Nick Drake’s gaze at the lives of others

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Despite many investigations ran by many in the archives of music labels and television networks, it’s now sure that there are no footages of Nick Drake as an adult (for years there was a few-seconds video on Youtube that would show him from the back, confused in the crowd of a festival, but its reliability is practically nothing). However, many photographs remain and the most valuable are the ones that Keith Morris shot in three sessions (April ’69, June ’70 and November/December ’71), in three different moments of Nick Drake’s personal and artistic life.

The first album, Five Leaves Left, released in 1969, shows two pictures taken by Morris on the same day. The night before his apartment had been visited by thieves and, instead of the usual Nikon, that day he borrowed a Pentax, for which he wasn’t very familiar. Below the official cover of the album.

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Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left

The chosen photograph shows Nick standing next to a window, inside an abandoned house near Wimbledon Common. In the interviews he gave before his disappearance in 2005, the photographer was unable to remember the exact location of the house, which was probably demolished few years later.

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Five Leaves Left retro

The most significant photograph, however, is the one that appears on the back (above). We see Nick peacefully leaning against a brick wall, the look turned to the right as a blurred man crosses the scene. It’s an image that hits the spot, it explains better than words the essence of Nick Drake: an acute observer, detached from a world that goes too fast for him. A similar photograph will be taken the following year for the back of Bryter Layter: we see Nick’s shoulders on the edge of a highway, with a car driving through the night, blurred like the man of Five Leaves Left. You can find it below.

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Bryter Layter retro

Coming back to the previous picture, the one with the brick wall, going deeper we reveal some other curiosities:

  1. Many other photographs were taken in that session
  2. The brick wall was the one that fenced the Morgan Crucible Works in Battersea Church Road
  3. The factory had been shut down and then demolished in the 70s. So (for those who were interested) the brick wall today no longer exists

But there are other images coming from that April 1969, which are as significant as the one that was chosen for the back of the album. You can find a selection below.

Nick-Drake-1969 _ Photos
Nick Drake, Keith Morris’ shots on 1969

They emphasize the concept we said before: Nick observes the lives of people passing before his eyes, but somehow he remains disconnected, because London’s frenetic rhythms are not his thing. The gaze of a passenger in front of a train which doesn’t belong to him.

Nick-Drake-1969 _ Photo

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Luigi Ladisa hunts London stories, possibly buried by the dust of time. Follow him on The LondoNerD, Facebook and Twitter.

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