Sorry, We're Closed

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Haunted by a Pink Moon

Maybe it's the time of the year...October and November move to a soundtrack of rustling leaves and howling winds, a panorama of early sunsets, the harvest, and its aftertaste of impending winter.

Nick Drake is perfect music for the autumn.

On his first two albums, 1969's Five Leaves Left and 1971's Bryter Layter, Drake and producer Joe Boyd crafted Drake's soft, murmuring vocals and blues and folk-influenced guitar picking with arrangements ranging from baroque and classical to country, folk-rock, and even R&B.

His third album, 1973's stark and emotionally raw Pink Moon, is vocal and acoustic guitar only, save for a short piano overdub on one song.

Drake died of an accidental overdose of antidepressants in 1974, and since then his stature has grown. Underappreciated in his lifetime, he has become more well known in the intervening three decades.

I find all three of his discs to be essential, and I believe that over time Nick Drake will be viewed on par with Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. And maybe on an even higher plane.

We listen to Nick Drake a lot around here, especially this time of year, but in the last 24 hours, things have gotten ridiculous.

Late yesterday afternoon I came across a story that a 331/3 book on Pink Moon is to be released.

Then at about 4:15 this morning, "Three Hours," a haunting, eastern-influenced number from Five Leaves Left, began to play from a portable CD machine in our living room. We had obviously left the player on, but didn't have that song cued up or on "pause." Both Cecilia and I woke up and simply stared at each other in a mix of puzzlement and wonder. How in hell...?

Then, today at lunch, "One of These Things First," from Bryter Layter, emanated from the sound system at the restaurant.

A Halloween ghost? The spirit of Nick invading the consciousness of two of his followers? The whipping leaves and branches of fruit trees serving to remind us of the cost of living one's life purely for art?

Or just a lot of silly coincidences?

Okay, then. Being a writer, and therefore oversensitive to such things, I saw these events as an instruction to share some Nick Drake. Who the heck am I to turn down such a command?


Blogger Anne said...

Oh my. Thank you for posting this, Stu. I got into Nick Drake thanks to my dad some years ago, way before "Pink Moon" brought him back into focus via that car commercial. For me, Drake's records mean spring and summer -- maybe you remember "Northern Sky" played by my little brother at our wedding. These are liminal seasons and perhaps that's a better category for him. I agree with everything you have beautifully written here regarding Nick's placement in, the, er, firmament.

Lastly, last night I put Nick's name on the Soul Tree and spoke it aloud, as we traditionally do with the names of deceased friends and family on Samhain. I'm not saying this is Nick -- it could have been anyone, since many beloved dead were called that night -- but after we sat in silence for a while I felt a hand on my back. I turned around to find no one there. Well, I've been haunted by a dead musician once before so who knows? Maybe Nick was making the rounds. Happy Halloween ----

2:42 PM, October 31, 2007

Blogger Stuart Shea said...

Thanks for your comments. I love how the same music can convey such different feelings and images to different people.
We certainly do recall your brother playing "Northern Sky." Or at least I recall crying during it. :)
Thanks also for invoking Nick. I'm so glad to know someone who does that.
Peace and blessings.

9:06 PM, October 31, 2007

Anonymous Amy said...

I LOVE Nick Drake. Not even sure how I discovered him, maybe because of that goofy VW commercial that used Pink Moon - and I wanted to find out more about the artist. "One of these things first" is a particular favorite.

I find a lot of his influence in the "Emo" bands of today, bands like Belle & Sebastian.

I completely agree with you that someday Nick Drake will take his place in the musical pantheon alongside Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Buckley.

This musician dude I hung out with for a while told me that Nick Drake used alternate tunings on his guitar that his mom taught to him (which is part of what contributed to the haunting quality of certain songs).

Any truth to that?

(and FWIW, I think it particularly lovely to consider the ghost of Nick Drake hanging about casa de Stu y Ceci)

7:27 AM, November 06, 2007

Blogger Stuart Shea said...

Thanks for checking in!
I know that Nick Drake did use alternate tunings...I've tried with very little success to figure them out meself.
Peace and joy...

7:40 AM, November 06, 2007


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