Tag Archives: nick drake

December 25th 1973

“Crismis Day – Got a guitar”

Evil child that I was, I always hunted for – and invariably found – my wrapped Crismis Christmas presents many weeks before Santa’s big day. Of course, as a result of them being wrapped I was not always 100% sure of the gifts inside but the size and shape of the packages was usually a giveaway.

However, I can honestly say that my parents genuinely surprised me with this guitar. (I later found out Dad had hidden it by hanging it inside one of his work suits, itself inside a suit hanging bag, at the back of their wardrobe)

This guitar was a half-sized model which – rather than learning to properly play – I instead posed with in front of whichever mirror I could find. Yes, I would adopt clichéd poses with it. Yes I would pretend I was a rock star and mime along with hits on it. I’d be a liar if I said otherwise.

Dad – with some considerable hope – also bought me Bert Weedon’s Play in a Day tutorial book in the vain hope that I would actually read it and learn how to properly bang out tunes on the guitar.

Instead I merely limited myself to bashing out the opening chords to Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” – or *ahem* variations thereof – imagining myself to be a kind of folksier Richie Blackmore. I also taught myself the irritatingly repetitive riff to Cream’s “Sunshine of your Love” as well as “the Status Quo riff”

Not whole songs I hasten to add, just the riffs. I could amuse myself for hours by doing this, as well as wildly improvising, creating noises with the strings (by rubbing bottles, pens and any other implements to hand over them) and messing with the tuning knobs. I was practising to be an avant garde savant.

As time progressed it was inevitable that the guitar would fall into less and less use. I remember that when I left home and moved into my first flat the guitar had become more of a repository for record label promo stickers than anything I picked up and played. I think the thing got damaged during – and was consequently thrown away – my next house move.

Years and years later – in the early 90’s – a girlfriend of mine decided that I needed a guitar so likewise bought me one as a Christmas gift. Again it was a nice surprise. This time the bonus was a complete set of guitar lessons with a local teacher. I opened the guitar bag and hefted this – now full sized – instrument out, popped on the strap, stood up and…..immediately played “Smoke on the Water”. This wasn’t going to end well.

It didn’t. The girlfriend & I broke up before I had the first lesson, and as she was paying for them I didn’t feel it prudent to push the point during our break-up negotiations.

Thus, the world can squarely blame her for England not having a “second Nick Drake” to fawn over.

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July 21st 1972

“Trev came up. He brought up N.E.T.E. + Elegy. In afternoon we played cricket + F.ball and got told off by Grumpy”

I got told off by myself? Oh…. got it, this was not 2008, but 1972!

I really was an energetic little toad wasn’t it? Cricket and football all in the space of one day? I’d be pushed to play both of them in one decade now.

Still, once again Trev brought with him some more musical ‘education’, and the mere mention of one – N.E.T.E. – has surprised me significantly.

I have always maintained that the Island compilation album “Nice Enough to Eat” (hence “N.E.T.E. “) was the first album I ever bought. It would seem from this diary entry that I have deceived myself – and others – for a very long time? After all, I would not borrow the album if I already owned it, and didn’t I buy an Emerson, Lake & Palmer album a few months ago?

Given the fact that “Nice Enough to Eat” contains gems from the likes of Traffic, Nick Drake, King Crimson and Blodwyn Pig, and “Emerson Lake & Palmer” is … well … Emerson, Lake & Palmer, I can no longer ‘boast’ to be anywhere near as cool and hip as I’ve always thought I’d been with my first ever record.

Bugger.

That said, N.E.T.E. is a great album and (had it been my first) the perfect primer for a my ‘life in music’.  Part of a trend of ‘sampler’ albums released by the more intelligent labels around this time – the trend including Bumpers, You Can All Join In, El Pea, and The Rock Machine Turns You On, this was sold at the bargain price of about 79p (or $1.50).

The word ‘gems’ I used earlier is not an overstatement either. From Nick Drake’s utterly sublime “Time Has Told Me” (which was to become a personal anthem for my wife & I during our dating years…. “You’re a rare, rare find“) all the way to Spooky Tooth’s anthemic “Better by You, Better than Me” and via the somewhat scary “21st Century Schizoid Man” by King Crimson.

The album single-handedly introduced me to a lifetime’s appreciation of the work of Steve (Traffic) Winwood and Free, as well as utter adoration for Nick Drake’s brief but staggering output. However, the Drake song aside, there is one cut that has stuck with me more than any other. Dr Strangely Strange stumped up “Strangely Strange but Oddly Normal” for the compilation and what a great song it is, peculiarly summing up how I often feel about myself. I have included this on so many mix tapes over the interim 36 years, I feel like I have somehow personally introduced this band to the world, even though they have continued to very much remain an unknown quantity. The problem is (in my ‘umble opine) that whilst that song was great, the album it came from, “Kip of the Serenes” – despite being produced by the mighty Joe Boyd – has always been a massive let down to me. Like so many other bands and artists – just the ONE killer song!

Yes, despite now discovering it wasn’t my first ever vinyl LP purchase, N.E.T.E. will always feel like it was… even if my introduction to it was as yet another ‘borrow’ from my friend Trev and his brother Steven.

Elegy” by The Nice is another matter altogether. The Nice included amongst its number the “E” from ELP, (yes, them again!) which is why I was eager to hear it. I only liked the one cut, and a diary entry a few days from now will go into it in far greater depth.

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