Adventures with a lost Nick Drake recording

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

A version of Cello Song intended for the skip has inspired a photography exhibition 37 years after the singer's death

What would you do if you discovered a previously unheard Nick Drake recording? A song by one of most famous, cultish singer-songwriters of the early Seventies; a man who died so young that his oeuvre is limited, but is nevertheless one of the most influential English musicians of the last 50 years.  You’d want everyone to hear it, right? Organise a tribute album, perhaps? Cash in on the discovery? Luckily, Michael Burdett did none of those things.

Burdett, a television composer and photographer, harboured the lost Drake recording for nearly 40 years. In the 1970s, when working in the post room at Island Records (the label Drake signed to), Burdett was asked to throw some tapes into a rubbish skip. Having rummaged through them, and hoping to salvage some to use in a studio he was setting up, his eye was caught by one tape in particular.

Click here or on "View Gallery" to preview Strange Faces in pictures

“I picked it up because it had ‘Nick Drake, Cello Song’ and ‘with love’ written on the box,” Burdett says. “The words ‘with love’ made me think that it had to be Nick’s handwriting, and on that basis I couldn’t let it go to the dump.”

It was two decades before he sat down and listened to the tape. Thinking it would be the Cello Song, a beautiful, highly recognisable, string- and guitar-drenched track from Drake’s 1968 debut, Five Leaves Left, Burdett was amazed to discover a completely different never-previously-heard version.

Instead of seeing pound signs, Burdett reacted to the discovery by embarking on a rather unusual artistic project. Armed only with a portable CD player and headphones, Burdett traipsed the length and breadth of the UK and personally approached 200 people offering them the chance to hear the recording. Of those asked, 167 said yes – and Burdett photographed their reactions.

“In a world where recorded music is distributed so casually and freely it’s almost lost its value. I saw an opportunity to use a recording to create a very personal moment for a number of people - and maybe to give them an incredibly special memory,” Burdett says.

The city workers, scientists, farmers, hairdressers, musicians tattooists randomly approached and photographed by Burdett are pictured in various stages of rapture. Although the brooding Drake, who was posthumously seen as a doomed romantic hero, did not create music to make you smile exactly, several of the listeners are seen with soppy, enthralled grins on their faces.

Comedian Noel Fielding was one of those Burdett approached. He remarked: “[The music] was like the forest came to life and carried me about in a little silver papoose.”

Factory worker Melvin Hodges, who also took part, said: “He [Drake] died without me noticing. It is the velvet in his voice that brings out the best in him.”

The photographs, titled the Strange Faces Project - not, as a comment on the visages of the subjects, but in reference to the opening lyric of the song: “Strange face, with your eyes/ So pale and sincere”)- is currently on show at the Idea Generation Gallery in London.

Drake died of an overdose of prescription antidepressants aged 26 in 1974. He had recorded three albums and been critically acclaimed, but only really acquired widespread fame in the mid-to-late Eighties, long after his death.  As well as being playful and hugely appealing to look at, the photographs serve to further cement the impact Drake’s creative output has had, despite its brevity.

The Strange Face Project: Adventures With A Lost Nick Drake Recording at Idea Generation Gallery until 12 February 2012,


Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own