Gary Lucas (Gods & Monsters) Article (Excerpts)
Melody Maker, UK, January 11 1992
New Faces : Gary Lucas and Jeff Buckley
Rolling Stone, April 16 1992, p 55-56
The Unmade Star
The New York Times, by David Browne, October 24 1993
A Live Thing
Puncture, by Steve Tignor, First Quarter 1994, p 9-10
The Arrival of Jeff Buckley : ...
Musician, by Bill Flanagan, February 1994, p 33-40
Jeff Buckley : Hare Apparent to...
Interview, by Ray Rogers, February 1994, p 97-101
New Musical Express, UK, by John Mulvey, March 19 1994
Pick of the Week - Def Jeff
Melody Maker, UK, by Dave Simpson, May 9 1994
Melody Maker, UK, by Mat Smith, August (?) 1994, p 31
(No Title Available)
OOR, Holland, by Bertvan der Kamp, August 1994
Gary Lucas (Gods & Monsters)
Melody Maker, UK, January 11 1992
...The next step in his precarious career, however, is "Gods and Monsters," a
collaboration with Jeff Buckley, son of the late Tim Buckley, the man who wrote
"Song to the Siren," and cut the astonishing Starsailor in the Seventies, an album
which took singer/songwriting right over the cliff's edge. Rough cuts of their stuff is
eerily compelling, Buckley's voice sounding somewhere between his Father's and that
of Morrissey in his more stricken, less irritating, days. Lucas' guitar provides a choppy
undertow that perfectly unsettles the songs.
"We met at a tribute to his Father's work at St. Anne's Church in Brooklyn, and
immediately formed a mutual admiration society," says Gary. "Plus, we both loved
But what of the potential Julian Lennon syndrome?
"Jeff hates being introduced as Tim Buckley's son but, short of changing his name, I
guess he's gonna have to live with that. People have seen him and said, 'I'm so glad
the spirit of Tim lives on on this earth.' He hates that! If he wants to, he can do a
perfect impersonation of his Father. But, what's the point? He can do a perfect Johnny
Rotten, too." Jeff Buckley was only seven when his Father died. The fruits of his
collaboration with Gary Lucas should be available later this year.
New Faces : Gary Lucas and Jeff Buckley
Rolling Stone, April 16 1992, p55-56
Gary Lucas and Jeff Buckley certainly couldn't create a more impressive avant-rock
resume. Lucas played guitar for Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band during the
group's early-Eighties period that yielded Doc at the Radar Station and Ice Cream
for Crow. Buckley is the son of legendary jazz-folk-rock singer Tim Buckley, whose
groundbreaking work was cut short by his untimely death from a drug overdose in
After working with Beefheart, Lucas kicked around, sitting in with groups like the
Mekons and the Woodentops, while playing solo guitar gigs that were equal parts free
jazz, psychedelic rock & roll and urban blues. Buckley, meanwhile, was living in Los
Angeles, where he was working on demos. When the two met at a tribute to the elder
Buckley at Brooklyn's place of art-rock worship, the Church at St. Ann's, they began
writing together. Under the moniker Gods and Monsters, Lucas and Buckley now
have a partnership (and a development deal with Imago Records) that churns out
music that runs the gamut of rock's family tree -- swirling energy that is a
schizophrenic mix of psychedelic spinning, jazz improvisation and raw blues rambling.
The final Gods and Monster lineup just might add an eighty-proof kick to the already
immediate mix. After auditioning a number of rhythm section, the two have roped in
Golden Palominos maestro and drummer Anton Fier and Pere Ubu bassist Tony
Maimone -- the same pair who put the power in Bob Mould's touring power trio.
The Unmade Star
The New York Times, October 24 1993
by David Browne
Subhead: Jeff Buckley has a compelling voice and a cult following, as did his
father. But he's not sure he wants to be famous.
STRANGE things happen when Jeff Buckley opens his mouth to sing. One moment
he's a white bluesman with a sound straight out of the Mississippi Delta; the next, a
jazz singer whose acrobatic voice swoops and glides through a haze of cigarettes and
pained memories. The last thing he sounds like is his age -- only 26.
Even odder, his singing makes otherwise jaded clubgoers and music-business
executives rave with none of their usual cynicism. They will talk of catching Mr.
Buckley at East Village hangouts like Sin-é and the FEZ, where they have heard him
sing anything from "I Loves You Porgy" to a Sufi chant, an obscure Elton John oldie
or one of Mr. Buckley's own unconventional songs. And they will talk about his new
contract with Sony Records and how Buckley is a name to watch.
The one person who doesn't care for the talk is the source of it all. "The music
business is the most childish business in the world," Mr. Buckley said one morning last
month at a downtown bistro, "Nobody knows what they're selling or why, but they
sell it if it works."
Mr. Buckley, whose hair is cut in a short, modestly spikey buzz, pauses and shoots an
intense stare out the window. "There was a woman outside who was talking to
someone, and I was trying to guess from her eyes what she sounded like," he said
softly. "You can tell everything from the eyes."
You can tell a lot from Mr. Buckley's eyes, too. He's the son of the late Tim Buckley,
who helped disassemble the barriers between folk, jazz and improvisational music
before a fatal overdose of heroin, morphine and alcohol in 1975. Not only does Jeff
Buckley have the same winding, sensual, octave-stretching voice as his father, but his
waiflike looks recall the face on the covers of Tim Buckley albums like Goodbye and
Hello, a cult classic from 1967.
Jeffrey Scott Buckley was born in 1966, the same year his father released his first
album and also parted ways with his first wife, Mary Guibert. "I never knew him," Jeff
Buckley said flatly. "I met him once, when I was 8. We went to visit him, and he was
working in his room, so I didn't even get to talk to him. And that was it."
Mr. Buckley grew up with his mother and stepfather, mostly in Southern California,
and learned about his father from old friends. "His life was hell." his son said.
Curiously, it was his father's music that made people notice Jeff Buckley. In 1991, he
flew to New York to appear at a Tim Buckley tribute concert. "Everyone was there
to celebrate the music of Tim Buckley, and here was someone who looked like him,
sounded like him and had the same vocal range," said Nicholas Hill, who was at the
concert and has since presented Mr. Buckley on his live music show on WFMU-FM.
"It was very spooky, but impressive. The buzz was pretty immediate after that.
Mr. Buckley played briefly in a rock band, Gods and Monsters, but departed in the
spring of 1992. As his main solo base, Mr. Buckley chose Sin-é (Gaelic for "that's it";
pronounced shin-AY), a coffeehouse where the occasional baby mouse scurries
across the wooden floor. The stage, such as it is, is a cleared-away area against a
"I figured if I played in the no-man's land of intimacy, I would learn to be a
performer," Mr. Buckley said. Gradually, he did; he also paid the rent on his East
Village apartment with money he'd collect from the plastic pitchers passed around at
Shane Doyle, Sin-é's owner, said : "He'll stop by to sing at 2 in the morning, and it
doesn't matter if only a handful of people are there. He's definitely unusual in that
way." Mr. Buckley often helps wash the dishes, too.
Mr. Buckley's apprenticeship didn't last long. Even though he has no manager -- just a
lawyer -- word spread through the music business about the raw talent downtown.
Soon, record executives like Clive Davis of Arista were spotted wedged behind
Sin-é's chessboard-sized tables. Late last year, Mr. Buckley was signed by Sony,
which will release an EP, Live at Sin-é in mid-November, followed by a full album
With any luck, that EP, recorded this past summer, will make listeners feel as if they're
in that 50-person space during one of Mr. Buckley's eccentric shows. Dressed in a
T-shirt and jeans, he often starts by casually telling a story about, say, attending a
heavy-metal festival, complete with all the mimicry and timing of a standup comic.
Then, accompanied by his own electric guitar, he starts singing, and suddenly the pale,
thin, wise-cracking kid is transformed into a kid possessed.
Singing an a cappella version of the traditional gospel/blues song "Be Your Husband,"
he dips and gyrates, slapping his palm against his chest for a beat. Even his guitar
playing is unpredictable, swerving from a metal riff with clear links to Led Zeppelin to
complex, jazz-influenced chord changes, sometimes during the same song.
Tim Buckley had only a cult following and bounced from label to label. Not
surprisingly, his son is apprehensive about entering the big-time music business. "I'm
convinced part of the reason I got signed is because of who I am," he said with a sigh.
"And it makes me sad."
Sony executives declined to comment, saying it was "too early" to discuss Mr.
Buckley. But Mr. Doyle said : "He gets nervous when the record company limos pull
up outside. Those are never his best gigs.
When asked which musicians have influenced his work, Mr. Buckley cites figures that
pre-date his father. Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, Louis Armstrong and Judy Garland
records taught him about phrasing, for example. And "there was a time when I wanted
to be Miles Davis," he said.
"A lot of time I feel like a don't belong here" he added, quickly turning forlorn. "Here"
meaning where? "Here," he replied, as if the question was downright silly.
One moment Mr. Buckley will gush about a Led Zeppelin bootleg or will cockily say,
"There are no precedents for what I'm doing,." Then he will turn near-suicidal : "I'm
sick of the world. I'm trying to stay alive."
Although Mr. Hill has booked Mr. Buckley on his WFMU show several times, he still
doesn't know what to make of him. "He's very enigmatic and mysterious," he said. "It
adds to his mystique."
What no one doubts, it seems, is Mr. Buckley's charisma. Just before he left, for
Woodstock, N.Y,, last month to record his first album, Mr. Buckley gave one more
show at Sin-é. It was near midnight on a Sunday night; yet, the crowd spilled out onto
the sidewalk. Afterward, a dark-haired woman approached him. "You are like a sieve
for music," she gushed. "Your soul is beautiful."
Mr. Buckley thanked her and began stuffing his guitar into its canvas case. "I'll never
stop playing places like this," he said after she left. "You know when someone puts
out an album, and then they start only playing big places? I hope I never end up like
that. I love it here."
A Live Thing
Puncture, First Quarter 1994, p9-10
by Steve Tignor
Subhead: His voice, his musical gifts, even his looks, eerily recall those of his
long-gone father, Tim Buckley, whom he hardly knew. These traits may be in
his genes, but Jeff Buckley has an agenda of his own.
STEVE TIGNOR gets the gist
Jeff Buckley couldn't be more out of place. Locked up in a sleek black puclicity room
thirty floors up in Manhattan's Sony palace, the artist with the whisper of a voice is
trying to stay earnest and low-key amid the show-biz circus. While I trot out my
theories about his music, he pulls at his already disheveled hair and picks at the
mountain of food the company lackeys have piled in front of him.
But Buckley is forthcoming, his whispers projecting a vulnerable honesty in these
surroundings. The conversation comes around to his father, the late singer-songwriter
Tim Buckley, who I assumed had been a major influence on Jeff's avant-roots style.
But he sounds suprised when I mention the similarities in their singing:
"Do I sound like him? I didn't know my father. He left. He chose another family. I
can't help it if I sound like him. My voice has been handed down through the men in
my family for generations." I haven't seen any mention of his father in his press. Does
he want the connection downplayed? "No, it exists. But he didn't mention me! As a
singer, I disagree with some of his vocal choices, but there are songs of his that I think
Jeff's debut release, a solo live EP, has four elaborate, jazz-styled vocal excursions
backed with his own guitar. Hints of the blues, mountain folk, scat, and rock guitar
come through while Buckley emotes. Two of the four songs are covers, one by Edith
Piaf and one by Van Morrison. I've also heard him do Bukka White and Bob Dylan
songs in recent performances in New York.
"I'm just trying to slip into other skins," he explains. "I'm doing songs I love, trying to
work something out for myself. When I did 'The Way Young Lovers Do,' I was
thinking of Van scatting. I just do them and try to forget them. They can be
embarassing. One reviewer hates what I did to that song. I just tried to bring myself to
Van's style and stretch it."
Speaking of slipping into other skins, Jeff Buckley sounds like he was exposed to a
musician's eclectic tastes from the beginning, even if he didn't grow up with Tim
Buckley's record collection. He doesn't seem to have been drawn to roots music by
an adolescant or bohemian craving for a foreign sound (like, say, Mick Jagger) but
because he always thought this is music.
And he heard his father's records. He sings a similar space-wrought Cali-soul,
forsaking rhythm and stretching songs to their tortured limits with his vocals. Like a
jazz player running through every approach to a phrase, Buckley sings verses from
different angles, wringing vocal possibilities from each song.
His musical lineage shows up not just in sounding like Dad but in his habit of phrasing
vocals like the originals. John Hammond Jr. (another scion of musical privilege) does
the same in his blues playing, executing technically amazing imitations of anything.
Buckley and Hammond blow away other musicians - but may raise questions for
listeners who find the insight of a cover song in its differences from, rather than its
similarities to, the original. Inauthenticity is often more exciting (Jagger again), and tells
us more about a song and an artist than technical improvement or re-creation would.
I mention Richard Thompson, a possible folk influence. "Thompson's a great player,"
Buckley agrees. "But to affect me, the music has to be more...fucked. Like Dylan
when he puts certain things together and I want to say 'you can't do that!'- but it
works. I'm trying to put together everything I've heard and read, the poetry I've
written. I've gotten to a point where I need Billie Holiday; but half of what I've always
been about is Jimmy Page."
Even for solo appearances, Buckley does accompany himself with an electric guitar,
using rock progressions. "Rock and roll has a place in my music. The electric guitar
actually has a very warm sound, and there are things you can do with it that you can't
do in an acoustic mode. The next album will have a band. I wanted to do live shows
to get my ideas together. But I can only get so far by myself. For recording, I need
ideas from other people."
When he gets rolling about his music, anyone listening to Jeff Buckley can hear his
ambition. His voice sputters with frustration - to many thoughts to put into words, too
much about his music that he hasn't worked out yet. There's no star trip; he's more
poet and craftsman than rocker. His pretensions are inner-directed, visible in a
beatnik-like romanticizing of his artistic struggles. Over the course of a thirty-minute
conversation, he is mostly serious. I wonder out loud what kind of audience he will
have. Is there a place for his songs - none of which have the rhythms or propulsion
that rock-fledged ears want to hear - outside of a small crowd of musicians? As he
has said, reviewers could prove unfriendly, could dismiss his over-the-top singing as
"No, I haven't really thought about an audience. This music isn't just for me, even if it's
just a crowd of bridge-and-tunnellers (NYC term for Jersey kids) at a show. I can
offer stories people can relate to. I'm just like anyone else, with a brain, heart, loves,
coffee stains, whatever. Anybody who is into music I hope will want to hear me."
Judging by his choosing to work small clubs in the East Village and to debut with a live
record, it seems that Buckley knows his music isn't going to be easy to market to a
pop audience. I ask him how his relations have been with Sony/Columbia, and how
the company are approaching his career. "It's not a conscious underground thing. I've
told them that this is going to be basically me doing a live thing. It wasn't planned to
start with a live record, but we had this stuff around. I'm not that happy with any of it.
I want to do wierder things with the first one."
On that note, it's time to go. As we get up, Buckley has more on his mind. "I have to
be careful at this place (Sony). They're like a father who buys his daughter everything
she wants. It takes me out of reality." We shake hands and I leave him, passing
trendy-looking staffers jumping rope in the hallway. My last glance shows Buckley
seated again in the shiny room, picking at his cold food as he waits for the publicity
rep to bring in the next interviewer. I suspect no matter what they give him, Jeff
Buckley will keep to his own path.
Note: Puncture can be reached at Box 14806, Portland, OR 97214. Back issues
were available for $3 at the time of this publication (including postage and
The Arrival of Jeff Buckley: A Talented Young Musician Learns to Navigate the Record Business While
Protecting His Music
Musician, February 1994, p97-101
by Bill Flanagan
Jeff Buckley, 26 years old and halfway through making his first album, takes a break
at Bearsville recording studio in Woodstock, New York and talks about the
dislocation that comes from having to nail your dreams to a reel of tape, and from
becoming part of the Sony Corporation, the multinational that owns Columbia
Records, Buckley's new label.
"I'm aware that it's hard," Buckley says. "I'm aware of the past; I know about
Columbia and Sony and other big places. I'm not talking about Sire or SST, I'm
talking about big fucking Michael Jackson money. I was wary at first that they didn't
know how to do anything small, but I'm really determined and I think it will work out
for the best." He stops and thinks and then adds, "I know it will. I have to take them
at their word that they understand, but you know how people are. Their actions will
say exactly what they mean. And sometimes they need a little help. I can't really totally
trust anybody in the music business. I've been brought up not to."
Jeff was brought up in southern California by a mother who loved the Beatles and had
had a brief teenage marriage to her high school boyfriend, Jeff's father, Tim Buckley.
Tim never knew the son he left behind when he headed east to make a career as a
singer/songwriter. At 21 Tim was a star. At 25 Tim had been rejected by a music
business that deemed him difficult. At 28 Tim was dead of an overdose. Jeff grew up
playing Little League, singing along with the car radio and knowing little about his
natural father. But he had inherited his father's good looks and he had inherited his
father's remarkable voice. He also had inherited strange characters like his father's old
manager, who used to check in periodically to see how the kid was progressing, if he
was showing any musical tendencies, if he was interested in getting into show biz.
When Jeff says he was brought up not to trust anyone in the music industry, he's not
Which made his situation even more confusing when Jeff's gifts led him through hard
rock and reggae bands in California, through an L.A. guitar school, and then to New
York City, where for two years he was pursued by A&R men, managers, sidemen
and other representatives of the record business he resisted and the music he loved.
Now he's settled on a label and he's living inside the result, the creation of a
much-anticipated debut album. Producer Andy Wallace plays back a string overdub
for Buckley's scrutiny. Jeff nods along in agreement until a pizzicato section tiptoes up
the song's build. He makes a face. "You don't like that at all?" the producer asks.
"It sounds like shopping music," Buckley says, and starts picking out the sequence on
his guitar. "White pumps!" Buckley also rejects a bit where the strings echo his taped
guitar line. He is being scrupulous in his attention to every aspect of this album. He has
to be. His whole life is riding on it.
Very few young musicians have arrived on the New York scene with the impact of
Jeff Buckley. His first major New York appearance was at an April 1991 Tribute to
Tim Buckley concert at St. Ann's (a Brooklyn church known for hosting hip musical
events, from the workshop premiere of Lou Reed and John Cale's "Songs for Drella"
to a solo recital by Garth Hudson). Organized by record producer and underground
catalyst Hal Willner, the concert consisted of musicians from the downtown/Knitting
Factory scene performing Tim Buckley songs. It was not the best show St. Ann's ever
saw; too many of the beatniks on stage seemed to have little connection to Buckley's
work, and were deconstructing the songs with a musical abandon that aspired to
Ornette Coleman, but ended up closer to Moe Howard.
The audience had come to hear Tim Buckley music, not to hear Buckley songs used
as launch pads for orbits around individual egos, and halfway through the congregation
was fidgeting in the pews. The stage--the church's altar--went dark while one
musician shuffled off and another shuffled on. It stayed dark while the figure in
shadows adjusted his mike and guitar and then let loose with a loud strum and Tim
Buckley's haunted voice. Jeff Buckley stole the show. In the vestry afterwards he
was almost trampled by people who know his father and wanted to weep on his
shoulder, and record-biz monkeys handing him business cards and promising to make
"They found out I sang and they asked me to come," Jeff says now of the tribute
concert. "I realized I probably wouldn't ever have another chance to pay my respects,
no matter what kind of twisted feelings I have about Tim, no matter what kind of pain
or anger I have against him--whatever I haven't come to terms with. The fact that I
never got to go to his funeral always bothered me. And I thought, I can sink down
with this or I can get off it, and then whatever sort of development I've gone through,
at least I've done that."
Asked to go back and do one more song at the end of the tribute show, Jeff
reluctantly went out and sang Tim's "Once I Was." "It was the first song my mother
ever played me by Tim," he explains. "After she left my stepfather, I guess she wanted
to get me into who my father was and she played me 'Once I Was.' So I learned it. It
was hard to learn it. I couldn't do a really full version of it at home without crying. I
almost cried onstage. I broke a string onstage at the end of that song. They were
brand new strings. I was really pissed. I felt embarrassed about the whole thing. I just
felt really open and vulnerable. There's such a ravenous cult around Tim and you
know how people are. I mean, if people learned they could recreate Jim Morrison
from his ancient bone marrow they'd fucking do it."
A little shook by his welcome to the New York music world, Jeff made the wise
choice of avoiding (a) the uptown businessmen who didn't let knowing nothing about
Jeff's own music stop them from saying they loved it, and (b) the '60s types who
mised Tim and wanted Jeff to replace the father he never knew. He instead fell in with
(c) the downtown hipsters, the progressive musicians in that Knitting Factory/Golden
Palominos/St. Ann's orbit.
Jeff eventually joined Gods & Monsters, a band centered around ex-Captain
Beefheart guitar wizard Gary Lucas, and supplemented during Jeff's tenure with
session aces Tony Maimone on bass and Anton Fier on drums. The rhythm section
was just coming off Bob Mould's house-burning "Workbook" tour. Gods & Monsters
looked like an underground supergroup.
But the band always sounded better in theory than it did in nightclubs, mostly because
it never was a real band. It was a merger of several talented individuals looking for a
big break. Gods & Monsters might have been to Gary Lucas what Led Zeppelin was
to session ace Jimmy Page: a ticket to mainstream success. But Gods & Monsters
remained a great idea for a band, rather than a great band. About a year after the Tim
Buckley tribute, on March 13, 1992, Gods & Monsters had a big showcase concert
at St. Ann's during which the sound was bad and each fine musician onstage seemed
to be listening only to himself. After that performance Jeff told Lucas he was quitting;
he would play the rest of the gigs they had booked that week and that was it.
Jeff Buckley's final show with Gods & Monsters, to a small audience at the Knitting
Factory the following weekend, was filled with tension and barely contained
recriminations. One song into the set Buckley told the soundman, "Let's hear Jeff's
guitar," and proceeded to hijack Lucas' band for the remainder of the night. As Jeff
led the group, Lucas filled in piercing guitar leads and counterpoint. Jeff let loose
howling, primal vocals that were, ironically, like the young Robert Plant while
Lucas--relieved of leading the group-- played with disciplined abandon, raising the
stakes at every hand. It was an amazing set, everything that the St. Ann's showcase
had failed to be. It took the grim relief of failure and the anger of a breakup to show
what the musical prototype for Lucas to Buckley should have been--not Page to
Plant, but James Honeyman-Scott to Chrissie Hynde.
One scene-maker leaned over duing the set and said, "If all the A&R people who'd
been at St. Ann's were here tonight, these guys would be going home with a record
deal." When the last Gods & Monsters song ended, Maimone, Fier and Lucas
walked offstage but Buckley hesitated. He then surprised everyone--including
himself--by staying onstage and continuing to sing alone. It was a bravura, egotistical
move, a violation of all band etiquette, and exactly the right thing to do to establish that
he had the guts and the ambition to build his own vision, and that he was not going to
be tied to anyone else on his way.
When he finished singing, Jeff walked off the stage and across the room to his
girlfriend Rebecca. They locked into an embrace in the middle of the club, his head
buried in her shoulder, not speaking and oblivious to the people who came up to tell
him what a great finale it had been.
"It was after that night," Jeff says of quitting Gods & Monsters, "that I knew I needed
to invoke the real essence of my voice. I didn't know what it tasted like at all. I knew I
had to get down to work and that anything else would be a distraction. In that band
there were conflicts. It was really crazy, a desperate situation. I just didn't need things
to be desperate. I needed them to be natural."
By the time he left Gods & Monsters in early '92 Jeff Buckley had some notion of
where he wanted to go, but he didn't have an idea of how to get there. He had no
band, and general good will aside, he had no real prospects. Rather than start his own
group immediately, he determined to learn to be a performer the hard way, by playing
solo around Greenwich Village. He also wanted to understand how the best
songwriters did what they did, so he began a self-imposed course of study. One night
he came into an East Village restaurant carrying a new CD of Van Morrison's Astral
Weeks. He had heard the song "Sweet Thing" on the Best of Van Morrison album
and wanted to follow that trail back to its source. Within a couple of weeks he was
adding Astral Weeks material to his solo sets, along with Edith Piaf, Mutabaruka and
Bob Dylan songs.
Looking back on that period of study now he says, "Before I left for New York for
the last time all I was obsessing about in my notebooks was that there's this...this
place I want to get to. And I was remarking to myself that there are no teachers.
There was nobody to show me. Well, actually there were, but they weren't alive or
else they weren't...I'm not going to be able to walk up to Ray Charles and be his
"I went into those cafes because I also really felt I had to go to an impossibly intimate
setting where there's no escape, where there's no hiding yourself. If you suck you
need work and if you don't then you have to work on making magic and if you make
magic then everybody has this great transformative experience. Or at least a good
"And it wasn't easy at first. I mean, when I first walked into Sin-é or the Cornelia
Street Cafe, people talked their asses off. They didn't want to hear it. And that was a
problem and it made me frustrated. Until I made the audience a part of the music.
Until I made those sounds part of the music like they were samples on a record. They
were actually an interactive part of what I was playing and was going to sing. And
then all of a sudden I just fell into a rhythm and I learned about what it means when
the audience is responsible partly for the experience. I'm determined to start from that
space again with a band. I want to get the band ready to go into these intimate places
and learn how to make big magic in little areas. Things that you just can't forget."
During the summer of '92 Buckley's one-man gigs grew in confidence and reputation.
He played all over town, but his main venue became Cafe Sin-é, a tiny Irish club on
St. Mark's Place in the East Village that presents original music nightly, and had
become the site of surprise sets by visitors such as Hothouse Flowers, Sinead
O'Connor and the Waterboys. The Sine-é gigs began as a way for Jeff to learn his
craft out of the spotlight, but the spotlight found him there.
Over the course of that summer Jeff generated a buzz that reached all the way up to
the midtown offices of the major record labels. His weekly shows at Sine-é became
an A&R magnet, and pretty soon long black limousines were squeezing down St.
Mark's Place and executives with hundred-dollar haircuts were trying to maneuver
between the bohemians without getting their suits wrinkled. Regulars got a kick out of
watching the bigshots smiling and waving at each other and then scrutinizing each
other' reactions. One ritual was absolute: A&R man A did not leave until A&R men
Pretty soon the label presidents were showing up at Sin-e, too. At a meeting set up by
Arista A&R, Buckley had the balls to tell label president Clive Davis that he would
not be interested in signing to Arista when Davis had not even seen him play. So Clive
came to Sin-é. "He said, 'What are you looking for in a record company?'" Jeff recalls
of Clive. "I said, 'Well, basically, three things. Integrity,' which was, you know, a
fantasy but I just thought I'd throw it out. A record company's integrity is to make
money, to move units. I understand that. The next thing I said was 'patience,' because
I didn't know at that time what anybody's threshold for interesting music was. Number
three: 'Hands off.'"
It was not a partnership meant to be. Jeff was taken aback when Davis brought him
into his office and showed him a video presentation about...Clive Davis. "He had an
eight-minute video all about him," Jeff recounts with amazement. "Him with Donovan,
him with Janis Joplin, him with Sly Stone, and him donating all this money to charity.
'My life in the music business!'"
By the end of the summer Jeff Buckley was a big topic of conversation whenever
record executives got together. Some felt that Jeff's lawyer (he had no manager)
wanted too much money for an unknown, unproven talent. Others said that while the
kid had a great voice and undeniable charisma, the songs weren't commercial.
(Buckley's original material tended toward moody, elastic forms, not a million miles
from Astral Weeks.)
One of the fascinating aspects of Jeff's attraction for A&R men was that precisely
because he was playing without a band and because he was doing a wide range of
cover songs, they could imagine him being whatever they wanted him to be. The
general impression was of a young Van Morrison/early REM style, but brilliant Sire
A&R man Joe McEwen heard in Buckley a soul singer, and imagined him in Memphis
recording R&B with producer Jim Dickinson.
The same lack of clear direction that frightened some labels away made Buckley
attractive to others. Talent scouts saw a very handsome kid with a fantastic
voice--and from that they projected everything from a younger Michael Stipe to a
hipper Michael Bolton.
How hard was it for Jeff to turn down offers of record contracts and money at a time
when he was living hand-to-mouth?
"Very," he answers. "It was really hard. I always knew that my natural place was to
make my life making music. The whole reason I was so wary of automatic things is
because I suspected that my lineage had everything to do with it. I didn't get the
feeling that anybody really heard me.
"Or I didn't know, I had no way of knowing. Because of my father people assumed
things about me that weren't true: that I was well taken care of, that I lived in Beverly
Hills, that I was a brat. My father chose a whole other family. I mean, it was just me
and my mom and my little brother. And my stepfather for a couple of years. I didn't
even meet my father until I was eight, and then just for one week, an Easter vacation.
Two months later he died.
"Actually my stepfather and my mother had everything to do with my musical roots.
My stepfather couldn't carry a tune, but he had a passion for great music. He bought
me my first rock 'n' roll album, Physical Graffiti, when I was about nine years old. I
was into the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and all these weird things kids would
never know about, like Booker T. and the MG's. I began listening to Edith Piaf when
I was about 16. Later I found Bad Brains and Robert Johnson and idolized them
simultaneously. There exists a common thread through all that stuff. My music has to
be a culmination of everything I've ever loved. It's how I learned my alphabet. But I
learned, probably in my Miles Davis phase, that in order to really pay tribute to things
you love you must become yourself."
Buckley signed with Columbia at the end of 1992 due in large part, he says, to his
personal connection with A&R man Steve Berkowitz, a long-haired hipster whose
shank of chin hair makes him look like an Egyptian pharaoh and whose love of blues
and R&B manifested itself in his weekend gigs as guitarist "T. Blade." Berkowitz
advised a slow build for Buckley, doing everything possible to avoid hype. They
rejected offers of interviews with fashion magazines and photos for the Gap, and
determined to take the pressure off the first album by preceding it with an EP
recorded live and solo at Cafe Sin-é.
The four-song EP was recorded in a marathon set at Sin-é last August. Andy
Wallace, who had mixed Soul Asylum, Guns N' Roses and Nirvana was brought in to
produce. The recording gear was set up in a small pub two doors down. During Jeff's
set the Sin-é regulars were joined by top brass from Columbia/Sony. Jeff, who
seemed to be in an exceptionally light-hearted mood, played just about every song in
his eclectic repertoire.
The three hour-plus set provided plenty of examples of the lessons Jeff had learned
about including the audience in his show. A couple of hours along, a bag lady
wandered in and stood staring at Jeff, who began singing to her (to the tune of the old
Hollies hit, "Long Cool Woman"), "She was a short black woman." She took offense
and started squawking at him. Jeff noted that her squawks sounded like Howlin' Wolf
and sang Wolf licks back at her in a bizarre Howlin'/hecklin' duet. When a waitress
quieted her down, someone else yelled out a request for something by Nusrat Fateh
Ali Khan. If it was a dare, they picked the wrong boy. Buckley is a big fan of the
Pakistani singer and launched into a monologue about his hero, as well as a generous
sampling of Nusrat's music. At this point a few of the Sony execs began peeling the
labels off their beer bottles and staring at their watches, but there was a good hour left
to go. During that night's version of Astral Weeks' "The Way Young Lovers Do," Jeff
surprised everyone by launching into a scat-solo. He'd never done it before, but the
tape caught it and the song made the final EP selection. (Buckley was relieved when it
proved too eccentrically played and sung to be edited down.)
Jeff played and played, the tapes next door rolled and rolled. Perhaps aware that
some of the record execs were there because they had to be, Buckley began
strumming "The End" by the Doors and reciting, "'Jeff?' 'Yes, Sony?' 'We want to
fffff-fgggg you!' 'Wo! Ugh!'" The Sony bigwigs smiled. By the end of the night
Buckley, Berkowitz and Wallace knew they had plenty of good material from which
to pull four songs. Everyone felt great, although when one bystander joked to Buckley
that he had just given Sony a couple of boxed sets worth of music to stick in their
vaults, Berkowitz stopped smiling long enough to warn the big-mouth, "Don't tell him
In the autumn Jeff headed up to Woodstock to begin work on his first album. He had
found a bassist named Mick Grondahl and a drummer named Matt Johnson, both
downtown Manhattan players who hooked in with Jeff emotionally as well as
musically. The burden of actually beginning to make a debut album after two and a
half years of circling around it was exacerbated by a series of personal misfortunes
that befell the musicians, including the sudden death of Jeff's girlfriend Rebecca's
father, to whom Jeff had grown very close (the album will bear a dedication to him).
The assumption almost every one of the music-biz kibitzers had made about Jeff
Buckley was that he was an artist who needed time to grow, that he would expand his
talent and his popularity over four or five albums (like REM) rather than explode out
of the box. Which is probably true, but not necessarily. The side of the road is littered
with the bodies of talented young musicians who got discarded when the popular
momentum turned against them, or the person who signed them moved to another
label, or they didn't perform up to corporate expectations.
But listening to the first tracks from Jeff Buckley's first album, another possibility
emerges. Wallace and Buckley finish adding eerie, almost eastern strings to Buckley's
moody lament "Mojo Pin," which Grondahl and Johnson have anchored to earth with
throbbing bass and drums. Bringing out these colors makes the song less akin to
"Astral Weeks" and more to Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." It is almost a shock to hear
that transformation while seeing Jeff, leaning against the studio glass strumming his
Rickenbacker, looking like James Dean crucified on his shot-gun in "Giant." For the
first time it seems possible that Jeff Buckley won't have to wait long to become
famous. Whether that would be a blessing or a curse is a separate discussion.
In the Bearsville studio dining room a little while later, Jeff is asked what he hopes to
get out of his Sony recording contract. "Just to make things I never heard before," he
says quietly, "that say things that I can't say otherwise. Not so much go as far as I can,
but to go as deep as I can."
Jeff Buckley plays a Gibson L1, a borrowed Fender Telecaster and a
Rickenbacker 12-string. He's using a Fender vibro-verb amp and, today,
D'Addario strings. He just bought an old steel dobro and a Bina harmonium
from Pakistan. Buckley uses Jim Dunlop slides. After experimenting with
several microphones for Jeff's vocals, producer Andy Wallace settled on a
Neumann U-87. Mick Grondahl plays a Fender Jazz bass through an Ampeg
bass amp. Matt Johnson plays Slingerland drums and Zildjian cymbals.
Jeff Buckley : Hare Apparent to...
Interview, February 1994, p97-101
by Ray Rogers
jeff buckley: Hare apparent to...the untrappable power of music. Buckley's
once-you've-heard-it-you'll-never-forget-it sound can't be pinned down to folk, soul, torch,
blues, or rock. Just like a rabbit,...it's always hopping in new directions and taking you to
Jeff Buckley may have acquired his surname from folk legend Tim Buckley, but that's it.
The twenty-seven-year-old singer-songwriter, who met his father just once, grew up with
his mom and stepdad in California and was raised on the sounds of '70s FM radio. Since
moving to New York City two years ago, Buckley has become an institution in Manhattan
nightclubs, strumming his soul out on an old guitar, playing and singing with a graceful
majesty. Leaping from folk to blues to rock 'n' roll, Buckley connects the dots with
emotional power. The singer will release his full-length album debut on Columbia Records
RAY RODGERS: You've really created a name for yourself in New York by playing live all over
JEFF BUCKLEY: Yeah, I grew up in Southern California, but this is where I blossomed.
This place turned out to be everything I knew it would be: it stinks like hell - a fucking
majestic cesspool. Art is everywhere. Electricity is everywhere. It's very extreme. I'm not
saying, "It's a great, wonderful dance," but it makes sense to me.
RR: You moved here from L.A. after being asked to perform at a memorial tribute in Brooklyn for
your father, Tim Buckley.
JB: Yes. I decided against performing at first. When my father died, I was not invited to
the funeral, and that kind of gnawed at me. I figured that if I went to this tribute, sang, and
paid my respects, I could be done with it. I didn't want my appearance to be misconstrued,
so I said: "I don't want to be billed; I just want to walk on. I don't want to get anywhere for
doing this. It's something really private to me."
RR: What did you sing?
JB: I sang Tim's song "I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain." It was about him having to
take the gypsy life over a regular one. I'm mentioned in the song, as is his girlfriend at the
time - my mom. It's a beautiful song. I both admired it and hated it, so that's what I sang.
There are all of these expectations that come with this "'60s offspring" bullshit, but I can't
tell you how little he ahd to do with my music. I met him one time when I was eight; other
than that, there was nothing. The people who raised me musically are my mother, who is a
classically trained pianist, and my stepfather.
RR: When did you realize that you wanted to sing?
JB: I just always sang. My mom and I would always listen to the radio while driving to
school. "Summer Breeze" would come on, and she would sing the second harmony, and I
would sing the third harmony. Music was like my first real toy. I was an only child for a
while, and I was alone a lot of the time - and I liked it. I still like being alone.
RR: Whenever I've seen you play here in New York at Sin-é or Fez, people sit there mesmerized.
JB: People weren't into it at first. I had to fight to be heard. Then I had to stop fighting.
Whole months would go by where people would just be talking. I even got a headache from
a performance one time.
RR: What changed?
JB: I learned how to use everything in the room as the music. A tune has to resonate with
whatever is happening around it. So if people are talking, I let them talk. That just means
the're part of the music. I even had to learn the noise the dishwasher makes at this little
cafe; I had to play in B flat, or it wouldn't sound right.
RR: You put so much feeling into your singing. One word goes on for minutes sometimes.
JB: Words are really beautiful, but they're limited. Words are very male, very structured.
But the voice is the netherworld, the darkness, where there's nothing to hang on to. The
voice comes from a part of you that just knows and expresses and is. I need to inhabit
every bit of a lyric, or else I can't bring the song to you - or else it's just words.
RR: Where do you find inspiration for your songwriting?
JB: People I know. Daydreaming. I daydream too much. I'm not the greatest songwriter,
yet; I daydream thinking abouat great songwriters. I was brought up with all these different
influences - Nina Simone, Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn, Patti Smith - people who showed me
music should be free, should be penetrating, should carry you.
RR: When you're onstage, you give a lot of yourself. What about when you're offstage?
JB: How do I seem right now? This is how I am. I know about the utter disappointment of
meeting somebody that is just "putting it on." If you work at putting it on when you go
onstage, you can be ultrafabulous, but when you're offstage, you're like a piece of custom
jewelry that has no function, like Michael Jackson.
RR: I want to talk about another Michael. I read a review that compared your recent EP, Live at
Sin-é, with Michael Bolton's new record.
JB: Oh, my God! Oh, shit, that's really disgusting!
RR: It gets worse. They said he has succeeded in taking from the tradition of African American soul
and blues singers in a way that you have miserably failed.
JB: Really? But the thing is, I'm not taking from that tradition. I don't want to be black.
Michael Bolton desperately wants to be black, black, black. He also sucks.
RR: I know that Robert Plant was a big influence on you.
JB: That's my man! The cool thing about all those Zeppelin songs is that, because of the
way Plant sings, if you put them into a different musical setting, they would sound like R &
B songs. With Led Zeppelin, everything was out of tune, and Plant sang wrong notes. But
he was the one that showed me that there really aren't any wrong notes.
RR: People talk a lot about how handsome you are. Is it wierd to have people drooling over you
for how you look?
JB: It's something I'm really wary of. On my record cover, you can barely see my face. I
still think I look really geeky. The way you look doesn't mean shit if you can't sing, or if
you're mean to people. It doesn't mean shit if you're not truthful with yourself. I have very
different ideas about beauty than the rest of the world.
RR: What is your idea of beauty?
JB: It just is. Your smile. People have a certain perfection abou them, no matter who they
are. Like when Janis Joplin sang. Gorgeous!
RR: Is it an uncomfortable compromise for you to deal with all the music industry hype?
JB: There are thousands of great artists that wouldn't be doing the same kind of work if
there were no music business machine. The ones who are popular would be doing much
different work, too. Michael Bolton would be pumping gas.
RR: Where do you see yourself in ten years?
JB: Still in New York, still trying to get closer to emotions in music. I don't see myself in an
New Musical Express, UK, March 19 1994
by John Mulvey
"I'm a loser baaay-beee!" JEFF BUCKLEY is staggering down a freezing New Jersey street,
swathed in a huge furry coat, scaring small children and turning Beck's dumb-ass anthem into a
bellowing operatic aria. He's not a loser by a long way, but he is an incredible misfit.
Buckley doesn't fit any comfortable stereotypes of what either a singer -- or a human being, come to
that -- should be. Watch him live as, accompanied only by himself on electric guitar, his voice
swoops and sobs with an extraordinary passion. It's like Mark Eitzel possessed by the spirit of Otis
Redding. His natural father, Tim Buckley, re-invented folk music on his own terms in the late 60's
and early 70's, flying off on wild jazz tangents with a nerve-damaging voice. And now Jeff is
scrambling expectations as a post-punk troubadour. When he sings, it's remarkable as anything
you'll hear all year. Honestly.
Meet Jeff Buckley offstage -- distant, lost, swinging from an idealistic hippy intensity to a parallel
universe sense of humour -- and you'll find a weird, wired loner totally out of step with the world :
"Not even behind, or ahead... just not... in sync," as he puts it in his own charismatic,
pause-punctuated way. He's a star... by accident.
Buckley grew up in southern California, shunted from school to school and town to town by his
wandering mother and stepfather, when he was six or seven, towards the end of Tim's maverick life.
"He left before I was born, and he never wrote or called or anything. I met him for a week, and he
sat me on his knee but we really didn't talk. I didn't really go to him for inspiration or instruction, but,
yeah... I've got the same parts..."
By his mid-teens, Buckley had been to over a dozen schools, including a spell in Anaheim, home of
Disneyland and a place he calls "A wellspring of hatred for me, because of its straightness and
conservatism and how debilitating that is to any artistic soul [Ahhhhh - Ed]." And at every school he
was a misfit.
"Maybe it's because I just have a different experience of people. When I see them I see... their
mothers and fathers, I see how old they are inside. It's strange, it's like seeing ghosts everywhere. I
don't go on what people say so much, I go on their voice, I go on their energy.
"And sometimes, when I talk," he says, completely deadpan, "I just don't make any sense."
What do you see when you look in the mirror"
"A little geeky kid. Er, an old man... Both. Sometimes I see... a really sexually obsessed woman."
Does that even come out?
"Oh yeah, when I sing. I just see sex in everything, it's the energy that surrounds everything. I
appreciate sex like I appreciate my skin, and my teeth, and my dreams."
Meanwhile, back in the material world... Buckley left California in his late teens, arrived in New
York's arty East Village, dumped the bands that were dragging him down and picked up a vast and
suitably eclectic selection of influences -- "The typical holy trinity of Beatles, Hendrix, and Zeppelin.
Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, Edith Piaf, Bob Dylan, the Pistols, Duke Ellington, the Velvets, Pixies,
I'm a Patti Smith freak -- f-reak!"
He also picked up a mad and ragged band of followers, thanks to his status as s freak magnet.
"My identity, my soul, welcomes... extraordinary, possible dangerous, possibly stupid experiences.
And New York is full of beautiful, strange people. Like Quentin Crisp, Allen Ginsberg, like The
Tree Man, a street guy who's a good luck charm. If you're ever in New York and you see him, tip
him and you'll have good luck for the rest of the evening. He walks around with various shubbery
strapped to his back that shoots out over his head like a crown of ferns, or huge palm fronds, or
Buckley's about to leave all this behind for a while to bring his mesmerising show to Britain for a few
low-key dates. His album -- with a band -- is just about finished and set for a June release, and a
live EP, that goes some way to catching all this fantastic, pretentious, ambitious, endlessly beautiful
music, is out any day now on Big Cat. Don't miss any of it.
Do you want to be a star, Jeff?
"That's secondary. No, I wanna find these things that I smell in the distance, I wanna dig to them, I
wanna swim down to them, I wanna drown in them."
Do you think you take things too seriously?
He pauses then stares intently, with his father's eyes. "I don't know what that means."
No mere mortal, without a doubt..
Pick of the Week - Def Jeff
Melody Maker, UK, May 9 1994
by Dave Simpson
Subhead: JEFF BUCKLEY's unfettered emotional outpourings have dazzled a multitude of
Makerites, DAVE SIMPSON included. Portrait of the artist : MATT BRIGHT
DESPITE what we read in the live pages, many gigs these days are sterile, perfunctory affairs.
Bands arrive, playing the roles they're comfortable with and the music that suits a career, and we
applaud wildly out of numb obligation -- maybe because we've forgotten what it feels like to be
astonished. Go see Jeff Buckley, however, and the chances are you'll be left staggered, awestruck
and drained by electrifying flashes of guitar virtuosity and his amazing, heart-wrenching Voice.
You won't have felt so purified in years.
"I feel it and wanna go there," says Buckley of his refreshing intuitive, spontaneous vocal style.
"Every feeling has an articulation. You know when you get drunk or you try Ecstasy for the first time,
and all your secrets come tumbling out? That's what it's like every night.
"Sometimes people will f**king hate it and walk out but I still feel... connected. I just sing what I
feel. Emotions are very hard for people to handle. The Greeks made up gods and goddesses around
their emotions, and gave their names and faces and had relationships with them. We don't have that,
we have therapy. Which ain't bad. I love therapy. But generally people think they're just meat and
that emotions visit on them like in-laws. I've never felt like that."
Jeff is the son of Tim Buckley, who confronted audiences with a similar spiritual barrage in the
Sixties / early Seventies and died in 1975. Jeff met him only once, and hasn't come to terms with the
rejection. Ask him about his dad and the best you'll get is an ambivalent shrug, and the insistence that
his childhood with his musical mother and mechanic stepfather is much more important. Ask him
about politics, poverty, Dylan or Duke Ellington and he'll talk you into the floor. Somehow,
conversation always comes back to music.
"I write mostly personal poetry," he urges. "From dreams, or sometimes I'll wake up in love."
Does Jeff Buckley ever feel that some weird trick of destiny or genetics has cast him in a similar role
to that of his father, some 25 years before?
"No," he spits instantly. "I get it from my mother."
An EP, Live at Sin-é is released this week on Big Cat.
Melody Maker, UK, August (?) 1994, p31
by Mat Smith
Subhead: Forget about any specious comparisons with his father, the legendary Tim - JEFF
BUCKLEY is a unique and individual talent, as his fabulous debut album, Grace, brilliantly
demonstrates. MAT SMITH met him in Washington DC on his way to the Reading
Festival. State of grace: MATT BRIGHT
Scott Moorhead was just five years old when when (sic) he fell in love for the first time. At an age
when most of us were still sticking bogies under classroom desks, grappling with the challenge posed
by shoelaces and learning to excuse ourselves from school dinners by secreting the worst excesses
(brussel sprouts) into the pocket of our shorts, young Scott was already intent on carving up hearts.
"Her name was Blythe Elliott and I would ache for her just to come through the door," he says, and
his eyes twinkle at the memory.
"I drew pictures of dinosaurs for her on the chalkboard. My mother and her parents had the
foolhardy notion for me to go over and spend the night at her house. I remember, golden music
played in my ears when they suggested it. There was a kind of pale eroticism about it. We'd been
playing all day. She had a big brother in the next room who was shooting at the walls with his dart
gun like a f***ing psycho. I was staring at him and it was like, 'Hi, way to go.' And she was like...I
just adored her.
"And I kissed her on the elbow and she said, 'Stop it'. Then we had a little adult peck on the lips.
Then that night when we'd taken a bath and we had our jammies on and we were ready for bed, I
remember us walking in a circle together with my arm around her shoulder. We walked around three
times, all the time talking, and then we stopped and we kissed. Then we walked around and again
and kissed again. And that's what lovers do. They go walking, then they stop and kiss. Then they
walk and talk some more, then they stop and kiss. A few weeks later I had to move away. That was
my first heartbreak, and it was long."
I wonder if Blythe knew what she had lost that day. I wonder if she ever found out that eight or so
years after their innocent tryst, little Scott Moorhead reverted to the name on his birth certificate,
Jeffrey Scott Buckley. By now he was getting pretty good on his grandmother's guitar, the one he'd
found soon after being hauled away from Blythe. Would she, if she scanned the review pages of the
US and UK music mags, recognise this Jeff Buckley as that Scott Moorhead who stole her heart all
those years ago. How would she curse fate when she saw how words like "Immaculate",
"Irresistable", "Startling" and "Fascinating" were being used to describe his debut album, Grace - an
album created with as much care as he used to draw those dinosaurs for her when they were both
just five. How deeply would she fall in love again when she played the album, how confused yet
entranced like all of us she'd be.
Like us, she'd wonder how something so dazzling can be so organic, so innocent one moment so
grindingly sexual the next, and how choirboy-sweet its protagonist soothes us only to roar like a
savage when we think we're safe in his lyrical embrace. Like us, she'd glow for days. Poor Blythe.
"You have beautiful nails," Buckley whispers, flirting with a waitress in the way only the outrageously
attractive can. At a sage 27, he exudes that stereotypical wonderlust seemingly mandatory for
Californians. We're in an Ethiopian cafe, a few doors down from the Black Cat, the Washington
Club where Jeff and his band are playing tonight.
In between trying to explain the concept of "all-tones" by bashing away at every piece of crockery
on the table, he's telling me how as a kid, he'd steal into abandoned buildings and scream, just to
hear his voice echo all around him. Jeff Buckley's scream is but one weapon in a formidable arsenal.
Later, much later, he'll tell me that a scream is "the only noise someone can make when they're
crying, You can't talk if you're crying, but you can scream and say all you need to say." Recalling a
little more of his youth, he continues.
"I really identify with that book, Geek Love. It's a lot like my family, the way we moved around all
the time and how things were so freaky. My mother was into this metaphysical study called
Escatology. My friends would all come over and because they all had enormous guilt complexes it
would be easy for them to become born-again Christians. They'd give me all their records saying,
'Here, take them, they're the devil's music!' I mean, what can you do?"
Buckley's eclecticism is not the sort however, that merely comes from having a big record collection.
It's more disengaged than that, assuredly approaching a peak early on with his enormously strange
cover of Van Morrison's "Young Lovers Do" on the recent Sin-é EP and surpassing itself any
number of times on Grace. His attitude to sound and what constitutes "music" is rewardingly
"Music is something you do not control," he explains. "Just like you do not control life. All you can
do is understand its nature and its relationship to you. All you control is your will to let go. The rest
of it is how you feel underneath."
All this of course was the rage when Paganini was the toast of the town. It's just that we seem to
have forgotten it somewhere along the way.
At the Black Cat, before a Satuday night crowd more into getting pissed than possessed, Buckley's
voice wails and swoops then mutters madly to itself for nearly 15 minutes before the crowd's
attention is gained and the teasing opening chords of the sleepy racial ballad "Mojo Pin" flutter into
the room and his fan club grows by another 300 or so. The effect is mesmeric. From here,
unimaginably, it gets even better. If only there was room.
These are Jeff's first shows with the band who play on Grace. Mick, Mat and Michael had seen his
solo shows and literally begged to join him. They're perfect for the music.
"Dream Brother", (the final track on Grace and the one with the lyric, "Don't be like the one who
made me so/Don't be like the one who left behind his name/Cos they're waiting for you like I waited
for mine and nobody ever came") is introduced with an explanatory, "This is not about who most
people think it's about."
Jeff Buckley had no dad but he had a hell of a mum. It's her influence that can be felt breathing and
dancing through the most beautiful songs on Grace. Jeff's natural father, troubled Sixties troubador
Tim, upped and left as soon as Jeff was born. He OD'd and died in 1975. Jeff met him for the first
and last time just two months before. Singing in the car with his mother, a classically trained pianist,
is Jeff's first musical memory. It's her these lazy pipe-and-slipper critics with their Sixties CD reissues
should be citing, not someone who bounced him on his knee for five minutes when he was still
dribbling all over himself.
"He wasn't a bad father, he just wasn't raised right. And this life, is insane."
He didn't have the emotional capacity to deal with a love affair and be a musician?
"Apparently not. Especially not a child, so he just split. But there's a real exquisite insubordination in
just being a woman that I think I got in touch with early on. There's just a lack of arbitrary rigidity in
the way you live your life. My mom taught me so much, stuff that I'm actually only finding out now.
"As far as my dad's situation goes, I've become a better person from being able to be organically
un-attached from it. It's a pointless comparison to make. It's not a key to my work or my intentions."
The Sixties, of course, so the story goes, died at Altamont. As we speak, however, just down the
road, those good old hippies at Pepsi are trying to re-live the memory with Woodstock '94, the
merest mention of which provokes a wonderfully vitriolic attack from Jeff that you've no doubt read
on this week's news pages. One basic premise comes from it - in the words of one of Jeff's
labelmates who was greeted in his day with similar critical fervour: you shouldn't let other people get
your kicks for you.
"It's important to know the difference between real life and an IV going into your brain. It's important
to know that life is going on around you, you have to gather the knowledge and nutrition from your
everyday hours. You can't depend on MTV for your beauty. You gotta make your own life. You
can't leave it up to leaders. Jesus, JFK, Kurt Cobain they all got f***ed up. Kurt didn't feel loved or
maybe he didn't know how to recognise it. But it won't ever happen with a leader, independence has
to come or you'll die. You'll end up like someone's puppet and you'll be gone like a chump before
Grace is out now on Columbia. Jeff Buckley appears at the Maker stage at Reading
Festival on Sunday, August 28.
(No Title Available)
OOR, Holland, August 1994
by Bertvan der Kamp
Subhead: A new, huge musical talent has come forward and his name is Jeff Buckley.
Questionmarks (appear) on various faces. The music-scene once knew a gifted
singer-songwriter who died way too soon. Yes, Jeff is Tim's son, but he doesn't like to be
compared with him. He is very right to do so, because even without the special family-tie,
Grace is one of the best CD's from this year.
After having spoken with both John Lennon's and Bob Dylan's son, I'm talking to the son
of a third favorite "popstar" of mine. What to do in such a situation? First you try
deliberately not to talk about the "old man", but eventually you'll wind up doing so. Jeff's
situation is somewhat different from the other sons of famous fathers, because his parents
split up when he was barely 6 months old. When he was 8, he spent the Easter holidays
with his father who, 2 months later, died of the consequence of a fatal combination of
alcohol and drugs. Jeff has always been much closer to his stepfather, who also had a great
influence on the development of his musical taste. However, the genes play a role as well
and although Jeff sounds different, there definitely is some resemblance in the composition
of his songs and in the intense, passionate performance.
Grace surely isn't easy-listening. Just as on the previously released mini-CD Live at Sin-é
he doesn't keep the songs within the 3 minute "limit", But that surely isn't disturbing. Jeff
has produced the album together with Andy Wallace and he plays with his own, new
accompanying band, consisting of Michael Tighe (guitar), Mick Grondahl (bass) and Matt
Johnson (not the guy from The The, drums).
JB: We played together for the first time 5 weeks prior to recording the album. We did a
few gigs as a trio, before Michael joined us. Thereafter we went into the studio and
recorded the 10 songs relatively fast.
BK: Buckley works with various, digressing styles, from almost whispered, sweet ballads to firm
rock songs, in which he seems to be challenging Robert Plant, a childhood hero (of Jeff's).
JB: I have been a fan of Led Zeppelin ever since I was five years of age. My stepfather
had all their albums. My mother and stepfather shaped me musically, as a child. They
loved The Beatles, and so did I, but the sound of Led Zeppelin sounde much more
"anarchist" to my ears. The range of that music was impressive and it "opened me up".
After that I grew to love other music as well, but those earliest influences remain to be
BK: His "glowing" way of singing not only reminds of his father, but occasionally of someone like
Morrissey, with his emotional and almost "shameless" performance. At the mention of that name, Jeff
JB: His work with The Smiths hasn't been equalled up 'til now. That goes for the
composition of the songs, the lyrics and the performance. What Johnny Marr and he did
was fabulous, nobody can beat that. If I'd ever start a rockband, I'd want to approximate
BK: To my question about whether he was looking for a musical partner like Johnny Marr, he
JB: I prefer working solo. Although my songs are created in many different ways, I am the
constant factor. Morrissey needs a partner because he can't play the guitar himself, but I
can sing and play guitar.
BK: Grace contains 10 songs, from which 3 are remarkable "covers", Leonard Cohen's
"Hallelujah", Nina Simone's "Lilac Wine", and "Corpus Christi Carol", written by the classical
com[poser Benjamin Britten. Although 2 of these songs suggest some religious association, Jeff
denies there is a "reli-hang-up".
JB: Whoever listens carefully to "Hallelujah" will discover that it is a song about sex,
about love, about life on earth. The hallelujah is not a homage to a worshipped person, idol
or god, but the hallelujah of the orgasm. It's an ode to life and love. The "Carol" is a
fairytale about a falcon who takes the beloved of the singer to an orchard. The singer goes
looking for her and arrives at a chamber where his beloved lies next to a bleeding knight
and a tomb with Christ's body in it. My friend Roy introduced me to the song when I was
still in high-school and now I'm singing it for him.
BK: How important are the lyrics anyway?
JB: You can listen to my songs solely for the sound or you can go deeper into them. Both
are okay. To me it's important what I'm saying. If a lyric doesn't mean a thing to me, I
can't sing it. Music, lyrics, voice and rhythm are equally as important.
BK: There are remarkably many love songs on the album.
JB: I'm a rather romantic type.
BK: Especially with the longlasting "Lover, You Should've Come Over" he reaches great heights as
a troubadour of love. It is also a song about ageing, I fancy to derive. Jeff agrees with me on this:
JB: It's not about aging as a chronological fact, but more in the sense of gaining
experience. You can sometimes gain experience in a very short time and age fast in that
way as well. Sometimes I feel very old. I already felt like that at high-school. I sometimes
felt like an outsider, too old for my age. Leaving things behind and accepting you're
somewhere else, thats what growing up means, according to me. The advantages are
enormous because you can let go of things that are of no use to you. Someone's age forms
a shield towards his youth. In that way someone can get older and yet still stay young.
Picasso always tried to keep in touch with his inner child. If you don't do that, you'll
eventually lose hold on yourself and slowly pine away. Or you can get completely deranged
and kill yourself. It's very important to understand this. (deep sigh)
BK: This seems like the right time to talk about his biological father. As soon as I mention his name,
I'm being interrupted:
JB: He was one of those who didn't make it.
BK: Right... "He was one hell of a guy," I continue. "I've met him twice and spoke to him briefly."
Jeff listens silently to my story and when I tell him that, in my opinion, he has succeeded his father('s
work), if only for the great intensity of his performance, he reacts reservedly:
JB: Those are your words, not mine.
BK: "The lyrics on 'Dream Brother' intrigue me," I continue imperturbably. "It could be a song about
JB: It's a song about a friend of mine, who led a rather excessive life, due to which he has
lost the "callosity on his soul" (couldn't find a proper translation here). He is in trouble.
This song is for him. I know what self-destruction can lead to and I try to warn him. But
even I am one big hypocrite because when I called him up and told him about the song I'd
written, that same night I took an overdose of "hash" and woke up the next day feeling
terrible. It is very hard not to give in to one's negative feelings. Life's a total chaos.
BK: Buckley doesn't shun (from) exposing serious themes, which makes his music less accessible to
the masses. Some further explanation wouldn't harm. I just have to mention a song-title such as
"Eternal Life" and it's hard to stop him (talking).
JB: What I want to say with a song like "Eternal Life" is: If you're one of those people
who thinks he has to spend energy in putting down and discriminating others or passing on
racist ideas to children or playing games with everyone, just to cover up your own lack of
self-respect, then you're lost forever. There are so many other goals in life. There is so
much to learn about life itself. Why waste your time with all that bullshit? Try to see people
as people and don't fixate on the color of their skin, status or sexual preference. I get very
upset about that because I see it as one of the biggest threats nowadays. There is a giant
desintegration going on, but that offers unknown possibilities of growth as well. From the
ashes of chaos, you can "arise" bigger and stronger.
JB: All that talk about the independent music-scene and the so-called Generation X is a
symptom of the confusion. Everything is being labelled, but nobody knows what it means.
There is fear of the unknown and that's the reason for labelling everything. Even I don't
know what Generation X means, but to me it could mean: get out or get de-x-ed.
BK: If you hear Jeff talking like that, you'd conclude it's tough to be young in these chaotic nineties.
What does he hope to change about it with his songs? How does he see his role as an artist?
JB: I can't do anything more than writing songs and whether people want to hear them is
up to them and not to me. I realize that, as a listener, you have to invest something to get
out out of my songs what's in them and I don't know how many people are prepared to do
that. I don't think I can save the world. I look at the world and conclude it doesn't want to
be saved. People want to be bossed around. At my concerts you can do whatever you want.
You don't have to listen, you can drink a beer if you've had enough (of the music). I don't
have the intention to be crucified.