Song of the Day #8: ‘Things Behind the Sun’ – Nick Drake

Like every good yuppie, I rushed out and bought Nick Drake’s Pink Moon album after loving the title song’s use in that Volkswagen commercial. I suppose the real good yuppies rushed out and bought Volkswagens.

I was a little ashamed of not knowing who the hell Nick Drake was before he turned up in a car ad, but glad nonetheless to finally get on the bandwagon. I definitely saw the comparisons to one of my favorite artists, Elliott Smith (even before Smith completed the connection by dying early).

‘Pink Moon’ (the song) is absurdly lovely, but I found myself far more taken with another track, ‘Things Behind the Sun.’ Like everything on the album, it’s a plaintive and pretty acoustic guitar track with haunted, whispered vocals about turning away from material things (and people).

Please beware of them that stare
They’ll only smile to see you wile
Your time away
And once you’ve seen what they have been
To win the earth just won’t seem worth
Your night or your day
Who’ll hear what I say?

What I really love about this song is its restraint. Drake has a killer chorus here, and he must have been tempted to sing that sucker fifteen times. But instead he sings it the first time and then, after the second verse, just sort of hints at it on his guitar. He returns to it after the third verse then ends the song. Can you imagine Bono, say, singing the chorus to ‘Pride (In the Name of Love)’ just twice?

6 thoughts on “Song of the Day #8: ‘Things Behind the Sun’ – Nick Drake

  1. Amy says:

    I find myself a little ashamed that I immediately popped over to YouTube to see the VW commercial that I’d somehow missed when it was targeting me the firs time out. See, I find it more disturbing not to be aware of the commercial than of Nick Drake. So thank you for putting both on my pop culture radar screen. As for the music, while the song is certainly lovely and the chorus catchy, I don’t think it deserves the comparison to “Pride (in the name of love).” Give the godfather to little Knox and Vivienne a bit more credit!

  2. Clay says:

    I’m not comparing it to that song… just contrasting the restraint to the bombast. But don’t get me wrong — I love bombast, and I love U2.

  3. mom says:

    I too checked out the commercial and thought it was lovely. It’s a shame he died (I guess) so young. I’m not sure how old he was. Anyway, it’s a sweet song. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Dana says:

    Don’t know the VW commercial. Don’t know Nick Drake. Guess I’ll have to hear some more. Song is very nice, though perhaps a little bombast wouldn’t hurt–a bit too mellow for repeated listening for me.

  5. Craig says:

    Wow! I came across your blog by accident while looking for anyone who liked Belle and Sebastian’s ‘seeing other people’ as much as I do. Now I discover that you love Things Behind The Sun’!!!! Nick Drake is my true love (musically, emotionally). This song is possibly the most gorgeous piece of music EVER created! I live in England about 15 miles from where Nick was born and raised at Tanworth In Arden, Warwickshire. I have visited his grave twice to pay homage to the man and his music. Like his music, his place of rest is understated, fragile, humble and moving. a simple. plain stone set in a beautiful English Churchyard, beneath a tree.The first occasion I stood in total silence and solitude paying my respects and then realised that the sun on that day was obscured by the tree. So I stood in the shadow and heard this song in my head. The Things Behind The Sun are dark and yet can enlighten the spirit of humanity and understanding. Without the dark times in our lives we cannoy fully appreciate the lighter moments. Like Nick, I struggle with depression and isolation, but his music gives me hope and pleasure that otherwise wouldn’t exist. If you haven’t already, please listen to River Man, Sunday, Time Of No Reply, One Of These Things First….I could go on! Just listen to Nick Drake and feel your heart break for unfulfilment, unappreciated talent, unloved people who yearn for the freedom of expression, intimacy and the joys of life and love.I’m glad that he is recognised now for his genius but hat it didn’t happen in his lifetime is what ultimately detroyed him which is desperately sad. And if you get this, you need to listen to some Del Amitri. More pop/rock than Nick Drake but some pure gems of melancholic empathy amongst their album tracks. My favourite is ‘Tell Her This’

    http://www.last.fm/music/Del+Amitri/Twisted/Tell+Her+This

  6. Clay says:

    Thanks for the link to Del Amitri… that’s a very nice song. I see the comparison to Drake.

    I’ll have to pick up some more Nick Drake as well. I really enjoy the Pink Moon album. I love artists who inspire great emotion in their fans. Somehow I can’t imagine, say, Mariah Carey touching somebody the way Belle & Sebastian or Nick Drake can.

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