Pink Moon

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Pink Moon
Studio album by Nick Drake
Released 25 February 1972
Recorded 30–31 October 1971 at Sound Techniques, London
Length 28:22
Label Island
Producer John Wood
Nick Drake chronology
Bryter Layter
(1971)[1]Bryter Layter1971
Pink Moon
Fruit Tree
(1979)Fruit Tree1979

Pink Moon is the third and final studio album by the English folk musician Nick Drake, released in the UK by Island Records on 25 February 1972.[2] It was the only one of Drake's studio albums to be released in North America during his lifetime: the only previous release there had been a 1971 compilation simply entitled Nick Drake featuring tracks from both his first two albums, which were not released in North America in their original forms until 1976. Pink Moon differs from Drake's previous albums in that it was recorded without a backing band, featuring just Drake on vocals, acoustic guitar and a brief piano riff overdubbed onto the title track.

Released two years before Drake's death in November 1974, at the age of twenty-six, the lyrical content of Pink Moon has often been attributed to Drake's ongoing battle with depression.[3] The songs are shorter than on his previous albums, with a total album running time of just over twenty-eight minutes.

Pink Moon, like Drake's previous studio albums, did not sell well during his lifetime but has since gained in critical acclaim and record sales.


Nick Drake's first two albums with Island Records, Five Leaves Left (1969) and Bryter Layter (1971), had sold poorly, and combined with Drake's reluctance to perform live or engage in album promotion, Island was not confident of another album from Drake.[3] Additionally, Drake had isolated himself in his London apartment and was suffering from depression. In 1971 he saw a psychiatrist and was prescribed antidepressants which he was reluctant to take due to the stigma associated with depression and his fears concerning the medication's interaction with marijuana, which he smoked regularly.[3] Although critics often associate Drake's music, and especially the perceived melancholy of Pink Moon, with his depression, Cally Calloman of Bryter Music, which manages Drake's estate, remembers it differently: "Nick was incapable of writing and recording while he was suffering from periods of depression. He was not depressed during the writing or recording of Pink Moon and was immensely proud of the album."[4] After facing disappointment with various aspects of his first two albums, Drake sought a more organic sound with Pink Moon.


Drake appeared to have made a decision before recording his third album that it would be as plain as possible and free of the numerous guest musicians that had been employed on Bryter Layter. In his autobiography Joe Boyd, producer of Drake's first two albums, remembered that as they were finishing the recording of Bryter Layter Drake had told him that he wanted to make his next record alone,[6] and in his only interview, published in Sounds magazine in March 1971, Drake told interviewer Jerry Gilbert that "for the next [album] I had the idea of just doing something with John Wood, the engineer at Sound Techniques".[7]

After a brief hiatus in Spain spent at a villa belonging to Island Records' head, Chris Blackwell,[8] Drake returned to London refreshed, and in October 1971 approached record engineer and producer John Wood.[3] Wood had worked with Drake on his previous two albums and was one of the few people Drake felt he could trust. Wood has worked with other artists such as Fairport Convention, Cat Stevens, and Pink Floyd, and he often worked in partnership with record producer Joe Boyd. Boyd produced Drake's first two albums with Wood acting as sound engineer. Although Wood primarily focused on the engineering of an album, he often contributed as a producer.

When Drake reached out to Wood in 1971 expressing his interest in recording another album, the ensuing process was significantly pared down compared to Drake's other two albums. The album was recorded at Sound Techniques studio in London in late October 1971 with just Drake and Wood present.[9] The studio was booked during the day, so Drake and Wood arrived around 11:00 p.m. and simply and quietly recorded half the songs. The next night, they did the same. In only two late night sessions, with just his voice and acoustic guitar, Drake created what is considered by many to be one of the "most influential folk albums of all time".[10]

Contrary to popular legend that Drake dropped the album off in a plastic bag at Island Records' reception and then left without anyone realising, Drake delivered the master tapes of Pink Moon to Chris Blackwell at Island.[3] In an interview for the Nick Drake fanzine Pynk Moon in 1996, Island's press officer David Sandison recalled that Drake's arrival at the record company had certainly not gone unnoticed, although there had been no indication that he was delivering them a new album:

"I saw him in reception after I came back from lunch and I was talking to somebody and I saw a figure in the corner on the bench, and I suddenly realized it was Nick. He had this big, 15 ips [inches per second] master tape box under his arm, and I said 'Have you had a cup of tea?' and he said 'Erm, yes', and I said 'Do you want to come upstairs?' and he said 'Yes, okay'. So we went upstairs into my office, which was on top of the landing, it was a landing that went into the big office with a huge round table where Chris and everybody else worked—very democratic—and there was a big Reevox (sic) and sound system there, and he just sat in my office area for about half an hour ... After about half an hour he said 'I'd better be going', and I said 'Okay, nice to see you', and he left. Now, he went down the stairs and he still had the tapes under his arm, and about an hour later the girl who worked behind the front desk called up and said 'Nick's left his tapes behind'. So I went down and it was the big sixteen-track master tape and it said NICK DRAKE PINK MOON, and I thought 'that's not an album I know'. The first thing to do was get it in the studio to make a seven and a half inch safety copy, because that was the master. So we ran off a safety copy to actually play, and I think twenty four hours later or so, it was put on the Reevox in the main room and we heard Pink Moon."[11]

The tapes of the Pink Moon session also included Drake's recording of "Plaisir d'amour" (translated from French as "The Pleasure of Love"), a classical French love song written in 1784 by Jean-Paul-Égide Martini. Although "Plaisir d'amour" was on the track listing of the Pink Moon master tape box as the first track of Side Two, when the tapes were presented they included a note in reference to the song which read, "Spare title – Do not use",[12] so the song didn't make it onto the album. The recording was less than a minute long, featured guitar with no vocals, and was eventually included as a hidden track on UK editions of the Nick Drake compilation A Treasury (2004). Had "Plaisir d'amour" been included on the Pink Moon album, it would have been the only song on any of his albums that Nick Drake did not write himself.


Keith Morris was the photographer who took Drake's photo for the cover of Bryter Layter (1971) and he was commissioned to photograph Drake for the cover of Pink Moon. However, the photos were not used as Drake's rapidly deteriorating appearance, hunched figure and blank expression were not considered good selling points. Island's creative director Annie Sullivan, who oversaw the shoot, recalled the difficulty in making a decision around the cover of the LP: "I remember going to talk to [Nick], and he just sat there, hunched up, and even though he didn't speak, I knew the album was called Pink Moon, and I can't remember how he conveyed it, whether he wrote it down ... he wanted a pink moon. He couldn't tell me what he wanted, but I had 'pink moon' to go on."[4] Island picked a piece of surrealist Dali-esque art by Michael Trevithick, who was incidentally a friend of Drake's sister Gabrielle. Although Drake was not outspoken in his opinion on the cover art of Pink Moon, many close to him felt that he approved.

David Sandison stated that he found the original framed artwork for Pink Moon in among the debris of the basement room that Island later allocated to him as his office, and he took it home and hung it on the wall of his house for several years, before eventually presenting it to Drake's parents.[11] An undated photo of Drake's music room at his parents' house in Tanworth-in-Arden shows what appears to be the artwork hanging on the wall.

Reception and legacy[edit]

Full page advertisement of the release of Pink Moon.[13]
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[14]
Melody Maker average[15]
Q 4/5 stars (1990 reissue)[16]
Q 5/5 stars (2000 reissue)[17]
Mojo very favourable (2000 reissue)[18]
Pitchfork Media 10/10[19]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[20]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars (2003 reissue)[21]
Sounds unfavourable[22]

Island Records launched an unusual promotional campaign for the initial release of Pink Moon. They spent the entire promotional budget on full-page advertisements in all major music magazines the month of the record's release.

Initially, Pink Moon garnered a small amount of critical attention. Jerry Gilbert, who had conducted the only known interview with Drake the previous year, wrote the first review of Pink Moon; he was not impressed. Writing in Sounds in March 1972, Gilbert stated that, "The album consists entirely of Nick's guitar, voice and piano and features all the usual characteristics without ever matching up to Bryter Layter. One has to accept that Nick's songs necessarily require further augmentation, for whilst his own accompaniments are good the songs are not sufficiently strong to stand up without any embroidery at all. 'Things Behind The Sun' makes it, so does 'Parasite' – but maybe it's time Mr. Drake stopped acting so mysteriously and started getting something properly organised for himself."[22] Another early review was written by critic Mark Plummer and appeared in Melody Maker in May 1972. Plummer appreciated the music, but was distracted by Drake's growing ascetic mythology: "His music is so personal and shyly presented both lyrically and in his confined guitar and piano playing that neither does nor doesn't come over ... The more you listen to Drake though, the more compelling his music becomes – but all the time it hides from you. On 'Things Behind The Sun', he sings to me, embarrassed and shy. Perhaps one should play his albums with the sound off and just look at the cover and make the music in your head reciting his words from inside the cover to your own rhythmic heart rhymes ... It could be that Nick Drake does not exist at all."[15] Stephen Holden, in a more enthusiastic review for Rolling Stone magazine, said "the beauty of Drake's voice is its own justification. May it become familiar to us all."[2]

By the time of the album's reissues on compact disc in the 1990s and 2000s, Drake's fame and critical standing had improved considerably, and legacy reviews of the album were overwhelmingly favourable. Q's review of the 1990 reissue noted that "the mood is even more remote [than Drake's first two albums] with—finally—a defeated strain in both throat and words, but several of his most elegant melodies".[16] The review of the 2000 reissue in the same magazine was more positive still, claiming that "many hold up Pink Moon as Nick Drake's best album" and saying, "The motivation of success had evaporated and Drake made a record so singular and uncompromising that, superficially, it beggars belief ... The truth is that Pink Moon's excellence shines through, irrespective of the endless speculation [regarding Drake's frame of mind during the making of the record and subsequent death]. Few records have ever sounded so intimate, or embodied the eternal human ailment known as Melancholy with such grace and assurance."[17] Mojo claimed that "Pink Moon is his masterpiece and the Robert Johnson comparisons are fully deserved".[18] Reviewing the 2003 North American reissue, Rolling Stone said, "The album unleashes a dramatic starkness and some breathtakingly pretty music".[21]


In the 2000s, Pink Moon was critically lauded, making it to the Melody Maker "All Time Top 100 Albums" as number 48.[23] In 2003, the album was ranked number 320 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[24] In 2012, that ranking was revised to number 321.[25]

American singer Meshell Ndegeocello recorded a cover of the title track "Pink Moon" for the album Time of No Reply by Misja Fitzgerald. The American indie band, Sebadoh, has also covered "Pink Moon", which appears on their album Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock. Lucinda Williams covered "Which Will" on her 1992 album Sweet Old World.

1999 Volkswagen Cabriolet advertisement[edit]

Promotional CD given to buyers of a VW in 2001.

On 11 November 1999 Volkswagen announced that it was debuting, for the first time, a television advertisement on the internet. The campaign, named "Milky Way", featured the Volkswagen Cabriolet with the title track of Pink Moon as the soundtrack. Ron Lawner, Chief Creative Officer of Arnold Communications stated in the press release, "The song is very special. It's an old song by a guy named Nick Drake. It's called 'Pink Moon' and is actually a very good introduction to Nick Drake if you're not familiar with him. It's very transporting. And to us seemed very fitting for a beautiful drive in the country on a very special night."[26] The Volkswagen Cabriolet commercial, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and filmed by Lance Acord, led to a large increase in record sales,[27] and a number-five placing for Pink Moon in's sales chart.[28] The VW and "Pink Moon" pairing marked a new step in advertising. Bethany Klein, a professor in the Department of Media and Communication at the University of Central England states, "The role of 'Pink Moon' in the success of "Milky Way" was interesting, in that it both added to the artistry of the commercial and was also protected by the visual artistry of the spot: because the ad 'worked' (it was an aesthetic success) the usual negative discourse surrounding the use of popular music in advertising was, if not stopped, at least reduced and accompanied by positive appraisals ... The linking together of the ad being a 'watershed' and being 'nicely done' is no coincidence; it is because the ad is so well executed and so aesthetically successful that the industry and the public reassessed the use of music in advertising around this example."[29] In 2001, Volkswagen honored the music and advertising pairings they had made over the years by giving all new Volkswagen Cabrio buyers a compilation CD which featured "Pink Moon" as the first track.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Nick Drake.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Pink Moon" 2:06
2. "Place to Be" 2:43
3. "Road" 2:02
4. "Which Will" 2:58
5. "Horn" 1:23
6. "Things Behind the Sun" 3:57
Side two
No. Title Length
7. "Know" 2:26
8. "Parasite" 3:36
9. "Free Ride" 3:06
10. "Harvest Breed" 1:37
11. "From the Morning" 2:30
Total length: 28:22


All personnel credits adapted from the album's liner notes.[30]

Design personnel

Release history[edit]

Region Year Label Format Catalog Notes
United Kingdom 25 February 1972 Island LP ILPS 9184 Re-pressed 1976, 1978 and 1989 with different Island Records logos
United States 1972 SMAS 9318
United Kingdom & Europe April 1990 CD IMCD 94/842 923-2 Original CD release as part of the Island Masters series
United States 22 June 1992 Hannibal Records HNCD 4436
United Kingdom & Europe 26 June 2000 Island remastered CD IMCD 94/842 923-2 CD reissue as part of the Island Masters series, now labelled "Island Re-Masters", with additional slip cover and original label reprint on the CD
United States 6 May 2003 422 842 923-2
Canada 4228429232
United Kingdom & Europe 18 May 2009 180 gram LP 1745697 re-pressed 18 November 2013
Worldwide 12 November 2012 Remastered LP box set 0602537134335


  1. ^ Drake, Gabrielle, Nick Drake: Remembered For A While, Little, Brown and Company, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Humphries, Patrick (1998). Nick Drake: The Biography. London, England: Bloomsbury. p. 174. ISBN 978-0-7475-3503-4. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Dann, Trevor (2006). Darker Than the Deepest Sea: The Search for Nick Drake. London, England: Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-81520-1. 
  4. ^ a b Petrusich, Amanda (2007). Pink Moon. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 978-0-8264-2790-8. 
  5. ^ "BBC Radio 2 – Lost Boy: In Search of Nick Drake : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive". 22 May 2004. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  6. ^ Boyd, Joe (2006). White Bicycles – Making Music in the 1960s. London, England: Serpent's Tail. ISBN 978-1-84765-216-4. 
  7. ^ Gilbert, Jerry (13 March 1971). "Something else for Nick?". Sounds. London, England: United Newspapers. 
  8. ^ Brown, Mick (12 July 1997). "The sad ballad of Nick Drake". The Daily Telegraph. London, England: Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  9. ^ MacDonald, Ian (January 2000). "Exiled from Heaven". Mojo. London, England: EMAP (74): 32–47. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  10. ^ Silva, Jared (16 February 2011). "Second Look: Nick Drake – Pink Moon". Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Creed, Jason (24 June 1996). "Interview with David Sandison". Pynk Moon fanzine (6).  Reproduced in Humphries (1998).
  12. ^ "Pink Moon Master Tape Box". 24 October 2011. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  13. ^ "40 Years Ago This Week: Nick Drake's Pink Moon Released". 27 February 2012. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 
  14. ^ Raggett, Ned. "Pink Moon - Nick Drake : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards : AllMusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Plummer, Mark (1 May 1972). "Review: Nick Drake – Pink Moon". Melody Maker. London, England: IPC Media. 
  16. ^ a b Aston, Martin (August 1990). "Review: Nick Drake – Pink Moon". Q. EMAP (47): 111. 
  17. ^ a b Harris, John (August 2000). "Review: Nick Drake – Pink Moon". Q. EMAP (167): 112–13. 
  18. ^ a b Chapman, Rob (July 2000). "Review: Nick Drake – Pink Moon". Mojo. EMAP (80): 99. 
  19. ^ Greene, Jayson (22 January 2014). "Nick Drake: Tuck Box : Album Reviews : Pitchfork". Pitchfork. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  20. ^ DeCurtis, Anthony (17 February 2000). "Review: Nick Drake – Pink Moon". Rolling Stone. New York City, USA: Wenner Media LLC. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  21. ^ a b Hunter, James (15 May 2003). "Review: Nick Drake – Pink Moon". Rolling Stone. New York City, USA: Wenner Media LLC (922): 136. 
  22. ^ a b Gilbert, Jerry (25 March 1972). "Review: Nick Drake – Pink Moon". Sounds. London, England: United Newspapers. 
  23. ^ All Time Top 100 Albums. Melody Maker. London, England: IPC Media. 5 January 2000. 
  24. ^ "Nick Drake, 'Pink Moon'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  25. ^ Wenner, Jann S. (ed.) (2012). The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. New York City, USA: Wenner Media. ISBN 978-7-09-893419-6. 
  26. ^ "'Milky Way' is the First Volkswagen Ad to Launch on Web Sneak Preview on the Internet Prior to National Broadcast". Volkswagen of America. 11 November 1999. Retrieved 13 November 2013. 
  27. ^ Drake, Nick (16 July 2006). "Nick Drake: You're Nicked". The Independent. London, England: Independent Print Limited. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  28. ^ "Rock Star Back from the Dead". The Birmingham Post (UK). 7 April 2000.
  29. ^ Klein, Bethany (2010). As Heard on TV: Popular Music in Advertising. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Publishing. p. 46. ISBN 978-1-4094-0764-5. 
  30. ^ Pink Moon (LP). Nick Drake. Island Records. 1972. ILPS 9184. 

External links[edit]