Riding the Waves to Eternity

Hangin' with the Cosmic Surfer

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Behind the Son

10 December, 2017 (17:49) | Music | By: Ian Burdon

In 1985 I bought Heaven In A Wild Flower, a compilation of tracks drawn from Nick Drake’s 3 LPs. I was smitten in the way only people who hear Nick for the first time can be. I immediately recorded the album to cassette for listening to on a Walkman, and so my copy of the LP is in mint condition (I still have the cassette).

Of all the songs on it, and they are his most famous, the one that caught my attention then, and still does, was Things Behind the Sun. I can’t articulate exactly what it is about that song in particular that speaks to me, but part of it is the lyric that is both allusive and elusive, that hints at meaning without letting you in on the secret of what it might be. Sometimes I wonder if there is any meaning there at all, if it isn’t just an exercise in rhyme made coherent by the insistent guitar pattern that gives the song momentum. Or perhaps it is just the pregnant image of “the things behind the Sun”, of what lies behind the light you see when day is done. Is it too fanciful to find an echo of Genesis 1. 6-7 and the waters over and under the sky? Probably.

In recent years it has become clear just how much Nick followed a trail blazed by his mother, Molly. The full force of her writing was unknown to me until I saw the Unthanks performing some of her songs with recorded readings of Molly’s poems by her daughter Gabrielle.

Just released (and just received here) is The Tide’s Magnificence, songs and poems of Molly Drake, a glorious 2 CD set and 195 page hardback book. Aside from the quality of the book and cd package in its own right, the revelation for me has been the force and beauty of Molly’s poems. I already knew some from Gabrielle’s recordings, but the collection shows an obvious talent at work, a talent that reveals the woman behind the words and meter, a surface wistful melancholy giving way to distilled observation, reflection and heart.

Much more than Nick, the poems and songs of Molly make known a person whom I should have liked to know; a woman who did not dwell on unspoken things behind the Sun but, in possibly my favourite of her songs, sang instead

There’s a road to the stars
But I don’t know the way…
…We might get a sight
Of the brightness of Heaven

Here’s Molly: