The Tim Buckley Archives

The Fans

Salmon in a Ring-Shaped River - Part Three

Tim Buckley

Looking at the color photo of Tim on the cover of Sefronia (1973), I cannot really convince myself that he could theoretically be my son. The charismatic 27-year-old singer looks sad and burnt out, ten to fifteen years older than he was at the time.

I have been studying Buckley’s late phase of 1972-75 for many, many years and it remains an enigma to me, as probably to most of Tim Buckley’s audience. The objectors of the Lorca/Starsailor phase often say that Buckley would have recorded another ten albums in this experimental style if his management had not stopped him.

At the same time, we know that he was always changing and he would surely have eventually recorded more accessible material. In my eyes, the tragedy of his death in June 75 is closely connected with the way that the Lorca/Starsailor phase ended in the spring of 1971.

It is often emphasized that the sales of these two albums were very bad, but 25,000 were definitely sold. When RecRec Zurich went into the international independent business, sale of 3.000 albums was considered a success. The trilogy of Fred Frith on Ralph Records from 1980-83 started with 10.000 copies.


I am sure that the 1972-1974 productions caused more financial damage to Judy Buckley than Lorca and Starsailor. A lot of damage resulted because no other label or management was willing to record another album with the Starsailor band. Every concert of this phase should have been recorded and/or filmed.

I consider the radio recordings of October 1970 with the Starsailor band in Los Angeles - including an interview with Tim Buckley at the height of his powers - to be his most important unpublished document.

In October 1988 the acclaimed jazz trombone player Glenn Ferris - at age 18 a member of the undocumented Starsailor band - said “To play with Buckley was much more interesting and adventurous than playing with Zappa.“ This he told me between two sets of a concert in Uster near Zürich with the trumpet player Peter Schärli, who incidentally also played on two albums of Radio Osaka, which closes another circle.

"When I once asked my three-year-old daughter if she knew where this singer came from, she said with a disarming accuracy: 'From the country where the black women talk...'"

Emmet Chapman was also a member of the undocumented Starsailor band, and lent the CD to Al Jarreau, who was so fascinated that he did not want to give it back. The recent numbers on E-bay speak a clear language: each copy of Starsailor - album or CD - is auctioned for over $100. In a fit of over-enthusiasm in January 2006, I prepaid 1000 pounds to the British label Finedisc of David Stone, without ever receiving the promised 150 copies of the new CD-edition of Starsailor

Attempts to launch a successful comeback of Buckley were musically not clever enough as carried out by the producers - Jerry Goldstein in 1972, Denny Randell in 1973 and Joe Falsia in 1974.

In Europe - where presumably his largest fan society would have been - Tim’s talent was never honored in an adequate way. After the success in October 1968 in England - see the Dream Letter recordings from London - and at Essener Songtage in Germany the previous month, he played at the first Knebworth Festival on 20th July 1974 at 2 PM, while most listeners were still pitching their tents.

Mothers of Invention drummer Jimmy Carl Black talks about The Mothers fans' reactions to Tim opening the band's show in 1972.

Tape courtesy of Veit Stauffer - RecRec

After Buckley, came a lineup of the Alex Harvey Band, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Van Morrison, the Doobie Brothers and the Allman Brothers. For me, it did not make it any better that at that time I was traveling for four weeks with two friends with an InterRail ticket through Europe and that we spent three days in London. I never was closer to Tim Buckley than on that day. However, we did not go to any concerts, only checking out all the record stores and besides, I only discovered Tim Buckley three years later. Possibly, Tim Buckley was even in my hometown in the summer of 1974.

In August 1988, the well-known music journalist Bernie Sigg visited me at the Rec Rec Shop following an insider tip. After 1975 there was to be a third edition of the German Rocklexikon, published by Rowohlt, so he had to freshen up the discographies. He set up his laptop and I dictated - practically by heart – all that he wanted to know.

I asked for a small salary or at least the mentioning of my name, but as he had a low budget he feebly apologized. Mentioning the name Tim Buckley, he told me that he had recorded an interview with him in summer of 1974 in Zurich, which he couldn’t use for the magazine Pop.

He told me he would look for the tape at home and give it to me in return for my services. Unfortunately he could not find it anymore, as a small gesture he put the Comebuckley album on the Tim Buckley album list. Urban Gwender (publisher of the underground magazine Hotcha and a friend of Zappa from 1966 until 1976) shook his head in disbelief when he heard that Herb Cohen (who was visiting Urban at the time) did not mention that Buckley was also in town.

The irony of the story is that the connection with Frank Zappa didn’t help Buckley at all, on the contrary. Although Starsailor contains thrilling experimental rock music with unbelievable harmonies and rhythms that theoretically should have appealed to a Zappa audience, but in the end that just didn’t happen.

Although I like Zappa’s work during the period 1966-75, enjoyed reading his memoirs and am friendly with his symphonic work, I was never more ashamed of his audience than while listening to the bootleg Live at the Felt Forum NYC September 23, 1972, when Tim Buckley was mercilessly booed off stage.

If the anecdote in the thrilling Zappa biography of Barry Miles is right, Zappa almost had a fit in a record shop when he found out that Sefronia was not available - the new Discreet-label obviously had put a lot of hope into the Album.

Look at the Fool

Look at the Fool is probably Buckley’s least appreciated album; it often doesn’t even get two stars when reviewed. My friend Andreas Walter, one of the greatest music collectors of Switzerland with superb knowledge, always defended that album, so I took that as an assignment and listened to it at least 250 times.

Wanda Lu as the final track is really depressing - I prefer to regard the bootleg recording Live at The Starwood from May 1975 as his final statement. He introduced the band and himself during the last song with exquisite self-confidence. It is also worth mentioning that without any exception, every one of the ten tracks was faded out at the end so that presumably precious parts were lost.

But it must be noted how on this last album - which he originally wanted to call Tijuana Moon - Tim Buckley sounds more and more like a black female singer. When I once asked my three-year-old daughter if she knew where this singer came from, she said with a disarming accuracy: “From the country where the black women talk...“

In many reviews of Tim Buckley, one fact often overlooked is that there was a huge crisis going on in pop music from 1972 to 1978 and that Buckley’s commercial period should not be judged in an isolated way. Many of the musicians that we admire were either were forced to adapt to public taste or they fell silent after 1975, jammed between glam-rock, the pretentious aftermath of symphonic rock and the emerging disco hysteria.

"During a 2005 visit to Orlando in Amsterdam, I heard about the record dealer Herman Berkhout (Flesch Records) who reduced his private collection from 40.000 to 300 - all of Tim Buckley’s albums were included..."

After Ruth is Stranger Than Richard (1975), Virgin Records no longer supported Robert Wyatt, and it was only after 1980 that he could be persuaded to do a comeback. John Cale had big problems with Island Records; Helen of Troy (1975) consisted of unfinished demos and was released while he was away, and in the UK version, the lyrically controversial song Leaving it Up To You was replaced by Coral Moon. His next studio album Honi Soit was not released until spring of 1981.

Nico took a break after The End (1974) until Drama of Exile in the fall of 1981. From 1967-1873 - almost simultaneously with Buckley - the famous songwriter Tom Rapp of Pearls Before Swine released nine albums, the last one - 1973’s Familiar Songs - released by Reprise without his knowledge with outtakes and a ridiculous cover.

Captain Beefheart is another typical example. After Lick My Decals Off, Baby (1971) he got more and more commercial, with the absolute low point being two releases in 1974 - Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans and Moonbeams - before finding back to his old form on his last three albums from 1978-1982.

Perhaps the smart Kevin Ayers was an exception; he didn’t show any signs of decay until after 1980 with That’s What You Get Baby (sic!). Van Dyke Parks released his weakest album, Clang of The Yankee Reaper, in 1975, and it wasn’t until 1984 that he released his next masterpiece Jump. Miles Davis retired for five years after Agharta (1975) . After seven albums, King Crimson took a break until 1981, when they released Discipline.

The group Henry Cow had an enormously creative phase during 1973 to 1975 on the ambitious Virgin Label and didn’t release their next album until May 1978 under the name Art Bears on their own label Recommended Records - which led a year later to the Swiss label Rec Rec.

Kevin Coyne belongs to a small group which was immune to the crisis. With Matching Head and Feet in 1975 and Heartburn in 1976) he was under a lot of pressure and was even forced by Virgin to release an over-produced single version of Elvis Presley’s Fever, but then from 1978 until 1982 he created seven very impressive albums.

Also in Germany Tom Steine Scherben had a big crisis after the 1975 release of Wenn die Nacht am tiefsten ist, ist der Tag am nächsten, and their next Album (the black IV) was not published until 1981. Punk rock did not evoke all these developments, but put an end to a certain agony - at least for a short period. For the first time, there were also female songwriters who were setting the standards: Patti Smith with Horses in 1975, Annette Peacock with X-Dreams in 1978, Marianne Faithful with Broken English a year later or Laurie Andersen with Big Science in 1982...

I do not have a Tim Buckley memorial room at home, I was never keen on starting a fan club and I have never had the time to participate in an online chat. Since 1994, I have only sporadically listened to Tim Buckley. In my daily life, I have been occupied with other musical biographies and I have allowed myself the widest possible spectrum.

Nevertheless, or maybe because of this, I have always had the greatest passion for Buckley’s music. As a symbolic act, in November 1978 I buried an Italian copy of Starsailor in my parents garden, and only dug it out undamaged when my most beloved tomcat Seppli died.

During the winter of 1986-87, I discovered the irritatingly beautiful work Quartet For The End Of Time by Olivier Messiaen, which Buckley was listening to during the recording of Starsailor. Because of the crisis in my relationship mentioned before I was in an exceptional state of agony. The disturbing but also soothing music, especially the contrast between Danse de la fureur, pour les sept trompettes and the two sustained Louanges pieces helped me to gain a lot of ground in the following period of my life.

Messiaen composed the work from 1940 until 1941 during his imprisonment in Germany for the world premiere he himself played the piece with three fellow prisoners on partially broken instruments to a mesmerized audience of 6000 People.

Veit Stauffer
West Hollywood, 1991
Finally, in June 1992, I came across the novel Outcast of the Islands - written by Joseph Conrad in 1895 - which Tim Buckley intended to use as the basis of a concept album in 1975. Having already experienced many mysterious coincidences in my research, I was not that surprised to detect a mind-boggling resemblance of Orlando’s mother to the actress Kerima (born in 1925) in the 1952 Carol Reed movie adaptation of the book.

During a 2005 visit to Orlando in Amsterdam, I heard about the record dealer Herman Berkhout (Flesch Records) who reduced his private collection from 40.000 to 300 - all of Tim Buckley’s albums were included... Once I was asked in a questionnaire about my “favorite time”, I jokingly said the time in the evening from 19:47 until 19:59 (the two birth years of Tim and myself beamed down to 12 minutes).

I have collected eighteen singles from 1966-74 until now ,and I realized that not one single picture cover exists in any country on the continent, although the most terrible bands in Holland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Norway etc. always had a picture cover at that time.

My greatest act of diligence presumably consisted in compiling a list of the countless albums to which all the musicians associated with Tim Buckley have offered their talents. I thereby discovered the beautiful funk/soul Album Brown Sugar (1973) by Clydie King and the less successful 1975 Memorandum by singer Marcia Waldorf, who accompanied Buckley on his lone duet on Sefronia.

I also discovered the cellist Jesse Erlich, who also played on albums by Zappa, Tom Waits and Van Dyke Parks and who released his own composition Six Short Pieces for Three Cellos in 1971 (Orion 7037), which I found a day after the deadline of this booklet! The last time I heard from him was on The Forest (1991) by David Byrne, on the same Album that the Swiss singer Corin Curschellas can be heard.


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