Sure Sign of Fall? Listening to Nick Drake

by David M.

Autumns leaves and cooler temperatures arrive, I put away my dub albums for the year, and Nick Drake is on the playlist. During his short life (1948-1974), Nick never managed to connect with the listening public, and so he remained a cult figure — but his cult keeps growing as friends tell friends “You just HAVE to listen to this!” His music was used in a Volkswagen commercial, and eventually his songs made their way onto  movie soundtracks.

If you’ve never listened to Nick Drake, in this post I’ve linked to some of my favorites posted on YouTube. (Most of them are basically fades of album covers, but when you look like Nick — sensitive, brooding — it works perfectly.)

Five Leaves Left was Nick’s first album, and it remains my favorite. River Man, The Thoughts of Mary Jane and Saturday Sun are examples of essential Nick Drake, wistful and melancholy.

Nick’s second album, Bryter Layter was a bit of a surprise for me when I first heard it. It’s way more produced (brass section! background singers!!) so it took me a while to get used to it, but still there are some great songs on it, such as At the Chime of a City Clock, Hazey Jane I and my favorite Nick song, Northern Sky.

Despite the slick production, Nick still failed to connect with a wider audience, and the result was Nick’s final album, Pink Moon. It’s a stripped down album, just Nick’s voice and guitar, and one instance of delicate piano. No strings, no background singers, no percussion this time. It’s not an album I listen to often, and it still rankles me that the record company seemed to think so little of it, they got one of the song titles wrong! But From the Morning ends the album on a positive note (ironically, some of the lyrics were later chosen for Nick’s tombstone.)

There are a few more Nick Drake compilations, but they are mostly an odds and sods assortment of stray tracks. Give the three main albums a try on hoopla.

And here’s a bonus track (After Halloween) by Sandy Denny, a contemporary of Nick’s who also died much too soon. At least they both gave us a wonderful legacy of music.




4 responses to “Sure Sign of Fall? Listening to Nick Drake”

  1. Wow…thanks for the gift of Nick Drake! amazing

  2. Alyssa says:

    Thanks for posting about Nick Drake! I think my favorite Nick album is Pink Moon. I must admit I associate his music more with spring than fall. It is so dewy and green to me, like a morning when the sun is trying to break through and flowers are starting to bloom. Thanks also for including a Sandy Denny song.

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