared, there’s an awful lot of forensic information that you normally wouldn’t come close to with a major artist. These endless collaborations, sessions that were full of seemingly unlikely or disparate people making coherent music together, were taken as read then, I think, and Joe was all about the collaborations, that was the essence of Witchseason.Fortunately, one of those which accepted the offer was the Koutoubia Palace, Tangier’s most exclusive nightspot, which is done up in the style of a Moorish palace. JAMES ORTON (Blackwell’s): Thank you for joining us this afternoon, and a huge thank you to our musicians. RMJ: I think the most important assumption or rumour about Nick that I wanted to clarify is the extent to which he took drugs. But if you’re going to walk around Tanworth with the idea in mind that you’re following in Nick’s latter-day footsteps, I would probably say ‘maybe’ but not ‘definitely’.

An exchange of letters between Drake and his father, Rodney, during Nick’s university years hints at his growing turmoil and confusion. I knew that Nick’s life was, broadly speaking, accurately represented already, so what I found the most revealing and useful was the consensus that I was able to gather from his friends, his family, his school reports and so on. Some of the data that are collected include the number of visitors, their source, and the pages they visit anonymously.but he loved the Beatles and George Martin, and understood the difference between writing classical music and pop arrangements, and that you had to have a pop sensibility.

Richard Morton Jack's Nick Drake: The Life is a model of its kind - a biography that clears up dozens of mysteries and permits the reader to contemplate something larger: the lasting wonder and power of Drake's songs. And at boarding school, of course, boys would bring back records and share them and obsess over them. But Nick did materialise by Nigel’s side in a crowded room the following year and said, ‘I just want to say that I now understand what you were trying to do with that album cover, and I really like it’. And when he was making records, his producer, Joe Boyd, and sound engineer, John Wood, have remembered how forceful he was and how he wanted the records to be made exactly as he wished, he wanted his songs to be represented just as he envisaged them. Now, with all respect to Peter Sarstedt, Where Do You Go To (My Lovely) might be on the radio every now and then, but who sits down and listens to As If It Were A Movie, or another of his albums?I’m sure that our various conversations have made clear my general feelings … As far as performing is concerned, I am certainly no more than amateur. As a result, I think his parents thought, ‘We need to get him into Cambridge by hook or by crook, because his school has said this is a possible outcome for him. But speaking about Nick, I think it’s interesting to speculate, as a fantasy: had he been willing to play a concert in September, October 1974 and a promoter had said, ‘Yeah, sure’, what would the take-up have been? I wouldn’t say it’s as crude as him having seen dollar signs, I think he just thought, ‘This guy is obviously going to be hugely successful, and I’m lucky enough to have had the opportunity to be his discoverer, to sign him and to work with him’.



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