July 15, 2006

Jeff Buckley channels his father, St. Ann’s Church, April 26, 1991

Well, that was intense. I just finished reading Dream Brother: The Lives & Music of Jeff & Tim Buckley this afternoon and I feel a bit more in love with the music, somewhat eviscerated by the sad details of untimely deaths, and pensive over all the history that I didn’t know. I highly recommend the book to fans of Jeff or Tim Buckley, or even to just your average music lover (which, clearly, you are, because you are here on my site).

The book seems about 20% thicker now that I am finished with it because of all the corners I folded down to mark a version of a song I wanted to look up, a location I wanted to Google (!), a piece of this familial musical history that I want to learn more about. I have several ideas for posts that spring from David Browne’s eloquently written prose along with some unreleased songs that I have which are worth sharing.

I came into the book as a Jeff Buckley fan. While I understand more now about the legacy his father left, I’ve not been able to personally get into Tim’s late-’60s/early-’70s experimental musical vision, in all of its many formats and versions. So the first personal connection that I have with the book comes when Jeff begins to unfold as a musician in his early stages.

Jeff’s true “introduction” to the music world, if you will, and the single appearance that created the buzz in New York which helped fuel his meteoric rise and signing by Sony Records, happened the night of April 26, 1991 (and is pictured at the top of this post). Janine Nichols had organized an annual musical benefit evening in the halls of the gothic-revival St. Ann’s Cathedral for the past several years as part of their “Arts at St. Ann’s” series. In 1991, one of the concerts to be offered was “Greetings From Tim Buckley,” in which mostly unknown local NYC musicians would perform versions of Tim’s work.

During Nichols’ concert research, she came across the name of his son, whom Tim had more or less abandoned when Jeff was just a baby. Jeff only met his father a few times and still had ambivalent feelings about being linked with him, so when Nichols called the 24-year-old Jeff to see if he would be interested in attending, he was unsure. But after some thought and discussion, he decided to come. “I always missed not going to [his] funeral,” Jeff said as part of his reasoning.

Although Jeff had attended the Musician’s Institute in Southern California and played in several punk/rock/experimental/goth/reggae bands throughout the L.A. area, he usually felt most comfortable behind a guitar and not in front of a microphone. Many of his friends from this period didn’t even know he could sing. When Jeff arrived in New York, the concert producers were still unsure if he would actually be performing in the tribute; they had listened to the demo tape he sent ahead and found it “noisy.”

But when Jeff took the stage that April night, the crowd (which was full of those who had known and worked with his father) was, by all accounts, completely blown away by the power and beauty of this vocal talent. As Browne (the other Browne) writes:

“After an instrumental interlude, a new group of musicians took the stage. One of them was a long-haired kid wearing a black t-shirt. Danny Fields, Tim’s onetime publicist, was in the audience, keeping an eye out for the supposed son. Though Jeff had his back to the audience as he tuned his guitar, the spotlight caught his profile and one cheekbone. ‘And I said, ‘Whoa–there he is,’ Field recalls. ‘I didn’t have to wonder too hard. It could take your breath away.’

Jeff, who had billed himself as Jeff Scott Buckley, began strumming rigorously as [Gary] Lucas surrounded him with waves of soaring-seagull guitar swoops. It was ‘I Never Asked To Be Your Mountain,’ Tim’s song to [ex-wife] Mary and her son [Jeff]. The audience suddenly stopped glancing at their watches. After an hour of esoteric music, here was one of Tim’s most recognizable songs, emanating from a very recognizable face and sung in a familiar (if slightly deeper) voice.

Halfway through the performance, a light behind the stage suddenly flashed on, throwing Jeff’s silhouette against the back wall; it was, as [concert promotor Hal] Willner says, ‘like Christ had arrived.’ (‘My God,’ Jeff said to a friend on the phone after the show, ‘I stepped onstage and they backlit it and it was like the fucking Second Coming.’)

Just before he went onstage, Jeff had finished writing his own verse for the song: ‘My love is the flower that lies among the graves,’ it began, ending with a plea to ‘spread my ash along the way.’ Anyone familiar with the subject matter of the song knew this performance was more than a faithful rendition of a ’60s oldie. It was a tribute, retort, and catharsis all in one, and as soon as Jeff left the stage, the audience was literally abuzz with chatter: So that was the son.”

image.php5Jeff came back to perform two other songs in the middle portion of the set, “Sefronia – The King’s Chain” and “Phantasmagoria in Two” with Gary Lucas accompanying him. For the finale however, Jeff took the stage once more, this time alone. After a nervous intro in which he talks about hearing his father sing this very song on a record player when he was only six (and comically, how he was bored), Jeff exhales and starts in with “Once I Was,” a wistful song his father may have written about his mother, Mary, and their fated love affair. Browne writes (and you can hear this in the recording):

“Suddenly, before the last chorus, a string broke on his acoustic guitar, and Jeff sang the lines, ‘Sometimes, I wonder for a while/Do you ever remember me?’ unaccompanied. If that weren’t dramatic enough, his voice spiralled up on the last word –’me’– like a thin plume of smoke, holding on for a moment before drifting up to the ceiling. He took a quick bow, said ‘thanks,’ and trotted offstage, and the concert ended. It would not have been a more perfect finale if he had planned it.

Backstage, he cried and accepted sundry congratulations and compliments, as well as a few business cards passed to him. He couldn’t believe he’d been allowed to sing so many songs, and was overwhelmed. Danny Fields brought him a note from Linda McCartney, and Jeff told him that her photo of Tim in Central Park was his favorite of his father.

Across the country, in the living room of her Orange County apartment, [Jeff's mother] Mary Guibert watched the clock, knowing when the concert would start and finish. She says she knew Tim was in the church listening, and in her mind was a mental picture of ‘this huge vortex of light forming over the cathderal. I knew this moment in time was going to change our lives forever — his life forever.’”

Here is the set that Jeff performed that night. I find it significant for the unveiling, the coming of age, the taking the stage that occured that night, and how it would transform Jeff’s life in the years to come. It is the first blip on the public radar of a voice that would change so many lives — maybe even including mine.

I Never Asked To Be Your Mountain
Tim’s original

Sefronia – The King’s Chain

Tim’s original

Phantasmagoria in Two
Tim’s original

Once I Was
Tim’s original

BUY: Dream Brother: The Lives & Music of Jeff & Tim Buckley by David Browne

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  • Interesting idea, Kelli. I hadn’t thought of him. I was thinking about who could play him and came up empty-handed, but perhaps James Franco could pull it off. Good call.

    Now, does the movie need to be made? That’s the question. Although I suppose there is a chance it could be amazing, in the wrong hands it could also be a complete disaster.

    heather — July 17, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

  • Heather;
    Thanks for all the effort on your part that went into this post. I know you did a post of people who wrote songs about Jeff after his death. I have heard Aimee Mann did one as well. Have you?

    For your next book, I suggest the sublime “Long Way Back” by Brendan Halpin…it’s fiction but its protagonist drops music references from ‘our era’throughout the book, basically lives his life my songs. (the cover is a guy holding a guitar)…I would be reading it on the ferry going to work and the emotions of the characters would have tears coming down my face…it’s awesome.
    Just a suggestion
    Take Care

    mickeyitaliano — July 17, 2006 @ 10:32 pm

  • thanks. here is my contribution


    FoeWeel !!! ??? — July 20, 2006 @ 10:19 pm

  • i had no idea that a recording of this existed either. ohdearlord.

    emily — August 18, 2006 @ 12:16 pm

  • Thank You so much! The tears are streaming as I write this. I have heard about this tribute show, but have never found the recordings until now. To say I am blown away is an understatement. You are obviously a unique and wonderful person, and I will be sure to visit often. Thanks again!

    Dano — September 10, 2006 @ 3:14 pm

  • i surfed the web looking for info on “i never asked to be your mountain” and found your blog, quite happily. thank you for sharing this.

    Anonymous — October 5, 2006 @ 11:06 am

  • Currently reading the Dream Brother book (and been looking forward to doing so for a while now whilst reading the John Peel auto/biography), and got to the section about the Tim Buckley tribute concert, which then prompted me to play Jeff’s “I Never Asked…” (the version I have was only 3 mins long – cut short).
    A quick google later for the full length version and I’m here on your blog looking at the downloads for all 4 songs!
    Many, many thanks. I’m in heaven

    groovyf — October 8, 2006 @ 9:24 am

  • thanks a million…been wanting to hear these for years!

    aspen — November 11, 2006 @ 4:12 pm

  • Thanks so much for re-upping the links! I just watched the Jeff Buckley documentary on YouTube yesterday and one of these days I’ll have to read the book. One thing though, the Sefronia links don’t seem to be working.

    Carrie — November 12, 2006 @ 7:14 pm

  • Thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks! Not only does Jeff rock, but so do you!

    Anonymous — December 15, 2006 @ 10:09 am

  • Where the…Who the…How the?

    Anonymous — January 7, 2007 @ 1:10 am

  • This is a great book. I think of it often when I listen to either of the Buckley’s. I read it about four years ago, and I go back to it now and then. Thanks for the posting.

    John Hell — January 17, 2007 @ 4:24 pm

  • Thanks so much for these recordings! Even Gary Lucas says he doesn’t have access to them. I’m a “tweener”. Too young to hear Tim Buckley live and too old to be aware of Jeff until shortly before his death. Kudos to you for juxtaposing these two great artists and making their music understadable to those of us in between the generations.
    John Barnes

    BarnesN24th@aol.com — February 1, 2007 @ 11:13 am

  • Jeff Buckley had some magic about him at all times. You can hear it in this performance, especially in that last song. Wow.

    I saw him once, shook his hand, told him I loved his music. I cherish that split second always…

    Anonymous — February 16, 2007 @ 12:20 am

  • Thank you thank you thank you Heather…

    These recordings fill an empty hole for me in my appreciation of JB. I knew of the performance through biographies but longed to hear the actual recordings.

    They are amazing.
    Wow! … to have actually been there…


    Anonymous — March 8, 2007 @ 5:19 pm

  • Chancing upon your site is definite proof that it pays to Google. I Googled James Franco and Jeff Buckley and this led me to the JB songs I never thought I would hear—Thank you so much–your excerpt of the lyrics to Leash shows an impressive taste in music-

    This was the highlight of my aimless Internet surfing today. Again,thanks so much on behalf of thousands of Jeff Buckley fans who find such a rare collection here.

    Adriann — April 6, 2007 @ 6:55 pm

  • “Jeff Buckley channels his father, St. Ann’s Church, April 26, 1991″

    Thanks for providing these recordings. I guess the quality is all that’s available?

    d — May 27, 2007 @ 1:14 pm

  • Thankyou thankyou thankyou so so so so so so much. This is amazing. I have watery eyes now! What an amazing man. Died 10 years ago May 29th 1997, just a few days ago. How amazing to actually hear the recordings i have heard about, but never actually heard.
    Wish he was here with us today. ♥

    bronwyn — June 3, 2007 @ 3:33 am

  • you’re my hero.

    laila — June 22, 2007 @ 9:09 am

  • I just got these tracks from a friend and I even didn’t know that it was from Tim’s tribute concert

    NiNiNuK — July 12, 2007 @ 2:41 pm

  • bless you for unearthing those – gorgeous, gorgeous….
    we miss you, Jeff. be at peace.

    a. xoxoxoxoxo

    alexandra marier — August 29, 2007 @ 8:59 am

  • Although I like Jeff’s father more, you really can’t go wrong with either. Thanks for the great post.

    Dan — September 18, 2007 @ 3:11 pm

  • Thank you so much for all these songs and for the article.
    I had never read that before, and it’s really moving to read how this show has been set.
    I had not had the chance to know Jeff Buckley before his death, and I really wish I had, but he keeps on touching, bewitching, and upsetting people with his wonderful music . It’s really paradoxical, but he means so much to me, I want to say as an artist, sometimes I would like that everybody share this passion with me, and stop blathering without thinking.
    And going on your blog, I find all a group of genuine fans like you, and I’m really pleased to see that.
    Thank you again.

    Dreaming my life away counts for nothing... — May 7, 2008 @ 7:10 am

  • Hi There,

    I am headlining the London Tim Buckley Tribute Concert tomorrow May 10th at The Cockpit Theatre.
    There will be 7 artists perfroming Tim’s songs and a very famous special guest, plus specially written contributions from Lee Underwood, Larry, Beckett, David Browne and Judy Buckley.
    Please visit http://www.myspace.com/timbuckleylondontribute and
    The St Anns concert is very much an inpsiration for our concert and has the full approval of the Tim Buckley Estate. We have received encouraging messages from many of Tim’s personal friends and from people who knew Jeff. It promises to be quite a night :)
    Peace and Music to you all

    Stuart Anthony

    Troubadour — May 9, 2008 @ 5:38 am

  • I loved Once I Was.. Now when I hear Tim’s full version I sing it in my head like Jeff at Saint Ann’s – with soul and ‘hmmn’ and that ‘je ne sais quoi’ – with the richness of Tim’s recording. Such a blend makes for a PERFECT song…

    Anonymous — June 11, 2008 @ 9:37 am

  • Hii there
    i’m a big fan of jeff
    can you send me the song
    Phantasmagoria in Two?
    if you can send me also his others song he played in the show i’ll be thankfull
    this is my email
    thank you

    ilan — January 9, 2015 @ 12:34 pm

  • After gifting Jeff Buckley music and DVDs to family members for presents this year…I had to have another listen to one of my favorite musicians yet again. Thanks for pulling all of this information together! I appreciate your inspired insight into the two Buckleys. My family keeps wondering if I would recommend the movie “Greetings from Tim Buckley.” After watching it…that would be a firm “no” from me. I cringed each time the actors sang as Tim or Jeff. I may be biased, but I felt that something was missing. As you recommended a book on the subject I would like to know your take on the film. Thanks for your efforts to educate and enlighten.

    Roxanne — January 6, 2016 @ 11:01 pm

  • OMG! I was just googling to see if there was ANY recordings of this tribute concert and good God here I am! I too bought and read this book. I found out about Jeff through a Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket) fan page. I have been obsessed ever since! I have everything there is out there. I love his take on every one of these…except Phantasmagoria in Two. Only because of the weird background voices. It would have been so much better with out the extra voices. I would have loved to hear Jeff redo Tim’s “Song to the Siren”. I always thought it was spooky hearing the last line of that song knowing the tragedy of their lives. “Hear me sing, “Swim to me, swim to me, let me enfold you:
    Here I am, here I am, waiting to hold you”. Thank you for sharing this!!!

    SHAWN RYAN — October 23, 2016 @ 6:27 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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