19 recordings. They are pensive. They are familiar. They are love.
Nick Drake and I go way back. He helped me through an angst riddled grade nine and taught me that it is okay to weep for no apparent reason. I weep to a lot of music these day. Common triggers include; The Kinks, Randy Newman, early Go-Betweens, Syd Barrett and more recently Molly Drake (Nick Drake’s mother).
The first time I listened to Molly Drake was on a Friday. The blinds were firmly drawn; darkness can be a great comfort. The first bar of Happiness drifted through my vaguely hung over mind, and I was in absolute tears. It was like I had never felt before. The more I listened, the lighter my room became.
I am a child of six sleeping over at Nick’s house. Fumbling through the dark attempting to find the bathroom; I am attracted light flooding from a door way. I stand in the shadows silently watching Mrs. Drake serenading the night. This is home.
They are the most bittersweet tunes I have ever heard. Ever.
Lyrically the songs are dark, yet hidden behind a façade of nature, love and family.The nineteen recordings released by Squirrel Thing Recordings earlier this year have been restored by John Wood and Joe Boyd who together produced Nick’s Five Leaves Left and Brighter Later. I Remember number eight on the self-titled release, is just a slice of Grandma’s best chocolate cake. It is so hopeful yet so hopeless. One can’t help but aimlessly wander through a field of regrets. If it’s sublime nostalgia doesn’t wrench your heart strings, nothing will.
The release of these recordings half a centaury on permits them to stand out in a market filled with total bullshit. Molly Drake’s songs capture time and space; they remind me of the couch in my living room, the bowl of fruit on my kitchen bench. They are homely, they are comforting, they are love.
It strikes me as rather odd that Nick once described his mother’s music as naïve.
The more I listen to the recordings, more I can visualize the reel to reel tape recorder monotonously turning; completely oblivious to the love it is capturing.
It recorded the mother.
It recorded the son.
Even as it sat, untouched for decades it was part of a bigger story.
Molly’s recordings leak of imperfections; awkward tape blends, missed notes and bizarre tempo shifts. Yet the imperfections make them compelling; imperfection is haunting. They have an instant and extraordinary beauty. Molly is hypnotic.
While my first impression of Molly was mother of Nick Drake, it is certainly not my lasting one. In fact I no longer give a shit whose mother she is. All I know was in the silence that followed I remember I found myself thinking; “I wish she was my mum.”
…And as the warm buzz of the reel-to-reel persists through the silence there is something so intimate, so familiar she almost could be.