Revolts: Gender, Rebellion & Rock n' Roll
Simon Reynolds & Joy Press
Buckley's Starsailor (1971),
is perhaps the ultimate conflation of ocean and cosmos, homesickness and wanderlust
reconciled within a single image.
started as a folk-rock minstrel, Buckley's songs and singing grew progressively
more improvisatory as he absorbed the influence of Coltrane and Miles, and composers
like Xenakis, Berio, Cage and Stockhausen. He also fell under the spell of avant-garde
singer Cathy Berberian, with her menagerie of "clucks, gurgles, sighs, yowls,
splutters, screams, cries, weeps, wails' (as Lee Underwood, Buckley's friend and
lead guitarist, put it).
himself declared: "The most shocking thing I've ever seen people come up
against is dealing with someone who doesn't sing words. If I had my way, words
wouldn't mean a thing." In his struggle to get beyond language, he used his
voice as a freeform jazz instrument, mad-scatted, gushed glossolalia
a geyser, even sang in Swahili.
eerie vocal polyphony lies somewhere between babytalk, orgasmic moan, and the
shattering ecstasies of mystical rapture..."
on all these heady avant-garde potions, Buckley produced Lorca - 1969 -
and Starsailor, one of the most feverishly out-there albums of all time.
Come Here, Woman is both a carnal encounter with a real woman and Tantric
congress with the Great Mother Goddess. Sex transports them to an intoxicated
realm where pain is abolished; the lovers are carried by the tide to a 'coil of
peace' (an explicitly uterine image).
Thalassa, A Theory of Genitality, Sandor Ferenczi declared that the motive
of the male sex drive is 'none other than an attempt . . . to return to the mother's
womb.' The mother, in turn, 'is the symbol of and partial substitute for the sea.'
more than words, though, it's Buckley's voice that incarnates his lust for some
kind of eroto-mystic apocalypse. On Jungle Fire, his voice is volcanic,
an eruption of deep-body lava, hurling the stricken ululation 'mama!!!' across
the song's horizon like a flaming comet.
with Come Here, Woman, the object of his desire for union is at once a
flesh-and-blood soul 'mama' and some kind of Ur-Mother. The title track, Starsailor,
is composed entirely of Buckley's treated and multi-tracked voice; it's a schizophrenic
chorale with each voice situated in a soundscape of labyrinthine complexity.
voices ooze like plasma, coagulating in globules, filaments and tendrils that
bifurcate then reconnect, forming a sort of honeycomb of vocal jouissance - a
grotto of glossolalia. Buckley's eerie vocal polyphony lies somewhere between
babytalk, orgasmic moan, and the shattering ecstasies of mystical rapture.
Reich believed mysticism was a sublimated longing for orgasm' s 'cosmic plasmatic
sensations.' Buckley literally sculpted an entire song out of orgasm, taking the
ecstatic vocal sounds that appear in most pop only at the climax of a song, and
Reynolds writes about music and popular culture for the New York Times, ArtForum,
the Observer, and Melody Maker, and is the author of Blissed Out: The Raptures
Press writes about music, books, and women's issues for Spin, the Guardian, Village
Voice, and New York Newsday.
'The Sex Revolts - Gender, Rebellion, and Rock 'n' Roll' written by Simon Reynolds
and Joy Press was named a Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Book of 1995 in
the Music and Performing Arts Category. Published by Harvard