Here's a little something I wrote, about the connection between Françoise and the British singer-songwriter Nick Drake. If you want to, you can put it on your site.
With kind regards
Did the French singer Françoise Hardy ever record songs Nick especially wrote for her?
The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001) clearly thinks so. In the entry on Nick drake it is stated:
"He lived for a short while in Paris at the behest of Françoise Hardy (who never released the recordings she made of his songs) and then settled in Hampstead..."
Here are the facts, at least how I see them:
As with many thinks in Nick's life, information is rare and often contradicting. Some even think they had a relation and lived together for some months. Others just think he had a crush on the beautiful chanteuse - like many schoolboys in the Sixties. The only thing that is certain is taht they have met a few times.
The first time was at the beginning of the Seventies. Producer Joe Boyd wanted more people to know the acts on his Witchseason label. A good way to do so was to get some famous artist to cover their songs. Possibly for contractual reasons he didn't chose to compile simply some songs from Fairport Convention, The Incredible String Band and Nick Drake on an album. Instead he booked some studiotime, in July 1970, and hired a few session singers. One of them was his own girlfriend, Linda Peters - later to marry Richard Thompson and become known as Linda Thompson - and a young man called Reginald Dwight. He was just starting a career as Elton John and payed the rent by covering hitsongs of the day for cheap compilations.
Some hunderd actetates of those new versions were pressed and sent to potential clients.
One of the few who showed some interest in Nick's songs was the French singer Françoise Hardy. She contacted Boyd to let him know that she thought the songs were great and that she would like him to write some for her. A meeting was arranged in her Paris apartment. That visit wasn't exactly a great succes. Arriving in the apartment on the Isle St. Louis Drake withdrew in himself." He never said a word," remembers Hardy in the documentary A Skin Too Few.
"It was excruciating," said Joe Boyd. "Nick sat there, head down, drinking his tea and didn't say a word the whole time; and I had to fill in the awkward silences." (The Sad Ballad of Nick Drake - Mick Brown in The Telegraph, July 12, 1997.)
They nevertheless agree that Nick will write some songs and Françoise will come to London to record them there. Time is booked in Studio Sound Techniques (the studio where Nick recorded all his albums with engineer John Wood).
But before Hardy could come to London, Boyd received an offer from Warner Brothers to go to California. It was too good to refuse, so he sold Witchseason to Island Records.
Some of the finest British folkmusicians were hired for the Hardy sessions. Richard Thompson played guitar on a few tracks. Another was Fotheringay guitarist Jerry Donahue. He confirms that Nick showed up at least once to watch the sessions.
"When we were doing Françoise's album, Nick Drake came up and sat next to me in the control room. I was just making some friendly conversation. He was very quiet in between questions; there would just be a gap. Then I'd ask another question. And each time I did, his eyebrows would raise way up, his eyes would widen, and it was like an effort to kind of get the answer out to satisfy the situation at hand - 'I've gotta deal with this - somebody's putting me on the line, they've actually addressed me and asked me a question. I will do my best to get an answer out.'
Then having successfully managed to crank an answer out, he would withdraw again into silence, until which time I might feel inclined to ask him another question, and the same sequence of events would take place. It was very bizarre. I've never known anybody like him. And he wasn't unfriendly. But you just really felt like you were putting the guy on the spot when you'd ask the most simple harmless questions. I thought he had a real rough time with himself. It was impossible to get to know him, certainly in that brief encounter."
(Richie Unterberger in Unknown Legends of Rock 'n' Roll (Backbeat Books - 1998))
When the album If You Listen is released in Spring 1972, there's no sing of song written by Nick Drake. But his shadow hangs over the album. (There are covers of songs by Beverley Martin, Buffy Ste Marie, Randy Newman and Neil Young.)
If he had written any songs for her they must have ended up on Pink Moon, which he recorded around the same time, during two sessions in October 1971.
When that album, like the two before, disappeared without making much noice, the Youngman sank even deeper in a depression. He returned to his parent's house, but even there he felt like a stranger.
In 1974 it appeared like he was getting better. He recorded some songs in February and June, but this time he found it hard to sing and play guitar at the same time.
In the first week of October he took up an invitation of some friends to visit them in Paris, where they lived in a barge on the Seine.
While he was there, he decided to pay a visit to Françoise Hardy. But when he rang the bell, he didn't recognize the voice on the parlophone. "It's Nick... Nick..." is all he could mutter before returning on his steps. After a few weeks he returned home where he wanted to improve his French before going back to France. But that was nevcer to be. Four weeks later he was death.
Françoise Hardy talked about meeting Nick Drake for the first time, to Patrick Humphries.
"For me, he didn't belong to a particularly British tradition: his style was quite different from that of The Beatles, the Stones and other groups that I was listening to a lot around this time. It is the soul which comes out of his songs that touched me deeply - romantic, poetic... but also the refined melodies. As well as the very individual timbre of his voice, which adds to the melancholy of the whole thing.
Nick seemed - and was no doubt - so shy, so wrapped up in himself, that in retrospect I'm astonished he managed to come and see me two or three times, even knowing that I appreciated his enormous talent. Communication between us was never great, but I had the impression that to know himself appreciated, loved, gave him confidence; and that to feel that his silence presence was accepted was enough for him."
(Patrick Humphries - Brief Encounter in Mojo 39 - February 1997)
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