The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #126718   Message #2820155
Posted By: GUEST,matt milton
24-Jan-10 - 06:37 AM
Thread Name: Nick Drake - hype and reality
Subject: RE: Nick Drake - hype and reality
Pip - that GUEST was me. Cookie problems.

"GUEST, "Northern Sky" still breaks my heart, especially those lines - most of all that awful last line. The first four lines express naked longing with a really childlike plainness, but as soon as he's gestured towards actually reaching out to someone he has to cover it up with a bit of misty Arthurian imagery. Oh, if you would and you could... then give the poor lad a ring!"

yeah, the last line is awful, as are some of the others in that song. It never occurred to me to think of it as Arthurian: I always thought it sounded a bit Christian, a bit "Kumbaya" ish: it sounds like a Bible verse. I sang that song in a church wedding last year, and it was a hit with the vicar: he came up to me afterwards, asked me what it was, and remarked how appropriate it was. (I tweaked one or two of the words - that new-age-codswallop "new minds eye" line - but I kept the "horn" one)

"This is the sense in which I think Nick Drake's emotional world, as expressed in his songs, was self-centred & self-enclosed (far more so than John Clare, incidentally, who was a terrific observer of nature). So much of what he wrote was about loneliness, rejection and isolation, or else about an ideal love which never quite stays in focus. "Fly" is another example - "Come ride in my merry car by the bay", for goodness' sake. Wonderful song, and the emotions at the heart of it seem very real; they just don't seem to involve any other human being."

Don't wanna make *too* much of any conncection to poetry here - ND was ultimately a very cat-sat-on-the-mat lyricist: much less so than Noel Gallagher but a lot more so than Bob Dylan.

But John Clare's poetry remains an apt comparison in the sense that people don't feature overmuch in it: he is as you say an observer of nature, and it doesn't tend to be overpopulated. When people do crop up, they tend to be lone figures, or lone female objects of obsessive (unrequited or lost) love. (The more "populated" Clare poems tend to be ones where he is deliberately, methodically and self-consciously copying Byron eg his satirical ones)

(and of course Clare's poetry could also sometimes be quite cat-sat-on-the-mat: he wrote a lot, and had a hit-rate of about 1 in 5)

When I think of Nick Drake lyrics I do tend to think of nature images. Or at least, country-town images. Bells, spires, rivers, the colour blue, clocks, skies, the shipping forecast, fruit, sun. I don't tend to think of his songs being very indoorsy.

(With the exception of his songs about time, which always bring us back to grandfather clocks in big old surburban houses, or mantelpiece clocks in university halls of residence)