[Today: Doom and gloom has rarely sounded so beautiful...]
Nick Drake died of an overdose of anti-depressants (sick irony, that) on November 25th, 1974. He was 26 years old. Whether or not it was suicide has been hotly debated ever since, but almost everyone agrees that he was severely depressed in the months leading up to his death. Pink Moon was the last album released during his brief life, and it’s a crushing listen – akin to reading a dead man’s diary. Drake is accompanied here by just his own guitar, which sounds like it was strung with pieces of his soul. It’s one of the most naked, bleak and beautiful albums ever recorded, with Drake singing lyrics like “Look around you find the ground/Is not so far from where you are” like a man who’s already six feet deep.
John Martyn was a friend of Drake’s, and has become an unwitting oracle into the frame of mind of his deceased friend. “I think he distrusted the world. He thought it didn’t quite live up to his expectations,” is one of the many ways that Martyn has explained Drake’s profound sadness. Martyn has had enough of his own reasons to feel down – his career peaked in the early 70’s with the kind of modest commercial success that might have saved Nick Drake’s life. Released in February of 1973, Solid Air is one of his career highlights, a jazz/blues/folk confection that sees Martyn tackle the dark side of life with a devilish gleam in his eye.
But even as he churned out one fine album after another, Martyn saw his commercial fortunes dim to the point that – even though he had broken the color barrier as Island Records’ first white artist – he found himself without a label in the late-80’s. In 2003 Martyn contracted an infection that resulted in the amputation of his right leg below the knee. Today he’s just turned 60, but you won’t catch him moping: as he told Word Magazine‘s Rob Fitzpatrick earlier this year “I honestly believe that no man who has ever lived has had more fun than me. Living full on is the best fucking way to do it and I would absolutely do it all again in a fucking moment!”
Listen: Things Behind The Sun [Nick Drake]
Listen: Over The Hill [John Martyn]