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Nick Drake: The Biography Paperback – 24 Sep 1998


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; New edition edition (24 Sept. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747535035
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747535034
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 87,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

PATRICK HUMPHRIES 14 Red Post Hill, London SE24 9JQ 0207 737 7222

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By R Kay Dorset on 7 Oct. 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Molly Drake's poignant assessment of her son as being a "soul with no footprint" was no understatement. Nick Drake left no writings (beyond a few lyrics, understandably treasured by his family), no film or footage of any sort, virtually no possessions and only one interview. There were a handful of concerts and no proper tours or promotions. Pity, then, poor Patrick Humphries, who has actually managed to produce a highly readable biography of a man who left nothing behind. The book is composed almost entirely of personal reminiscences but the critical lack of co-operation from Gabrielle Drake or Joe Boyd (Drake's producer) has resulted in there being no permission to quote Drake's lyrics. This is a major loss (but hardly the author's fault).
I felt that Humphries was tackling his subject from a little too remote an angle and so the analysis becomes, at times, too close to hypothesis. It may be said that Humphries could have written a briefer book (he had SO little to work with!) but he has developed some themes with skill: the folk scene of the early 1970's; Nick mysterious guitar tunings; his isolation and detachment (the poor man spent hours - even days, it seems - doing nothing whatsoever, in silence, even in company); his gradual tragic slide into deep depression; and the curious cult that now defines him moreso even than his music.
I would have loved to have personal insight from Gabrielle Drake (the book feels hollow without it and, in certain places, it cries out for some personal perspective from someone who wasn't a schoolfriend or a musician) and just a little more anecdote. But the author has done something quite subtle: he has written a book that obliges you to pursue Drake's music further for he raises more questions about the man's brief life than he answers.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 6 Mar. 2004
Format: Paperback
Once you get past the ridiculous account of the sinking of the Titanic in the introduction, this book becomes quite absorbing. Humphries writes engagingly about Drake’s early years, with reference to the culture of the fifties and speculations on possible early musical influences. The description of the British pop scene in the early 1960s and how it related to Drake’s years at Marlborough school is very helpful in framing Drake’s music in time and place.
It’s interesting that the singer had completed his schooldays in 1966 when The Beatles released Revolver and Dylan was making waves with Blonde On Blonde. Nick’s visits to France and Marrakech are covered in detail. The description of the UK folk scene of those times is very informative, as Humphries writes about musicians like Danny Thompson, Fairport Convention and Richard & Linda Thompson and the clubs and circuits where they performed.
Much of the text consists of various peoples’ recollections of Drake, most of them within the music industry. So there is an amount of repetition and revisiting the same eras and incidents through the eyes of different narrators. Humphries also discusses Drake’s rare coverage by various music publications of the time like Sounds and Melody Maker, including reviews of his albums. In addition, he attempts to recreate the circumstances of the recording of each album and provides illuminating information and opinions on most of the individual songs. I was particularly pleased to read about John Cale’s contribution to Bryter Layter and his recollections of the recording sessions.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By jol legend @netfactorbooks on 7 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback
A very interesting book I devoured in a couple of days which touches a fair bit on Drake's Island label mates John Martyn, The Incredible String Band and Fairport Convention. Producer and mentor Joe Boyd features prominently although along with some family members apparently refused to contribute to this project although I don't think this is particularly evident (incidentally I would recommend Boyd's excellent "White Bicycles" memoirs as a companion piece to this account). However the book does suffer a bit from being repetitive in places and consequently a bit overlong - for example the middle section labours many examples of Drake's discomfort on stage, and is sometimes disjointed giving the impression that different sections were written at different times out of order and then joined together without an overall edit. For instance established characters are (re)introduced later in the book as if for the first time, and vice versa. These criticisms aside the book did encourage me to dust off my Nick Drake CDs and listen to them again with renewed insight. Thank you!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By cathy earnshaw on 8 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
There are many ironies in the Nick Drake 'story', some sad and some funny. The greatest irony is that his posthumous fame was secured by the use of his music - much of which represents a rejection of the material world and a dedication to the experiences of emotion, the senses and imagination - in a Volkswagen commercial. Another irony is that Melody Maker famously brushed Drake's music off in the early 1970s as "coffee'n'chat music" and his songs are now, almost forty years later following a phenomenal rise to fame, played in Starbucks across the globe (as John Cale has recently complained in jest). Predictably, increased interest in Drake's music has been accompanied by widespread romanticisation of him as irrevocably bleak and humourless, but - a further irony - his lyrics can be surprisingly funny (e.g."You'll find sheds are nicer than you thought" in Man in A Shed), his relaxed laughter can be heard on Family Tree when he forgets the words to a song, and his band in school was called, with typical adolescent humour, The Perfumed Gardeners.

One final irony was that someone as verbose and fond of purple prose as Patrick Humphries seems to be, became the first biographer of a man who has a reputation for having been almost intractably silent in person and whose lyrics comprise sparse and unusually mature poetry. Bizarrely, his account of Drake's life begins (as others have noted) with a recap of the sinking of the Titanic and the funeral of Edward VII. Describing the arrival of a new year, Humphries' prose cannot resist a flourish: "The end of the first year of a new decade lay bitten and spat out, like an old cigar".
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