One of my favorite and very first posts was the first time I wrote about Jeff Buckley, told the story of “our relationship” if you will, and posted up songs inspired by his life, his art, and his untimely death.
Since so many of you have been asking, I’ve revisited that post and re-upped all the links to the Jeff tribute songs. I’ve added a bunch of tracks to the original post from 2005, and this one had a special story to go along with it . . .
This is a song I wrote when Jeff Buckley died…I hadn’t known Jeff extremely well, but we kept bumping into each other here and there. One night we met for a drink at a pub in NYC, and started writing messages to each other on a paper placemat that was there, instead of talking, because the music in the bar was really loud or something. An interesting effect of that was that we found ourselves writing things that we would never would dare to say to each other out loud. I remember thinking that he seemed to be sort of lost and sad although he outwardly was very funny and lively and confident, and wrote something about that, among another things.
I didn’t talk to him for a long time after that — I went to England to live for a while and we talked once or twice and then nothing for over a year.
Then one night I got a voice mail message from him that said, “I just realized what you were trying to tell me that night”. I tried to call him back but the number I had for him was old, and then I got his new number but I was out of town again and it was difficult to call, and then I heard that he was missing, and presumed dead. . .
I love the idea of that sort of connection — of two people sitting in a loud bar, scribbling their most honest thoughts on a placemat instead of talking. A secret code and no one around you knows. Something about the medium makes it easier to be honest and say what you are truly thinking.
This song is just a wisp, under 2 minutes, heartfelt and regretful.
Tim Buckley performances DVD revealed A DVD featuring a collection of performances of Tim Buckley is set to be released in May. Featuring rare live performances from various television shows and interview footage spanning his career from 1967 to 1974, ‘My Fleeting House‘ also includes 11 songs and interviews with Lee Underwood, who was Buckley’s guitarist, and Larry Beckett, who co-wrote many of his songs.
Over the course of his career, Buckley (father of the late Jeff Buckley) incorporated jazz, psychedelia, funk, soul, and avant-garde rock into his sound. He died in 1975, aged 28, from a mixture of heroin and alcohol. ‘My Fleeting House’ will be released on May 15.
TRACKLISTING ‘No Man Can Find the War’ (from ‘Inside Pop’) ‘Happy Time’ (from ‘Late Night Line-Up’) ‘Morning Glory’ (from ‘Late Night Line-Up’) ‘Dolphins’ (from ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’) ‘Song to the Siren’ (from ‘The Monkees Show’) ‘Who Do You Love’ (from ‘Greenwich Village’) ‘Happy Time’ (from Dutch TV) ‘Sing a Song for You’ (from Dutch TV) ‘Sally Go Round the Roses’ (from ‘Music Video Live’) ‘Blue Melody’ (from ‘Boboquivari’) ‘Venice Beach (Music Boats by the Bay)’ (from ‘Boboquivari’) ‘I Woke Up’ (from ‘The Show’) ‘Come Here Woman’ (from ‘The Show’) ‘Pleasant Street’ (from ‘the Christian Licorice Store’) ____________________________________________________
A few weeks ago I posted a fantastic recording of Jeff Buckley singing Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” over the phone for WMFU radio, with the help of some friends. One of those friends of Jeff’s was Michelle Kinney, who sang and played the accordion in the studio that day. Through a series of events, we’ve been corresponding by email – and she’s let me know of a great new project she’s working to develop, using a cleaned-up version of that arresting and blissful recording.
Jeff’s song will join 30 other artists on this album to help raise funds to build homes for musicians displaced by the hurricanes in 2005. The idea of a Musicians’ Village was conceived by Harry Connick Jr. & Branford Marsalis, and will house musicians and families whose lives were devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. With the support of others, including a $1.5 million challenge grant by musician Dave Matthews, Habitat for Humanity has already begun rebuilding a neighborhood of music players and music lovers.
Among the contributors: Dan Wilson (of Semisonic), Natalie Merchant, Indigo Girls, Marshall Crenshaw, Gary Louris & The Jayhawks, and more. Sugarfoot Music’s benefit CD includes a 36-page booklet featuring a photo and a thought on New Orleans from each artist; I love liner notes that possess thought and depth — it’s like getting a great book along with the CD and adds so much to the experience.
In thinking back to the day that the song with Jeff was recorded, Michelle remembers; “We were all goofing around in a very low-key kind of way, and Jeff was so far from being a star. Aside from the pure joy of playing with Jeff over the phone, no one knew that this would become a special thing. On the CD, we edited out most of the other remarks — the preference of the show’s producer, Nick Hill. It’s mostly just the song, with Jeff’s comments at the end.” When Jeff lets out an ebullient laugh and thanks everyone as the song ends, what sticks with me (and always makes me break into a huge smile) is the refreshed elation in his voice, the untarnished joy of being involved in such a beautiful singalong.
It will be great to have this version in my collection, and to support a worthy cause. You can order the CD on the Sugarfoot Music website. In the short time I’ve had that amazing song in my collection, it’s become my absolute favorite cover that Jeff ever recorded, and is a fitting and affirming addition to the theme of this album.
And as Michelle says, “I know that Jeff would have been down there hammering nails himself.”
An author has contacted me to contribute to a book he is writing which indirectly is related to Jeff Buckley, and I am working on giving some initial answers to questions for him about my “relationship” with Jeff Buckley and his music, my perspectives and feelings.
I love talking about that kind of stuff, as you know, but it’s also kind of a hard exercise. I stopped and just kind of sat there when I came to question #5:
Did you ever see him play live, or meet him/speak to him? If not, do you wish you had?
(The answer is no, but more than anything I’d love to answer the first part of that question in the affirmative). I’ve been listening to Jeff Buckley a lot today, and am especially excited about this amazing version of Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” that Buckley performed over the phone for some guys from WMFU Radio some years ago.
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.
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 . . .
I have this amazing secret reference person, known only to me by email, a San Franciscan named Lisa who is a veritable treasure trove of Jeff Buckley information. She found me after my first Jeff Buckley post, and she has been a superstar ever since.
So, this becomes a story of when Lisa met Matthew (sort of).
I forwarded Lisa the link to see what she knew. Of course, she replied in full glory. She writes:
To the absolute joy and amazement of many, some of these songs surfaced late this past winter. No one really knows their origin. The file that contained the tracks was entitled “Rarities From NYC.”
With the exception of “Forget Her” (which was most likely recorded during the Grace sessions), it’s believed that most of the tracks were recorded in New York City in early to mid â€˜96. I remember reading that Jeff had a bunch of cassettes that contained some of the music from his time with the boys in Sag Harbor, in late 95. But these were pretty much just shit they were purging from themselves after Grace.
Then there are the rehearsals and preliminary versions of songs for My Sweetheart the Drunk, recorded at Sorcerer in NYC in the summer of 96 with Tom Verlaine, pre-Parker Kindred (last drummer). Then there are some studio recordings with Verlaine after Parker joined on as well. It’s hard to pin them down because they aren’t mentioned in anything that’s been written about. One can only speculate.
We don’t know who is jamming with Jeff on “When The Levee Breaks” (which is a total joy to hear, considering Jeff’s love of Zeppelin), or on “We Could Be So Happy Baby” (which is fantastic to be able to hear an arrangement with a full band). I’m guessing this was recorded before his 4-track version from his solo sessions in Memphis that actually ends up on My Sweetheart the Drunk. It’s just lovely to hear him pulling the guys through some of these songs like when he sings out the chords: “Gimmie A,A,A,A,A…” in “When My Love Comes Down.”
I’m sure there’s a lot of music that Sony and the Estate are unaware of. Anyone who worked with Jeff during his recording lifetime is bound to have unreleased material. And you know how it is . . . music has a way of drifting around through fellow musicians, lovers, friends and acquaintances. It’s well known that Jeff made tapes for his bandmates and lovers. I met a guy here in SF that was friends with drummer Eric Eidel, who played and recorded with Jeff (between Matt’s exit and Parker’s entrance). He claimed to have those sessions on tape, which I believe are some of the Verlaine sessions.
There are a bunch of songs that are known of but haven’t surfaced yet. Some of them have twisted titles, such as “Dendrils of Death,” “Men on Drugs,” “Open Up and Bleed,” and “I Love Liquor.” Then there’s the infamous “Sky Blue Skin,” which (guitarist) Michael Tighe refers to as an important piece of music. And the hits keep coming — ha!
Anyway, hope that sheds a shred of light . . . Keep those Buckley posts coming. It’s wonderful that people are still excited to hear his work. You have to love the way the music inevitably finds its way into the hands of those who really desire to hear it. The best part is, no one can capitalize on it. It’s just all about the love of his music.
And yes, she writes that eloquently all the time. Flippin’ sweet.
When The Levee Breaks – Jeff Buckley (Kansas Joe McCoy & Memphis Minnie cover, made popular by Led Zeppelin)
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.”
Jeff 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 had never actually heard Tim Buckley sing before I found this video, only read about him and seen his pictures. After seeing David Gray perform this amazing song a few weeks ago, I became driven to learn more about it and I found this video to be phenomenal. Probably what I found most interesting is how much Tim and Jeff obviously resemble each other physically, but that they sound so completely different in terms of voice. Where Jeff is dramatic and gorgeous and soaring, Tim is very straightforward Irish-folksy sounding to me. Here is the story behind it, from David Browne’s marvelous book I am reading, Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff & Tim Buckley:
“One fall morning over breakfast, [poet friend Larry] Beckett came over [to Tim Buckley's apartment] with his latest well-honed, slaved-over lyric . . . Guitar in-hand at the dining table, Tim looked at Beckett’s lyrics and pushed them away ‘like unwanted mail,’ Beckett remembers. After eating, Tim took his guitar, pulled Beckett’s poem back over, and out of nowhere began playing a melody that complemented the words.
The song, which owed a debt to Homer’s The Odyssey as well, was ‘Song To The Siren,’ a forlorn ode to unattainable love that used the call of a mythic siren as a chilling metaphor. Both its music and lyric captured the fatalistic Irish part of Tim’s soul.
Long afloat on shipless oceans, I did all my best to smile ‘Til your singing eyes and fingers Drew me loving to your isle And you sang, ‘Sail to me, sail to me Let me enfold you Here I am, here I am Waiting to hold you.
In late November, not long after it was written, Tim premiered the song at a taping of the final episode of the Monkee’s television series . . . Tim had befriended wool-hatted Monkee Michael Nesmith at the Troubadour’s hoot nights. ‘This is Tim Buckley,’ announced Monkee Micky Dolenz. With Beckett standing offstage, holding the lyrics in case his friend forgot them, Tim walked onto the set – an old car with a smashed windshield – and slumped atop the hood. Accompanied only by his crystalline twelve-string, he caressed the melody, his large brown afro slowly bobbing back and forth as he sang.”
Lovely reader Lisa, who is like my little Jeff Buckley drug-dealer appearing randomly with small packages of goodness to slip to me, sent me along the version he did of Strange Fruit that many of you were asking about after my recent post.
Lisa says, “I believe it was Billie that inspired Jeff’s mournful, cutting, anguished version. This, in 1994, from a young ‘white boy’ from Southern California. He certainly could inhabit a song, couldn’t he?”
[expired] Strange Fruit – Jeff Buckley KCRW Man on the Moon, Jan 1994
Also, please anticipate that I will be entering into an even larger Jeff Buckley jag than usual, as I just bought the superb Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff & Tim Buckley (by David Browne, no relation) today. I just finished the introduction and already got a bit emotional in the bookstore. So this could be messy, but beautiful. Such is life.
That is one of my favorite songs that Jeff ever recorded (a raw and unfinished version appears on Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk), and is my favorite rendition of this song out of all the other artists who have also put their unique stamp on it. I love the way the bluesy guitar practically weeps, and how his voice soars and reverberates. The beauty in this song just kills me.
In the liner notes for My Sweetheart The Drunk, Bill Flanagan writes: “Jeff’s mother decided the end the album as Jeff’s memorial service ended, with a tape of him singing ‘Satisfied Mind.’ It’s a good reminder that music for Jeff was, more than anything else, a source of joy. These recordings capture him in all his talent and contradictions, full of life. Though the sadness of his death will never fade, his joy will still come through.”
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
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