It is 50 several years considering that Nick Drake manufactured Pink Moon, his 3rd and last studio album, however his gossamer melodies nonetheless beguile us. They are as mysterious as their creator, who nearly under no circumstances executed reside and hardly ever agreed to be interviewed. Tracks from the album these kinds of as Know and Harvest Breed are fragile haikus, as luminous and elusive as the day they were initial performed.
Eager to know a lot more about the album, I speak to John Wood, its sound engineer and producer. “I most likely have a standing for not supplying many interviews about Nick, and in unique Pink Moon,” he claims by way of electronic mail. “The overriding reason is that there is not considerably to say about two evenings in the studio producing an album that only lasts 20 minutes or so.”
Even now, he graciously indications off with his mobile quantity and quickly we’re chatting about Pink Moon. “You’ve explained it as a folks file, but I never see it as folk,” he corrects me, suitable off the bat. “Somebody I realized explained Nick’s tunes as an English model of a French chansonnier and I’d sooner consider of it that way.”
It was at Audio Techniques, an 18th-century previous dairy in London’s Chelsea, that Wood and his co-conspirator, Geoff Frost, set up their “English Arcadia”, building their possess recording tools. From 1965 onwards, the studio was a hub for US producer Joe Boyd’s roster of pastoral artists, reeling in the likes of Fairport Convention, Vashti Bunyan, John and Beverley Martyn – and Drake, who recorded all 3 of his albums there.
The very first two – 5 Leaves Remaining and Bryter Layter – bought only modestly, all around 5,000 copies each and every, generating Drake, who experienced despair, retreat into himself even more. He felt Wooden was a person of the couple of people today he could have faith in. “One working day,” remembers Wooden, “he just rang up and mentioned he needed to go into the studio.”
What adopted was unpredicted. “It was a much extra personal recording,” states Wood. Long gone have been the mournful strings and the jaunty brass and in their area was simplicity: just Drake and his guitar. “I think he preferred to make a pretty direct and private history. I assumed, after the initial couple of songs, that we would possibly augment it a bit. Not a large amount, but I was expecting him to get Danny Thompson in probably.” (Thompson is the double bass participant who co-started Pentangle.) “After the 2nd amount, I said some thing and he just replied, ‘No, that is it. That is all we’re doing.’ And that was it.”
Wood could only have Drake at Sound Approaches late at night, above two back again-to-again 11pm periods in 1971. Does he have any lingering memories? “There is a single – when we received to history Parasite. There’s this line: ‘Sailing downstairs to the Northern Line / Viewing the glow of the sneakers.’ Once I listened to that, I understood this record was different.”
Pink Moon is frequently described as “desolate” and “bleak”, with Drake’s lyrics interpreted in mild of his mental health and fitness. Location to Be includes the lines: “And I was environmentally friendly, greener than the hill / The place flowers grew and the sunlight shone nevertheless / Now I’m darker than the deepest sea/ Just hand me down, give me a area to be.”
But that is to disregard the album’s paradoxical aspects, these kinds of as the sky-significant hopefulness of the title track’s melody, and the rhythmic propulsion of horizon-in search of Road. “Nick performed his guitar like a metronome,” Wood states as we examine the pulsating top quality Drake had. “I can’t believe of any one else I’ve ever recorded, with that very little studio encounter and at that age, who had that ability. It was incredible.” The singer was 23.
Drake was mainly misunderstood and neglected in his life time. Did his absence of professional achievement have an impact on him noticeably in the years before he died, at the age of 26, of an overdose of an antidepressant? “I have to say that I was let down,” Wood states. “I could not see why Five Leaves Remaining did not do much better. Persons just did not get it. It wasn’t straight away obtainable.” Drake didn’t seamlessly blend into the folks scene in the British isles. Possibly if he’d been more than in America, Wooden muses, together with the likes of Richard Fariña and Leonard Cohen, it would have been distinctive. “The 2nd time I was at any time with Nick, I asked him what his influences have been and he mentioned, ‘Randy Newman and the Seaside Boys.’”
And what about Pink Moon? “It’s just bizarre, the way it was found out,” states Wood. In 1999, Volkswagen debuted a new promoting marketing campaign with the title monitor – providing profits of the album a massive improve. “After I designed it, I did not believe it had commercial opportunity,” says Wood. “I never assumed it would be a achievement.” Is he amazed that it is now, and that it has taken on this sort of legendary position for followers? “Yes, I suppose I am.”
Wooden did not participate in it for nearly 20 yrs after Drake’s dying. “I felt it was intensely private,” he states, pausing to reflect on its posthumous achievements. “In some ways, I really don’t realize the wider attractiveness of it. I suppose a portion of it is since of the way it was designed, and because of Nick, and the stories bordering him.”