The Tim Buckley Archives

Album Reviews

The Making Of 'Tim Buckley' - Part Two

Cohen managed another, far more experienced band that would soon make a big impact on the American rock scene, The Mothers Of Invention.

“We were introduced to Herb through Mothers drummer Jimmy Carl Black, who taught in the same little music studio that I taught guitar in when I was still in high school,” explains Jim. “Herb and his brother Mutt had one or more music publishing companies. Really, what they were most interested in was artists with original material that they could publish. When he listened to the demos, we thought he was listening to Tim’s voice, to the sound of the band, whatever. But he was really listening to the songs.”

Fielder elaborates: “He didn’t really let us know at the time that he was impressed, but we got the idea. We were all sitting there together in his living room. He’s listening to this demo. And about halfway through, he picks up the phone and calls Jac Holzman in New York and says words to the effect of, ‘I think we’ve got something here you might be interested in.’ And at that point, we thought, ‘Hmm, maybe we did the right thing here after all.’”

In retrospect, however, Cohen’s interest heralded the end of The Bohemians and the beginning of Buckley’s career as a solo artist.

“The way you make money on publishing is you get those songs recorded,” continues Fielder. “And who’s the best person to record them, but the guy who wrote them? Assuming he’s a good singer and performing artist. Tim certainly was. So Herbie kind of saw the whole package there. He would sign Tim to a management contract, manage Tim’s career, and part of that career would be promoting those songs that Tim was singing in the hopes that other people
would pick them up and the publishing money would start rolling in.”

Before the separation was final, however, The Bohemians would make another recording – one that, much to the frustration of Buckley archivists, has yet to be found. Sometime around early 1966, Cohen arranged for The Bohemians to enter a more professional studio to cut another demo for submission to Elektra.

According to Beckett, it has four early versions of songs re-recorded for the first album, though other sources have reported that the demo contains six tracks.

“We’ve looked for it, and nobody’s ever found it,” confirms Larry. “I don’t think it’s a great loss. It was just a piece of junk. It was a really bad situation where we couldn’t hear each other in some ridiculously over-elaborate recording studio thing where you’re in a booth by yourself. So we’re all out of rhythm with each other and it sounded crappy. I’m sure Tim sounded fine. But we didn’t re-record it or anything. The next thing we know, Herbie’s announcing that bands are a thing of the past, that solo artists are the future. So he’s gonna get Buckley signed with Elektra as a solo artist.”

Adds Fielder, “I guess Herb picked the songs off that first demo that he thought were the most saleable, and had us go in and do a professional quality demo, go into a real studio with real mikes and a real engineer at the controls. It didn’t take long. Again, it was a one- or two-take deal on each tune. A couple of sessions, and it was done.”

As were The Bohemians, since a letter from Elektra President Jac Holzman to Herbie Cohen on 8 March 1966 (reprinted in the recent book Becoming Elektra) – written the very morning Holzman heard the lost demo – refers to it as a “Tim Buckley record” and expresses interest only in working with Buckley, not mentioning The Bohemians whatsoever.

“The arrangement ideas on the record are, in my opinion, not very good,” Holzman states in the letter, confirming Beckett’s judgment of the lost demo sessions. “But I’m sure that with a good A&R man/arranger, something fine would result.”

Today, Holzman clarifies: “I wasn’t much impressed by the settings, but I thought Tim’s voice was extraordinary, and the songs were beginning to point toward real writing possibilities. I knew the voice was special and all the rest was a hunch. Work with it and see where it takes us. I knew immediately that Tim was a solo artist and that the musical settings would depend on the writing. It never occurred to me to sign the band on the demo.”

Yet all three of the other ex-Bohemians would continue to be involved in Buckley’s career. Fielder played bass on Tim Buckley and soon landed a spot in The Mothers Of Invention (on whose second album he plays, though he’s not credited) with Cohen’s help. He ended up with possession of the November 1965 demo tape, which survived several moves over the next few decades – and even a fire at his home (the scorch marks can be seen on the original tape box reproduced in the deluxe edition package) – before it was retrieved for the new reissue.

“I don’t think we ever really expected to be in the picture,” he points out. “The band was good, but we knew Tim was the fuel.”

Beckett attended sessions for Tim Buckley and continued to write songs with the singer. Brian Hartzler contributes some guitar to Buckley’s second album, Goodbye & Hello, and possibly on Tim Buckley as well, since Fielder recalls him contributing to the sessions (though Hartzler’s not credited on the LP).

Shortly before the sessions for Tim Buckley got underway, one more batch of unreleased material was recorded, now comprising the second half of the disc of bonus cuts on the new deluxe reissue. These acoustic demos date from around the early summer of 1966, according to Larry, and “were really supposed to be a tape for Tracy, my girlfriend at the time. So most of the songs were inspired by her. That was Tim and I in my bedroom in Anaheim, kind of cranking it out on my little reel-to-reel machine. It was a love letter in music.”

As it was intended for her ears only, it’s remarkable that it’s survived, let alone been made officially available for all to hear nearly 45 years later. “Tracy got the recording, which I mailed to her,” explains Beckett, and “kept it for a few years after we broke up. This friend of hers, Arla Lewis, was a Buckley fan, and Tracy said, ‘well, you’ll probably like this,’ and gave it to her. Arla kept it all these years, even past the point where she was able to play it.”

It was only by chance that Larry got hold of the tape again a couple of years ago. Lewis located him and handed the cassette over “I had completely forgotten the entire thing and took it to a studio to have them dub it off onto a CD for preservation. They goofed and didn’t copy the B-side. I didn’t even know that there were three more songs until we sent it to Rhino, who did a professional job.”

The label revealed the three extra songs on the other side. These acoustic demos, featuring just Tim’s vocals and his guitar, offer unplugged versions of five songs (She Is, Aren’t You The Girl, Song Slowly Song, I Can’t See You and Wings) from his debut album. There are also two nice ballads never to appear either there or anywhere else (My Love Is For You and Long Tide) and, far more unusually, two Beckett poems which Larry recites himself, backed by Buckley’s guitar.

Though informally recorded and punctuated by bits of spoken chatter and joking, these acoustic tracks boast performances as heartfelt as the ones Buckley gave in the studio and on-stage.

Arriving only half a year or so later than The Bohemians’ demos, the songwriting shows a great leap forward in sophistication, as well as a far greater folk-rock orientation. As to why My Love Is For You and Long Tide never found a home, Beckett muses, “It might have been a casualty of writing so much – of having too much material.

"We could only focus on certain songs for further development and arrangement. So the rest just went by the wayside. And the thing is that, like good artists, both Tim and I were growing and changing. So by the time we got to, let’s say, Goodbye & Hello (released in summer 1967), we thought we could write something much artier. It’s kind of an evolution, leaving the older artifacts behind.”

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