Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I am a camera - St Tropez 1967

'Those long lecture-free days in France were tailor-made for Nick to practice his guitar. That's what people remember about him during those months leading up to what became known as the Summer of Love. Jeremy Mason recalls going to a bookshop with Nick and buying a copy of Baudelaire's poems Les Fleurs Du Mal (Flowers of Evil).

They read Dostoevsky and Rimbaud. And they had a cheap old gramophone for which Nick bought a copy of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, a work which he was always keen to have around and which may have just been the last piece of music he heard before he died seven years later.

His earliest outings with the guitar were as a busker. Simon Crocker joined him on harmonica a few times in the streets of Aix and even, on a couple of occasions, near the chic harbour area of fashionable St Tropez.'

The words above are from Trevor Dann's superb new biography of singer-songwriter Nick Drake who died in 1974, aged just 26. Nick Drake was in St Tropez in the summer of 1967, and so was another British student also taking a year off between school and university.

Roger Vadim's 1957 film And God Created Woman (Et Dieu... créa la femme) with its cast of Brigitte Bardot , Curd Jürgens , and Jean-Louis Trintignant had positioned St Tropez at the epicentre of the sensual world. In 1967 St Trop was chic, and Bardot was topless on the Plage de Pampelonne. But St Tropez was also where it was happening musically and artistically, and there was magic (and something else) in the air.

The highlight was
Jean Jacques Lebel's production of the Picasso play Desire Caught By The Tail in a vast circus tent near the sea, with music by Soft Machine. The sound was pretty impressive in the auditorium, it was almost as impressive on the beach at Grimaud, three miles away, where I grabbed a few hours sleep each night.


I had the one of the first Olympus camera with me, a 35mm half-framePen S. The photos here were all taken in St Tropez in August 1967 on Kodachrome 2 slide stock, and have never been published before. Somewhere in those crowds was Nick Drake ...


Nick Drake resources On An Overgrown Path include * A Skin Too Few * A troubled cure ... for a troubled mind * Monteverdi in Cambridge * Smile why it has been * All photos by Pliable and copyright On An Overgrown Path.

Trevor Dann's book Darker Than The Deepest Sea, The Search For Nick Drake is published by Portrait, ISBN 0749950951. Other I am a camera photo features On An Overgrown Path * Berlin * Dresden * Leipzig * Aldeburgh *


2 comments:

Pliable said...

Nick Drake's producer and mentor, Joe Boyd, was the guest on BBC Radio 3's Private Passions programme on April 6th 2006.

The programme can be heard via the BBC 'listen again' service until April 13th.

Joe Boyd produced and managed many of the greatest pop and folk bands of the Sixties, from Pink Floyd and Eric Clapton to Nick Drake, Fairport Convention and Kate and Anna McGarrigle. Joe has just written a book about his experiences, called White Bicycles: Making Music in the Sixties.

His personal choices were predictably eclectic, from Dinu Lipatti to the Comedian Harmonists.

They also included a track from Jan Johansson's Jazz på svenska (Jazz in Swedish), which was featured here in my article Sweden's best kept secret - Jan Johansson, an article which is consistently one of the most popular destinations On An Overgrown Path - just follow that link and listen to the audio files to find out why.

I will post the full playlist for the programme here when it is available.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Pink Floyd, they later released a song entitled "San Tropez" on their '71 album "Meddle".

Here are the lyrics by Roger Waters:
As I reach for a peach
Slide a rind down behind
The sofa in San Tropez.
Breakin' a stick
with a brick on the sand.
Ridin' a wave
In the wake of an old sedan.

Sleepin' alone in the
Drone of the darkness,
Scratched by the sand that
Fell from my love,
Deep in my dreams and I
Still hear her callin'
"If you're alone,
I'll come home."

Backward and homebound,
The pigeon, the dove,
Gone with the wind
And the rain, on an airplane.
Owning a home
With no silver spoon,
I'm drinking champagne
Like a good tycoon.

Sooner than wait for
A break in the weather,
I'll gather my far-flung
Thoughts together.
Speeding away
On the wind to a new day.
And if you're alone
I'll come home.

And I pause for a while
By a country style
And listen to the things they say.
Diggin' for gold
With a hoe in my hand.
Open a book
Take a look at the way things stand.

And you're leading me down
To the place by the sea.
I hear your soft voice
Calling to me.
Making a date for
Later by phone
And if you're alone
I'll come home.