20 June 2006

Nick Drake: Way to Blue

Most of 1994 and early 1995 was My Lonely Year. I had been laid off from yet another job, and was (barely) living off freelance work and the bookstore paycheck. Some of my favorite friends moved to other cities. Except for the Bookstar boys, I didn’t have many friends in town or much interaction with those who were left. I was depressed and lost. I did very little, other than work and read and worry that my life wouldn’t restart.

For my birthday that year, I decided to slip away for a weekend in the mountains. Now, if you know me or have read my blog long enough, you know that I believe in weeklong celebrations and adulation and constant attention (and the occasional parade) in the days leading up to and following March 25. But not that year. I was sad and depressed, and just wanted to escape my reality for a few days.

On my way out of town, I stopped to pick up new music for the drive. Joe had been raving about Way to Blue, so I bought a copy without a listen. And I fell in love by the third guitar strum in “Cello Song.” I didn’t listen to anything else as I drove around those mountain roads. It was the perfect soundtrack for that quiet weekend — melancholic, beautiful, simple. The album sounds like spring to me. Whenever I hear it, I can feel the crisp early spring air on my bare arms, see the bright greens and deep blues of the trees and sky, smell the rebirth of the earth. That weekend — and Way to Blue — brought peace to my soul, and my life changed in many ways soon after.

Within a month, I had all of Nick Drake's albums. But I always pull out Way to Blue for road trips. It’s a good sampler of his music. Nick Drake recorded between 1969 and 1972, but his songs still sound fresh. If you like singer-songwriters and great acoustic guitar — or songs for your blue, dismal days — you simply must pick up a copy this week. You’ll thank me later, I hope in my comment box.

About Nick Drake

You may not be familiar with Nick Drake, but you’ve heard his music. “Pink Moon” was used in a Volkswagen ad a few years ago — the one where the kids drive up to a party on a beautiful night, look at the sky and each other, then take off to drive into the darkness. You’ve heard him on many movie soundtracks, including Garden State and The Royal Tenenbaums, The Lake House and The Good Girl. His songs have been covered by many artists, including Lucinda Williams (“Which Will”), Robyn Hitchcock (“Pink Moon”), Beck (“Pink Moon” and “Which Will”), The Walkabouts ("Cello Song"), Kelly willis ("Time Has Told Me"), and Elton John (he recorded several Drake tunes for an early demo).

Nick Drake didn’t receive much attention for his music. He suffered from clinical depression, and he died at 26 — maybe a suicide, maybe an accidental overdose. But for a few years, he created music that was as beautiful and fragile as he was.

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14 Comments:

At 6/20/2006 11:17:00 AM, Blogger Grant Miller said...

I always confuse Nick Drake and Nick Cave.

 
At 6/20/2006 01:25:00 PM, Blogger Jeremy said...

Speaking of Bookstar Boys . . .

We're putting a bunch of books on Half.com, so Shannon has been going through them and entering them on the site. My job is to peel off stickers and what not. Well she's found all kinds of old receipts and other scraps lost between those pages. Last night, she found a postcard you sent me from Italy in 1998. How's that for blast from the past?

 
At 6/20/2006 01:33:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

GRANT: Similar, yet so different. And one quite dead.

JEREMY: So cool! Was my postcard message appropriate for a wife to find? And which books are you selling? I may need to call dibs.

 
At 6/20/2006 04:13:00 PM, Blogger Winter said...

I love his music.. glad to see someone enjoys it..

 
At 6/20/2006 06:30:00 PM, Blogger glenda said...

Love Nick Drake, such a tragic end. His music defies category...is it folk, alternative or what? I found that you can buy his singles on the Apple music store.

 
At 6/20/2006 07:12:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

Like Grant said. I'm going to check this Nick out.

 
At 6/20/2006 07:21:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

WINTER: Glad a fellow Nick Drake fan stopped by. Wasn't he beautiful? So sad that he doesn't know how popular and influential he is - even my beloved Peter Buck has said he's a major influence.

GLENDA: I used to put Nick's MP3s in the alt-folk category; I recently moved him to singer-songwriter (yes, sadly, I do spend a lot of time thinking about those important issues).

DALE: You should trust my music judgment by now; I'm disappointed that you're not in the car and racing down to your corner CD store as I type this. Let me know what you think.

 
At 6/21/2006 10:17:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

So far Beth, your exquisite taste has been unerring. I can barely wait for our first musical falling out!

I've listened to Pink Moon, One Of These Things First, From The Morning, Which Will -- I do like them very much and I can now imagine listening to them on the mountain roads in spring.

 
At 6/21/2006 10:56:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

I do have some guilty pleasures, my Canadian friend. How do you feel about Wham's "Everything She Wants"? Have I lost points?

 
At 6/21/2006 11:21:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

If I knew the song I'd probably be mad although I do enjoy hearing about poor George Michael falling asleep in his parked car all over the place. Careless Drifter is more like it.

 
At 6/21/2006 11:24:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

It does seem like George should be past that phase by now, doesn't it?

looking forward to your comments on next Tuesday's album ...

 
At 10/16/2006 05:09:00 PM, Blogger Tumuli said...

"Pink Moon" is one of my all-time favorites. It perfectly, and sadly, reflects my last three years.

This album, however, is on its way into my rotation. Thanks for the reminder!

 
At 10/19/2006 08:00:00 PM, Blogger Ben Heller said...

I missed this post first time around . How wonderful that the album had such a vast effect on your life !

Sometimes people under estimate the power of music, and I actually feel sorry for their loss.

I live about 30 minutes from the cemetary Nick is buried at, and about 5 years ago I visited there and it is the most peaceful serene place you could ever visit Beth.

He was a terribly troubled soul, but the peace I found when I visited said to me that our world wasn't the place for his freedom, he needed to be somewhere much better.

 
At 10/19/2006 08:07:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

TUMULI: I'm intrigued about "Pink Moon" and how it reflects your last three years. You should write about that; I know I'd love to read it.

BEN: Couldn't say it better, Ben. I'll probably visit England this spring (a dear friend lives in Brighton); I'd love to go to the cemetery. If I make it, I'll take you out for a Stella.

 

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