The style defines the man

We all marvelled at Kenneth Starr's uniquely boring Gertrude- Steinian prose

"THE AMOUNT of lurid, graphic detail here far exceeds any legitimate justification," said David Kendall, Chief Brief to President Clinton, about the publication of the Starr Report. It was, other attorneys thundered "loaded with irrelevant and unnecessary graphic and salacious allegations".

Oh I don't know. Its function has surely been to supply the Global Village with something for everyone to talk about. Not since the death of Diana has the Western world been so obsessed with a single subject. This weekend every conversation I have had, whether at a corner table in the Groucho Club or a dinner party in Nottinghamshire, has been hijacked by the Clinton affair - and although the serious-minded have pretended they are really keen on discussing the process of impeachment, the rest of us have gone squarely for those "unnecessary graphic and irrelevant salacious allegations".

Such as: those nuts. Only one tabloid managed to winkle out (if that is the phrase I am after) the detail that Clinton used to enjoy nibbling the nuts secreted by Ms Lewinsky in her groin. The picture of the great man as a kind of truffling Squirrel Nutkinsky is strangely unsettling. But were they dry roasted peanuts, pistachios, or (surely not) Brazils?

Then there was the bathroom door against which the President used to lean while receiving oral sex. He needed to lean against it, he explained, because it helped his bad back. It is rather charmingly off the point is it not? - as if he did not actually notice what was happening round the front.

Then there were the details of the gifts that passed between them: how sophisticated and saucy of Monica to give Bill a copy of Nicholson Baker's Vox, which is a 200-page fictional burst of telephone sex, but how artless to throw in Oy Vey! The Things They Say: A Guide To Jewish Wit which is to descend to the level of Reader's Digest.

And how intrigued we all were that American newspapers had contacted the three Congressmen whom the President had been telephoning while being pleasured. What had they asked them? If Mr Clinton seemed distracted? If he kept making appreciative grunting noises even though they were not saying anything interesting?

We all marvelled at Kenneth Starr's uniquely boring Gertrude-Steinian prose style and how oddly similar it is to Ms Lewinsky's circumlocutory vagueness. Until phrases such as "in the pantry area" and "in the genital area" started to blend into each other, we had been happy to discover that, despite her Patsy Cline hairdo and Desperate Dan jawline, Ms Lewinsky habitually wears thong undies, which she likes to flash at her entranced boss.

But amid all these conversational marvellings, nobody I have spoken to has the faintest clue why Clinton should be made to resign. Beyond the excruciation of having the world overhear your little adolescent sexual fiddlings with the hired help (which, rather than admit to the world, you obviously lie about; you lie like an eyewitness, as they say in Bosnia), there is nothing in this sorry tale that has the slightest overlap with politics, policy-making, economics, governance, management or leadership - provided that those dealing with Clinton in the future can look him in the eye, or pass a cigar store or a dry cleaners, without bursting out laughing.

IN JUNE this year, on what would have been the dead man's 50th birthday, the tiny Warwickshire village of Tamworth-in-Arden was invaded by a stream of fans of Nick Drake. They came to lay flowers on his grave, check out the grand Queen Anne house where he grew up, and sign the visitors book in the local parish church.

You just know that this is going to turn into an annual event, and the parish cemetery become a smaller but intensely English version of the Pere Lachaise cemetery where Jim Morrison's grave is routinely monstered by The Doors' faithful. Because the late Mr Drake is now the subject of a large and spectacularly trendy following, 24 years after he apparently killed himself with a 30-tab overdose of Tryptizol.

Tall, romantic, musically gifted but withdrawn as a clam, he was a tragic loner all his life. He went to Marlborough and Cambridge but without never emerged from a shell of occluded mortification. He seems never to have sustained a single relationship or a performing career or, indeed, a complete conversation during his short life; but his three albums, Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter and Pink Moon, have been regularly reappraised since his death, and his mournful shade adopted by misunderstood musical youths everywhere.

He turns up on the soundtrack of Kate Winslet's new movie Hideous Kinky (from the novel by Esther Freud) and in the lyrics of the first solo album from the Blur guitarist Graham Coxon ("I wish I could bring Nick Drake back to life"). The title of a song by the British rocker Robyn Hitchcock proudly proclaims, I knew Nick Drake". A biography of Drake last year by muso-polymath Patrick Humphries was the biggest-ever seller in the Helter Skelter rock 'n' roll bookshop. Drake's lonesome influence has been invoked by an eclectic slew of modern performers, from REM and Elvis Costello to Belle and Sebastian, Everything But the Girl and Beth Orton.

What's exciting for Drake fans is the joy of minimalism. There is so little to hold on to, they are grateful for the smallest detail.

Nobody knows what made him write songs, or stand for an hour at a zebra crossing, too depressed to cross, or kill himself. Hardly anyone even heard him speak. His 31 extant songs are all we have got and I am afraid we shall never...

But hang on. What's this? As if from nowhere, a tape has come to light, a 35-minute recording (the first ever) of Drake singing in a friend's kitchen in France. It dates back to the spring of 1967, two years before his first record was released, and features him singing cover versions of Dylan, Bert Jansch and the cult folkie Jackson C Frank. What is more - and try and remain seated while I tell you this - Drake can be heard chatting amiably, between songs, about his life, the guitar tunings he is using, the devaluation of sterling, the fate of Western civilisation, his problem with his parents, his envy of Donovan...

Ok, I made up some of that, but he does talk on the recording - and, for the average Drake aficionado, that is the equivalent of his having written a three-act drawing-room comedy and filmed himself in the lead. How significant is the find?

"Nick Drake has had a genuine re-discovery amongst a far wider constituency of music lovers than just retro-fiends and dyed-in-the-wool folkies", says Mat Snow, editor of fount-of-all-wisdom Mojo magazine. "Not only will this add to the sum of human listening pleasure, but it may shed a small sidelight on a tremendously obscure artist. Even a recording of his conversational voice is a rare find."

"It was recorded when Drake and several Marlborough friends were holidaying in Aix", says Patrick Humphries reverently. "He sounds incredibly confident and mature for a guy who'd only left school a few months earlier. And to hear him talk, it's so intimate, it brings him back to life."

So the rock 'n' roll world waits to see what happens next. Will the unknown owner hand over the tape? Will Drake's sister and executor Gabrielle (the actress, who famously starred in Crossroads) claim the copyright? Will Island, his record company, bring out the CD? Or will the Tamworth- in-Arden pilgrims find themselves having to schlep down to the south of France to listen, at last, to their hero's Complete Works?

Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

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.

    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
    The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

    The young are the new poor

    Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
    Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

    Greens on the march

    ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

    Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

    Through the stories of his accusers
    Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

    The Meaning of Mongol

    Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible