27 September 2023

Pink Moon

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Reviewed by Ian Phillips.

By Nick Drake, Island Records 1972.

Many years ago, a friend asked me if I’d heard of Nick Drake. I responded that I hadn’t but as soon as he played the title track from Pink Moon I instantly recognised it.

One of the reasons for that was that Pink Moon had been used in a Volkswagen commercial in 1999 but that only triggered an earlier memory of the song from some time in the 1970s, although I didn’t know who the singer was.

The Pink Moon album is a remarkable record of an extremely talented songwriter and gifted guitarist.

It’s comprised of eleven songs and the entire album lasts less than half an hour.

The only performer is Nick Drake who, apart from singing, plays guitar and occasional overdubbed piano on the title track.

Although the album is short it is entirely mesmerising.

Pink Moon was recorded in two evening sessions in October 1971 and was produced by Drake and John Wood, who had been the engineer on Nick Drake’s two previous albums.

Both Drake and Wood felt that Five Leaves Left (1969) and Bryter Later (1971) were too cluttered with discordant sounds that didn’t truly reflect the quality of Nick’s songs nor his extraordinary guitar playing.

Their decision to make Pink Moon stark and bare was a masterstroke.

Nick’s songs on Pink Moon are beautifully crafted vignettes composed by someone who struggled with depression for a good part of his brief adult life.

They are intimate and personal and are presented in the most open and unadorned way imaginable.

There are no singalong choruses, no bombast, no reverb or multilayered effects, in fact there’s nothing for Nick to hide behind.

These days Nick’s songs may well be labelled as ‘Shoe-Gaze’ but they are much more than that.

There’s an honesty, integrity, and sophistication about them that most of his more successful contemporaries were incapable of replicating, and yet none of Nick’s albums sold more than a few hundred copies on their initial releases.

Having said this, a surprising number of artists have credited Nick Drake as a major influence on their work including the Cure’s Robert Smith, Peter Buck of REM, Kate Bush, Paul Weller, Beck, The Black Crows, and many more.

The Dream Academy even dedicated their hit Life In A Northern Town to Nick Drake, and Robert Smith got the name of his band, The Cure, from Nick’s song Time Has Told Me where he penned the lyrics “a troubled cure for a troubled mind.”

Pink Moon is the final of Nick Drake’s three albums but it’s my favourite.

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