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A Tim Buckley Story - Part Two

I asked him where he was staying, he told me about his new album, Sefronia and all else fades from memory. Again, none of the special connection that filled me through the music, but I wasn’t about to let that discourage me. He left the club and I hailed a cab to take me to the Blue Boy Hotel where he was staying; a hotel near the Fraser River that had a bit of a sleazy reputation, an occasional suicide, perhaps a murder.

I arrived at the hotel and asked for the number of Tim Buckley’s room and head up on the elevator. He hadn’t yet arrived so I parked myself outside the door to wait. After some time the bellboy I’d seen at the front desk came by. I told him my friend and I had left at the same time but that he must have gone somewhere else first. He said to wait a moment and he let himself into the room and used the telephone.

He came back out and said, “You can wait in the room.” I was relieved to see twin beds, it was very late, 2:30 or 3 o’clock and I was tired. I took off my things and was just getting into bed when Tim arrived. He had a look of shock and disbelief on his face and asked how I got in. I explained. To his credit he didn’t tell me to immediately get out. He just said he was going out for a bit and told me not to answer the phone if it rang. I slept.

In the morning when we were both awake I must have told him more of what was going on in my head and I know I tried to get answers from him. I have little recall of exactly how the conversation went. I do remember he was polite and not unkind. The whole thing must have been quite bizarre for him. A wild-haired, wild-eyed, disabled hippy chick materializing through the door of his supposedly private hotel room! I dressed, asked him for cab fare and went back to my friend’s where I was staying, The Sow’s Ear shop was now a thing of the past.

© Rick McGrath/
Tim onstage at The Egress

That night I once again went to the Egress for the show where all the same magic occurred and once again, I am somewhat embarrassed to say, I made my way back to the Blue Boy Hotel. This time Tim’s wife, Judy was there and they were checking out of the hotel. We three rode down in the elevator together. She was polite and friendly and again I had to ask for cab fare.

During the three years from my mental explosion until Tim’s death I saw him perform several times in Vancouver and Victoria. Time would pass after seeing him and I would convince myself that I was a bit crazy and attempt to get interested in somebody else and then another recording would come out and all the same connections would happen. Or he would come to town again.

I no longer made a fool of myself after his performances. I realized that the way I saw who Tim was, was only through his music and so the only way he would see who I really was, was if I wrote songs. I can thank him for setting me on the road to becoming a songwriter. After gigs he would introduce me to band members as “my friend, Judy”. But the dreams and desires and plans never left me. I was going to sing my songs onstage to Tim Buckley. With Tim Buckley. He was pure, he was holy, he suffered like Jesus. I believed, somehow, he was.

At a performance I would always position myself front and centre. There was no way I would not be noticed. I felt he sang better after he saw I was there. Each time I saw him perform after the first time, he looked happier, better dressed, more of the rock star. There was no way a recording could truly reproduce the experience of seeing and hearing Tim Buckley on stage.

The last time I saw him perform was in Long Beach, California. I was spending my second winter in San Pedro, a suburb of Los Angeles and found out Tim was playing at the Starwood in Long Beach. I went with a couple of guy friends. By this time I was cool and collected. Of course when Tim played in B.C., seeing me in the audience was nothing new. The look of genuine surprise on his face seeing me on his own turf was delightful. I left it at that. No backstage notes, no arranging to stay after the show. I had matured. I was working on my own music, my own story.

One warm June day back in Vancouver my best friend Andrea and I were somewhere near 4th avenue looking to score some pot. We were sitting in the back seat of a long white Cadillac or Lincoln driven by big bearded fellow who may have been called Bear. The radio was playing and a news flash came on saying that Tim Buckley had died in Los Angeles from an apparent heart attack.

I was washed by a stunned feeling of disbelief, yet somehow in the confusion of my feelings there came a tremendous feeling of relief, like a huge weight had lifted. In my grief, which was the first time I had truly experienced real loss since leaving my childhood home in India, I felt that that the relief I was experiencing was Tim’s relief at not having to suffer this life any longer. But really it was the relief of my not being burdened by my obsession. I was free.

It later came out that Tim had died from mistakenly overdosing from snorting heroin thinking it was cocaine. That was also incorrect. It seems that it was heroin and alcohol.

For a while I stayed in world I’d created. There was not a lot of difference between connecting to the dead Tim or the living Tim. It was all spirit and fantasy. Only there was no longer the possibility of the musical and physical get-together between us.

During my early 20’s I did a fair amount of experimentation with various drugs. I was never curious about heroin or speed but anything else I would give a try. Tim’s death, and its connection to cocaine (as was mistakenly first reported) may have saved me from a serious drug problem. I had dabbled with coke a couple of times and after Tim’s death I began to hear other stories about death and cocaine.

Soon after his death I got together with the man who would become my husband for fourteen years and the father of my two daughters.

I no longer puzzle over what happened or why. The whole experience was a gift. A gift of magic, a gift of creativity, a gift of understanding those who balance on the brink of what is real and unreal and those who tumble over the edge.

© Judy Norbury
January 2004

Born in India and raised in Vancouver, Judy Norbury spent much of early adult life participating in the west-coast music scene. She has played at concerts and folk festivals throughout British Columbia, Canada, primarily on Vancouver Island where she has made her home for the past 25 years. With two albums, and a vast repertoire of original songs ranging from bluegrass to folk-rock, Judy is an established and respected artist throughout Vancouver Island.

A blithe spirit that knows no limitations, Judy, through her songs, extols the abundance of love, laughter and whimsy that has propelled her along her journey of life. Judy plays guitar and Appalachian mountain dulcimer and sings, with a voice that is both rich and sweet, songs with humour, melancholy and courage. The lyrics in her songs document her personal experiences in a way that is both powerful and intimate.

Judy is also part of the singing duo Norbury and Finch

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