Thursday, November 18, 2010

Remebering Nick Drake: Phenomenon Exemplified

I was watching a series entitled FlashForward: Season 1 and during an anti-climax scene, a sombre music that was being played in the background, got my other half's attention. As he pondered on the song, i was wondering about the plot. In no time, he was able to download the song from the net and send me a sample to listen to. As i listened, i had forgotten the origin of the song as i was drawn to its sombreness. The music was unlike anything i had ever heard before. It could not be placed in any convenient genre, be it Alternative or Indie. The question that came to my mind was, who is this superb musician? The piece was not long at all (probably a minute long) but it truly captivated me.

The song is named Place to be by Nick Drake. This handsome, talented guy is anything unlike the current breed of musicians today. I leave you with an excerpt from wikipedia. I skipped the long story and picked the stuff i need you to read.

Nicholas Rodney "Nick" Drake (19 June 1948 – 25 November 1974) was an English singer-songwriter and musician. Best known for the sombre pieces composed on his primary instrument, the guitar, Drake was also proficient at piano, clarinet and saxophone. Although he failed to find a wide audience during his lifetime, Drake's work has gradually achieved wider notice and recognition; he now ranks among the most influential English singer-songwriters of the last 50 years.

Drake signed to Island Records when he was 20 years old and released his debut album, Five Leaves Left, in 1969. By 1972, he had recorded two more albums—Bryter Layter and Pink Moon. None of the albums sold more than 5,000 copies on their initial release.[5] His reluctance to perform live or be interviewed further contributed to his lack of commercial success. Despite this, he was able to gather a loyal group of fans who would champion his music. One such person was his manager, Joe Boyd, who had a clause put into his own contract with Island Records that ensured Drake's records would never go out of print. Drake suffered from depression and insomnia throughout his life, and these topics were often reflected in his lyrics. Upon completion of his third album, 1972's Pink Moon, he withdrew from both live performance and recording, retreating to his parents' home in rural Warwickshire. On 25 November 1974, Drake died from an overdoseamitriptyline, a prescribed antidepressant; he was 26 years old. of

Drake's music remained available through the mid-1970s but the 1979 release of the retrospective album Fruit Tree caused his back catalogue to be reassessed. By the mid-1980s Drake was being credited as an influence by such artists as Robert Smith and Peter Buck. In 1985, The Dream Academy reached the UK and US charts with "Life in a Northern Town", a song written for and dedicated to Drake.[6] By the early 1990s, he had come to represent a certain type of 'doomed romantic' musician in the UK music press, and was frequently cited by artists including Kate Bush, Paul Weller and The Black Crowes.[7] Drake's first biography was written in 1997, and was followed in 1998 by the documentary film A Stranger Among Us. In 2000, Volkswagen featured the title track from Pink Moon in a television advertisement, and within a month Drake had sold more records than he had in the previous 30 years....................................

Bryter Layter

Drake ended his studies at Cambridge nine months before graduation, and in autumn 1969 moved to London to concentrate on a career in music.[38] His father remembered "writing him long letters, pointing out the disadvantages of going away from Cambridge...a degree was a safety net, if you manage to get a degree, at least you have something to fall back on; his reply to that was that a safety net was the one thing he did not want."[11] Drake spent his first few months in the capital drifting from place to place, occasionally staying at his sister's Kensington flat, but usually sleeping on friends’ sofas and floors.[39] Eventually, in an attempt to bring some stability and a telephone into Drake's life, Boyd organised and paid for a ground floor bedsit in Belsize Park, Camden.[40]
In August, Drake recorded three songs for the BBC's John Peel show. Two months later, he opened for Fairport Convention at the Royal Festival Hall in London, followed by appearances at folk clubs in Birmingham and Hull. Remembering the performance in Hull, folk singer Michael Chapman commented:
The folkies did not take to him; [they] wanted songs with choruses. They completely missed the point. He didn't say a word the entire evening. It was actually quite painful to watch. I don't know what the audience expected, I mean, they must have known they weren't going to get sea–shanties and sing-alongs at a Nick Drake gig![25]
The experience reinforced Drake's decision to retreat from live appearances; the few concerts he did play around this time were usually brief, awkward, and poorly attended. Drake seemed unwilling to perform and rarely addressed his audience. As many of his songs were played in different tunings, he frequently paused to retune between numbers.........................................................

Pink Moon

Island Records was keen that Drake promote Bryter Layter through press interviews, radio sessions and live appearances. Drake, who was by this time smoking what Kirby has described as "unbelievable amounts" of marijuana[53] and exhibiting "the first signs of psychosis", refused. By the winter of 1970, he had isolated himself in London.[38] Disappointed by the reaction to Bryter Layter, he turned his thoughts inwards, and withdrew from family and friends. He rarely left his flat, and then only to play an occasional concert or to buy drugs. "This was a very bad time", his sister Gabrielle Drake recalled, "He once said to me that everything started to go wrong from [this] time on, and I think that was when things started to go wrong."[54]

Final years

In the months following Pink Moon's release, Drake became increasingly asocial and distant from those close to him.[65] He returned to live at his parents' home in Far Leys, and while he resented the regression, he accepted that his illness made it necessary. "I don't like it at home", he told his mother, "but I can't bear it anywhere else."[11] His return was often difficult for his family; as his sister Gabrielle explained, "good days in my parents' home were good days for Nick, and bad days were bad days for Nick. And that was what their life revolved around, really."[15]

He lived a frugal existence, his only source of income being a £20-a-week retainer he received from Island Records. At one point he could not afford a new pair of shoes.[67] He would often disappear for days, sometimes turning up unannounced at friends' houses, uncommunicative and withdrawn. Robert Kirby described a typical visit: "He would arrive and not talk, sit down, listen to music, have a smoke, have a drink, sleep there the night, and two or three days later he wasn't there, he'd be gone. And three months later he'd be back."[68]
He would borrow his mother's car and drive for hours without purpose on occasion, until he ran out of petrol and had to ring his parents to ask to be collected. Friends have recalled the extent to which his appearance had changed.[70] During particularly bleak periods of his illness, he refused to wash his hair or cut his nails.[64]nervous breakdown, and was hospitalized for five weeks.[47] Early in 1972, Drake suffered a


By autumn 1974, Drake's weekly retainer from Island had ceased, and his illness meant he remained in contact with only a few close friends. He had tried to stay in touch with Sophia Ryde, whom he had first met in London in 1968.[73] Ryde has been described by Drake's biographers as "the nearest thing" to a girlfriend in his life, but she now prefers the description 'best (girl) friend'.[74] In a 2005 interview, Ryde revealed that a week before he died, she had sought to end the relationship: "I couldn’t cope with it. I asked him for some time. And I never saw him again." Similar to the relationship Drake had earlier shared with fellow folk musician Linda Thompson, Drake's relationship with Ryde was never consummated.[75]

At some time during the night of 24/25 November 1974, Nick Drake died at home in Far Leys from an overdose of amitriptyline, a type of antidepressant. He had gone to bed early the night before, after spending the afternoon visiting a friend. His mother claimed that, around dawn, he left his room for the kitchen. His family was used to hearing him do this many times before but, during this instance, he did not make a sound. They presumed that he was eating a bowl of cereal. He returned to his room a short while later, and took some pills "to help him sleep".[76] Drake was accustomed to keeping his own hours; he frequently had difficulty sleeping, and would often stay up through the night playing and listening to music, then sleeping late into the following morning. Recalling the events of that night, his mother later stated: "I never used to disturb him at all. But it was about 12 o’clock, and I went in, because really it seemed it was time he got up. And he was lying across the bed. The first thing I saw was his long, long legs."[77] There was no suicide note, although a letter addressed to Ryde was found close to his bed.[78]

Drake's gravestone is inscribed with the epitaph 'Now we rise/And we are everywhere', taken from the final song on his final album.[79]

At the inquest that December, Drake's coroner stated that the cause of death was as a result of "Acute amitriptyline poisoning — self-administered when suffering from a depressive illness", and concluded a verdict of suicide. Though this has been disputed by some members of his family,[2] there is a general view that accidental or not, Drake had by then given up on life.[

Posthumous popularity 

There were no documentaries or compilation albums in the wake of Drake's death.[84] His public profile remained low throughout the mid and late 1970s although occasional mentions of his name appeared in the music press. By this time, his parents were receiving an increasing number of fans and admirers as visitors to the family home in Far Leys.

By the mid 1980s Drake was being cited as an influence by musicians such as R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and Robert Smith of The Cure. Smith credited the origin of his band's name to a lyric from Drake's song "Time Has Told Me" ("a troubled cure for a troubled mind").[86] Drake gained further exposure in 1985 with the release of The Dream Academy's hit single "Life in a Northern Town", which included an on-sleeve dedication to Drake.[87] His reputation continued to grow, and by the end of the 1980s, Nick Drake's name was appearing regularly in newspapers and music magazines in the United Kingdom:[88] he had come to represent a kind of mythical doomed romantic hero in the eyes of many,[89] an "enigma wrapped inside a mystery".[38]

In early 1999, BBC2 aired a 40-minute documentary, A Stranger Among Us — In Search of Nick Drake, as part of its Picture This strand. The following year, Dutch director Jeroen Berkvens released a documentary titled A Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake, featuring interviews with Boyd, Gabrielle Drake, Wood and Kirby. Later that year, The Guardian placed Bryter Layter at number 1 in its "Alternative top 100 albums ever" list.[69]
In recent years, several musicians, including Lucinda Williams, Badly Drawn Boy, Lou Barlow and Mikael Åkerfeldt have cited Drake as an influence. In 2004, nearly 30 years after his death, Drake gained his first chart placing when two singles ("Magic" and "River Man"), released to coincide with the compilation album Made to Love Magic, made the middle reaches of the U.K. charts. Later that year, the BBC aired a radio documentary about Drake, narrated by Brad Pitt.

Nick Drake's songs have begun to appear prominently in popular movie soundtracks. In 2001, "Black Eyed Dog" and "Northern Sky" featured on the soundtrack to Serendipity starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale, and the song "Fly" appeared in the film The Royal Tenenbaums.[41] In 2004, Drake's song "One of These Things First" appeared in the film Garden State. A cover of "'Cello Song" by The Books and José González also appears in the film The Blind Side (2009).
In 1999, Pink Moon was used in "Milky Way", a Volkswagen Cabriolet commercial directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and lensed by Lance Acord, leading to a large increase in record sales.[90]
In 2010, the song Cello Song was used in a commercial for the Australian coffee brand Vittoria. The advertisement featured actor Al Pacino and was directed by Barry Levinson.
On November 11, 2010 -- just weeks before the anniversary of Drake's passing -- James Rotondi (or, "Roto", the former guitarist for the French Band AIR,) played an evening of NIck Drake's songs, narrating and praising Drake's life story, at Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn, New York.

I could go on and on about his history but i am sure you got the big picture. He was criticised for not including choruses in his songs and not marketing himself enough. It's a classic case of what is obtainable in the publishing industry where specific genres are dictated because of its commercial viability and not for its true essence. It's so sad that such a gem had to be lost. Nowadays that singers or musicians can get away with anything was not the case back then in a highly critical society. What a pity, this handsome, talented man wasted his life! I wish someone had made him wait or hold his hand and assure him. Who knows what could have happened? For aspiring writers who are talented, if you do get rejected, PLEASE don't see it as a passport to a retreating hell (kinda has a nice ring to it; good as a novel title), instead see it as an avenue to make you stronger. Remeber, Rome was not built in a day. Peace.


1 comment:

  1. oh phew i am glad you ended this on this note, He definitely needed some britney spears like intervention and not enablers.
    Which is why it is very helpful for us writers to have our community, you get knocked down and you find out hey J.K Rowling was rejected.
    You get back up dust your ruffled feathers and keep trucking.


Seriously, i hope you're not glancing through my blog without leaving a comment. It won't take much of your time as i read each and every comment. Thanks as you do so. Peace.

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