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fromheadtoheart flag England - Full Moon 189 - 02/07/12

From head to heart
Nick Drake's Pink Moon

Following our retroscope series of latter years, here we go again! Here's Speakers' corner's cousin; From head to heart. Luna Kafé's focused eye on great events, fantastic happenings, absolute milestones, or other curious incidents from the historic shelves'n'vaults of pop'n'rock. Blowing our ears and our head, punching our chest and shaking our heart. Making us go sentimental, but not slaphappy. This moonth the Lunar spotlight beams up a 40 year old; the third and final album from a man of more or less constant sorrow. Lack of commercial success in his time (of course that happened years after his death) and a suffering a growing depression made him leave this world in November 1974, way too young. The 1980s brought him back as a 'name' in popular music. Since then he and his recordings have become iconic. When going through the titles of compilation albums presenting his musical heritage, it's like he's the tree or plant that'll never die, or the star that'll never fade out, or the forever magical mystery of depth's darkness, or the comforting sadness of melancholia. The most elegant title of them all is Made to Love Magic (taken from Drake's "I Was Made to Love Magic", a track that never appeared on a studio album). He created magic moments, for sure.

coverpic

Nick Drake
Pink Moon
Island Records

At first I thought I could get away with a short and snappy review of this 40 years old classic, that the lyrics of "Know" said it all:

Know that I love you
Know I don't care
Know that I see you
Know I'm not there

The final line being the answer to Nick's tragic death two and a half years later. Lyrics like: 'Lifting the mask from a local clown, Feeling down like him' off "Parasite" might indicate the same. But of course it's not that easy. The album is hardly a suicidal note.

Whereas Nick's first two albums Five Leaves Left and Bryter Layter might be characterised as pop-folk with arranged and quite a few orchestrated songs, Pink Moon is more in the singer-songwriter and blues -vein, and stripped to the bone. Only Nick's voice and an acoustic guitar. Well, the title track is overdubbed with a little bit of piano. The album was recorded during two two-hour night sessions in October 1971. 10 songs and one instrumental lasting only 28 and a half minutes, it was hardly an expensive recording. At first listen the album might sound bleak, introvert and sad. Nick's somehow drowsy and sedated voice might be the reason for the sadness. And yes, some of the lyrics are quite bleak. After a while melancholia shines through, even some twinkles in the eye here and there. A couple of the catchiest songs like the title track, "Things Behind The Sun" and "Parasite" are even quite fit for whistling! Especially the latter gives me the creeps, and slowly the rest of the album eventually creeps under the skin, too.

For those of us who find some of the string arrangements, sax playing and female backing vocals on Nick's two first albums a bit too much, Pink Moon is the ultimate album. It hides nothing and Nick's at times exquisite guitar playing stands out. But it is the combination of his guitar playing, vocals and lyrics that really make the album special. One of the reasons for his indulgence and depressions was the lack of artistic success. Although people around him kept the faith in him, it was not enough. The albums gained positive reviews when they were released, but sold poorly, only around 5 000 copies each. When "Pink Moon", the song, was used in a Volkswagen ad in the late 1990s his albums sold more in a month than during his entire lifetime. One might reflect if Nick's posthumous commercial success stems from his music or the myths surrounding his much too early death, only aged 26 (was it suicide or an accident that he took too many of his prescribed anti-depressive pills that fatal morning?). Listening intensively to Pink Moon I go for the former, although a timely death of course helps. Anyway, the world is unjust and the best dies much too early.

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