Riffs: Mark Eitzel of American Music Club barks at Nick Drake's 'Pink Moon'

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The Independent Culture
Nick Drake was part of the folk-jazz thing in Britain in the early Seventies. In this, it's just him and his acoustic guitar, with a piano overdub in the middle. It's a sort of inarticulate song, which is where it gets its power. Someone is warning you about an impending cataclysm: in this case just a pink moon. It goes 'Heard it written, saw it said, / Pink moon is on its way, / None of you stand so tall, / Pink moon's gonna get you all.'

He sings it really softly, with a lot of fear, almost whispering. This man was a manic depressive and extremely shy, but a great songwriter and guitar player. He only performed a few times, and then he didn't look up from his shoes. Here he's mostly fingerpicking. He used open tunings - say, an Open D, with the strings tuned D-A-D-Fsharp-A-D, instead of the regular tuning. It was a standard blues tuning, but rare in a folk record.

Even though you don't really know what the catastrophe is, you know there's no pretence in him. The only hook is the descending chorus, and then you get the feeling that you're descending with him. It's incredibly depressing. The piano just plays a descending line with one finger. When he took the demo in to Island he just dropped it into the secretary's box and left without saying a word. He died at 22 of an overdose of anti-depressants, but his sister says it wasn't suicide.

'Pink Moon' is on Nick Drake's CD Pink Moon (Island IMCD94)

(Photograph omitted)

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