Illustration by Davis Meltzer from the cover of Andre Norton's Galactic Derelict, 1959
Nick Drake's "Poor Boy" is probably the best-known song whose existence I've chosen to question, and it has to do with a specific pet peeve of mine. I have a serious problem with fey, whispery male vocalists using overpowering female backing/guest vocalists - when this happens, the primary strength of such a such a singer (setting an intimate, confessional tone and mood) is totally undermined. Examples? Monica Queen utterly destroys Belle & Sebastian's "Lazy Line Painter Jane" with her intrusive singing, and Pauline Hynd blowsily derails a couple songs on the Orchids' Unholy Soul in a similar way.
But the queens of overpowering guest vocals are P.P. Arnold and Doris Troy on Nick Drake's "Poor Boy" (or, as I call it, the song that ruins Brighter Layter.) Every time the as-soulful-as-they-are-out-of-place backing vocals begin during "Poor Boy", I imagine a lonely-looking Nick Drake swiveling around on his little wooden chair and going, "What are you people doing in my song?!?" Richie Unterberger has argued that the backing vocals on "Poor Boy" are meant to be a "mocking counterpoint" to Drake's lead vocal, but this argument is totally undermined when Unterberger goes on to say that "Poor Boy" goes on for over six minutes "without getting boring". No sane person could say that. Oh, and there's some terrible saxophone soloing on "Poor Boy" as well, so I think I'm just not the target audience for this song (i.e. people who think that smooth jazz was what Nick Drake was born to play). The most mystifying thing to me is that this song turns up on most of Drake's "best of" compilations - I attribute this to some wrongheaded impulse to show the "diversity of styles" in Drake's slim oeuvre.
"Poor Boy" by Nick Drake