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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 6 March 2006
For fans and others who have read Patrick Humphries's biography (Nick Drake, Bloomsbury, 1977) Trevor Dann's book may come as something of a disappointment. Although an enjoyable read, to the casual reader it adds little to Humphries's work. What it does have that Humphries's lacks, is permission (I assume) to quote lines from Drake's songs, which makes interpretation of the songwriter's increasingly fragile mental state a much easier task. Dann's book also suggests that Drake's drug use was far greater than is suggested in the Humphries book and as a result the reason for Drake's rapid spiral into despair appears much more clear cut. In a sense, although this "another late-60s/early 70s artist destroyed by drugs" theory may well be the case, for me it detracted from my mental image of Drake the tortured, sensitive and possibly spoilt artist who, like others before him, was simply destined never to find a comfortable fit with society nor to be accepted by it during his lifetime.
The book contains a useful discography, extensive references and mini-reviews of all Drake's songs, which I enjoyed.
Darker than the Deeper Sea does move the story on in that it attempts to explain the rise in popularity of Drake's music in the 1990s and into this century; what it fails to capture, in my humble opinion, is the bleak, frightening intensity of Drake's implosion in the way that Humphries captured it. But that may simply be because I read the latter's book first.
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on 1 May 2006
This book is as relevant and as interesting to read as the Patrick Humphries version and if both are read, the two together will probably provide the closest interpretation there will ever be on the life and recorded works of the enigmatic Drake. Dann does take a different slant to Humphries it wouldn't be worth the effort if it wasn't - perhaps it's a more clinical interpretation, warts and all. Dann (in much the same way that Humphries did) traces Drakes life and recording history based on interviews (and reference to other written records) with contempories of Drake but it's best remembered that the recall of individuals can change a lot over 30 years (for better or worse). Dann's view that Drake had a schizophrenic form illness that may or may not have been a substance abuse psychosis is interesting based on what a modern day psychiatric diagnosis of the symptoms would conclude - but again the truth can never be known, lots of questions are left unanswered and are perhaps unaswerable. A biography of this type can never be totally accurate - but it's still worth reading!
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on 31 July 2007
This is a wonderful book. I bought it when it was released and have read it again recently and loved it more than the first time round. It succeeds where Pat Humpheries' biog failed (albeit ever so slightly); it has some levity and doesn't draw more than it has to on the concept of 'poor boy' and 'misunderstood poet'; he openly discusses whether Nick's personality had faults and flaws, something that has been over looked as he has become something of a legend. Not than Mr. Dann is having a pop at Nick Drake, but just attempting to paint a more balanced and level picture of this much loved artist. A cautious purchase and you will not be disappointed, especially if you are familiar with the Nick Drake story. For converts and the converted alike...
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on 31 July 2008
Cards on the table, I've really liked Nick Drake for the last 20 years or so, but that's no thanks to the efforts of his various biographers.

Trevor Dann's book is no exception; maybe it has to be accepted after all these years that there's really very little story here, but I didn't even think he made the most of what he had; way too much of what Salinger calls 'that David Copperfield crap' (which would be OK if it didn't just make Drake sound like a spoilt, moody and not particularly interesting public schoolboy), even more padding about his Dad's adventuring in Singapore and the West Midlands motor trade (interesting enough in a 'not-really' sort of way), some very tenuous drug and mental illness speculation, the usual ragbag of semi-learned digressions (how easy must they be to pull off in these Google-equipped days).

As seems obligatory when discussing Drake too, every recollection or anecdote or detail is driven home with sledgehammer weight and significance and simultaneously treated with a kind of precious reverence in the context of the Events to Follow. The title is much in keeping with that style - next to 'Heavier than Heaven', which does the same job for Kurt Cobain, it's my new favourite stinky rock-biog title.

I remain convinced there is a story there though - I would loved a great deal more digging into where that remarkable style came from, and exactly how this weightless, almost context-free individual came up with an astonishing collection of songs - unfortunately it's not here. The closest anyone has come to that is in Ian Macdonald's extended essay in 'The People's Music' and Joe Boyd's reflections in 'White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s', the only efforts to capture Drake that I'd really recommend.

I'm just glad I found Nick Drake's music before I found his back story, or wild horses wouldn't have dragged me to listen to it.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 March 2015
A fascinating and considered analysis of the tragic and enigmatic musician life and works. Unfortunately the cheap paper used for the book and the bad printing of the print and photographs in this paperback edition is truly terrible and should be an embarrassment to any reputable publisher.
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on 6 February 2014
Whilst i love Nick Drake's music, i didn't know much about him. I'm not sure i know much more now. Some of the author's thoughts and ideas were not supported by anything verifiable. It seemed as though he presumed that if he put his presumptions into print then these would be accepted as fact. I remain unconvinced, though the general background info was interesting.
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on 19 April 2007
Brilliant second widely-available biography of the extremely talented, troubled troubadour who died virtually unknown in 1974 but has since been gradually elevated to the status of cult legend by an army of young and older admirers.

The first Nick Drake tome by Patrick Humphries (Nick Drake: The Biography) is an excellent read but was written in 1997 when the internet was in its relative infancy and the cult of Nick was still developing. Trevor Dann's new book takes the numerous websites and chat rooms into account as well as interviewing new key people in Nick's short life who have emerged over the past few years.

Trevor's book also usefully researches and debunks some of the myths of Nick - such as his famous supposed handing over of final album Pink Moon to the receptionist at Island Records - as well as looking more objectively than many idyllic, romanticised writers do at how difficult he was to be around. He still does this though with devotion to the music of the subject and refreshingly often uses first names in an age when most journalists use surnames only.

Darker Than The Deepest Sea is a superb, widely researched biography which also illustrates the development of a cult legend in the modern electronic age.
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on 23 June 2011
More books about the enigmatic Nick Drake are to be welcomed and the fact that there are now several good biographies available allows the reader to cross-reference and come to their own conclusions. But whoever you are, start out with the music :)

Five Leaves Left
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VINE VOICEon 6 February 2006
Dann's book is a fine book in that it provides additional information to what is already known and is not simply a rehash of everything else already said - with the detail of Sophia Ryde's letter thrown in. Dann tells us that 'Sophia' rhymes with 'higher' and it is this type of helpful 'anorak'-style information that gives the book its page-turning hook. Dann lists every address that Nick ever lived at - complete with house number - in Burma, Tanworth-in-Arden and London; there is even a potted history of his father's career in Burma and a brief summary of the career of Rodney's father. There are reproductions of old school and Cambridge college reports - complete with lists of exams passed and at what grade - interviews with his masters and room mates and reproductions of furious exchanges of letters - when Nick dropped out - between father Rodney and Fitzwilliam. There are new interviews with Linda Thompson, Chris Blackwell, Jeremy Mason, Richard Charkin, et al. There is no direct interview with Sophia apart from a mention of the track, Free Ride, and her reaction to it + plus a reference to the alleged 'suicide note' addressed to her. The extra details are commendable and the writing original. Not an easy achievement on a topic that has been worked to death with little scope for new material.
On the reservations side, there are unsubtantiated claims that Nick was a rather heavy heroin user, suffered from schizophrenia and also, various 'digs' at his character. The source of the heroin user claim is not revealed, so presumably, it could come from either of three sources: John Cale, keyboardist, ex-Velvet Underground who provided the backing music to 'Northern Sky', obliquely refers to it, the late Scott Appel - who gets a mention in the book - but as far as can be seen, Scott in his attempt to 'reveal the truth' is possibly blurring Nick with himself, e.g., the 'speedballs' and 'demerol', etc., these sound very 'American' in description. If the source is his actress sister, Gabrielle Drake, and this is possible, because the letter she read out in the film 'A Skin Too Few' is reproduced here, there is clearly approval by Nick Drake's Estate for at least some of the content Dann's. Many details possibly could only have come from Gabrielle, in which case, the claims are probably more substantial than if they were merely speculation based on hearsay. Dann's view that Nick Drake had schizophrenia caused by too much cannabis use is, he says, based on recent research, however even more recent research suggests that there is actually no link between cannabis use and mental illness, after all.
The latter part of the book has a brief track by track analysis of Nick's work.
All in all, the book is in easy to read print, which makes it a rather short book, but is better than expected, over all. It has lilac end papers and a coverwhich is a photgraph taken by the late Keith Morris. It supplements Patrick Humprhies in-depth biography well, athough the title 'in search of', with rock writer Peter Guralnick's leit motif of a 'quest' to 'find' a mysterious long-gone figure, probably sits better with Humphries' book. A good analogy would be that Dann's book is the equivalent of the sensationalist Life & Death of Sylvia Plath by Ronald Hayman to Jacqueline Rose's learned The Haunting of Sylvia Plath in that you get a better sense of Nick Drake's true character from the cautious Humphries' biography, but the 'squalid facts' from Dann with no punches pulled nor pussyfooting around the family's possible sensibilties.
In addition,there are some new and interesting photographs included.
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on 21 April 2014
An absorbing read that put flesh on the bones of my own recollections of the man. Although i knew him for less than a year, and then for 'fleeting moments' when we would pass in a corridor or share a rare coffee, Trevor Dann's book not only is very faithful to my own recollection of Nick Drake but adds so much that i never knew.
Contrary to some of the reviews here, i found the discography really helpful. Dann's interpretation of the lyrics may not be my own, but it was still good to get another viewpoint.
But the big thing for me was the nostalgia trip... Back to our youth and the great times of the late 60's. And it resurrected, for me, that image of Nick in my mind's eye as he was then. Baby faced. Lanky. Quietly spoken. Head stooped as he walks. Never spoke of his home. Only of his music. There one day, not the next.. 'With you, but not with you'. Vulnerable. A wandering soul, using his guitar as a kind of 'shield' from a difficult world.
All of this and more was what i found in this book.
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