Auction Of Rare Nick Drake Recordings Halted

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Nick Drake 'Five Leaves Left' artwork - Courtesy: UMG

The auction of rare tapes by fabled folk singer-songwriter Nick Drake has been postponed after a row broke out about who owns the recordings.

The tapes, insured for £250,000, contain six songs recorded in 1967, before Drake signed to Island, and were given to his friend and fellow singer Beverley Martyn. The auction was due to take place last Thursday amid suggestions that they would raise £300,000, but the sale was postponed when lawyers for Drake’s estate questioned Martyn’s claim to the ownership of the tapes.

The recordings feature five songs that went on to be on Drake’s highly influential 1969 debut album ‘Five Leaves Left’ as well as the revered song ‘Mayfair.’ The Observer newspaper yesterday (Sunday) quoted auctioneer Ted Owen, of Ted Owen & Co, as saying that the auction was intended to establish the recordings as a piece of folk memorabilia, rather than necessarily to be released to the public. “The tracks are very pure and unproduced,” he said. “There is no hesitation, he just puts it down. It’s poignant and beautifully recorded.”

Beverley, the former wife of John Martyn, with whom she recorded and performed, made her own return earlier this year with ‘The Phoenix and the Turtle,’ her first album for 14 years. It included ‘Reckless Jane,’ which she recently completed after beginning to write it with Drake shortly before his death.

She insists that she is the rightful owner, and was given them by Island a couple of years after Drake’s death in 1974. “I looked after them for 38 years, treasured them,” she said. “I know the person who made the tape and they are happy for me to have it. The Drake family even offered to buy it off me eight years ago for £2,000.”

Owen is hopeful that once the dispute has been resolved, the auction of the tapes can go ahead in October. “It’s getting a bit late for me to hold on to these tapes,” said Martyn, “and I really would like other people to hear them.”

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  1. pix

    August 5, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Just because you have a tape with recordings on them does not mean you own the copyright to the music. They should be able to sell the tape, but not to be released for commercial use. The songs belong to the estate of Nick Drake.

  2. Nick Wilson

    August 8, 2014 at 12:44 am

    I have only recently discovered Nick Drakes music and I think it’s amazing. After reading up on Nick, in my opinion he created music because he was creative and not for monetary gain. He chose to write music to express himself in ways that he probably found difficult socially. I understand that descendants of his family want to earn money from his estate but I don’t think they are being appreciative of the purpose of his music. I personally would love to hear the tapes and think that they would give credit to his amazing talent and an insight into his creative process before his music was produced.

  3. Bob Seymour

    September 7, 2014 at 2:26 am

    It’s a very difficult situation. Beverley Martyn was a very close friend of Nick’s and I personally think that she should be able to sell the tapes to whosoever she pleases, but I also know that copyright is a rather difficult issue. In my mind the best solution would be that if the Drake Estate or Island Records put up the money we might all get a chance to hear them!

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