33 1/3: Nick Drake – Pink Moon by Amanda Petrusich (Continuum Books)

The latest addition to the 33 1/3 series (now up to volume 51) looks at Nick Drake’s final album, Pink Moon. Tackling a 28-minute album of sparse folk by an artist whose life was largely undocumented (there are no known video clips or interviews with Drake) is a rather daunting task, but Petrusich addresses those limitations nicely by using interviews with people who knew Drake, as well as testimonials from current artists he influenced. She also does readers a great service by not painting Drake as some romantically doomed poetic soul, like so many others have done in the past. In fact, she dispells many romanticized Drake myths (ex: he didn’t anonymously leave the tapes for Pink Moon at Island’s reception desk without saying a word, as commonly thought), and even points out the album’s flaws (ex: most of the vocals are muffled). The most interesting part of the book is the final third, focusing on Pink Moon’s 21st century revival via a 2000 Volkswagen commercial featuring the title track. While some may argue that using a song to push a product cheapens the artistry behind it, “Pink Moon” fit the commercial’s imagery so perfectly it’s almost become synonymous with the Volkswagen spot. More importantly, thanks to commercial exposure, annual sales of the album jumped from 6,000 to 74,000 in the year it hit the airwaves – exposing Drake’s work to a whole new generation. Perhaps the best praise I can give the book is that after I finished reading it I put it down and listened to Pink Moon.