Why I Love Nick Drake


"A day once dawned
And it was beautiful
A day once dawned
From the ground

Then the night she fell
And the air was beautiful
The night she fell
All around

So look see the days
The endless colored ways
And go play the game
That you learned
From the morning

And now we rise
And we are everywhere
And now we rise
From the ground

See she flies
And she is everywhere
See she flies
All around

So look see the sights
The endless summer nights
And go play the game
That you learned
From the morning."


"A day once dawned
And it was beautiful
A day once dawned
From the ground

Then the night she fell
And the air was beautiful
The night she fell
All around

So look see the days
The endless colored ways
And go play the game
That you learned
From the morning

And now we rise
And we are everywhere
And now we rise
From the ground

See she flies
And she is everywhere
See she flies
All around

So look see the sights
The endless summer nights
And go play the game
That you learned
From the morning."

There is certain music that puts you in a place and time that is not of our world. It is removed from reality in such a way that it makes you feel kind of scared, but also like you've been there before. This feels like receiving information that you have lived another life other than your own. You are entranced by the sounds and the picture they paint. Your mind is put in another body, where you can see things you never could have imagined. Nick Drake is at the top of the list for this kind of music. His work is sad, isolated and desperate but it is also devastatingly beautiful, and with more than a few that are immensely uplifting. Nick Drake died young, at twenty six years old. While he only left behind three albums and a handful of unreleased songs, his work is some of the best of the 1960s and 1970s, easily ranking up there with Dylan, Van Morrison or Joni Mitchell for gorgeous introspection.

Nick Drake's three albums, Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter and Pink Moon are all essential listening. I first got introduced to Nick Drake through my brother (again, I know) who bought the Way To Blue Introduction, which remains my favourite collection of his songs. There is a somewhat unsavoury death cult that prizes artists who died tragically young, and Nick Drake certainly attracts a good measure of these people. Do not let that put you off though, as we should appreciate any music of this quality, even if some of it comes in a depressing package.

There are so many songs to get to, but I will just mention a few that touch my heart. Cello Song is I think the most magical place to start your journey. The way the intro builds up and that cello comes in... just pure delight and transcendence. "Strange face with your eyes, so pale and sincere. Underneath you know well you have nothing to fear. For the dreams that came to you and so young, told of a life where Spring is sprung." I think they probably play this song for you when you die. It is a hopeful prayer to the good in the world. Don't fear death. With this song by your side you can endure anything. Help another soul out, pull them up to your place in the clouds.

My favourite Nick Drake song appears on the gorgeous Pink Moon. From The Morning is something I used to listen to when I would be on the computer writing, watching the sun come up across the back gardens. This is music that exalts the Earth and all of its lifeforms. Nature is the thing that will restore your soul. Get back to it. Hold it close. From The Morning is a song that best expresses why Nick Drake was so good at what he did. It captures a moment in time so successfully, so powerfully that you are made to feel what others only tell you about. This is what it feels like to be loved, to be at peace with the world.

It is a song with a simple message: hold onto the wonder of life, as long as you possibly can. It will come to your rescue when you need it most. You will be reminded why being alive is the greatest gift you can receive, even when you are depressed and anxious and paranoid. The journey is worth it, no matter where you end up. This is something that exists in Nick Drake's music as a contradiction. Contrast it with death songs like Black Eyed Dog and Time Of No Reply, and see a man who was conflicted about how he felt about life. At once you have music that prizes life above all else, and then music that intends to be the soundtrack for your death. From The Morning is the light, to the rest of the album's dark.

Pink Moon is my favourite Nick Drake album, not only because it contains this song, but for the atmosphere it creates in a supremely creative, minimalist fashion. Gone are the strings and complex backing tracks. All that is left is the guitar and the voice, with a little piano on the title track. It is the scariest album recorded by Nick Drake, with fearsome and terrifying sounds, especially on the horrific Things Behind The Sun. I mean Jesus, it is so damn scary. It is not hard to see the demons Drake had. They are replete on this album. The opening guitar is menacing, the melody is winding and twisted and then it bursts into "Take your time and you'll be fine. Say a prayer for people there," and everything is in its place and you are safe. Then you have to venture out again into the world and the sense of dread returns.

"Do you curse where you come from? Do you swear in the night? Would it mean much to you if I treat you right?" Nick Drake wrote two songs about Hazey Jane. This lyric comes from Hazey Jane I, paradoxically following Hazey Jane II on Bryter Layter. For Nick Drake to write a song about you, you must have been pretty special. This is a song of longing, of love that doesn't fade. It has a wry sense of humour and a knowing lyric. This is something that makes you want to go on hikes, lie on blankets and get out into the natural world. To see the beauty of a tree or a friendly dog with someone you adore with all your heart. Slow slow Jane, across the fence. This song reminds me of a time when I would go for walks with my friend Alan and his girlfriend Gillian. They both lived in Carrickmines, which was at the time, fairly isolated and replete with natural wonder. Lots of horses, dogs and cats. We would sit in a broken down car and talk about all good things. I wish I could have spent that time with someone I loved, as it was truly magical.

One Of These Things First is my favourite track from the underrated Bryter Layter, the height of the complexity and musicianship of Nick Drake. It is, like a lot of his work, quite amusing, while being full to the brim with feeling and love. It is a song that mourns the loss of possibility: "I could have been your pillar, could have been your door. I could have stayed beside you, could have stayed for more." When the decision is made the possibility dies, and that is a sad thing. But don't feel down about it. Embrace it and see the humour in lost chances. One Of These Things First rolls along in its pleasing way, guitar on the left, piano on the right. The way it moves is dazzling. My favourite production of any Nick Drake song.

Nick Drake is, much like the legendary Chet Baker, someone who will forever exist as a "What might have been." His tragic death, possibly by his own hands, will live alongside his music forever. Don't let that put you off though. There is more to appreciate here than death music. This is music for the living, for the hopeful, for the soldiers who trudge on through bad times and get to the good in the world. Let us all get together and listen to this music. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why I Love Calvin and Hobbes

Why I Love Billy Joel

Why I Love Prince 1995-2016