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The Songs Of Molly Drake, Mother Of Nick Drake

Never-before-heard songs recorded in the '50s at the Drake family home. Hear "How Wild The Wind Blows."

Tuesday, March 05, 2013 - 02:00 PM

Joe Boyd, producer of 'Five Leaves Left,' calls these songs "the missing link" in the Nick Drake story. (Courtesy of Squirrel Thing Recordings)

The mysterious English songwriter Nick Drake wasn't particularly well-known in his lifetime. But since his death in 1974, at age 26, he’s developed quite a cult following -- and influenced so many other musicians. Now, we’re hearing from someone who was a great influence on him -- his mom. A new album from Squirrel Thing Recordings collects the songs of Molly Drake, who was an artist in her own right.

The 19 songs included on Molly Drake were recorded to tape at the family home in the 1950s, and have been restored for this release by the engineer John Wood -- who was also engineer to Nick.

According to Gabriel Drake (daughter of Molly, and sister to Nick), "For Molly, music was a private joy, as was her poetry...and she would sit for hours alone at a piano, working out words and music. It never occurred to her that her work could be of interest to a wider audience." Now it certainly is -- particularly the haunting and beautiful “How Wild The Wind Blows."

Molly Drake - How Wild The Wind Blows

I caught up with David Herman, a recording engineer, and co-founder of Squirrel Thing, for a bit more backstory. (Full disclosure: Herman is also an employee of WNYC).

How did you come across this material? What appealed to you about it?

Two of Molly's recordings (“Poor Mum” and “Do You Ever Remember?”) were included on the 2007 Nick Drake collection Family Tree, (they were also heard in the Nick Drake documentary A Skin Too Few). My partner at Squirrel Thing, Dan Dzula, and I first heard these around 2011, and we were immediately floored. Not only by the eerie similarity between her voice and her son's, but by the poetry in her lyrics, somehow sophisticated and naive at the same time. It was incredibly poignant stuff. So we got in touch with the Drake estate to see if there was more of her music to be heard, and lo and behold there was!

What was it like to first interact with the songs?

The recordings are so intimate, when I listened to them on headphones for the first time, I felt as if I were sitting right there in the Drake family living room, next to her husband Rodney fiddling with his tape recorder, listening to Molly play the piano for no one in particular. It was a totally immersive, instantly transportive experience, much like the experience of listening to the Connie Converse tapes. I suddenly found myself in another time and place, and in a very tangible way.

What, if anything, does it tell us about the work of Nick Drake?

The enduring mystery of the Nick Drake story is why his music didn’t catch on during his life. It’s as if he were born to the wrong time, like he came out of nowhere. I think these recordings show us that he didn’t come out of nowhere – he had a profound influence right at home. The musical styles of mother and son are certainly born of different generations, but underneath her charming wistfulness, and her easy elegance, there’s darkness in so many of Molly’s songs, a darkness that Nick Drake would distill down and explore further in his own work, and in his own way.

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Comments [10]

ehsny

I heard this show in March and have since listened to all that I can find by Nick Drake. His work foreshadowed what was to come. Yes, I hear Dylan, Clapton and now Adem, Bon Iver, Akron/Family...

Jun. 14 2013 10:25 PM
Matthew from New York

I'm 99% sure that Bob Dylan ripped "Blowin in the Wind" off of the brilliant Molly Drake. The chorus of Molly's "What can a song do to you?" sounds exactly like blowin in the wind, not to mention the track before this on Molly's album is called "How wild the wind blows"! Dylan is a thief

May. 07 2013 11:19 PM
Josephine Wells from North Wales, UK

I look forward to listening the album in its entirety.

Mar. 26 2013 07:10 PM
Eva-Catrin from Berlin, germany

Hello, are the notes avialable? I am Eva-catrin from Berlin. I would like to sing this beautiful songs from Nick and Molly Drake. Please answer me and tell me, where I could get them.

If you want to hear my music got to www.soundcloud.com and the search under Eva-catrin Reinhardt.
Thanks a lot.

bye
eva-Catrin

Mar. 09 2013 12:49 PM
Harm Snel from Amsterdam

i'm a bit puzzled by the for-the-first-time claims. this cd has been available on Alimentation for about a year, as published on the estate's official channel, Brytermusic.com.
http://www.alimentation.cc/nick_drake/cds/molly-drake.html

the tracklisting is identical, but the Alimentation release has a different booklet, packed with poems by Molly. the new booklet is also very good, i love the photographs.

Mar. 08 2013 04:07 PM
joanna from wiltshire

B E A U T I F U L !
thank you!

Mar. 08 2013 02:21 AM
claire from wellington, nz

uncanny similarity - as if nick was channelling his mother - similar phrasing and timing and yes - "darkness"

Mar. 07 2013 09:00 PM
Alasdair MacNeill from Winchester, UK.

Haunted.

Mar. 07 2013 07:48 PM
Crane from Australia

There is not a lot of music that has that certain magical touch that the Drake family has. I am looking forward to listen to all 19 of these songs by Nick Drake's mother Molly Drake :)

Mar. 07 2013 07:20 PM
Della Clason Sperling from Canton, Ohio

Looking forward to hearing Molly Drake. I love Connie Converse!

Mar. 06 2013 11:17 AM

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