Once Upon a Time in Tanworth-in-Arden

A lifetime ago, drummer Jeff Sullivan found himself in Tanworth-in-Arden on an unusually sun-kissed day. His band Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ were playing several shows in London, but foremost on his mind was a pilgrimage to visit the resting place of his idol, Nick Drake. And thus, Jeff, bassist Tim Nielsen and friend Nikki Sudden boarded a train to the small hamlet south of Birmingham. At the station, a friend of Nikki’s waited to ferry the revelers to their destination.

            The cemetery behind the Church of St Mary Magdalene was empty save for the ragtag group, who resembled nothing less than Beggars Banquet-era Stones. Seated at Nick’s headstone, Nikki pulled out his guitar, and in a satisfied hashish haze sought out the opening chords to Pink Moon. Meanwhile, a kindly older woman appeared, a bouquet of flowers in hand. Not intimidated in the least, she introduced herself to the group as Dee. “Are you here to visit Nick,” she asked smiling.

            Nikki could charm anyone; man, woman or child. It took no more than a few minutes before he and Dee were the best of friends. She informed the group that she was a friend of Nick’s mother Molly, who had not been feeling well and was in hospital. Dee was due to pick her up that evening. “Would you like to say hello,” Dee inquired. Jeff could hardly believe this was happening.

            After inviting the group over, everyone piled in the car and followed Dee to her charming little home not far from the Drake residence, Far Leys. The late afternoon sun shone in the garden out back, as Dee dutifully served her new friends tea and biscuits. It was a dream. Dee appeared at the back door. “I’ve Molly on the line. Who would like to say hello?”

            The telephone was positively ancient—the kind with a separate earpiece and a horn bolted to the wall in which to speak. Jeff placed the phone to his ear and proceeded to exclaim into the horn his admiration for her son’s work. A slight pause. Then a tiny, barely audible voice echoed from some distant place in time. A warm fuzz found its way up his spine as Jeff listened to her words of gratitude, the sincere sentiments of a mother who dearly missed her child. And then it was over. It was time to go.

            So here we are in 2017, knowingly treading on sacred ground. Having known Jeff since we were teenagers, it seems fitting that he would join me and Chris (Candelaria, bassist) on our version of Hanging on a Star. I hesitate to call it a cover. I could never attempt to re-create Nick Drake’s signature style. If you ask me, it can’t be done. Even so, I’ve always been strangely drawn to this song, its plaintive words pleading with an indifferent world. And therefore, I suppose it was inevitable that we finally record it in our own way.