26. Nick Drake – Mayfair (1968)

I’ve fallen behind on this project and am forced to backdate the next few posts… I may need to give myself a late penalty.

In any case, to complete our little detour through the Folk Baroque of the late 1960s/early 1970s (and our fourth song in a row about a London neighborhood), here’s a track from one of my very favorite singers — Nick Drake.

Nick Drake went largely unnoticed in his day — he recorded three albums between 1969 and 1972, but hated playing live and doing interviews, so not many people heard them. It was only some years after his death (maybe an accidental overdose of sleeping pills, maybe a suicide), as other musicians began to cite him as a major influence, that he came to widespread critical attention. Over time, he was elevated to take on the role of the Patron Saint of Troubled Geniuses everywhere.  And then Volkswagen used “Pink Moon” in a TV commercial back in 2000, and in a single month Nick Drake sold more records than he had the previous thirty years. (Sometimes capitalism does the world a favor.)

Here’s an early demo of a song called “Mayfair,” about a London neighborhood not far east from where you’ll be living. It has a reputation for being very posh, in part because in the UK version of Monopoly, “Mayfair” is the equivalent to Boardwalk (it costs £400).

Some lovely lyrics to this one too: “Mayfair faces clean and nice, / But beauty here is cold as ice: / Could it be we see the Mayfair sun?” And “Mayfair strange at every hour, / Hidden frowns with mystic power, / Starry heights and golden throne, / Down below you’re on your own.” That just about nails it, I think.

Nick Drake



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