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Nick Drake: The Life

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RU: Going to the core of Nick’s musical achievements, his most important musical associate was the producer Joe Boyd.

RU: I’m a Nico fan, but it seems to me that if you’re having struggles with depression, Desertshore or The Marble Index are maybe not what you want to hear to lift yourself out of that.He allows the reader to learn about Nick Drake through the opinions, impressions and remembrances of those who knew him. There was no suggestion by anyone that he was marginal, that he should have low expectations of his sales and the take-up of his work. Payments made using National Book Tokens are processed by National Book Tokens Ltd, and you can read their Terms and Conditions here. View image in fullscreen Drake’s Cambridge application picture; he eventually dropped out nine months before graduation. The book reveals some truly heartbreaking letters and recollections from Rodney, Molly, and Gabrielle Drake as he descended into depression and mental illness around the time of the much-delayed release of "Bryter Layter".

What I mean is, Nick was out there making contacts, hoping to find a foothold in the music business rather than just waiting around like the entitled upper-class cliché that some sources have suggested he was, thinking, ‘Well, everyone will just recognise my brilliance…’ That wasn’t how he was. It was indeed a blunt statement, but Nick knew it was written out of love, recognised the truth in it and did not take it amiss. 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. Over the course of 1970, the year that Bryter Layter was recorded, he completed, I think, sixteen albums – an awful lot.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. One of the few utterances that we actually have from Nick about his songwriting is that it was only when he went to France that he had the time and space to think about his own personal reaction to the world around him, and how he wanted to frame it. The story of his illness in 1972, 1973 and 1974 is also the story of him desperately trying, in lots of different ways, to recapture his creativity.

It’s not an easy read and I don’t think much would be gained from it being published in full, really.But there were problems, John Cale was brought in to do a couple of arrangements in June and the release date started being pushed back. 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. 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’. Drawing on the diary Rodney Drake kept when his son moved back to the family home at Far Leys in Warwickshire, Morton Jack bears witness to Drake’s alarming unravelling: all the psychiatric interventions, all the missed pills, all the false dawns. When people are really ill they don’t know what they’re saying, they don’t hear what’s coming out of their own mouth.

Nick’s relationship to the finished album is unknown, and it’s likely his family and friends were unaware of it until it was released. It was reported for many years that when Pink Moon, Nick’s third and final album, was done, he went to Island Records and, without telling anybody, just put the tape at the reception and left. And you wrote that the one thing that nobody seemed to be taking into account in trying to get this mediocre student into an elite school, was: ‘What does Nick want to do? RMJ to his credit does not delve into amateur mental illness diagnostics but faithfully relates the facts.The challenge, really, was not making that tedious to read, because of course there are fans of Nick – of whom I’m one – who do find tiny details interesting and revealing, but you can cross a line into pointlessly repeating information that doesn’t have any wider value. 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. And for me, revisiting his last weeks or months and trying to construct an accurate version of how he was, day-by-day and week-by-week, left less room than I think has been widely understood for thinking that he was in a more positive frame of mind at the end of his life and therefore that the outcome might have been more positive.

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