Thursday, August 04, 2005

None of You Stand So Tall


A few years ago, I noticed that people started to talk about Nick Drake. I had never heard of him. It was odd, because I kept hearing and reading his name. I went to All Music guide and read this. I was intrigued. My sister-in-law stopped by the house and told us, “You guys have to hear this CD,” and gave us a copy of “Pink Moon.” Odd again. I put the CD aside and figured I would get to it soon.

At the time, I was a trainer for a software company, and I often had to leave on Sunday afternoons for a week-long gig wherever. It was a great job but the traveling was quite difficult and it was hard on all of us. I told the Viscountess this one Sunday afternoon that I wanted to rest before I hit the road, and went up to the bedroom. I slipped “Pink Moon” into the CD player, turned out the lights and hit “Play” on the remote.

I was not expecting it. The song starts with this solo acoustic guitar that is haunting from the first strum. And then this sad, expressive, resigned voice filled the room.

I saw it written and I saw it say
Pink Moon is on its way
None of you stand so tall
Pink Moon gonna get you all
And it’s a Pink Moon,
Yeah it’s a Pink Moon
Pink Pink Pink Pink Pink Pink
Pink Moon


Then, this very sparse piano part that has its roots in the melody. Devastating.

After that, he just sings the first verse again.

I saw it written and I saw it say
Pink Moon is on its way
None of you stand so tall
Pink Moon gonna get you all
And it’s a Pink Moon,
Yeah it’s a Pink Moon
Pink Pink Pink Pink Pink Moon


And then it was over.
2:02.
Over.

I ran downstairs and grabbed The Viscountess. “You have to hear this song. Now.”

She is used to this. Another day I will talk about how lucky I am, from the minutiae to the fundamentals, The Viscountess is everything I wanted and everything I never new I needed. Before we ever met she developed a taste in music that is almost identical to mine, and knows exactly what I am talking about when it comes to the music that I love.

We sat down and listened together.

“Jeez.”

The album clocks in at about 28 minutes, and it is an aural representation of real, honest, depression. Not Sting bragging about being “The King of Pain.” Not the blues. Not John Lennon. It is a quiet acceptance, a resignation. He seems to be saying, “Pain is part of my life, and I accept it. It is just the way things are. “

From track 3: “Road”

You can say the sun is shining if you really want to
I can see the moon and it seems so clear
You can take the road that takes you to the stars now
I can take a road that'll see me through
I can take a road that'll see me through.

You can take a road that takes you to the stars now
I can take a road that'll see me through
I can take a road that'll see me through
I can take a road that'll see me through.”

It was the Viscountess this time. When I went on the road that week, she took the CD and listened to it. When I got back she said, “Listen to this one again. It may be the saddest song that I ever heard. (Quoting the lyric.)

You can take the road that takes you to the stars now
I can take the road that’ll see me through
.’ ”

“How SAD is that?” she said. “He has given up on any dream. He just wants to get through the day.”

The record is eerie. You feel like he is in the room. You feel like you know him. You feel like you can see a hint of a smile on his face as he sings, almost whispers to you the depth of his experience in a world that is just so painful, just so dark and so dreary. Not asking for your pity or your remedy. Just informing you. The smile is not ironic. It is an indication that he has found some respite, some peace inside these songs.

***
One can imagine how I must have felt when I found out that the title track was featured in a Volkswagen commercial! I HATE it that my songs, MY SONGS, the soundtrack of my life are used to sell things. I remember back in the 80’s, there was a furniture store that took Beethoven’s 5th and touted their $999 sale. ”Nine ninety NINE!
Nine ninety NINE!”

Oh the rage and rancor that swelled inside my 20 something idealist consciousness! I’d be driving along, and I would hear the theme, and I would picture Alex with his eyelids held open by the alligator clips crying, “Not the lovely Ludwig Van!”

“NINE NINETY NINE!
NINE NINETY NINE!”

Anyway.

I never saw the Volkswagen commercial aired, except on a VH1 show about Nick Drake. One of life’s many contradictions is that my mind has not changed one degree away from the fact that corporations should not use art to sell their stuff, but the fact is, the Volkswagen commercial was directly responsible for the resurgence of interest in Nick Drake, and who knows when I would have heard this beautiful record had they not besmirched its artistic value?

***

“None of you stand so tall.” Man, I love that line.

11 Comments:

Blogger M.T. Vanus said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:55 AM  
Blogger M.T. Vanus said...

Quite right, Viscount. When I listen to his songs I'm transformed, puff, to another reality where life hangs suspended on the bass note of his guitar and is bathed in the timbre of his voice. There are others who have the ability to hold my thoughts and string them out on a line, but none stand so tall.

M.T. Vanus.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Kevin Wolf said...

I, red-faced, admit to having never heard Nick Drake until that dread VW commercial. I'd heard of him, but had never heard his records. I do remember in the 1980s seeing a vinyl box set of all his albums (expensive import, natch) during one of the periodic attempts to "break" him beyond his cult music, dead artist category - or to at least keep his material in circulation for those in the know.

I can't claim to be a fan but I do like some of his songs and I think his work has been well used by Wes Anderson in a few of his movies.

3:28 PM  
Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

Nick Drake- haven't heard a note of it.

There have been a lot of artists like this for me that I've waited on and let the anticipation build.

REM in '84, Rufus Wainwright in '00, PIL in '79, Freedy Johnston in '94.

It's awesome having something to look forward to.

7:53 PM  
Anonymous Gordon Sumner said...

My work is a sort of emotional pablum for the wine and cheese crowd. Not only that, but my entire career can be represented by my performance in The Who's "Quadrophenia."

8:26 AM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

Hey Gordon,

No offense man. I like your music. And your lyrics are always good for comparison purposes, like in, "Hell, these words are not as bad as Sting's," and people like *his* stuff.

Remember when you were trying to think of a title for your yet unreleased "Zenyatta Mondatta" and Andy Partridge suggested "More-o of the Same-o" or "Get Your Yo-Yo's Out?" Wasn't that funny?

10:02 AM  
Blogger bad blue girl said...

Hi Viscount--

I've got a love/hate relationship with using art in advertising. Well, since, um, my husband I own our own advertising firm...small but mighty!

The creatives at any agency are just that -- creative people. It's ironic that most hate what advertising *is all about* -- but, work their asses off to produce something really cool. Most creatives look at it differently than the *suits* side.

So, I always look at the idea, the concept of the spot. And if it's good -- if it's a good idea -- then, great! But, I hate when it's bad. And it's mostly bad because the suits and the clients want to get all *creative.*

I know I bitched about this one on Neddie's site not too long ago. But, that cell phone commercial where they play "Melissa" truly enrages me. It's like the agency or the client did not have a *clue* what the feel of that song is all about. Ick.

On another note. I'm glad you found your music soulmate. Little story:

My son's 13 and loves music just like me. He pulled me in his room last week and wanted me to hear a song by Cold Play. He kept playing this one tiny itty-bitty part to it. And he's like: "Listen to this part! No! Really listen to it. Hear it? Isn't it cool?!! Isn't that cooool, Mom?!!"

Yay! I love that he's got the crazy, obsessive thing about music like that.

12:59 PM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

BBG,

You make some excellent points. Thanks for the contribution.

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Yoko Ono said...

But even Sting didn't write the steaming pile of poo that is "Imagine."

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Devils Rancher said...

There is almost nothing so heart-achingly beautiful in all this world as Lucinda William's version of Which Will. I don't have much else to say, except thanks to Justin Hess for giving me that vinyl copy of Pink Moon that he turned up at the garage sale in 1990.

9:20 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

Heard a lot of my favourite artists talk him up, expected him to be nothing but hype.

When i was going through my acoustic / baroque period (Nico's 'Chelsea Girl', John Cale's 'Paris 1919') I finally gave him a listen, starting with 'Fly' - was floored.

So went out and bought the lot - since there's only three albums and odds n sodds collection, it's not much of a financial layout for such great music.

I'll even admit to going out and buying the recent 'cash in' new compiliation with 'previously unorchestrated tracks with new string arrangements slapped on!' and 'one previously unknown song!'

Hey Yoko, wasn't it Elvis Costello who said "Wasn't it a millioniare who said: Imagine no possessions?"

3:04 AM  

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