Thursday, January 12, 2012

Could Have Been a Clock

English singer-songwriter Nick Drake enjoyed only minor popularity during his short lifetime. He recorded just three albums before his death at age 26: Five Leaves Left (1969), Bryter Layter (1970) and Pink Moon (1972). Drake suffered from depression and insomnia, topics often reflected in his lyrics and on completion of his third album, Pink Moon, he withdrew from both live performance and recording, retreating to his parents’ home in rural Warwickshire northwest of London. Drake died in 1974 from an overdose of a prescribed antidepressant. It was only after his death that people began to better appreciate his music and by the 1990s he had reached cult status. A 1999 television commercial for Volkswagen featured the title track from Drake’s last album Pink Moon, and within a month Drake had sold more records than he had in the previous thirty years.


Robert Kirby, a good friend from their time at Cambridge University described Drake’s lyrics as a “series of extremely vivid, complete observations, almost like a series of epigrammatic proverbs,” though he doubts that Drake saw himself as a poet. In many of his songs Drake used natural symbols like moon and stars, sea and rain, but such language is absent from “One of These Things First” where lyrics are concrete and convey better his sense of regret for what didn’t turn out. Nick Drake may not have seen himself as a poet, but there is something very close to that in his lyrics.


The song “One of These Things First” from the second album, Bryter Layter is featured on the 2004 Grammy Award winning soundtrack, Garden State. It was also used in the 2008 film Seven Pounds starring Will Smith.


ONE OF THESE THINGS FIRST

I could have been a sailor, could have been a cook

A real live lover, could have been a book.

I could have been a signpost, could have been a clock

As simple as a kettle, steady as a rock

I could be

Here and now

I would be, I should be

But how?

I could have been

One of these things first

I could have been

One of these things first.


I could have been your pillar, could have been your door

I could have stayed beside you, could have stayed for more.

Could have been your statue, could have been your friend,

A whole long lifetime could have been the end

I could be yours so true

I would be, I should be through and through.

I could have been

One of these things first

I could have been

One of these things first.


I could have been a whistle, could have been a flute

A real live giver, could have been a boot.

I could have been a signpost, could have been a clock

As simple as a kettle steady as a rock.

I could even be here

I would be, I should be so near

I could have been

One of these things first

I could have been

One of these things first.



From Drake’s first album, Five Leaves Left is a beautifully written and arranged song, “River Man.”


RIVER MAN

Betty came by on her way

Said she had a word to say

About things today

And fallen leaves.


Said she hadn’t heard the news

Hadn’t had the time to choose

A way to lose

But she believes.


Going to see the river man

Going to tell him all I can

About the plan

For lilac time.


If he tells me all he knows

About the way his river flows

And all night shows

In summertime.


Betty said she prayed today

For the sky to blow away

Or maybe stay

She wasn’t sure.


For when she thought of summer rain

Calling for her mind again

She lost the pain

And stayed for more.


Going to see the river man

Going to tell him all I can

About the ban

On feeling free.


If he tells me all he knows

About the way his river flows

I don’t suppose

It’s meant for me.


Oh, how they come and go

Oh, how they come and go


1 comment:

  1. Another example of someone achieving more fame after their demise than they enjoyed during their lifetime. Saw 'Garden State' but long ago; good to be reintroduced to his music. Simple straight-forward poetic lyrics which are usually the best.

    ReplyDelete

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America