Posts Tagged ‘Pink Moon’

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Nick Drake was planning to shear back his songs’ surplus of detail before recording his third and final album—if you could call strings and light electric guitar excessive, that is. Pink Moon was recorded in two successive nights with just Drake and producer John Wood in the room, and nothing but Drake’s acoustic guitar and a couple isolated piano runs behind his unmistakable voice. Pink Moon echoed Drake’s gradual withdrawal from civilization. It’s always been hard to ignore the crawling fragility in Drake’s performances, but on Pink Moon he’s almost aggressively alone. The slight motion of “Know” is undercut by its solitude: The beat moves him, but it’s a tough haul. The title cut, “Road” and “Parasite” are all melodically beautiful, but emotionally impossible to bear. The exhaustion of Pink Moon foretells Drake’s passing almost too well, but its trim power can’t be questioned. Released two years before Nick Drake’s death in November 1974, at the age of twenty-six,

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Nick Drake has been saddled with the kind of (death) “cult” reputation that lends itself to fervent fan-kid obsession (I know, I’ve been there) by some, much to the annoyance of others. Unfortunately for the poor bloke, like Jeff Buckley, and more recently Elliott Smith, his premature passing led marketing men and music journalists to focus on his sensitive, dark, quiet “ethereal” side.

Nick Drake delivered the master tapes of Pink Moon to Chris Blackwell at Island Records, In an interview Island’s press officer David Sandison recalled that Drake’s arrival at the record company had certainly not gone unnoticed, although there had been no indication that he was delivering them a new album:

“I saw him in reception after I came back from lunch and I was talking to somebody and I saw a figure in the corner on the bench, and I suddenly realized it was Nick. He had this big, 15 ips [inches per second] master tape box under his arm, and I said ‘Have you had a cup of tea?’ and he said ‘Erm, yes’, and I said ‘Do you want to come upstairs?’ and he said ‘Yes, okay’. So we went upstairs into my office, which was on top of the landing, it was a landing that went into the big office with a huge round table where Chris and everybody else worked and there was a big Revox and sound system there, and he just sat in my office area for about half an hour … After about half an hour he said ‘I’d better be going’, and I said ‘Okay, nice to see you’, and he left. Now, he went down the stairs and he still had the tapes under his arm, and about an hour later the girl who worked behind the front desk called up and said ‘Nick’s left his tapes behind’. So I went down and it was the big sixteen-track master tape and it said NICK DRAKE PINK MOON, and I thought ‘that’s not an album I know’. The first thing to do was get it in the studio to make a seven and a half inch safety copy, because that was the master. So we ran off a safety copy to actually play, and I think twenty four hours later or so, it was put on the Revox in the main room and we heard Pink Moon.”

Pink Moon was recorded over a few days with producer John Wood prior to its February 1972 release date. It’s a brief record (twenty eight minutes), mainly focusing on a mal-tuned acoustic guitar and vocals. With a more lo-fi nature than its older siblings and his continued relative obscurity. Pink Moon does feature the occasional sparse message, (“Know” features only the lines: “Know that I love you / Know I don’t care / Know that I see you / Know I’m not there“), but the album offers so much more than that.

The album’s opening title track is lyrically simplistic and instrumentally nocturnal, but more in a relaxed, family bonfires and pumpkins with funny faces style. The piano almost sends mist through the stereo. It’s an atmosphere that permeates the next two songs before “Which Will” changes tack. The lyrics are so simplistic one can’t possibly quote them in context. It could be about breakups, breakdowns, hope or ambivalence.

“Horn” is a really beautiful, poignant instrumental.  “Things Behind the Sun” bends from the franticly sinister to the carefree. The aforementioned “Know” feature’s the four lines above, but over a surreal background juxtaposing Drake’s sighs with an off-kilter guitar line more reminiscent of The Fall’s Rough Trade years than Damien Rice. In all fairness to the publicists, “Parasite” is a rather bleak song. It’s also one of my favorite songs of all time. Whether Drake is “changing a rope for a size too small“, or “lifting the mask from a local clown” and “feeling down like him,” I’m smiling all the way. There’s a touch of surreal cynicism on “Free Ride,” seeing through “all of the pictures that you keep on the wall…all of the people that will come to the ball.” However it seems more indicative of somebody at the back of the room laughing at the people who can’t quite tell why they’re dancing than someone who deserves a carefully written biography. “Harvest Breed” is a fantastic hangover tune, particularly when backed by a color-free sky. “From The Morning” closes things with some renewed vigor, as people “rise from the ground.” I hadn’t listened to Pink Moon in a long time. It’s still my favorite Nick Drake album, and one of the best of its era.