Holzman was a college student himself when he founded Elektra in 1950.
Fifteen years later the label was an established independent specializing in folk
music--and just getting its feet wet with the new electric-powered music coming
out of Los Angeles.
received an audition disc from Herb Cohen of Tim Buckley," Holzman says.
"I took one listen and called Herb and said I wanted to sign the artist.
I loved the writing, I loved the approach, and I loved the fact that he had both
folk roots and rock 'n' roll aspirations." This was exactly what Cohen anticipated.
Buckley's music "was an odd category," the manager admits. "That's
why I went to Elektra."
arranged for Buckley to play the small Night Owl in New York's Greenwich Village
in the summer of '66. Buckley rode out there in a VW bug driven by Jane Goldstein,
whom he'd met at the Troubadour. Although still married, Buckley was living alone
in a dingy Hollywood apartment; Guibert was living with Herb Cohen and his wife.
The relationship clearly had more downs than ups. During a rare instance of the
latter,Guibert had become pregnant.
Night Owl gigs marked the beginning of Buckley's association with guitarist Lee
Underwood. Both had played at one of the Troubadour's "hoot nights."
Underwood remembers a jubilant Beckett coming up to Buckley backstage to inform
him of the Elektra contract: "I was really envious because I had hoped to
get a contract myself with Elektra."
initial impression of Buckley was of a remarkable voice singing "little high-school
love songs" to wimpy effect. He changed his mind upon closer inspection in
New York : "Not only did he have a voice and know how to use it, but he wrote
extraordinary melodies. And that gentle, loving, wispy quality was extraordinarily
powerful in its impact." With Underwood on lead guitar and Fielder on bass,
Leadbelly fan Buckley played acoustic 12-string guitar.
summer he also recorded his debut album. Tim Buckley included many of the "high-school
love songs" that had underwhelmed Underwood. Jac Holzman and Paul Rothchild
received co-producer credit, but Beckett praises Elektra for giving Buckley so
much creative control. "If Tim said, 'Hey, I want a cello to play one note
through the entire Song of the Magician, the arranger would scratch
his head, but that's what they did."
and Buckley believed that good fences made good collaborators. Beckett was strictly
the lyricist, crafting finished poems that he then brought to Buckley for musical
glazing. Buckley was more intuitive. "He would get up in the middle of the
night," Guibert recalls, "swing his legs over the side of the bed, pick
up his guitar--which was always there-and suddenly this complete song would come
out." Such was the genesis of It Happens Every Time, on the first
late addition to the album's line-up was the Buckley-penned Song for Jainie,
dedicated to Goldstein (as she was then spelling her first name). While Buckley
and Goldstein were together in New York, Guibert--now six months pregnant--was
back to living with her parents. "The idea was that he'd go on tour,"
Guibert says, "and when he came into LA we would look for a little place;
he would be there for the baby being born." Buckley was sending her "weird,
guilt-ridden letters: 'I wish I could be happy about the baby but I can't keep
doing this to you'--cryptic things I didn't know how to interpret. I was deep
a month before Jeffrey Scott Buckley was born, Tim and Mary met at a Los Angeles
coffee shop and agreed to a divorce. Guibert now can laugh about her selflessness
in setting Buckley free: "I didn't have an ounce of recrimination in me for
first album appeared almost simultaneously with his son.
No one involved with it--including Buckley himself, according to his sister Kathleen--seems
to have liked it much. But its faults are those of youthful naiveté, not
under-reaching. "He was breaking in his shoes," Holzman says. "The
first album had an air of stridency about it. He wasn't comfortable in his own
musical skin." But "we never signed an artist for one record,"
Holzman adds. "What
do you say about first novels?" Beckett asks himself. "'It really has
potential.'" What he does admire about Tim Buckley is the 19-year-old
singer's "beautiful tenor voice. Almost always after that he shaded the timbre
of his voice, reaching for lower tones. Here he sang the way he'd been driving
everybody insane in all these concerts we'd been doing for a year and a half:
his unbelievably beautiful pure Irish voice."
and Beckett threw themselves into preparations for a second album. "We had
a zillion songs," Beckett says, but "we were continuing to create at
a hectic pace." The producer would be Jerry Yester, then married to another
Cohen client, singer Judy Henske; "Herb wanted to keep it in the family,"
and Hello was a quantum leap beyond Buckley's debut. "The times were
so intense," Beckett says. "We waited all summer in '66 for Bob Dylan's
Blonde on Blonde to come out, and played the grooves until they went through
the other side. We were trying to be part of it, trying to do the most tasteful
or powerful work we could. I don't think we had any idea it would be terribly
fairly rapidly during the febrile summer of 1967, Goodbye and Hello sounds
as if all concerned were inspired by Sgt. Pepper to create their own overarching
statement on pop culture. Buckley's voice ties together the disparate tempi, meters
and arrangements: He alternates between a menacingly subtle lower register and
melismatic wailing in his near-falsetto, where sound becomes meaning. "It's
almost like they had a vision for that album," Fielder marvels; "that
was such a work of art."
retrospect Goodbye and Hello strikes some listeners as unbearably ambitious
(if you like it) or pretentious (if you don't). Beckett looks with a jaundiced
eye at his contributions; as on the first album, he co-wrote half the songs. Most
of his lyrics were inspired by a romantic break-up; he further immortalized his
paramour by using her name in an acrostic poem printed on the album cover.
usual, Buckley added his music after Beckett's lyrics were finished. His own songs,
Jane Pullman (formerly Goldstein) feels, tended to be about himself. Goodbye
and Hello's I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain includes an unmistakable
reference to Guibert as "the Flying Pisces" who "tells me of my
child." His sardonically titled Pleasant Street features a relentless
downward harmonic maelstrom; the lyrics to the disturbing, three-quarter time
Carnival Song "express that tragic sense that he had.
was something very sad about him," Pullman continues, "and I believe
a large part of his sadness was because of his father. From what Tim said, his
father would be physically abusive and call him names and put him down a whole
Buckley says her husband--one in a line of Timothy Charles Buckleys that his son
furthered--was a "wonderful man, wonderful father" until an early-'60s
fall off a ladder triggered increasingly psychotic behavior. From then on, "everything
went to hell"; the Buckleys separated in 1966.
album's showpiece is its title track, a generational call to (pacifist) arms.
Beckett says, "I thought I would like to try counterpoint, like those crazy
songs of the '40s where two people would be singing two different sets of lyrics
and the melodies are in counterpoint with each other." Beckett wrote out
the dual choruses for Goodbye and Hello side by side, as they appear in
the album's printed lyrics. Buckley sang it monodically, though, interweaving
lines from the two sets of lyrics--"not what I had in mind at all,"
Beckett comments, "but I liked the way it works."
fleshed out the song with a kaleidoscopic arrangement in the manner of a Renaissance
choral sequence. His overdubs, on this and other songs, further distinguished
Goodbye and Hello from the simply produced first album.
first time I heard it, I just was knocked out," Holzman says. "As we
got deeper into the summer of love of 1967, and Vietnam was happening, the combined
effect of his words, his music, his passion, his persona struck a particular resonance.
To some extent he was the bright side of people's tortured souls, and maybe of
his own tortured soul. He could express anguish in a way that was not negative."
and Hello was a
succes d'estime, helped by a burgeoning rock press. Even
the album cover focused Buckley's image. Tim Buckley depicted a reticent teenager
hiding behind a houndstooth sportcoat (on which the letters "LSD," barely
visible, are disguised as wrinkles--ah, the '60s). The new record glowed with
a frontal head shot of the artist as herald of a new dawn: grinning confidently,
his hair a backlit explosion of curls, saucily sporting a soda bottlecap as monocle.
Buckley later told his sister that Liza Minnelli asked him how much Pepsi paid
him for the plug.
his formidable music, Buckley's mother-me good looks were attracting a teenybop
following as well as the most earnest progressive-rock hippies. At this time,
Underwood says, "I began to realize that here is a guy that I would like
to give my whole self to. He was hungry for information--on books, on music, on
life in general. That became my way of life: to serve him, and serve the music,
in the highest sense of the word."
really wanted to be Tim's guru," Yester says, "and at the same time
he idolized him." But Buckley's personality seemed to affect people that
way. Co-producing his first album, Paul Rothchild found him shy, even "amorphous":
"He wasn't very strong. His strength was in his music. There obviously was
inner turmoil of some magnitude. But he didn't reveal very much." For Jane
Pullman, Buckley was "very upbeat and very energetic. He wanted to please
people, but not all the time. Tim had his feet on a cloud. He was very ethereal
and highly romantic."
Beckett met Buckley through her school friend Goldstein, but she was gone on him
before that; his singing struck her as "pure art without any restraint at
all." She found him to be "extremely gentle and tender for a boy. He
was very vulnerable and emotional. It made him terribly attractive to everybody
of both sexes. People just sort of swooned around him because he was so sweet.
I think that frightened him. He was difficult to deal with because he was scared
of his power over people. He almost seemed to try to reject his audiences for
loving him so much. He wasn't mature enough to accept that much attention."
Fields had just joined Elektra's publicity department when Goodbye and Hello
was released. Fields was drawn to Elektra because the label had his two favorite
artists: the Doors and Tim Buckley. "He was very playful, very modest, smart,
very charming, very elfin in a way," Fields says. "When I compare him
to Morrison, that monster to work with, Timmy was just a pleasure." Fields
found Buckley to be "a little bit goofy looking": "He wasn't a
great beauty but he photographed like one. To me, that's a star."
and Hello remains the best-selling of Buckley's four Elektra albums, but disappeared
from Billboard's LP chart after a scant five weeks--and a peak placing of #171.
Since his first album hadn't charted at all, his star was still in the ascendant.