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Nick Drake: The Biography Hardcover – 13 Nov 1997

3.6 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; 1st edition edition (13 Nov. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747529760
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747529767
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.4 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 970,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

PATRICK HUMPHRIES 14 Red Post Hill, London SE24 9JQ 0207 737 7222 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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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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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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Format: Paperback
There are those that will say that Nick Drake's wonderful and now very highly-regarded music is all that matters, and a biography is something of a distraction. I would disagree totally with such an opinion. An artist's work derives from what he or she is, and cannot be properly understood without biographical details. That's why this book is so important. Those who see him as a tragic, lonely figure should read this book and discover that their perception is misplaced - the author reveals that for some 23 of his 26 years, Drake was pretty much the same as anyone else. It was only in the last three years that he suffered from some unknown form of depression that defied his doctors - and the author wisely avoids the temptation to undertake amateur psychoanalysis. The account of Drake's schooldays is exceptionally interesting. And I would never have imagined that his favourite album was the Hammond-driven R&B classic "The Sound of '65" by the mighty Graham Bond Organisation! That one piece of information alone paints an entirely new picture of Drake, taking him away from the folk category and placing him in a much broader context. Drake's favourite writer is revealed as William Blake; that's not surprising, but both Blake and Drake sought - albeit unsuccessfully - volume sales for their work during their lives. It's wrong to see their works as somehow unrelated to commercialism. The author does not come across as a particular fan of Drake's music, and that's undoubtedly a good thing, because it makes the book far more objective. Permission to include some of Drake's lyrics in the book was refused, foolishly in my opinion, but this might have been a blessing in disguise because it prevents literary-style analyses of the 'real meanings' in the songs.Read more ›
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