The Tim Buckley Archives


Linda McCartney - A Portrait

Follow the Music: The Life and High Times of Elektra Records in the Great Years of American Pop Culture

by Danny Fields

Linda's incredible career, within a few months, had brought her close to most of the giants of 1960s rock and roll. She was photographing practically everyone in the pantheon of the new musical culture. And it's not only how well her instincts served her that amazes us when we look at her photographs from that time, but how good, how prescient her musical tastes were. Whether they've made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as by far most of her favourites have, or if they're merely ever more interesting as time goes by (like Blue Cheer, Jackson Browne, Tim Buckley), Linda picked the best.
Tim Buckley, the brilliant singer/songwriter who died of a heroin overdose at the age of twenty-eight in 1975, was a boy with whom she had a very brief fling, but whose memory she cherished, almost inordinately, long after the short time they spent together in 1967. I was his publicist at Elektra Records, a close friend and a great fan, and I set up a Central Park photo shoot with Linda and Timmy. Linda loved to work in Central Park, and took many of her best pictures in New York's huge, famous mid-town oasis.

The subject(s) could be isolated from the noise and action of the city, obviously, and the backgrounds were beautiful and almost infinite in number. This shoot resulted in dozens of exquisite, fantastically composed photographs, with Timmy looking his most fragile and angelic (he was, at the same time, a tough little devil), and the afternoon ended with Timmy and Linda going back to her apartment for ham sandwiches and an iceberg lettuce salad. Whatever. They were together only a very few more times; his budding drug habit scared Linda, and she preferred to remember the innocent Timmy rather than the one who was getting himself into a lot of trouble.

 After he died, she often brought up his name when the two of us talked about the people we had known together, frequently when Paul was there, rather enjoying our reminiscences. 'Oh, Tim Buckley! He was wonderful! It's so terrible what happened to him. He was so sweet. What a beautiful voice. Paul, you always liked his music. I wish I could find his records.'

One night in the spring of 1991, record producer Hal Lindner was putting together a (long overdue) tribute to Tim Buckley at a church in Brooklyn Heights renowned for its rather avant-garde events. Scheduled to appear in New York for the first time, singing two of his father's songs, was Jeff Scott Buckley, Tim's son. Tim had bolted from Los Angeles to New York while his wife was pregnant with Jeff; father and son had been together only twice in Jeff's lifetime, and only once when Jeff was old enough to know that this was indeed his father.

I had never met Jeff, nor to my knowledge had anyone who had hung out with Tim Buckley in his New York days. Linda and Paul were in town, and I asked her if she wanted to come to this tribute to her beloved Tim and meet his son.

'I can't make it,' she replied, 'but I'd love to send him a note. I don't know if he knows Tim and I were friends, but I'd just like to tell him how great I thought his father was.' A few hours later a messenger delivered an envelope to me; in it was a note from Linda to Jeff. I dashed backstage after the show (if indeed it's called 'backstage' at a church; I never know) and introduced myself to young Jeff - an astonishingly beautiful and talented replica of his late father, by the way.

 'Linda McCartney asked me to give you this note. She was a friend of your father's, and has always been a huge fan of his music'

 'I know that they knew each other, I know it very well,' he said. 'My favourite picture of my father is one that she took, and I keep it with me all the time. It's the one where he's sitting on a step with his feet like this, all pigeon-toed. Please tell her that I can't ever thank her enough for that picture.'

Jeffs own career started to take off soon after that. Linda followed it closely in the press, and would ask me about him whenever we spoke. Then she called to say that she and Paul would be in New York to do Saturday Night Live, and could I bring Jeff up to their dressing room, as they were both so eager to meet him?

I relayed this summons to him (it was always more in the nature of a summons than an invitation when one was invited into the actual Presence), and he was terrified. 'What will I talk about? I'm just not ready to meet them, I don't know if I'll ever be ready, what should I wear?' etc.

Jeff and I were whisked into the McCartney dressing room at 30 Rockefeller Plaza; they both stood up to meet him - Paul greeted Jeff with the famous charm that outshines anyone else's that I have ever known, and Linda hugged him.

'We're so happy that you're doing so well,' she began, and they continued to make such a loving fuss over him that I soon began to feel de trop. One is not supposed to leave until one is signalled to do so (which indeed I have been, from time to time), but I never thought of myself as one of those ones, so I said, 'Well, Jeff, I'm going to be off, I'm sure you'll be OK.'

He looked at me as if he weren't so sure at all, but Linda saw that and intervened. 'Of course he will. You take care of yourself.' Bye guys!
Months later, it was reliably reported to me that Paul and one of his children (probably Stella, but I won't put my arm in the fire on that) actually went to the Roseland Ballroom to see Jeff Buckley perform. Paul almost never goes to concerts, it's like the President taking a scheduled airlines flight. And to see Linda's friend's son? Even though he was one of the shining talents of the 1990s - this still blows my mind. Only a 60s cliche will do.

Author Danny Fields was a publicist for Elektra in the 1960's. He recommended to Elektra that the label sign the MC5 and The Stooges. He discovered the Ramones at the club CBGB, and helped get the band signed to Sire Records. He became their co-manager, with Linda S. Stein.

US Publisher: Renaissance Books Distributed by St. Martin's Press, ©2000.
UK Publisher: Warner Books, 2001, ©2000.

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