“Life in a Northern Town”

I was never really fond of Nick Drake‘s music, even if he is part of the group of musicians whose genre I love. I have no explanation to it, but given that I am not a fan of his work, I didn’t have any urge to Google or Wiki him while his name was often mentioned along with John Martyn, The Cure and REM (the latter 2 as being influenced by him).

Cover of "The Dream Academy"
Cover of The Dream Academy

Until I learned that “Life in a Northern Town” by Dream Academy, one of those songs that bring me back to significant times in my past, was written as a tribute to him.

At first, I thought the song was about life in the early days… since Sinatra, the Salvation Army, the Beatles and JFK were mentioned… but apparently, I was soooo wrong.

The song was written by the artists (Nick Laird-Clowes and Gilbert Gabriel) with Nick Drake in mind, trying to put into words how it would’ve been if they were actually watching Drake performing to them. Since his songs were full of his personal stories/actual experiences (hence the reference to the 60s), they can listen the entire day as he sings anecdote per anecdote with only his guitar on hand. And given Drake’s reputation of being highly withdrawn from people, the song’s ending can be a perfect description on how he leaves after a gig, or how he left this world – in silence.

A Salvation Army Band played
And Children drunk lemonade
And the morning lasted all day,
All day
And through an open window came
Like Sinatra in a younger day,
Pushing the town away
Ah-

(chant)
Ah hey ma ma ma
Life in a northern town.

They sat on the stony ground
And he took out a cigarette out
And everyone else came down
To listen.
He said “In winter 1963
It felt like the world would freeze
With John F. Kennedy
And The Beatles.”

(Chant)
Ah- hey ma ma ma
Life in a northern town.
Ah hey ma ma ma
All the work shut down.

The evening had turned to rain
Watch the water roll down the drain,
As we followed him down
To the station
And though he never would wave goodbye,
You could see it written in his eyes
As the train pulled out of sight
Bye-bye

(Chant)
Ah hey ma ma ma
Life in a northern town.
Ah hey ma ma ma
Life in a northern town.

Facts bout Nick Drake that can be related to the lyrics:

Drake photographed by Keith Morris in November...
Image via Wikipedia

1. He was born in Tanworth-in-Arden, a town in the northern part of England.
2. His life was lived in solitude and isolation, with only his music as his companion.
3. John Martyn calls him “the most withdrawn person I know”,
4. During his last few days on earth, he returned to his hometown.
5. He died due to an overdose of anti-depressants, and according to his mother, there were no premonitions nor hints, because after dinner, he just went up to his room, quietly, like any ordinary night. She just found his body when she came to his room at midnight, the usual time he could be heard tinkering with an instrument which would normally last until the early hours of the morning.

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