Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of his death, the first authorised biography of Nick Drake is to be released this November.
Remembered for a While will be released in two versions, with the deluxe version including five unreleased recordings. The five tracks, recorded for John Peel’s Top Gear programme are: Time of no Reply, River Man, Three Hours, Bryter Layter, and ‘Cello Song. You can hear the beautiful and intimate recording of the last of these here:
As well as the vinyl, the deluxe version (or or “Signature Boxed Edition” as publishers John Murray are describing it) comes with authenticated photographs by Julian Lloyd. Each copy comes “housed in a cloth-covered box” and signed by Nick’s sister Gabrielle and Cally Callomon, who manages the estate.
It all sounds really very wonderful, and I say that as an owner of various unauthorised biographies, issues of Jason Creed’s “Pink Moon” fanzine from the late ’90s, the original Fruit Tree CD box set, and the home recordings tape, n-th generation copies of which used to do the rounds back in the days when they weren’t considered to be good enough quality to release. A position that had certainly changed by the time the recordings surfaced on Family Tree in 2007.
There is a catch, however, one that leaves me feeling uneasy about the whole enterprise: For the Signature Boxed Edition you’ll need to stump up a wince-inducing £150. A copy of the book alone can be yours for £35 from various online or offline booksellers, but of course that version doesn’t include the session tracks. All but the most avid completists can probably live without a signature or two, and some numbered photographs, but there are a lot of Nick Drake fans - and I count myself among them - who would dearly love to hear these new session recordings, but who can’t justify or afford something approaching £100 for the privilege of getting hold of them.
I’m slightly concerned by the description of the book, as well.
This is not a biography. It is, rather, an attempt to cast a few shards of light on Nick Drake the poet, the musician, the singer, the friend, son and brother, who was also more than all of these. We hope it will accompany all those in search of an elusive artist, who was as indefinable as the morning mist.Remembered For a While
The first authorised biography is not really a biography? Looking at the images of the book it does look beautiful, but it strikes me as a bit glossy - one for the coffee table, perhaps. I wonder how much actual writing it contains. It seems more like something you would want to own as an artefact, to - without wishing to sound too fluffy about it or get caught up in the marketing - somehow connect yourself with Nick and his music through ownership of the object alone; something to thumb while Five Leaves Left spins serenely on the turntable.
And that’s fine, as far as it goes, and a lot of people will get a lot of pleasure out of the notes, letters, and articles that the book contains. However, while this is in no way a substandard product (which is something the estate has always tried to distance itself from), if you’re after a biography, better options already exist. Both the 1997 Patrick Humphries biography that Gabrielle Drake was on board with at first but eventually withdrew her consent from and the more recent Trevor Dann biography, “Deeper than the Darkest Sea”, are well worth reading, and second-hand copies shouldn’t set you back much at all.
You can pre-order Remembered For A While from here: https://www.rememberedforawhile.com/