In what has to be one of pop music's cruelest ironies, cult folk hero Nick Drake, who overdosed on antidepressants twenty-six years ago after releasing three commercially disappointing albums, is on the verge of scoring his first ever chart hit thanks to a Volkswagen commercial.
The television spot for the new Cabrio convertible, which features four attractive star-gazing youths driving to Drake's 1972 song "Pink Moon," has been in rotation since last December. Afterwards, sales of his final studio album of the same name took a dramatic turn upwards.
Now there are plans to release the track as a proper radio single, repackage and reissue the parent album, and maybe even make a video to coincide with the song's wildfire appeal.
According to Peter Wright, the director of Ryko's catalog and producer of the re-release of Pink Moon, the label is cautiously optimistic about the odds of a full-scale Drake renaissance. "The whole process has been so organic, we're just trying to build with it," he says. "We don't really want to hype this. We just want to connect the image with the song in the consumers' mind."
Meanwhile, Joe Boyd, the man who discovered and guided Drake, says he is thrilled about the renewed interest in his old friend. "I love things reaching out of the past and slightly diluting our headlong rush into the future," Boyd says. "In a way, maybe the fact that Nick wasn't popular at the time made him not of the time."
Drake's bohemian influence can be heard in everyone from Elliott Smith and Beth Orton to R.E.M and the Cure.
Interestingly enough, executives at Arnold Advertising, who developed the concept for the VW ad, titled the spot "Milky Way," because they had originally intended to use the Church's "Under the Milky Way" for the soundtrack. It wasn't until someone in the office brought "Pink Moon" into the office from his personal collection at the last minute that they changed their minds.
"Nick always wanted to reach a large number of people, and in the end he was depressed he didn't," Boyd says. "It's very sad that Nick's not around to experience and benefit from this, but it's a nice thing to happen."