It’s very hard to write about Nick Drake without finding yourself mired in cliche. The tormented genius, the reclusive enigma, the poet of the dispossessed and the lonely whose death in 1974 aged just 26 robbed music of a genius whose talents were never fully appreciated in his lifetime.
Apparently there is no-known footage of him, which only adds to the mystery, but a new book brings together for the first time a dedicated archive of photographs of this much-missed figure.
Keith Morris took the album shots for Five Leaves Left (1969), Bryter Layter (1970) and Pink Moon (1971) and so his archive captures how Drake chose to present himself to the world, on the rare occasions that he did.
Keith died in 2005 but Ormond Yard Publishing has worked closely with his estate to realise this vision, and together they’ve produced something very special. With 200 photographs, many of which have never been seen, it was decided that the format of I Saw Nick Drake should reflect the unique nature of the content, and at a massive 24 × 36 inches it’s well over the dimensions of the standard coffee table tome.
The care and attention is obvious throughout from the gorgeous slipcase to the three bookmark ribbons made in the colours with which each album is most identified.
But it’s the photos themselves that are the real stars and it’s hard not to pore over them holding up the images to the impressions you have of Drake, of musical brilliance against cultural recognition, and of the insidious effects of mental illness.
Because Nick Drake is still lionised by so many, the pressure was on for everyone involved with this book to get it right, and it looks like they’ve produced a fitting tribute to one of the most fascinating musical figures of the 20th Century
An accompanying show at the Snap Gallery in London will run from September 15 until October 13.