Friday, July 29, 2005

The Movement In Your Brain...

Nick Drake - Things Behind The Sun

I've noticed a bit of shuffling going on in the Free Folk camp over the past few months. You know a movement is peaking when people start denying they're part of it, or say it isn't a meaningful label. Quite right, too. No one should feel obliged to knock out half hour acoustic drones because that's what the "scene" requires. Do what you damn well want to - that's what creative freedom is all about, isn't it? And what's the point of a "scene" if it doesn't allow the Muse to walk freely amongst us?

Of course, you know She'll edge things back to songs sooner or later. And when She does, Mr Drake will be there. The whole tragic legend has damned him as an influence in some quarters, as if it has made him too obvious to be a valid inspiration. That's snobbery. He was great. I love all kinds of wilfully wooly and obscure things, but I don't care if there's a Nick Drake documentary on Radio 2 presented by Brad Pitt, or if some of his material is used as incidental music on Heartbeat or The Royal. Because he was great.

And when you come to "Pink Moon", he was really, really great. I read somewhere that he delivered the master tapes to Island in a plastic bag, dropping them at Reception and walking out. Pretty much a take or leave it gesture, which, if true, seems appropriate.

An aside: elsewhere, Syd was following a similar path, haunting Reception desks on occasion, not there but there - he soon gave that up. Returned the royalty cheques. I make no account of my actions. There I was. Not here now. Unrecognisable to old friends. Jugband Blues.

Back to "Pink Moon" - earlier albums had some sugary arrangements and prettiness: "Thoughts of Mary Jane", "At The Chime Of The City Clock". This is all replaced by austerity and a refusal to look anywhere other than square into your face. And it works, because the songs are undeniable.

The performances on this album are not given depth by his death. It's there, despite it. So try to forget the details of the life, the speculation of suicidal intent, his eventual fashionableness, forget all of it.

Listen to the song. Just you, listening. Isn't that what it's all about?

Buy - Nick Drake - Pink Moon
Visit - Bryter Music - The Nick Drake Estate
Visit - Nick Drake


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