Monday, November 25, 1974

Nick Drake died: November 25, 1974

Originally posted November 25, 2012.

image from eachnotescure.com

Nick Drake was an English folk singer/songwriter born in Rangoon, Burma, on June 19, 1948. Only three albums were released during his lifetime and each sold less than 5000 copies upon initial release. However, after his death he emerged as a doomed romantic hero. In the mid-‘80s, musicians such as The Cure’s Robert Smith and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck cited him as an influence. The Dream Academy’s 1985 single “Life in a Northern Town” was about Drake.

Drake’s parents were musically inclined, even composing music. At an early age, Nick wrote songs and recorded them on reel-to-reel. He played piano in the school orchestra and learned clarinet and saxophone. In 1967, he won a scholarship to study English literature at Cambridge. He was a bright student who didn’t apply himself. He was more interested in playing and listening to music while smoking marijuana.

He discovered the folk scene via performers like Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs and began performing in clubs and coffee houses around London. With the help of college friend Robert Kirby and American producer Joe Boyd, Drake recorded Five Leaves Left in 1968.

In the autumn of 1969, Drake moved to London to concentrate on music. 1970’s Bryter Layter sported a more upbeat and jazzier sound and featured John Cale and members of Fairport Convention. In October 1971, Drake recorded songs over two nights for what would become 1972’s Pink Moon. Thinking that the sound of Bryter Layter was too elaborate, Drake opted for a stark collection of bleak songs in which his singing was accompanied solely by his own guitar with one piano overdub on the title track.

He visited a psychiatrist in 1971 and was prescribed antidepressants. He also suffered from insomnia and his friend Kirby worried at one point that Drake was showing early signs of psychosis. In 1972, Drake had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized for five weeks. He returned home to live with his parents. Musician John Martyn, who wrote the title song of his 1973 album Solid Air about Drake, described him as the most withdrawn person he’d ever met. Nick died at age 26 on November 25, 1974, of an overdose of amitriptyline, a prescribed antidepressant. The death has largely been assumed to be a suicide although some have considered it an accidental overdose.

A Skin Too Few (documentary about Nick Drake)


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Saturday, November 16, 1974

Lynyrd Skynyrd chart with “Free Bird”

Updated 1/21/2019.

image from Wikipedia.org

Free Bird

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Writer(s): Allen Collins, Ronnie Van Zant (see lyrics here)


Released: Nov. 1974


First Charted: 11/16/1974


Peak: 19 US, 25 CB, 31 HR, 21 UK, 47 CN (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales *: -- US, -- UK, 2.11 world (includes US + UK)


Radio Airplay *: 3.0


Video Airplay *: 38.0


Streaming *: --


* in millions

Review:

It “has become a rock and roll joke” to shout out “Free Bird!” at concerts, SF but it is also a tribute to “a towering rock anthem crowned with the mother of all guitar solos” BBC that “has entered hard rock folklore.” HL-104 The song “extend[ed] the influence of Southern rock...started by the Allman Brothers [and was] recorded as a tribute to Duane Allman, who was killed in a motorcycle crash in 1971.” RS500

“‘Free Bird’ is the tale of a restless spirit attempting to explain to his sweetheart” HL-104 “why he can’t settle down and make a commitment.” SF Guitarist Allen Collins’ “steady girlfriend, who realized that the band would always come first, kept asking him questions like, ‘If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?’” KN

He worked on the song on and off for two years. SF When he “first brought it into rehearsals, volatile singer Ronnie Van Zandt was unenthusiastic, claiming it had too many chords.” BBC The band first recorded the song as a ballad BBC in 1972 that clocked in at 7 ½ minutes. SF Club audiences didn’t respond until “the climatic guitar duel” BBC was added to the end, stretching the song to 10 minutes.

The “record company…thought it was too long [for a single]. Even the band never thought this was going to be a hit.” SF After “Sweet Home Alabama” was a chart success, an edited “Free Bird” was released, but “the long version from the album has always been more popular.” SF

“When Skynyrd reformed in the late ‘80s it was performed as an instrumental, with an empty mic stand...adorned with Ronnie’s trademark cowboy hat” BBC as a memorial to him – he “was killed along with two other band members in a plane crash in 1977.” BBC


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Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.

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Monday, November 4, 1974

Elton John's first Greatest Hits released

This page has been moved here where the Greatest Hits compilation and other Elton John anthologies are highlighted on one page to offer a career retrospective.