I'll never go away
Elizabeth Bishop, Sleeping Figure
* Brian Cullman on meeting Nick Drake. Excerpt:
It was the second or third time I was at his house. It was late afternoon, there was a soft light coming through the curtains, and we’d been listening to the same album of classical guitar—Julian Bream?—for over an hour, when something by the window stirred and started to rise. I hadn’t noticed anyone there, and it gave me a fright.
“Nick,” John nodded. “This is Brian. Brian, Nick. Everyone present, accounted for?”
The figure came into focus. It rose, and stretched, and where before it had looked like a small child that had folded itself into a ball, now I could see it was someone fairly tall with the physique of a tennis player, all arms and legs and elbows. A curtain of dark and uncombed hair hung around his face, hiding everything but his eyes. It looked like he was stoned. It looked like he was asleep. It looked like he was the most wide-awake person in the history of the world. All of the above. Each time I replay the scene in my mind, it’s different. And each time it’s true. He was wearing a frayed white shirt and jeans and boots and a black corduroy jacket that seemed a size too large. I don’t usually pay much attention to clothes, but my first thought was ... where can I get a black corduroy jacket?
How long had he been there? What was he doing? Meditating? Dreaming? Drifting? Watching?
Over the next few months, I’d have the same experience over and over again, and I never got used to it. I’d be in a room or a restaurant and wouldn’t have a clue that Nick was there until he got up to leave. But, once gone, you’d notice the absence. It filled the air, like a chord that won’t die out, that hangs there, loud, even in fading, especially in fading, that hangs there until the next note is played.
“You heard his record?” John asked, after he’d wandered off. “No? Oh, man, how could you miss it? It’s the best. It’s alive!”
John handed me a well worn copy of Five Leaves Left. I looked at the cover. When he left, a moment ago, he’d been wearing the same clothes he had on in the cover photo. And it looked like he might not have taken them off since then.
When I returned the record a few days later, I couldn’t stop talking about how great it was, how it was something new and strong and pure. That voice! So smooth, so delicate, yet so hard to shake. Once you heard it, you couldn’t get it out of your head. Those strings! The way they wove through the melodies like a Greek chorus, reminding you of the depths below, the darkness, and the night just around the corner; maybe you can’t see it now, but you will, you will! How he’d taken bits of John’s guitar style and brought in some of the Brazilian shadings of João Gilberto, the soft, floating chord changes of Jim Webb, the sweep of Astral Weeks. How he’d invented a genuine British blues form, standing right there on the corner of Ralph Vaughan Williams and Brownie McGhee!
* "Experience is the outcome of work; immediate experience is the phantasmagoria of the idler." -- Walter Benjamin