Even as a music-oriented kid who listened to plenty of singer-songwriters, I missed out completely on English singer-songwriter Nick Drake.
That shouldn’t be a surprise, really. Drake suffered from major depression and committed suicide at the age of 26, when I was a mere five-year-old. At the time of his death Drake had recorded only three low-selling albums, but he was a real talent. In 1969 he was just 20 years old when he was signed by Island Records. Drake’s first album, Five Leaves Left, was released the same year.
His final album came out in ’72, at a time when Drake was smoking “‘unbelievable amounts’ of cannabis and exhibiting ‘the first signs of psychosis’,” according to his Wikipedia page.
Slowly, people began discovering his music after his death, including popular ’80s acts like The Cure, REM, and The Dream Academy.
I discovered him quite by accident at the tail end of the 90s, featured in a Volkswagen Cabrio ad I very nearly fast-forwarded all the way through. I caught the tail end of the commercial, and was immediately entranced by what I heard. So I rewound and watched the entire spot. Then I rewound and watched again, the second time with my eyes closed. And then — this was before everything immediately was known to the internet — spent a few frustrating months trying to figure out “What the hell was that song!” because I’d recorded over the tape before writing anything down.
The song turned out to be “Pink Moon,” from Drake’s last album of the same name.
You can see the ad here, which really is lovely. I don’t know if it helped VW sell any Cabrios, but it made you want to be in that car, with those kids, skipping somebody else’s party — presumably to stay up until dawn talking with your friends. If you were ever 17 or 18 and spent a night like that, then the ad might catch you the way it caught me.
But first, listen to the song.