IIt’s been 50 years since Nick Drake made Pink Moon, his third and final studio album, but his haunting tunes still captivate us. They are as mysterious as their creator, who almost never performs live and rarely agrees to interviews. Songs in the album such as Know and Seed harvest are haikus as fragile, brilliant and elusive as the day they were first played.
Want to know more about the album, I contact John Wood, sound engineer and its producer. “I probably have a reputation for not giving a lot of interviews about Nick, and especially Pink Moon,” he said via email. “The main reason is that there’s not much to say about two nights in the studio working on an album that only lasts 20 minutes or so.”
However, he still graciously signed up with his mobile number and soon we were chatting about Pink Moon. “You described it as a folk record, but I don’t see it as folk,” he corrected me, immediately. “Someone I know described Nick’s music as an English version of French singer and soon I will think of it that way. “
It was at Sound Techniques, a former 18th-century dairy factory in Chelsea, London, that Wood and his accomplice, Geoff Frost, founded “English Arcadia”, building their own recording equipment. From 1965 on, the studio was the center of American production Joe BoydThe list of pastoral artists, reels from the likes of Fairport Convention, Vashti Bunyan, John and Beverley Martyn – and Drake, who has recorded all three of his albums there.
The first two – Five leaves left and Change class – sold only modestly, around 5,000 copies each, causing Drake, who suffered from depression, to recede even further into himself. He felt Wood was one of the few people he could trust. “One day,” Wood recalls, “he just called and said he wanted to go into the studio.”
What happened next was surprising. “It’s a much more intimate record,” says Wood. Gone are the mournful strings and fun brass, replaced by simplicity: just Drake and his guitar. “I think he wanted to make a personal and direct record. I think, after the first few songs, we might be able to strengthen it a little. Not much, but I hope he can get Danny Thompson. ” (Thompson is double bass player, co-founder Triangle.) “After the second number, I said something and he just replied, ‘No, that’s all. That’s all we’re doing. ‘ And that’s it. “
Wood was only able to meet Drake in Sound Engineering late at night, during two 11pm reruns in 1971. Does he have any lingering memories? “There was a – when we had to record Parasites. There was this line: ‘Sail down the stairs to the North line / See the shine of the shoes.’ As soon as I heard that, I knew that the record was different.”
Pink Moon is often described as “desolate” and “bleak”, with Drake’s lyrics interpreted based on his mental health. Place to Be has the lines: “And I was greener, greener than the hills / Where flowers grow and the sun still shines / Now I’m darker than the deepest sea / Just take me down, give me a place to stay.”
That, however, leaves out the album’s paradoxical elements, such as the soaring hope of the title track’s melody and the rhythmic dynamics of Seeking Horizon. “Nick played his guitar like a metronome,” Wood said as we discussed the rhythmic quality Drake had. “I can’t think of anyone else I’ve ever recorded with, with that little studio experience and at that age, who has that ability. It is extraordinary. “The singer is 23 years old.
Drake has been largely misunderstood and despised in his life. Did the years before his death, aged 26, from an overdose of an antidepressant affect his commercial success? “I have to say that I Wood said. “I can’t understand why Five Leaves Left doesn’t do better. People don’t understand. It is not immediately accessible. “Drake didn’t blend seamlessly into the British folk scene. Perhaps if he had gone to America, Wood mused, along with people like Richard Farina and Leonard Cohen, things will be different. “The second I was with Nick, I asked him what his influence was and he said, ‘Randy Newman and the Beach Boys.’
What about Pink Moon? Wood said: “It’s strange, the way it was discovered. In 1999, Volkswagen launched a new advertising campaign with the title track – helping to skyrocket album sales. “After I made it, I didn’t think it had commercial potential,” Wood said. “I never thought it would work.” Is he surprised it is now, and has it taken on such a myth among fans? “Yes, I suppose I am.”
Wood hasn’t played it in nearly 20 years after Drake’s death. “I felt it was very personal,” he said, pausing to reflect on her postnatal success. “In a way, I don’t understand its broader appeal. I suppose it’s partly because of the way it was made, and because of Nick, and the stories around him.”