Sunday, May 03, 2009
Nick Drake: River Man
The 50th anniversary of the founding of Chris Blackwell's Island Records - there's another article about it in today's Sunday Times - has focused attention on that label's artists.
Nick Drake died from a drug overdose (accidental or otherwise) at the age of 26, having issued three albums that were well received but did not sell widely. This song, perhaps Drake's best known, is taken from the first of them, Five Leaves Left.
His second album, Bryter Later, was supposed to make him famous. But despite the involvement of a stellar selection of musicians - John Cale; Richard Thompson, Dave Pegg and Dave Mattacks from Fairport Convention; Mike Kowalski from the Beach Boys - sales were disappointing. His final LP, Pink Moon, was a much sparser affair.
Drake was something of a contradiction: a rugby-playing, not particularly intellectual public school boy who became a romantic hero, aided by his early death. He was not a natural live performer.
In particular, his increasingly diffident personality meant that he did not prosper in folk clubs where the humid atmosphere meant a guitar could need retuning between every song. He had no talent for banter - unlike future comedians like Billy Connolly and Jasper Carrot, who began as folk singers - with the result that the audience tended to talk to their neighbours and lose interest in him.
Drake's reputation has been growing ever since his death. He was all over the soundtrack of last week's Heartbeat, which is odd as he was little played in the 1960s, the decade in which the series is set.
Just as no recording of George Orwell's voice exists, no film of Nick Drake has survived. So you'll have to make do with enjoying this audio.