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Nick Drake Chronology

The following chronology is extracted from a variety of sources, including Patrick Humphries' 1998 biography of Nick Drake (Bloomsbury Press, 1998, 279p), plus assorted web sites and published articles. Unfortunately there still remains a large amount of mystery surrounding the precise details of Nick Drake's professional life. It is known that many letters survive in the archives of family and friends, however these have not as yet been published. Also, many of Nick's friends from that period remain silent about the man. The following brief chronology may assist in bringing together what is known.

1908
5 May - Rodney Shuttleworth Drake, the father of Nick Drake, is born at Redhill, Surrey.

1916
Mary Lloyd, the mother of Nick Drake is born.

1937
14 April - Rodney Drake (29) marries Mary Lloyd (21) in Rangoon.

1942
The Drakes are evacuated from Burma to India due to the Japanese invasion of the country during WWII.

1944
Gabrielle Drake, Nick's sister, is born in Lahore, India.

1945
The Drakes return to Burma.

1948
19 June - Nick Drake is born in Rangoon.

1950
The Drakes leave Rangoon for Bombay.

1952
The Drakes settle at Tanworth in Arden. Nick, at the age of 4, writes ‘Cowboy Small’. Nick's mother 'Molly' plays the piano and writes songs.

1953
At the age of 5 Nick is said to have initially developed screaming nightmares.

1953-6
Nick and Gabrielle attend Hurst House, a pre-prep school in Henley.

1957
Spring - Nick (9) sent off to prep school at Eagle House School, Sandhurst, Berkshire. He is there for five years.

1961
end - Nick (13) leaves Sandhurst and returns home to Tanworth in Arden.

1962
January - Nick enrols at Marlborough College, Wiltshire. He stays there until July 1966.

1965

Nick buys a guitar.

August - Nick (17) and friends hitchhike around Europe for 3 weeks.

29 October - Nick sees the Graham Bond Organisation perform live in London.

1966

July - Nick (18) completes his studies at Marlborough College and heads off to France with a group of friends.

August - Nick visits France.

October - Returns to Tanworth in Arden, then on to London.

6 October - Smokes joint in London.

1967

January - Nick and friends travel to Aix-en-Provence in France.

March - Travels to Morocco in his Cortina GT. Performs for the Rolling Stones in Marrakesh.

April - Travels to Chad and back to Aix.

June - Returns to Tanworth in Arden then on to London.

Autumn - Nick (19) begins reading English at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge.

1968

February - Nick's first public performance, at the Roundhouse, London, as part of a two-day festival for peace. He supports Country Joe MacDonald. Nick was given a ten-minute slot at about two in the morning. His performance was observed by a member of Fairport Convention, who mentioned it to producer Joe Boyd. Boyd subsequently arranged a meeting and is presented with a tape of recordings by Nick.

April/May - Nick first meets Robert Kirby, a classical arranger, and they begin to work together on some of Nick's songs.

May - Nick performs at a party at Tanworth in Arden.

? - Nick performs at Cambridge balls with a small orchestra and Robert Kirby. His set includes Way To Blue, The Thoughts of Mary Jane, Day Is Done and Time Of No Reply.

July - Sessions begin at Sound Techniques for Nick’s first album.

10 October - Man in a Shed and Mayfair are recorded.

11 November - Clothes of Sand and Joey are recorded.

20 December - Time of No Reply and The Thoughts of Mary Jane are recorded.

? - Julian Lloyd takes  colour photographs of Nick wrapped in blanket in bush.

1969

early - Nick performs at the Pitt Club, Cambridge, with an orchestra.

March - records a live version of Three Hours.

29 April - photo sessions with Keith Morris at Gunther Hall, Chelsea; a derelict house near Wimbeldon Common; and outside the Morgan Crucible Factory, Battersea. Photos from derelict house used for cover of Five Leaves Left.

10 June - Nick performs at Oxford Caius May Ball, with an orchestra.

5 July - Melody Maker – notice re the imminent release of Nick Drake ’s first album.

5 August - BBC1 radio session – Nick records 4 songs for the John Peel show – 1. Time of No Reply, 2. Cello Song, 3. River Man and 4. Three Hours. No copy of this performance has been made public.

26 July - Melody Maker – review of Five Leaves Left.

1 September - Five Leaves Left is released in the UK on Island ILPS 910S.

24 September - Nick performs at the Royal Festival Hall, supporting Fairport Convention and John and Beverley Martyn. 'The audience were quiet and respectful,' said Joe Boyd of the performance. 'Nick's performance was brilliant, the audience were mesmerized.' This was to be one of the few highlights of his performance career.

4 October - Nick performs at the Upper Room Folk Club, located in the Goodwill to All pub, Middlesex.

4 October - New Musical Express review of Five Leaves Left.

10 October - Nick opens for Fairport Convention.

15 November - Nick performs at the Cousins folk club, London.

? - Nick plays at a folk club in Hull. Folk singer Michael Chapman was there: 'Sometime in 1969, at a pub called the Haworth. The folkies did not take to him; they were a real silver tankard and finger-in-the-ear crowd. The folk crowd wanted songs with choruses. They completely missed the point. They just didn't get the gentleness, the subtlety. Nick played beautifully. I suppose they were all his own songs, I recognised some from the album. He didn't introduce any of them; he didn't say a word the entire evening. It was actually quite painful to watch. I don't know what the audience expected, I mean, they must have known they weren't going to get sea-shanties and sing along at a Nick Drake gig!'

? - Nick's last gig of 1969 was at a social club in Smethwick, near Birmingham, where Nick played to an unattentive crowd between a dinner and a disco. 'That really destroyed him,' said John Martyn some years later on Radio 1, 'because I think they would have rather listened to the Troggs. So I think that was a major blow to his confidence. I remember him being defensive about that for days and days.'

1970

early - In the earlier part of 1970, Nick played a regular Saturday night spot at Cousins on Greek Street. Three known occasions are when he supported the Third Ear Band, John Martyn and John James. Brian Cullman, who played before Nick one night, remembers the experience: 'His shyness and awkwardness were almost transcendent. A tall man, his clothes - black corduroy jacket and pants, frayed white shirt - hung around him like bedclothes after a particularly bad night's sleep. He sat on a small stool, hunched tight over a tiny Guild guitar, beginning songs and, halfway through, forgetting where he was and stumbling back to the start of that song, or beginning an entirely different song which he would then abandon mid-way through if he remembered the remainder of the first. He sang away from the microphone, mumbled and whispered, all with a sense of precariousness and doom. It was like being at the bedside of a dying man who wants to tell you a secret, but who keeps changing his mind at the last minute. There was a new song that he sang that night, that he kept starting and stopping, never completing; he finally just sang the opening lines over and over again: 'Do you curse where you came from/Do you swear in the night?' (Hazey Jane I). 'It was chilling and morbidly fascinating. No one took their eyes off him for a second - there was a real sense of keeping him there with our gaze and attention, that if we looked away, however briefly, he might disappear, or forget that we were there and go to sleep.'

24 January - Nick's first gig of the year was at Ewell Technical College (Saturday 24, January) supporting Genesis and Atomic Rooster.

14 February - Leicester Polytechnic - Nick supports Genesis.

21 February - Nick supports John and Beverley Martyn at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, for what was billed as 'a concert of contemporary music'. The audience numbered about 1,500. Nick's set included two, as yet, unreleased songs: Hazey Jane I and Things Behind The Sun. David Sandison, Nick's press officer at the time: 'He was embarrassing, if you wanted a big sort of "Hi! Here's my new single," or, "Here's a track off my new album." He was embarrassing because he was very gauche, and there were long pauses between the numbers because he was either re-tuning or thinking about it. But it was intense. I would love to have seen that set in a smaller room, rather than in a room with fifteen-hundred people. It's too impersonal. But it was engrossing because the songs were engrossing and the mood was engrossing. But the contrast between him and John and Beverley Martyn who came on with a full band - the contrast couldn't have been greater.'

March - Nick went on the road with Sandy Denny's band Fotheringay, and played five more gigs.

16 March - Birmingham Town Hall

18 March - Leicester De Montfort Hall

20 March - Manchester Free Trade Hall

22 March - Bristol Colston Hall

23 March - BBC2 radio session, recording 4-8 songs.

30 March - London Royal Festival Hall. Of this performance John Martyn said: 'He was cripplingly nervous. I mean, he was distraught before the gig. It was rather embarrassing in fact to see him. He was distinctly uncomfortable on stage. I mean, the music was fine, but he just didn't like being there at all.'

13 April - BBC2 session broadcast.

8 May - Nick played an all-nighter at Bedford College (Friday 8, May), where he was on the same bill as various groups and artists including Spencer Davis, John Martyn and Graham Bond.

25 June - Nick's last known date was a return to Ewell Technical College (Thursday 25, June), where he supported Ralph McTell. Ralph: 'That's the only conversation I remember having with him, in the dressing room beforehand. I am a dreadfully nervous performer and I'm always clucking around before a show, but to allay my nerves I would cluck around other people and say, 'Are you alright?' Nick was monosyllabic. At that particular gig he was very shy. He did the first set and something awful must have happened. He was doing his song, Fruit Tree, and walked off halfway through it. Just left the stage.'

June - photo sessions with Keith Morris at flat and garden, 112 Haverstock Hill, London and in Belsize Park. Also at New Cross, South London, overlooking the Thames.

July - Elton John records 4 Nick Drake songs.

mid - Nick begins recording songs for his second album - Bryter Layter. During this period he is ill with kidney stones.

October - Nick attends a James Taylor concert in London.

1 November - Bryter Layter released in the UK on Island, ILPS 9134.

? - Nick plays on session for Mick Audsley lp Deep the Dark and Devilled Waters.

? - During the year Nick is rumoured to have performed a short, un-billed set at an open-air concert in Yorkshire which was headlined by Free.

? - photo session with Keith Morris on A40 Westway motorway, Paddington.

1971

March - Sounds interview with Nick by Jerry Gilbert.

? - The Nick Drake 8 track lp is released in US on Island SMAS-9307.

? - Nick goes to see a psychiatrist at Saint Thomas’ Hospital, London. He is prescribed antidepressant drugs for his condition.

mid - Nick makes use of Chris Blackwell’s villa near Gibraltar for a holiday.

October - returns to England.

? - Nick plays on a session for Longman's Interplay One education record. He is involved with three tracks – Full Fathom Five, I Wish I Was a Single Girl Again, and With My Swag all on My Shoulder.

late - Nick records Pink Moon album over two nights at Sound Techniques with John Wood, engineer.

November / December - photo session on Hampstead Heath with Keith Morris. The last such session. Shots taken in the  vicinity of South Park Hill.

December - Island press release for Pink Moon album, written by David Sandison.

1972

25 February - Pink Moon released in the UK on Island, ILPS 9184.

circa April - Nick suffers a breakdown and is hospitalised in Warwickshire for 5 weeks.

? - Pink Moon released in US on Island SMAS-931.

? - Nick plays on session for Mick Audsley at Sound Techniques.

? - John Watts (compiler), Interplay One, Longman, double lp + booklets + filmstrips, educational kit. Mono LG 582 24136 7. Nick Drake and Robert Kirby play and sing on this set.

1973

? - John Martyn records the song Solid Air, written for and about Nick Drake.

1974

February - Nick records his final 5 songs - 1. Black Eyed Dog, 2. Rider on the Wheel, 3. Hanging on a Star, 4. Voice from the Mountain and 5. Tow the Line.

mid - Travels to France, where he stays for approximately 6 months. It is also suggested that during this period he becomes engaged.

25 November - Nick Drake dies at Far Leys, his Tanworth in Arden home.


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