at the edge of Fire Island surf at seven in the morning
is like standing with arms outstretched at the edge of the universe, taking it
all in and knowing that all is a friend. Fire Island?
Island is a 32-mile stretch of sand five miles off the south shore of Long Island,
N.Y. At most places it is only about a hundred yards wide. Crammed along this
geographic noodle are 18 communities: two of them well-known faggot havens; one
a very up-tight alcohol scene; the others places to grow.
years ago I was nineteen and docking boats for pseudo-wealthy Long Island businessmen
at a municipal beach called Atlantique on Fire Island. This was a nice thing to
be doing only in that it was work on the island, and work there is not always
easy to come by.
on Fire Island is slow, but not purposeful. Relaxed, but not lazy. When you live
on Fire Island you live by the standards of nature, not by the standards of man.
All movement is with the sea and the sun, and there they are everything.
ocean is inescapable, as it should be. There is no place to go on Fire Island
where the sea cannot penetrate. Its sound puts you to sleep, keeps you company
during the day, eases the mind into a quietly flowing high during the evening.
The sea wind blows from the south west as inevitably as the day. It warms during
the day, chills at night, and is a constant reminder of the roots of life. All
life came from the sea and the sun; the wind their messenger. All three are there
to let you know that you are theirs, and they are yours, no matter how much concrete
and steel you try to erect. And
so you sit and listen. At seven in the morning I was sitting alone on the beach,
listening to a calm surf and breathing in the cool breeze. Things swing toward
the natural on Fire Island, since there is so much of it to swing to. I was sitting
in the sand thinking about nothing but watching and just being a part of things
when I saw a dot way down the beach, getting larger and larger.
dot and I were alone then, and the wind was blowing along as it always had and
always will. The dot came closer and became a person. When it got a few hundred
yards away it became a girl. Tall, with long black hair. Very tan. A natural way
of walking, and walking slowly, like all things on Fire Island. Slowly, like the
sea and the sand.
Her feet were in and out of the water, then, leaving light spots. Her hair came
down around her shoulders, her cheeks. She had high cheekbones, and could have
been part Indian. She could have been. She was walking slowly, not caring who
was there. Fear causes awareness of presence, more so than love. There was no
fear. People who are afraid do not go to places like that, and soon leave if they
are brought there accidentally.
walked closer, moving slowly, looking down. She was wearing the bottom half of
a bikini and holding the top half in her hand. She was walking slowly and watching
her breasts move up and down, watching the surf run in and out of her toes, watching
the sand. She walked by, in and out of the water, and looked up slightly, quickly,
and smiled hello. And I smiled hello. And she kept on walking, slowly, naturally,
and walked on down the beach to the east, and finally disappeared, with the wind.
not seem like it was going to be a day for docking boats. It wasn't.
it hasn't been ever since.
I wave goodbye to ashes, and smile hello to a girl.
wind blows everywhere, and there is a cool wind,
a silvery, spray-filled wind that blows easily in the sound of Tim Buckley.
voice comes like the sea at its most quiet time, early in the morning before the
day interferes. It is high and smooth, twisting and elevating like the breeze,
and filled with the sound of beauty. It is the sound of a beauty in nature, a
beauty that has long been forgotten. It is not man-made, not urban and bluesy,
but natural and wild; calm and reflective under all, but at times soaring and
can soothe or anger, lift or put down. But the energy is that of realism and light,
of an early tide or a screaming gale. It can go from one to the other, like the
world, or it can be calm forever. Tim Buckley's voice is very much like all human
energy, since it lies so closely to that of nature. And, like nature that has
been forgotten by many men, it must be relearned.
is a tenor, and that is unusual enough in Pop. But he adds a certain confusion
by coupling his voice with the strange words: the words of life, death, and machines,
of rivers and fields, of new children and old.
soldiers die on fiery battlefields when Buckley's voice soars into its shattering
falsetto. Antique people create and are created by vast machines when his voice
touches that near-violent agony. The new children run through the fields and touch
balloons, hands and each other when he sings of what he hopes will be.
a nimble, near Gregorian effect: I saw you walking, only yesterday. When I
ran to catch you, you disappeared and the street was gray. The candle died. Now
you are gone. For the flame was too bright. Now you are gone.
a fiery hopefulness: All the stony people, people walking round in Christian
licorice clothes. I can't hesitate, and I can't wait for Pleasant Street.
in what is so far his main work, Goodbye and Hello, he combines two poems,
singing a line from one then a line from the other, to make a unique chorus: O
the new children dance / I am young / All around the balloons / I will live /
Swaying by chance / I am strong / To the breeze from the moon / I can give / Painting
the sky / You the strange / With the colors of the sun / Seed of day / Freely
they fly / Feel the change / As all become one / Know the way.
hopeful choruses are alternated with tense tracts on the people who do things
like create wars. The antique people are fading out slowly. Like newspapers flaming
in mind suicide. Godless and sexless directionless loons. Their sham sandcastles
dissolve in the tide. They put on their deathmasks and compromise daily. The new
children will live for the elders have died.
the eulogy, and the ending of the song: And I wave goodbye to America. And
smile hello to the world.
Buckley is the chief propagandist for the New Children,
those who can touch the sun without worrying about its consistency. His words
stir hope for a world of love without exploitation, beauty without plasticity,
passion without destruction.
is short and very thin. His face, with very precise, definite features, sits in
the midst of a mass of wiry hair. On stage he is a locus of placid movement. Every
song, every chord drives him and is driven by him through a natural motion. He
does not contort, as does Jimi Hendrix, nor writhe, as does Jim Morrison of The
Doors. His movement is natural and circular, a rhythmic head and body motion that
is both a calm flow of blue light and a long, winding river.
motion lulls while the words entice. All of his material is as important musically
and musical-emotionally as it is verbally, and this in itself removes him from
most folk, in which category he would otherwise be placed, cautiously but firmly.
Jahn was the first rock critic at The New York Times
and is an award-winning author, reporter, critic, syndicated
columnist and cultural commentator who was in the center
of the golden age of rock and in the company of its biggest
stars. His articles were compiled on his website 'Tales
of the Ancient Rocker'
stage he uses acoustical six and twelve string guitars. Lee Underwood provides
an often-brilliant lead guitar (electric), and Carter C.C. Collins does some strange
and beautiful things with congas.
concert there is no audience contact in the usual sense. He does not speak, other
than to name the song. "I look out there and I see, I guess I see light waves
and all kinds of things," he says. He does not talk to the audience, often
doesn't even see anyone. Arlo Guthrie and Richie Havens spend a large part of
the evening talking to the audience. Tim Buckley speaks to the audience in vibrations,
and in the world he wants to see vibrations are the best means of communication.
fact that Tim Buckley makes this work despite the many special barriers provided
in the concert hall is a good sign that his vibrations are real and work, and
that there is potentiality for a world of New Children.
record, additional instruments and effects add to the importance and effectiveness
of the music. It is more than an accompaniment to his voice. It is a part of his
voice, the emotional part of the message. The vocal part switches back and forth
from emotion to messagery.
times his words give well defined thoughts: The vaudeville generals cavort
on the stage. And shatter their audience with submachine guns.
the words are impressionistic: Oh Flying Flying fish please flutter by my door.
Yes you can drink my lies if first you read my eyes: Each one is titled 'I'm drowning
back to you.'
at all times the words lead inescapably to a feeling of destiny, that the author
is a young man (age 20) looking down the tunnel of long despair to a land of flowers.
The flowers are there. But while Donovan presents flowers by sticking pictures
of them all over the place, Tim Buckley presents flowers by constructing little
pieces of sound and word.
has two albums. The first, Tim
Buckley (Elektra EKS 74004) is a good introduction to a particularly sensitive
folk writer/singer. The second, Goodbye
and Hello (Elektra EKS 7318) is a mélange of all that is good in
him: the words and the music of a strange world looking for a place to renew itself.
album will very likely have been released by now. As he plans it, it will be lighter,
less concerned with the down aspects of today's world, and more involved with
the bright chances for tomorrow. It will, he says, be more specific about more
beautiful things. It will be of world renewed.
that album there will be a film. He doesn't know where it will be shot or what
it will be about, only that he has wanted a film of his own for sometime. Other
plans will be guided by the fact that he is only 20, and at that age a performer
who shows more promise than did Dylan at a comparable point in his career.
it isn't always easy to like Tim Buckley the first time you hear him. His voice
is high-pitched and wild, a natural voice with no artificial training. Our minds
have been trained by years of radio to accept well-modulated, soothing sounds.
Tim Buckley never soothes unless the listener has nothing to hide. Having nothing
to hide is to him the biggest step toward becoming one of the New Children. And
it does not presuppose an age requirement.
difference between liking Tim Buckley and not liking him is the difference between
looking at a girl with no clothes on and seeing a girl without clothes or seeing
a girl. A person who sees the latter will understand Tim Buckley. Those who don't
can at least try.
are made, not born.
Mike Jahn/New York Times