The Tim Buckley Archives

Concert Reviews

The Main Point, Philadelphia - April 6-10, 1967

Tim Buckley: "An incredibly thin wire -- Dylan thin"

By Jay Hoster
The Haverford News - April, 1967

At five of eight the hootenanny is still alive at the Main Point. It is a term that seems to have been forgotten or abandoned everywhere but here. There are three men on stage, one singing assorted phrases, the other two taking reading. For them there is no heresy in doing a Lennon-McCartney composition, and he is reading Eleanor Rigby. He pauses and the other one tells of “Naomi's rings in the Bronx. It is Ginsberg's favorite dish." Then the three men leave the stage, which has a guitar and a banjo hung on opposite sides of it.

"Won't you welcome singer and songwriter Sandy Rhodes?" A few unknown folk songs (her own, she explains), and then on to the Beatles. Wondering how anyone can perform the Strawberry Fields Forever live, she does Mr. Moonlight. one of her own compositions (recorded by Carolyn Hester, she explains) and then to the standards: The Girl from Ipanema, and Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out.

Then "The Main Point is proud to present - TIM BUCKLEY."

Elektra's New Talent:

I first heard the voice of Tim Buckley several months ago when Elektra sent out a promo record of what the press release and others have called "a new talent." Elektra has always been prominent in folk music, and is presently moving cautiously into the field] of rock, but it was hard to place Buckley's Wings in either category. I simply called it folk-rock and played it.

The Main Point was a music hall in Bryn Mawr, where Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and James Taylor were introduced to local audiences.

WHAT-FM was an all jazz station in Conshohocke,. PA, a suburb north and west of Philadelphia

The CBS taping mentioned supplied the clip that can be seen in the Manifesto DVD 'My Fleeting House'

It is the voice of Buckley that strikes one upon first hearing his songs. Its range is that of a tenor, but is without any of the unnaturalness that is customary in pop singers of that range. It is clear, yet filled with remarkable power. Furthermore, this strength in his voice seems completely natural; whenever Buckley forces it (which he did too often at the Main Point) the effect is ruined.

Until Buckley walked onto the stage with a guitar in hand and a congo drum player following, he had been no more for me than a voice and a face staring from an album jacket. I almost expected a mad scientist-engineer type form Elektra to come forth with a tape recorder in hand, and say "Tim Buckley is MY creation." (Applied to other singers, this is not so fantastic as it may sound). Yet there he was and it was all real, and even all "very, very live" as some Johnny Rivers album might say.

Buckley is thin. "An incredibly thin wire" says the album; Dylan-thin was my impression. His hair is curly, and seems to be even fluffier than Dylan's. His features are sharp, with that lean and hungry artist look about him. His guitar maybe of normal size, but it looks big on him. Buckley never caresses it, but holds it as one would a three or four year old child: graspingly. The guitar and the hair together give the singer a curiously top-heavy appearance. The legs, fitted closely in corduroy seem to be too small to support the weight.

The voice never says anything except an occasional "thank you"; and once a sentence to introduce his congo accompanist. This might have been read off a prompt card, the tone is so unvarying, the concern to finish so great. The face never shows any reaction to acclaim, although that of the congo player is not so faithful: I once caught a hint of a smile. The head is thrown back when the voice is singing, the body moving with the rhythm.

Anyone's Basement:

Entering the basement of the Main Point after the end of the first show, I thought that it might be the basement of anyone's house. Along one side a couple of rooms had been set up. I saw Sandy Rhodes in one, and walked over to the other one. Three kids with pens and yellow, torn-in-half "Welcome to the Main Point" cards entered ahead of me. They asked for the singer's autograph. I took out my notebook and promised to make the questions brief.

Buckley was crouching on the floor, doing something to his guitar; he made the answers brief. He became more verbal when he was interviewed on WHAT-FM later that night; but even then he spoke no more than two or three sentences in reply to any one question.

I found he had been born in Washington, D.C., and is now 20. He spent two weeks at Fullerton College, but left because he "wasn't ready for it." he told me he had developed his own musical style, although for WHAT, he said that country music had influenced it.

When asked, "what do you think of Dylan?" Buckley replied, "I generally don't." I then came up with a personal question, "What is your favorite Dylan song?" He thought for a moment, and then looked up at me, and said "Desolation Row. Dylan likes it," he explained.

Buckley's immediate plans are to return to California, where in May he will begin recording his second album. Elektra hopes to have this out by August. After that, he is going to India for the purposes of "meditation." Buckley is not, however, going to make a formal study of Indian music; "I'm not George Harrison, although he likes me and I like him." Mr. Harrison was not available for comment.

"Hello, Tim, I'm from Penn Records. We just can't keep your record in stock." I looked around to see a middle-aged man in a sport jacket with a yellow Main Point Folk Club button attached to the lapel.

I wanted to know why he recorded on Elektra. "No one else would take me," he said. On WHAT he pointed out that Elektra is capable of growing with the artist. This is an important concept for Buckley. He told me the reason he did not sing any of the songs off his album during the first show was because "I'm doing different things now." Later he said, "everything I do is an experiment," and, also, "an artist has to grow." Another concept which is important for Buckley is that of coherence. Every aspect of the song-- lyrics, voice, accompaniment must contribute to the totality.

© Linda Eastman
"An incredibly thin wire..."
Buckley counts his two singles released by Elektra as his failures. When asked for his successes, he thought for a moment and said, "tonight." I then wanted to know, "what about the Swarthmore Rock Festival? I heard that you sort of took the show away from Jefferson Airplane." Another pause, and he spoke a word which he uses frequently: "yeah." This was not an "if you say so" yeah, but one which seemed to indicate that the speaker of [ ] felt the same way, and thanked his interviewer for the compliment.

Up to this point I had been showering Buckley with a torrent of questions, an outburst which surprised even myself. As the source began to run dry, Buckley peered up at me the way a man looks at a dark-clouded sky, wondering if there is going to be any more rain. Did he ever get the proverbial "break" in his career? As if to show that he has a sense of humor, Buckley replied, "Yeah, I got busted on the Sunset Strip." most of his songs seem to be about a girl. Is it the same one in every song? "I'm sort of hung up on one girl. But some of my songs are about war."

Sandy Rhodes could still be heard singing above us when I stopped the interview. Later, on WHAT, Buckley said, "I've always felt very awkward about talking to people." I think I understand: whatever Tim Buckley has to say to the world he does it through his songs.

Shouts Penetrate Applause:

The audience during the second show was as enthusiastic as that of the first. Shouts penetrated the applause after Buckley finished a song, and he was called back to give an encore at the end of both of his shows. I was gratified to see that he started the second performance with three songs from his album, and then did one of the songs about war that he had spoken of: "Is the war across the sea? Is the war inside your mind? All the world knows the score, but no man can find the war." CBS, by the way, made a videotape of Buckley doing this song for a folk-rock special scheduled for this month.

Who is Tim Buckley? "I'm an incredibly thin wire." Who does Tim Buckley think he is? "I think I'm me."

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