Joe Boyd and the Music of Nick Drake

by Chad Campbell, senior producer

Like milions of other people, I first heard Nick Drake in a 1999 Volkswagen commerical. The ad shows four young people driving with the top down on a moonlit summer night. When they arrive at a party, they decide to keep driving as Drake’s song Pink Moon continues. The ad intensified a growing interest in Drake’s music and led to re-issues of his catalog by Island Records. Unfortunately Nick Drake overdosed on prescription anti-depressants in 1974 and never enjoyed commercial success during his brief lifetime. He was only 26 when he died. Drake was famously shy and nearly unable to perform in front of an audience - his first two albums, Five Leaves Left (1969) and Bryter Layter (1970) sold only a few thousand copies each. Joe Boyd discovered Drake in 1968 and served as his mentor and producer for those first two albums. Boyd says he was crushed when the records didn’t sell better but he is not surprised that Drake finally found an appreciative audience. Boyd has now produced a new tribute CD titled Way to Blue: The Songs of Nick Drake. The project began with a series of concerts arranged by Boyd.  Once he felt the performances were strong enough, they decided to record the songs. Interestingly, the album was recorded live, in front of an audience but with no applause until the end of the last cut - perhaps Drake’s best known song - Pink Moon. Some songs are faithfully reproduced while others are wildly reimagined. They’re all pretty good, but what the CD really does is make me want to listen to Nick Drake’s originals, which I suppose is the point.