Traditional, compared to 'River Man' and 'Three Hours', maybe, but completely overpowering. My friend pedrolio
put it on the best mix tape
he has ever made for me, and when I heard it, on a Saturday
in my bedroom in Rome
, with scorching sunlight flooding through the curtains, it stopped me in my tracks. I had to sit down and drink it in.
The opening piano passage imbues you with calm, and inclines you to contemplation - what better way to spend a lazy Saturday? Everything else in the world stops, you are completely absorbed by it. I cannot really describe the way he first sings 'Saturday Sun', but I shall try. In the first two syllables, you get his delicate, could-have-been-a-choirboy voice. When he sings 'daaayyy', you slip into a dreamlike state. You pause, and sit down, considering every gesture. His voice, singing ‘Saturday Sun' floats back and forth through your head like cigarette smoke. It 'came early one morning', tying it to a specific occasion in Drake's life, that we are unfamiliar with. However, it is a universal experience: waking up to a pacifying whiteness, that consumes your neuroses. 'In a sky so clear and blue'; a pretty simple image. Nick Drake is not a great lyricist. He doesn’t create poetry of the outlandish nature that marks the work of, say, Bob Dylan or Paul Simon. But, unlike inferior artists, he doesn’t attempt to compensate for this by flooding his songs with polysyllabic incontinence. Rather, by virtue of his shy, tender voice and the understated subtlety of his music, he elicits a latent beauty from apparently commonplace observations, such as this. It has a lot to do with his phrasing, that is, the way he enunciates the words when singing. It sounds like a stream of thought from someone engaged in nostalgia; in the phrase 'in a sky so clear and blue', he sustains 'sky' as if waiting for the next observation to come, the adds 'so clear' with great assurance, as the memory becomes clearer. He concludes the phrase by enunciating 'and blue' philosophically, like an afterthought. The effect is dreamlike.
The line 'Saturday Sun won’t come and see me today' appears to emphasise that the singer is indulging in recollections, and adds a melancholy nuance. From the sustained 'won’t', the notes descend, to land on the sombre 'today', the aural equivalent of slumping dejectedly into an armchair. 'Think about stories' (pause) 'with reason and rhyme'…is that slightly hackneyed, an over-used saying, an –ism? Within a couple of seconds I forgot this post-adolescent cynicism. For it is followed by 'circling through….your brain'. I don’t know how – if I did, I would speak like he sings – but somehow his voice enacts these thoughts 'circling through your brain'. God, every time I hear him sing those two banal words, 'your brain', I feel the most intense pleasure. When I was first listening to this song, in the summer of 2002 in Rome, I had a lot of thoughts circling through my brain, which was making my temper fluctuate and my mind scattered. These few words soothed me, because they allowed me to detach myself from my scatterbrained thoughts and just digest another day in the eternal city. Yes, to me the power of this song is almost magical.
Drake is singing when 'Saturday’s sun has turned to Sunday’s rain'. I originally misheard this lyric (aren’t mishearings , malentendues, marvellous? I really ought to do a node about them) as 'Sunday’s rays', assuming that he was implying that Sunday’s rays are somehow inferior, less pleasurable. The wistfulness burns stronger as he sings that he 'wept for a day gone by', becoming almost painful until the last vibraphone note has faded. Did I mention the vibraphone? It is perfectly suited to this melancholic reminiscence, for enacting musically the fleeting, vaguely pleasant nature of these memories. Having heard it for the first time, I rewound the tape and played it repeatedly as the light grew dim, these misty notes mingling curiously with the phallic growling of the scooters and the irritable car horns improvising on the street five floors below me.