C. J. Walsh
Artwork: Michael Trevithick
Photography Keith Morris
In the late 70s I wandered into Homers in Downtown Omaha, Nebraska and went to the “New Arrivals” bin of the used records section. I was thrilled to find several UK imports of at least ten years vintage. Here were mint copies of ‘Fresh Cream’, the Grateful Dead’s ‘Anthem Of The Sun’ and what I imagined would be the furthest out of them all – ‘Pink Moon’ by Nick Drake - all with artwork that spared nothing the rainbow had to offer. Arriving home I put ‘Pink Moon’ on the turntable only to realize Nick had neglected to call his band for the session and forgot to plug in his guitar.
Cover artist Michael Trevithick was apparently friendly with Drake’s sister, Gabrielle; but he more than held up his end of the bargain. The painting hits all the highpoints in the best surrealist tradition – a teacup, flames, seashells, float below a disembodied face. Plastered in the center is a rocket zooming back into a US stamp. All surrounding a half-shrouded orange spiraling up from a violent sea, or is it the transformed ‘Pink Moon’ itself? Wrapping around the back cover is a needlepoint with a portion of the title track’s lyrics, while a seemingly aroused tulip pursues a brand new shoe, (stretcher still within).
Trevithick’s painting is reminiscent of the work of Yves Tanguy and Salvador Dali, where objects take on as much meaning as you like or none at all. The inside gatefold reveals the lyrics and the negative of a Keith Morris photo of Drake, an image probably more telling than either could have imagined.
Sometimes it is music’s intangibility which draws in the listener. As with much of Drake’s work ‘Parasite’ possesses a hypnotic, trancelike quality akin to that of the surrealist poets at their best. There lurks a sense of wonder, tempered by world weariness. ‘Things Behind The Sun’ still radiates melancholy and mystery in equal measure. And every song is wrapped in full-bodied chords that rival Davy Graham or John Renbourn.
Despite the fact ‘Pink Moon’ contained music I didn’t truly comprehend at the time, it somehow avoided the pile of discs bound for the used record shop. Through marriage, kids and a multitude of moves, the years have enhanced my view of this folk record more so than the other purchases I made that hung-over Saturday afternoon. However, countless spins on the record player have long since taken the gloss off the grooves.
In truth, the cover of ‘Pink Moon’ tells you nothing about the sounds within, merely drawing you in with memorable images; leaving it to the music to take the baton and run with it. Something this long player does magnificently. Drake himself certainly enjoyed the painting; it hung in the music room of the boyhood home he’d returned to in Tanworth-in-Arden, which is also where he died.