December 15, 2018

The story

Nicholas Rodney Drake was born in Rangoon, Burma on 19 June 1948. The reason for the exotic place of birth was that Nick's father Rodney, was working for a British trading company and was stationed in Burma. The Drake family stayed there until 1952, when they decided to return to their home country of England.

Back in England they settled in a small Warwickshire village called Tanworth-in-Arden. They bought a large house called Far Leys, a little bit outside the village. This would be the home of the Drake family for over forty years.

At the age of eight Nick was sent to Eagle House School. For the next five years this prep School at Sandhurst in Berkshire would be his home. Before he left the school at the end of Christmas term in 1961 he had become Head Boy and a good athlete. He was also remembered at the school for his fine voice in the Chapel choir.

After the Christmas holiday Nick began to study at a new school: Marlborough Collage in Wiltshire. Both Nick's father and grandfather had done the same before him. This is where Nick began to grow his interest in music. He had always liked music, but now it became a bigger part of his life. He learned to play the piano, clarinet and alto saxophone. It was not until towards the end of Nick's days at Marlborough that he learned to play the guitar. His friend David Wright was the one who taught him his first chords.

Although the image of Nick is as a depressed, unhappy young man, there were no signs of this during his Marlborough years. His friends recall him as shy but otherwise a very happy and joyful person. The time at Marlborough ended in the spring of 1966 and a new life began for Nick.

He spent the summer partly in Tanworth-in-Arden, but also travelling around France with three friends from Marlborough. All the time he practised on his guitar. On his return home from France in the autumn he went to stay with his sister, Gabrielle, in London for a few months. He returned to Far Leys for Christmas and in January 1967 he set off for France again. This time he went to Aix-en-Provence to improve his French together with Marlborough buddies Simon Crocker and Jeremy Mason. This would become an important time in Nick's life. This is where Nick first appeared to write his own songs and he started to experiment with drugs. He smoked marijuana as many other teenagers at the time, but it is also rumoured that he took LSD at some occasions when he was in Morocco for a couple of weeks. After four months he returned home to England and then he had a couple of months before he would enter Fitzwilliam collage in Cambridge. He spent those in London, again living with his sister.

In October 1967 he went to Cambridge to study English for three years. He had by now begun to write quite a lot of own material and he played it to his friends at the university, and they were amazed. Within a year of studying and writing music Nick had been signed to Island Records. He was discovered at an anti-war festival at the Roundhouse in London in the early spring of 1968. Among the already established artists there were Ashley Hutchings, bassist with Fairport Convention, and he saw the talent in Nick. He instantly recommended Nick to his manager, Joe Boyd, who owned Witchseason Productions. About a year and a half later Nick's first album, Five Leaves Left was released. In the summer of 1969 Nick decided to quit his studies in Cambridge to go in for his musical career. Despite good reviews the record didn't sell very well and Nick's unwillingness to perform live didn't help to increase the numbers. He did perform at some occasions, but it was a pretty rare sight.

In late 1969 and early 1970, Nick moved around in London and he had now written some new songs. Rehearsals and recordings for a new album were taking place. The new album took quite a long time to make, but on 1 November 1970, Bryter Layter was released. As for Five Leaves Left the new album recieved good reviews, even better, but it didn't sell many copies either. By now Nick had played his last gigs ever and the signs of the coming depression began to show for the first time. Nick's friends saw an increasing shyness and he became more and more introspective.

During 1971 Nick went to see a psychiatrist and he was prescribed the anti-depressants, Tryptizol. Maybe these pills did help a little, but he still didn't feel well. Chris Blackwell, the Island Records boss, decided to lend Nick his villa in Algeciras, Spain. Nick spent a couple of weeks there and after his return home to England he probably felt a little better and started to think of making a new record. In late 1971 he contacted engineer John Wood, since Joe Boyd had left London for Los Angeles, and the recording was made in the Sound Techniques studio over two nights.

The new and final album, Pink Moon, was released on 25 February 1972. By the same time Nick decided to move back to his parents home in Tanworth-in-Arden. Those last years of Nick's aren't well documented since not many saw him regularly. He occasionally made trips to London when he was feeling better. His condition during the last years though, was really bad and he continued to take his anti-depressants.

Towards the end of his days his mind seemed to lighten up a little. In 1974 he began to work on what could have become his fourth album. He recorded four songs at Sound Techniques, with both John Wood and Joe Boyd attending. In this last year he also lived for a while in Paris some months before he died.

On 25 November 1974, sometime in the early morning, Nick Drake died in his room at Far Leys. He had overdosed on Tryptizol. Whether it was accidental or deliberate will never be known for certain, although the coroner declared it suicide. Nick didn't leave any note and the weeks before he died had actually seemed to have been the happiest in the last three years for Nick. So a definitive answer to the question will never be told, but one thing for certain is that now, almost thirty years later, Nick's music is getting more and more known to people all over the world.

But it's thirty years too late.

The story



The albums

Live performances