Music Boats by the Bay

I have just been listening to Song to a Siren – feeling that familiar thrill at the beauty and yearning; I discovered Tim Buckley in my late teens and I am still moved as much by him now as I was then. Why we love a voice is often hard to say but Buckley’s emotional intensity, his love of playing with tone and texture, his vocal resonance, richness and impressive range, has kept me a fan for over twenty years. What also appeals is his willingness to experiment with different styles; his early albums are folk inspired but, unperturbed by the expectations of his fan base or crude commercial demands, he seems to musically follow where his heart leads, displaying an eclectic range of influences, moving through folk/jazz to traditional R & B; the albums Lorca and Starsailor are seriously avant-garde in places. Later albums initially appear more mainstream but even here there are some pretty ‘out there’ vocal moments: the track Sweet Surrender from Greetings from L.A is an extraordinary performance, his voice seemingly winged and fearless.

When someone dies at such a young age (Buckley was only 27) there comes a point when you have listened to everything the artist has recorded. Recently, I was delighted to find a rare clip of an unheard song on the DVD Tim Buckley –My Fleeting House. This song is called Venice Beach – Music Boats by the Bay and is performed live in a studio. He sings it beautifully– it’s a gorgeous song, written apparently at the same point as the Album Starsailor but sadly not making it on the final listing. It was eerie listening to it for the first time – I know everything he has done inside out and backwards; listening to the warmth and immediacy of that wonderful voice singing a melody unknown to my ears, felt like hearing a voice from beyond the grave. It is hard not to grieve the loss of all the melodies that could have been. Tim Buckley so often expresses such deep longing in his voice; it can be a cathartic experience for the listener because it enables a connection to those profound emotions within. This is the power of music and the human singing voice in particular; it can access this ‘truthful’ place with such directness, often leaving us utterly open and reeling. When a voice finds its way inside us – really inside – it has the power to transform and heal.


  1. Geoffrey Heys said,

    September 13, 2009 at 12:09 am

    Yeah, wonderfully put, Maria. Tim was/is the best. I love Jeff, Fred Neil, Pharoah Sanders, Cathy Berberian, Leon Thomas, Annette Peacock, even that Swiss group Comebuckley – and The Beatles, Jimi, Messiaen, Stones, Love, Sibelius, Miles, Ella, Monteverdi, Tom Waits, – there’s far too many to list, but I ain’t ever heard anyone who can hold a candle to him for his voice, artistic fearlessness and heartfelt intelligent passionate soulful music.
    My true love Stephanie and I met him in 1974. We had him all to ourselves for a good half hour – John Peel, Joan Collins, Nick Kent et al were more interested in the free food and drink – he was so polite, answering all our inane questions, like ‘What guitar strings did you use on Happy Sad?’ – ‘LaBella’ – and ‘When are you gonna make another album like Starsailor?’ – ‘They won’t let me’. When Joe Stevens wrote about him in the NME he was amazed to see Tim signing an autograph – but NME did print Steph’s quip about Nick Kent looking like a budgie on stilts – he really did! It was horrible when Tim died – we simply couldn’t believe it. I mean Nick Drake’s early demise was not unexpected but such a strong life force as Tim’s….what can one say? Like Jeff he was reckless, but that was an essential part of both of them. Anyway, I still have the wonderful memory of meeting a Musical Genius – and his autograph and some great photographs and of course the Music! Yeah, Tim’s Music will no doubt continue to grow in stature, ain’t no doubt about it – Genius will always out! I still can’t believe though that he didn’t put Music Boats By The Bay on Starsailor – as Ian Penman wrote in one of the best articles I have ever seen on Tim ‘The only bad thing about Starsailor is that there is so little of it’. But what little there is….twenty two albums so far!….will continue to shine on as long as we have Music. Many Thanks, Maria and All The Best to you and yours.

  2. luckyloom1 said,

    September 13, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks so much Geoffrey for your comment! It’s always such a treat to come across another Buckley fan. How wonderful that you met him! Would that have been around the time of him playing Knebworth? I remember hearing a bootleg of him singing ‘Sweet Surrender’ live at Knebworth -spine tingling stuff.

    You can really hear that he loved Fred Neil’s voice, those rich low notes and melodic influences. I think it might have been Lee Underwood saying that Tim’s musical strength was that he was incredibly eclectic in his tastes, finding inspiration in so many different artistic styles. I think this is what makes him so interesting. You get the feeling he really loves music and wants to explore and experiment, but no matter what he seems to do, he never looses the emotional connection; it never just feels like someone being ‘clever, clever’. There is always real heart in what he does, even the more abstract stuff is very moving (I am a big fan of the album ‘Lorca’ too).

    I am really pleased that there has been a renewed interest in him. He never really achieved the sustained recognition he deserved but he was an artist that stayed true to his own vision and becasue of this his music still feels incredibly authentic and true. I will never tire of that beautiful voice; it still gives me chills and bring tears to my eyes, and I am so grateful that my friend introduced me to him all those years ago (adfter a boozy night down the pub!).

    Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful memories Geoffrey. Happy listening!
    Best Wishes

  3. Geoffrey Heys said,

    September 13, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Wow, Maria, you’ve hit the nail on the head again! I’ve just been reliably informed that it was in 1973 (I’m sixty next birthday – that’s my excuse!)Steph and I (and a very good friend of ours called Pete who took some of the photographs) met Tim. It was at the Discreet Records Sefronia album launch at Rag’s in Chesterfield Street in London. I would love to email you some of the photographs – if you’d like. Also have you heard the Starsailor Concerts? They are really really something. One of them starts and finishes with Tim singing over the title track from Starsailor – wooooweeee! As for the Music in between – . timeless, stellar, earthy, uplifting – and so much more. Also, despite what the critics (yeuk – critics) write, the audiences loved it. The only time I’ve heard a negative audience, and that was only part of the audience, was at Felt Forum in 1972 when Tim opened for Frank Zappa. Tim did wind them up a bit too. Hilarious. Brilliant gig too.
    Yes, Tim always followed his heart. His singing is/was so sexy too. I would love to sing like that – I still sing along to all of his records – well I try! Also am I alone in thinking that Greetings From LA was the perfect follow up to Starsailor? Down By The Borderline seaguing into Move With Me – smoothly done Tim. Of course he died way too soon, he’d be sixty four now, and I bet he’d still be giving his all, wouldn’t he? We talked to Tom Waits when he played Ronnie Scott’s and of course I mentioned Tim. Tom said “Genius, great guy, but you will never go broke underestimating the musical taste of the great American public”. Even Pharoah Sanders knew his Music – have you heard the beginning of Pharoah’s 1966 album Tauhid? Sounds just like the beginning of Come Here Woman. Pharoah said he took it as a compliment. Oh how I would have loved to hear Pharoah and Tim play together.
    We visited California in 1974, mainly to try and see him, and we even rang Discreet Records to try and find where he was gigging – they didn’t even know who he was! Of course he played Knebworth that year – bottom of the bill – below Alex Harvey, White Van Man and The Doobies – outrageous. Pete saw him though – it was about midday – and he was blown away. We had a great time in California though – people would hear our accents and insist we stay with them.
    Oh, we love Fred Neil too – got all of his vinyl albums. Also of course all of Tim’s vinyl LPs – but most of the CDs still sound too thin, don’t they? About time ‘they’ did a decent remastering job on his Music for CD release.
    By the way, Rhino Records have found Tim’s long lost 1967 Once Upon A Time single and released it on a compilation called Where The Action Is and it’s wonderful of course. Really oooomphy! It’ll be The Starsailor Concerts next – that should raise a little dust!
    Shine on, Maria, and please let me know if you would like any of the Music. Or the photographs.
    Best Wishes,

  4. luckyloom1 said,

    September 14, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    Hi Geoffrey – thank you so much for your post. My God, I would love you to email me some photos!!!(Shame you can’t see me hysterically bouncing around the room, shrieking like a complete girl!!). That is so lovely of you to offer. I respond to all you say here. I actually hadn’t heard of the Starsailor concerts – will have to check them out – very exciting. I have to admit Pharoah Sanders is new to me – is he a sax player? Did he play with Coltrane at all? I bet Tom Waits was worth seeing – lovely to see peeple in such intimate venues too. I missed seeeing Jeff Buckley at a small local venue when ‘Grace ‘ was just starting to impact (tickets had just sold out when we got there), not ever thinking that would be our last chance. Very tragic.

    Thank you so much for your kind offer Geoffrey and for your fascinating posts too – a joy to read.

    Will drop you a line tomorrow from my email address -have to rush out now.
    Best Wishes

  5. Geoffrey Heys said,

    September 15, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Well, Maria, you’re in for a real treat. The first Starsailor Concert has both Bunk and Buzz Gardner on it, so there’s a fuller sound than in the later concerts. The second track “You Can Always Tell A City By It’s Graffiti” is so huge, encompassing Miles, Don Cherry and Pharoah but with Tim singing – heck, more than singing, and funky like a train! He expands “Lorca” – and a few minds too including mine of course. “Lead Me To Bed (Or Leave Me To Be Eaten By Cattle)” is another mind-blower. Over an hour of spine-tingling Music that still makes my heart leap and the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I only hope Jeff heard it cos he loved Starsailor and Lorca to bits. Same here with Jeff – we thought, ah, he will be here for years – he won’t make the same mistakes that Tim made. But it was the same reckless streak that made them what they were, wasn’t it? The luck of the Irish!
    Yes, you’re spot on – Pharoah plays tenor, soprano and lots of other instruments. He played a lot with John Coltrane too. I have loads of Coltrane but, sacrilege, I know, I prefer Pharoah – he speaks/sings to my heart more than JC. Try and see Pharoah if you can – he’s getting on a bit but he is still in the zone. Simply put, he plays sax like Tim sings.
    Tom Waits was/is incredible – another one to see before you die.
    We tend to go to local pub gigs these days – who wants to see a dot on the stage? Like Dylan at Earl’s Court and so on. The Counterfeit Stones put on a better show than Mick and Keith do these days! Stevie Winwood and The Fleet Foxes were the last decent ones we saw. There’s more talent down at the local.
    I hope you like the photographs – they ain’t exactly professional studies but they are in colour!
    Wonderful blog Maria, it’s great to know there are still real human beings out there!
    Keep on shining, and may Mother Nature never give up on us

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