Three Records from Sundown


Singer and songwriter Nick Drake.

When Marshall McLuhan said “the medium is the message” he was, in essence, saying that the way a message is transmitted adds information, it says something — intended or not.

If that’s true, and I think it is, what about a radio story? Or, more specifically, what about how a radio story is produced adds information? Can the way you cut and mix and use sound say something more than just the sound itself? I think you’ll answer with a resounding “Yes!” when you listen to “Three Records From Sundown,” a documentary about singer and songwriter Nick Drake produced by Charles Maynes in 2009.

Charles crafted the exact right pacing, he fashioned the perfect sound design elements, he EQed (changed the sound of recording) in just the precise manner to evoke “Nick Drake.” It’s almost as though Drake and his producer, Joe Boyd, were in the studio recording a Nick Drake documentary like it was a Nick Drake song.

In this podcast, I refer to these production choices as “tone” and “sensibility.” They’re production elements producers should consider when assembling a story and Charles nailed “tone” with this doc (which won a Third Coast Director’s Choice Award, by the way).

Listen hard. Rob.


3 comments to Three Records from Sundown

  • Great episode. Regarding the subject matter of tone, I think the Nick Drake doc hits the nail on the head. Gotta say, though, that I found the tape sound effects kitschy and annoying. It’s unfortunate that the producer’s narrative was so dependent on that element. He said his goal with this piece was to stay out of the way. He succeeded in every way but the overdone narration. I like the idea, but I think it could have been done more subtly, more in line with the overall theme of the piece.

  • Dave Sweeney

    This documentary is a work of art and almost moved me to tears. I discovered Nick Drake on reading an article in NME magazine when I was around 14 by, I think, Nick Kent. I was fascinated by his story and entranced by Kent’s prose long before I heard a note of Drake’ music. This music was not on the radio, period, and I had very little money to buy albums. A year or two later I was in a friend’s house and discovered “Five Leaves Left’ in the record collection. It was loaned to me, for about ten years it tuned out. The vocals, the lyrics, the amazing guitar playing, the heavenly string arrangements on “River Man” and “Way to Blue” all mean just as much to me today. I got the other two albums and love them too. I became a professional musician myself and from time to time met people like Paul Weller who were the first to champion Nick Drake in the 1990s. What a talent Nick was/is. This documentary truly does him and producer Joe Boyd justice. I often think of his graveyard epitaph the extract from the lyric of the final track on the final album..’And then we rise, and we are everywhere..’ That for me sums up what has happened since Nick died.

  • I agree with you that the medium is the message. Perhaps that was what is missing in Drake’s music during his time. Though he’s been unique in acoustic style but limited in access to an appropriate medium to greatly convey his skill to a wider audience. I’m impress with the documentary… Love to have more of it. Thanks for sharing

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