Nick Drake, “Pink Moon” and Pink Floyd

Since discovering that all full moons have a name (given to them by the Native Americans who kept track of the months by the lunar calendar), I have written about each one as they appear in our skies. To accompany the post I always include one of the numerous songs that have been written about the moon and its many foibles.

It passes in a flash doesn’t it? Ever since following the full moon cycle for this blog, the lunar months seem to have rocketed by. This calendar month, on the 30th April, we are to have a Pink Moon appear in our skies. This time the name comes from one of the spring flowers the ancient Native Americans would have seen covering the ground around April’s full moon – The pink Moss Phlox.

Well I can’t say I have such a flower in my garden, but I can share a picture of what my cherry blossom tree should look like at this time of the year. Sadly, because of that really cold snap back at the beginning of March, it seems that Mother Nature’s work has been delayed, but here is what the blossom looked like at this time last year. Very pink, to coincide with the Pink Moon.

177 4th May Cherry blossom

When I started choosing songs for this series, I couldn’t help but notice there was a song called Pink Moon written and recorded by a man who seems to have become a bit of a cult figure in music circles. Nick Drake only made three albums, and died at the ridiculously young age of 26, but over the last couple of decades has sold hundreds of thousands of albums. Many of these sales came about as a result of the song Pink Moon being used for a car advert which sparked a resurgence of interest. Time to see what caused all the furore then, and for once we seem to have an example of an ad where the inclusion of music was well executed and aesthetically successful.

Pink Moon by Nick Drake:

It’s an incredibly short song, only one verse and a chorus, on repeat, but the spare delivery and acoustic guitar accompaniment just seemed to work. Drake was a troubled soul however and suffered from major depression, often reflected in his lyrics. After completing his 1972 “Pink Moon” album, he withdrew from both live performance and recording, retreating to his parents’ home in rural Warwickshire. On 25 November 1974, he died from an overdose of a prescribed antidepressant. His cause of death was determined to be suicide.

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Nick Drake

Drake’s music remained available through the mid-1970s, but the 1979 release of the retrospective album “Fruit Tree” allowed his back catalogue to be reassessed. By the mid-1980s Drake was being credited as an influence by such artists as Robert Smith and David Sylvian. In 1985, The Dream Academy reached the UK and US charts with Life in a Northern Town, a song written for and dedicated to Drake. By the early 1990s, he had come to represent a certain type of “doomed romantic” musician in the UK music press.

Interestingly, Life in a Northern Town was produced by Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd. Although never a big fan of Pink Floyd (I was just a tad to young for them I think), I knew that at some point in this series I should include something from their album “Dark Side of the Moon”. I think this post, what with all the pink-ness, should be the one. I will leave you with The Great Gig in the Sky, the fifth track on the album. I was pretty much blown away by Pink Floyd when I watched them at Live 8 in 2005 (the first time they had performed together for 24 years), and subsequently took to listening to Mr WIAA’s collection of Floyd tracks. Whenever I heard Clare Torry’s “wail”, used in effect as a musical instrument on Great Gig, I got goose bumps.

The Great Gig in the Sky by Pink Floyd:

Until next time….

Pink Moon Lyrics
(Song by
Nick Drake)

I saw it written and I saw it say
Pink moon is on it’s way
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get you all

It’s a pink moon
Hey, it’s a pink moon
It’s a pink, pink, pink, pink, pink moon.
It’s a pink, pink, pink, pink, pink moon.

I saw it written and I saw it say
Pink moon is on it’s way
And none of you stand so tall
Pink moon gonna get you all

It’s a pink moon
Yeah, it’s a pink moon

Postscript:

I was a tad early in posting this full moon alert, so just in case you missed it, here is a picture of Monday night’s Pink Moon taken by my photographer friend – Stunning as ever.

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Picture courtesy of R.J.

The Jukebox Time Machine – Bowie, The Sweet and a load of “Hocus Pocus”

Lately, I seem to have somewhat lost track of the original premise behind this blog. The eagle-eyed amongst you might have spotted that the domain name for this site contains the words Jukebox Time Machine but it wasn’t long before I decided to veer away from simply journeying back in time to select a random “track from my years”. Oh no, the featured song instead became inspired by what was going on in the news, by the seasons, or indeed what was happening in my own life. Once you delve into the backstory to a song, you find out so much more than was ever available back in the day, so it became appropriate to change the name of the blog to “What’s It All About?” (a nod to the opening lyric from the song Alfie, written by my favourite songwriting team Burt Bacharach and Hal David).

But just for a bit of a change, I am going to resurrect the idea of having an honest to goodness “time machine” that could randomly whisk me back through the years to find out what we were listening to, in terms of the music of the day. There are a fair few time machines in popular culture, but the one I’m going to use this time, is the contraption conjured up by H.G. Wells (very steampunk) and put together by some clever prop designers for the 1960 film The Time Machine starring Rod Taylor.

So, now we have a vehicle to take us back in time, but how will we randomly generate the date to which we will be taken? Fortunately there are lots of devices at our disposal and I’m going to use an online random number generator. The year will be generated from between 1964 and 2006, when the popular UK chart music show Top of the Pops aired on the BBC. I can at a push, remember watching that show with my parents right from the beginning (yes I’m that old), and I stuck with it through the good and bad years, until they pulled the plug on it in the mid-noughties. Since then I have kind of lost the plot as far as non-mainstream new music goes, so will stick to those more familiar years. The month and date can also be randomly generated after which all we have to do is refer to the Official UK Top 40 Archive. All sounds very complicated but trust me, it’s not.

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Time to climb aboard then and generate the first date. Here goes:

Year – 1973
Month2, i.e. February
Date – 14 (cute, it’s Valentine’s Day!)

Anyone who visits here regularly will know that this year could not be better for me in terms of conjuring up memories, as it was not only the year I became a teenager, but it was also the year I became obsessed with pop music and chart rundowns (already written about here). Referring to the Official Top 40 Chart from the 14th Feb 1973, the act at the No. 1 spot was this one, Scottish glam-rock band The Sweet with their only chart-topper, Blockbuster.

Blockbuster by Sweet:

I’m not going to dilly-dally too long writing about that one however as it has been showcased very recently over at Charity Chic Music (link here) where quite a few of us chimed in with our schoolday memories of the song. It amazes me, watching this footage of the band perform, how they still somehow managed to look “macho” whilst wearing just so much glitter, gold lamé and make-up. ‘Twas the times obviously. Lead singer Brian Connolly was a particularly good-looking man back then, and I was very envious of his long blonde hair (although oddly, in this song he refers to someone with long black hair). I think I actually sported a not too dissimilar hairstyle myself for much of the noughties, but hadn’t realised until now that the inspiration for it must have been Brian from The Sweet.

But what else was in the 1973 St Valentine’s Day chart? Well as luck would have it, a song I have already featured in the blog – The Jean Genie by David Bowie (link here). It was pointed out back then by The Swede, that the opening riff of Jean Genie bore a striking similarity to that of The Sweet’s Blockbuster which was recorded for the same record label, at around the same time, and released just a couple of months later (go on, do a quick compare and contrast). But it was The Sweet who made it to the top spot on this occasion as Bowie’s offering only made it to No. 2. Having done a little digging, the date we’re travelling back to in time to was very relevant to Mr Bowie as it seems that it was on the 14th of February 1973 that he collapsed from exhaustion after a performance at New York’s Madison Square Garden. He had been touring and giving press conferences as his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust for some time, but soon after this collapse, he abruptly retired the character live on stage at London’s Hammersmith Odeon.

The Jean Genie by David Bowie:

So far we’ve revisited two songs that sound very similar to each other but what else in that chart sounded very similar? Although I can’t say I was a big fan back then, in the fullness of time I have come to appreciate all the falderals involved in the making of a Focus record (a bit of yodeling anyone?) and February 1973 was their time in the sun as far as chart success went. Their instrumental Sylvia was a climber at No.5 and Hocus Pocus was also climbing up the chart at No. 22.

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The Dutch prog rock outfit, Focus.

I may well have forgotten all about these Dutch prog rockers had it not been that the album I got for Christmas that year was “Arcade’s 20 Fantastic Hits by the Original Artists”, the emphasis on the word original, as up until then most of these compilations were very much by the unoriginal artists. If you look closely you will see that Blockbuster, The Jean Genie and Hocus Pocus (Track 7 on Side 2) all featured, so this February chart certainly seems to have spawned a fair few of the year’s most memorable hits. (Interesting to note there is a picture of the artist who is apparently Python Lee Jackson which caused lots of confusion at the time. Turned out PLJ was the name of an Aussie band and Rod Stewart had been a guest vocalist.)

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Hocus Pocus by Focus:

Although we have travelled back in time 45 years, so many of these songs are now part of popular culture and I can’t imagine them ever being forgotten, whereas can we really say that about much of what is in the charts today? Maybe I’m wrong but could we envisage a time in the future when there will be another television cop show, this time inspired by the music of 2018? Not sure, but it certainly happened around 10 years ago when Life On Mars was made for our own BBC. The lead character Sam Tyler goes back in time to 1973 and finds himself working under the highly misogynistic, homophobic, borderline alcoholic Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt – The Gene Genie. For those of us who remember those days, there were many, many amusing musical exchanges between Sam and Gene. These were only made possible because Sam knew the legacy left behind by some of the artists they listened to, on the Ford Granada car radio, or during a nightclub raid. For Gene all this music was as yet unknown, and anyway, he and his wife preferred listening to Roger Whittaker!

Ok, so Life On Mars aired a fair few years ago now but I think it is generally agreed that one of last year’s best films, for music fans at any rate, was this one, Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. I’m not usually a fan of films that feature multiple car chases, but this one was a very different animal, and the best car chase of all was played out to the sounds of Focus with what has turned out to be their most memorable recording (was it because the words rhymed so well I wonder?). Watching this excellent clip again, the lead character Baby, could definitely give Lewis Hamilton a run for his money.

So, “What’s It All About?” – I hope you’ve enjoyed joining me on my Jukebox Time Machine journey back to February 1973. All you need is a random number generator it seems and we’re good to go, although I may change the mode of transport for next time as H.G. Wells’ time machine was a tad uncomfortable at times – Doc Brown’s DeLorean might make for a smoother ride.

As to whether the music of 2018 will feature in the movies and telly of the future, having thought about it all a bit more, it probably will. As the music-obsessed youngsters of today become the movers and shakers of tomorrow, they will use the “tracks of their years” when making directorial debuts, peppering their films with the works of Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino (yes I watched the Grammys this week so am “down with the kids”). Problem is, by the time you make it in that world and are entrusted with the big budgets you are a generation older than the majority of your audience. Great for parents taking their kids to the cinema though as there is something for everyone, the action for the youngsters and the music for the mums and dads (Guardians of the Galaxy springs to mind) – All in all, a bit of a win-win situation.

Until next time….

Blockbuster Lyrics
(Song by Mike Chapman/Nicky Chinn)

Ahhh, Ahh Ahhh
You better beware, you better take care
You better watch out if you’ve got long black hair
He’ll come from behind, you’ll go out of your mind
You better not go, you never know what you’ll find
Ahh Ahh, Ahh Ahhh

Can’t look into his eyes, you’ll be surprised
If don’t know what going on behind his disguse
Nobody knows where Buster goes
He’ll steal your woman out from under your nose

Does anyone know the way, did we hear someone say
(We just haven’t got a clue what to do)
Does anyone know the way, there’s got to be a way
To Blockbuster

The cops are out, they’re running about
Don’t know if they’ll ever be able to blockbuster out
He’s gotta be caught, he’s gotta be taught
‘Cause he is more evil then anyone here ever thought

Does anybody know the way, did we hear someone say
(We just haven’t got a aho)
Does anybody know the way, there’s got to be a way
To Blockbuster

Does anybody know the way, did we hear someone say
(We just haven’t got a clue what to do)
Does anybody know the way, there’s got to be a way
To Blockbuster

Ahh Ahh, Ahh Ahh
Ahh Ahh, Ahh Ahh

Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster

Buster buster blockbuster
Buster buster blockbuster

Postscript:

It occurred to me that although the journey back in time was primarily to find out what we were listening to in February 1973, perhaps it might be interesting to remind myself what I was doing at school. As luck would have it (that trusty archive box came up trumps once again), I still have a self-penned “magazine” which we all had to produce in English (the subject not the language) that year.

All very embarrassing as ever, but I was only 12 remember, and one of the “stories” was essentially an exchange between my mum and myself as to the merits of acquiring one of those new-fangled cassette recorders that had just come on the market. Ignore the fact I seem to have missed the letter “t” in the title (should be tempted) and please ignore the fact that it seems my family were a bit tight with the cash, as in reality I did get a MURPHY cassette recorder later that year. It was my absolute pride and joy and was heavily used for the rest of my teenage years. I give you an extract from the Reader’s Realm February ’73 edition (adverts were included).

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