The lure of romanticising tragedy forms a nettlesome trap when you delve into the life of Nick Drake. A folk hero whose songs seemed to sustain half notes on spider silk as opposed to the bulky realm of sheet music lines, his wistful ways have often been mused over with myth rather than the truth behind them.
Take, for instance, his final record. The lore of folk would have you believe that he recorded it on a final despondent whim without the knowledge of his estranged record label, dropped the master tape off at reception and disappeared from the music forevermore. However, that is merely an exaggerated half-truth, a lie that seems to fit the arc of his life a little better.
In truth, he did record the album without much knowledge of it from his label, who eventually published it with the tagline: “Pink Moon—Nick Drake’s latest album: the first we heard of it was when it was finished.” But the notion of him dropping it off at reception and then floating into the ether like a musical wisp isn’t true. He largely had the backing of the label boss whom he met with, but by this stage, the album seemed almost destined to fail upon release and flower once the dust had settled.
Two years later, after returning home to live with his parents, Nick Drake passed away. He was only 26. The cause of death, whether accidental or otherwise, was an overdose of antidepressants. Then gradually, with no real signpost or definitive impetus, his music just simply began to creep into consciousness like a wildflower in spring, and by the mid-1980s, he was heralded as the star we now cherish as the sonic cup of tea to a hangover of reality.
From a tragic end, his denouement was a hopeful one as he began to inspire a legion of new acts and his genius was finally recognised. One such act was The Cure. At the time the band were first starting, frontman Robert Smith was dealing with his own mental health issues and music offered an outlet for the star, just as it had done for Drake before him.
Thus, taking inspiration from the fallen star, Smith pored over his lyrics. One song, in particular, caught his eye. The classic track ‘Time Has Told Me’ from Drake’s first album Five Leaves Left contains the stirring verse, “Time has told me, You’re a rare, rare find, A troubled cure, For a troubled mind.”
When The Cure covered this dogeared and nearly forgotten beauteous 1969 gem, Smith reportedly introduced the song as the source of their name. With stunningly poignant stanzas like, “And time has told me, Not to ask for more, Someday our ocean, Will find its shore,” it’s not hard to see why Smith and co were inspired—if indeed the alleged tale is true and not just another myth in the life of Nick Drake.