…straighten my new mind’s eye

Sometimes it takes a long time to connect the dots, in my case a very long time.  We were out for a pleasant ramble through the Shropshire countryside when Gabrielle (a fond acquaintance at the time) told me about her brilliant brother, a talented musician who had died from an overdose of antidepressants, possibly a suicide, ten years earlier. “He still has a devoted following,” she affirmed.

I have an annoying habit of keeping track of these things and can tell you that this took place on Saturday the 11th of August 1984 in the West Midlands of England and we had a delightful picnic on Wenlock Edge, followed by an enjoyable swim in a mill pond and, later on, a few pints of Best Bitter at the George & Dragon in the (Alison Avery-esque) village of Much Wenlock.

And although the story of Gabrielle’s brother was interesting, well, you know how it goes when road leads onto road. I eventually lost touch and didn’t think much more about the conversation for the next, oh, quarter-of-a-century or so….

Then, far from England and many years on…Tuesday the 4th of December 2007 while at my desk here in Concord, Massachusetts to be exact (annoying habit)…I happened to be listening to an NPR profile about the long-deceased singer/songwriter, Nick Drake, who had been acquiring a new and appreciative audience and…

“…hold on, Drake, that was Gabrielle’s surname, you don’t suppose…” and right on cue they played an excerpt from the BBC documentary “Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake” and there was Gabrielle’s voice discussing her brother who had long maintained a devoted following…

It’s a following that I now well understand.  Reclusive and timid before a live audience, he only recorded three albums (“Five Leaves Left”, “Bryter Later” and “Pink Moon”) and failed to reach a wide listening audience in his lifetime, but after his untimely death in 1974 his records slowly gained word-of-mouth appreciation, especially amongst fellow musicians, to the point where Nick Drake is now recognized as one of “the most influential English singer/songwriters of the last 50 years.”

Although not all of his songs have weathered the ages, many have, some with beautiful (sometimes lush) dissonant melodies and “vivid, epigrammatic” lyrics, heavily inspired by the Romantic poets.   Featured on his 1970 album, “Bryter Later” and accompanied by John Cale (of Velvet Underground fame) on the celesta, here’s just such an example…

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Thursday 21 March

Northern Sky

 I never felt magic crazy as this

I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea

I never held emotion in the palm of my hand

Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree

But now you’re here

Bright in my northern sky.

 It’s been a long time that I’m waiting

Been a long time that I’m blown

Been a long time that I’ve wandered

Through the people I have known

Oh, if you would and you could

Straighten my new mind’s eye.

 Would you love me for my money?

Would you love me for my head?

Would you love me through the winter?

Would you love me ’til I’m dead?

Oh, if you would and you could

Come blow your horn on high.

 I never felt magic crazy as this

I never saw moons knew the meaning of the sea

I never held emotion in the palm of my hand

Or felt sweet breezes in the top of a tree

But now you’re here

Bright in my northern sky.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s