“…they`ll stand and stare when you`re gone…”

A remembrance of Nick Drake

Late, late in the evening – unable to sleep, I creep out of my bedroom and walk down the dark hallway into the living room. My parents are up late entertaining a small band of friends, low laughter and clinking bottles lilt over the rumble hum of the stereo.

Murmuring to them that I cannot sleep, my mother tells me that I can lay on the couch if I want. I ask her if I can listen to a record and she nods to me, reminding me to be careful not to scratch the album with the stylus. It is the Winter of 1980 and I am four years old.

I look through my parent`s voluminous collection, looking at the photography and design of the various albums – looking for one in particular on this snowy western Pennsylvania evening…

Though I understand very little of what the man is saying, there`s something about his gentle strumming and whispery voice which sounds like hot cocoa to my little boy ears. He seems to me like an affectionate uncle, whose visits are far too infrequent but so full of warmth that a slight chill is felt upon departure – not unlike the loneliness of watching a loved one drive away, the taillights of their car disappearing into a windy night.

Soon I find it, and pause to look at the curious artwork of its packaging… a bloated cheese moon in shadow, hovering over a vast rocky coastline with other eclectic objects in its midst – a postage stamp of a rocket, a sad heart-shaped clown face, a length of rope, a leaf, a teacup, and a seashell. I remember that I thought the album cover looked like something out of my dreams, the random and eerie placement of ordinary objects – a feeling of frivolous menace that I found a trifle upsetting.

Lowering the stylus into the outermost groove, the crackling hiss of the vinyl through the speakers, I sat cross-legged staring up at the whirling acetate… then I heard him, his jangly strumming chord progression and his whispering voice: “I saw it written and I saw it say, pink moon is on its way…”

Nick Drake. I can hardly remember a time when I did not know his name.

It seems as though some small fragment of him has been with me in so many varied instances, playing softly in the background of my mind.

Walking along a grassy forest trail in the late afternoon… driving along city boulevards in those hazy hours after midnight… drinking a cup of tea while the sun comes up over the horizon… I can still hear his Music beneath quiet moments.

Today, had he lived, he would be fifty-eight years of age. Even though he died before I was born, there is a part of him which remains alive within my imagination… his Music.


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