August 8, 2006

Kiss me out of desire, babe, and not consolation

One of my favorite songs probably in the world is Jeff Buckley’s “Last Goodbye” (Grace, 1994). It’s not just the beauty of the instrumentation (although that skittering melody gets me every time), but the richness and the poetry of the lyrics as well. One of the best breakup/moving away/leaving songs ever recorded because of its reality – it’s not a total screw-you song like “You Oughta Know” or simply a mopey song like “Forever Blue” but instead it plumbs the depths of a real relationship that’s dying.

Few artists that I know of have attempted their hand at covering this masterpiece, but Natalie Merchant undertook the effort with mostly favorable, if staid, results (I really don’t think there is any way I could like any cover better than the original). I love Merchant’s gorgeously unique voice; I think my favorite exhibition of it is, for some reason, a little song off Tigerlily called “Beloved Wife,” which just wrecks me. This version is pretty faithful, instrumentally, to the original Buckley rendition.

Last Goodbye (Jeff Buckley cover) - Natalie Merchant

I think that one of the best moments of integration and explosion in a song is where Last Goodbye breaks – the notes immediately prior, the vocal soaring, then:

Did you say ‘no, this can’t happen to me,’
And did you rush to the phone to call
Was there a voice unkind in the back of your mind
Saying maybe you didn’t know him at all

As much as I love the album version, my favorite version forever and ever would have to be this alternate from the Eternal Life single. The first 25 seconds are so changed as to be almost unrecognizable. It builds more slowly. Jeff also adds a small tag that I love, right before the lyrics quoted above:

Why does she call me
When she knows what it does to me . . .

Last Goodbye (alternate version) - Jeff Buckley
From the Eternal Life single


Tagged with .


  • having trouble with the natalie link – maybe it’s just ezarchive, but the other one is fine. i love this song so much.

    c — August 8, 2006 @ 6:18 pm

  • thanks, hadn’t heard the Eternal Life version

    Lolabola — August 8, 2006 @ 10:04 pm

  • Thanks for the Eternal Life version, I’ve been getting into ‘Grace’ more in the last couple of months and so just read ‘dream brother’ on your nod and wanted to thank you, it was such bittersweet reading, I loved it, and am now devouring all thing Buckley with a bit more reverence and awe. – musicpirate

    Stephen K. — August 9, 2006 @ 9:28 am

  • Great site!

    Just wanted to say that the lines sung during the break are “Why does she call me? Because she knows what it does to me” which adds to the heartbreak of the song.

    Also, the intro to this version of Last Goodbye was sometimes used as a coda to live versions, most notably Glastonbury.

    Anonymous — August 9, 2006 @ 12:19 pm

  • This is my favourite Jeff Buckley song, and I’ve always thought it really showed his Smiths influence. The opening to this version is lovely, although the vocals are weaker than the final version. I kinda think Radiohead learnt to grow up listening to tihs song, and we wouldn’t have had the bends without it. Blessed jeff!

    Jon — August 9, 2006 @ 12:57 pm

  • Oh, how I love your Jeff Buckley posts! I always learn something new or see things from a different angle, and it’s wonderful.

    Kelli — August 9, 2006 @ 3:04 pm

  • Love Natalie but can’t get the link.

    Anonymous — August 10, 2006 @ 12:31 am

  • Hmmm…I’ve re-upped the files twice to EZArchive. I am adding an alterate YouSendIt link for each song, hopefully between the two options it will work. Please let me know if it still doesn’t work for you.

    heather — August 10, 2006 @ 8:39 am

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you! I stumbled upon your blog from googling Chris Isaak. I saw him last night here in Dayton, OH and he was FAB. Tristan Prettyman opened and she was a delight. But Natalie Merchant doing “Last Goodbye”! I think I love you a little bit. I saw her over and over and over back in the late 80s when she was still with the boys. Oh, how she spun. Who else practiced that Michael Stipe part of “A Campfire Song” just in case they got their big chance? Her “Last Goodbye” is interesting, but as you said, I don’t think the original can be improved upon. Haunting and it still makes me cry almost every time.

    Whew, that was a long first comment, but this really made my day.

    Michael — August 10, 2006 @ 3:39 pm

  • Yeah, going to what Jon said, the alternate version I think really shows his Smiths/Morrissey influence. “Why does she call me when she knows what it does to me.” ‘Suedehead,’ anyone?

    Paul — August 16, 2006 @ 11:49 am

  • glen hansard (of the frames – does a really great version of last goodbye too… he was also a friend of jeff’s back in the day…

    Anonymous — August 17, 2006 @ 5:15 am

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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

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