The go-to site for what makes life worth living in and around Petersfield, Hampshire, and some other stuff too. For flaneurs, bon vivants, indeed boulevardiers of every complexion - why go anywhere else?

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Way to go: Trevor Dann's 'Deeper Than the Darkest Sea'

So cards on the table, I'm a Drake fan of some 25 years standing since, intrigued by regular oblique references in the NME, I picked up a boxed set of his vinyl albums (Fruit Tree) in Brighton's great 'Vinyl Solutions'. Great, dark, sorrowful songs, exquisite playing, and tunes that got under your skin and never left.

I have to say that my love for Drake's music has been little enhanced by his various biographers, though, and Trevor Dann's book is no exception. Maybe that's not his fault; maybe we have to accept 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. There's 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)... in short, a lot of dicking about and not that much Nick.

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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