JEFF BUCKLEY - Beyond the moment that ends our bondage.
It's my second post, but if any post were ever to reward me with a cease-and-desist letter from a lawyer, it'll probably be this one. Not because it's controversial, but becauseJeff Buckley's music is a surprisingly well policed commodity by his mother, the keeper of his musical legacy. The woman stopped an ebay auction I was doing once, for an extremely rare copy of Jeff's PEYOTE RADIO THEATER CD. Try selling a Jeff Buckley guitar pic or autograph on Ebay. Not gonna happen... her grip -- and her science -- is too tight, yo.
Damn it all. It's worth the risk.
I'm sure you all know the tragic story of Jeffery Scott Buckley. Musical prodigy. Son of folk singer/70s rock jazzbo Tim Buckley. Jeff's dad abandoned his wife and child and rarely saw his son as he grew up. Tim Buckley died in his late 20s and left a shadow over his son's life that would linger large the week Jeff's body went missing after swimming in the Wolf River (an offshoot of the Mississippi, and a dangerous place to swim). Unfortunately, his body eventually washed ashore and his status quickly went from "missing" to "tragically dead."
I would have preferred it if his body were never found. I was crushed by the possibility that he was dead, but I had a glimmer of hope that Jeff had become overwhelmed with writing a follow up to GRACE, his debut full length album, and just ran off. That CD was a hit with critics, and Jeff's career showed nothing but promise. He shows on the album that he can do a little bit of everything... from R&B ("Lover You Should Have Come Over") to paint peeling art/alt.rock ("So Real"). Then you've got the stellar covers of Leonard Cohen/John Cale ("Hallelujah") and Nina Simone ("Lilac Wine").
Jeff had moved to Tennessee and hoped to record his next album there. He bought a tiny home and began some 4-track recording. He had been playing weekly shows at a little local bar. On the night his band was flying to town, he went for a swim and drowned. He was last seen swimming on his back, looking up at the sky and singing Led Zeppelin.
Below you'll find a couple of early performances from Jeff, plus one of the songs he had recorded on his quest to make his sophomore album. You'll also find a track he guested on and two tribute songs from a couple of folks you might know. To download songs, right click the title and save to your computer. To listen, simply click the title.
"Curtains" is a cover of an Elton John/Bernie Taupin song, found on John's CAPTAIN FANTASTIC AND THE BROWN DIRT COWBOY album. Jeff has also covered "We All Fall in Love Sometimes" from this same album. This performance is from 1992 and was taken from a show called The Music Faucet, on WFMU in New Jersey. It's a solo performance, just Jeff and the DJ in a booth, chatting for about 90 minutes. In this same set, Jeff does (by the request of the radio station's janitor) a hilarious, note-perfect cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "Alligator Wine," monkey noises and all. If there had been Jeff Buckley stock available for purchase after this show aired, I would have gone all in.
"Be Your Husband" is another Nina Simone cover, this one taken from the "deluxe" edition of Jeff's debut CD, Live at Sin-e. This is basically Jeff performing in a coffee shop that is smaller than most Taco Bells, for a crowd of maybe 30 people TOPS. You can hear coffee being ground right at the beginning of the song. Imagine sitting down to read your newspaper in your favorite little coffee shop in New York, and hearing this guy belt this fucking jam out without even touching his guitar yet.
"Vancouver" is from the posthumous SKETCHES FOR MY SWEETHEART THE DRUNK. I have no idea where Jeff wanted to go next, but this is a pretty cool indicator of one direction.
Now we've got Patti Smith's "Beneath the Southern Cross", a song from Smith's GONE AGAIN. This album was Patti Smith's dedication to the life and death of her husband, the MC5's Fred "Sonic" Smith. Jeff pops up in a couple of places here, but it's his brief, 20 second backing vocal at the end of "Beneath the Southern Cross" that always sends chills up my spine. I'd love to hear the studio tape of this... just his vocal, turned up as loud as possible. I don't even know what he's singing, but it's beautiful.
I've read that PJ Harvey had forged a friendship with Jeff, so she's probably speaking pretty explicitly about the guy in "Memphis". This one has a spooky set of backing vocals that all sound like Jeff.
Rufus Wainwright's Buckley ode, "Memphis Skyline," is a newer addition to the Jeff Buckley worship in the world, showing up on Rufus's WANT TWO. Wainwright's cover of "Hallelujah," which I believe found its way onto the SHREK soundtrack, always seemed a little redundant to me. You can't out-pretty JB on that song, no matter how good your voice is, Rufus. This song is a much better tribute.
For more on JEFF BUCKLEY: