The Tim Buckley Archives

The Fans

Salmon in a Ring-Shaped River

Veit Stauffer of Zurich, Switzerland could easily lay claim to the title of Tim Buckley Überfan.

Below are the sleeve notes that accompanied Comebuckley - Salmon In a Ring-shaped River, a double-CD, released as ReCDec 83 on September 28th, 2007.

He runs the independent record shop Rec Rec in his hometown.



Veit Stauffer at the Rec Rec

He coached the tribute band Comebuckley of Zurich, immersed himself in an unfinished movie-project on Tim Buckley, had an intense letter exchange with Buckley’s guitarist Lee Underwood, visited his widow Judy in Los Angeles and almost met his son Jeff twice.

Veit could have strayed every second line for yet another anecdote. We asked him to bundle his archeological results of a passion that hasbeen lasting for three decades…

Andi Czech

From City Vibes via Comebuckley to Radio Osaka

Helvetia was the first City Vibes song I heard in February 1979 in the cellar at the Weinbergstrasse 84 in Zurich when I was auditioning as their first drummer. They had already worked out four songs and were (as it then was fashionable) keen on releasing a single EP as soon as possible.

“Helvetia....Helve-tii-aa...” were the words whispered by 22-year-old singer Andi Czech into the microphone during the clever intro, and the timbre of his voice instantly reminded me of Tim Buckley, a singer I had discovered in June 1977. My admiration for Buckley’s music had grown and sent me off on an eighteen-month odyssey to find the nine albums that he had recorded between 1966 and 1974.

However, I pushed that thought aside, because at the time we were into bands like Wire, Talking Heads, Television, Patti Smith and Pere Ubu. A schoolmate of Andi’s had just emigrated to London and also had a very high opinion of Tim Buckley.

His name was Hanspeter “Düsi” Künzler, still to this day the most important Swiss music journalist living outside of Switzerland. In the spring of 1980, Andi began showing more interest in Buckley’s music and I lent him my treasured albums to copy. I also gave him a songbooks published by the French music magazine Atem in May 1977 which contained most of his lyrics.

In the summer of 1985, the City Vibes rejoined for a short comeback. There were ten rehearsals and interesting ideas, but in the end, the project failed. I proposed a Tim Buckley cover version and chose 1972’s Get on Top, perhaps the initial spark for all further Tim Buckley projects...

In the autumn of 1986, I received an invitation from Czech for the only performance of the party band Bye Bye Brothers at Der Kanzlei in Zurich. They performed various cover versions from the 60’s and 70’s, as well as three Tim Buckley tracks: No Man Can Find The War, Stone in Love and Quicksand. I was delighted and stunned.

In a surge of euphoria after the concert, I told Andi that I would produce a tribute album for Tim Buckley, whenever he liked to. This was a remarkable proposal for two reasons: firstly, tribute albums were practically unknown back in 1986, and secondly, I knew next to nothing about producing.

Andi’s fellow student Urs Rageth, was engaged as co-producer. Guitarist Jürg Breitschmid brought along his experience as a sound engineer. Soon the four of us met and we all made a list of our favorite tracks. The songs that appeared on all four lists made it to the final round. Andi became totally involved with this ambitious project, and until today, it is his specialty to sing and act like Tim Buckley, with awe but also like a rogue.
"Timing was perfect when Paul Fischli gave me a video that he had found in Claude Nobs’ Montreux Jazz Festival Archives. It was there that for the first time I saw Tim Buckley in action.
I was emotionally overwhelmed..."

In Spring 1987 things got really serious. On one weekend, the Tim Buckley Band (Andi Czech, Jürg Breitschmid, Urs Klingler, Phil Esposito, Fredi Flückiger and Tommi Meier) locked themselves up in a vacation house in Frutigen, Berne, for the final and intense rehearsal sessions with co-producer Urs Rageth.

I was in the midst of a painful separation; it looked like that my two-year old son Orlando would spend his childhood in the distant city of Amsterdam, ten hours away from me. I tried to cope rationally with the situation but I was suffering from huge mood swings, lovesickness and jealousy, anger and desperation, accusation and conciliation. I was 28 and had just bought my first bottle of cognac so that I could take a calming sip from time to time. On Sunday, I arrived in Frutigen to listen to the results on tape.

If I think back about this today I can’t help but smile. Like a 'real manager', I theatrically covered my face with my hands and shouted “No way!“ Some of the songs were falling apart and I missed a sense of commitment and determination. I tried to articulate my doubts as objectively as possible; in any case they soon started to show an effect.

Andi took over responsibility for the musical concept, and we also had a joker up our sleeve called Ben Jeger, a famous keyboard player from Solothurn, who was supposed to come directly to the Sunrise studio in Kirchberg SG with his accordion and Hammond organ.

Witnessing the three days in the studio with soundman Hairi Vogel turned out to be a fascinating experience. The atmosphere was frisky, but we were very concentrated. We had chosen six songs from the years 1967-1972 and each song needed its own setting. Side A should show the rock-driven, extroverted side of Buckley, Make it Right was the short concentrate of Sweet Surrender, one of Buckley’s most accomplished songs, especially the string arrangement.

Comebuckley managed to approach the song with a confident post-punk attitude, and while Ben Jeger graced the song with his Hammond, Czech conjured up the sexual despair of the protagonist with in a totally credible way.

No Man Can Find The War was also brilliant, featuring formidable teamwork: Breitschmid has great some moments on screaming lead guitar, the whole rhythm-section is perfectly interlocked and Czech performs an ingenious trick with a double-superposed-echo scream, all culminating in the sound of a huge bomb explosion at the end of the track.

The arrangement of Pleasant Street was highly effective: discreet and sparse, with elegant piano playing in the beginning it slowly builds up to an explosive refrain.

Side B is dedicated to the introverted and experimental night-side of Buckley. Hymnic and ghostly, The River continues to produce goose bumps: a hypnotic sound-carpet with desolate guitar licks and the marvelous Fredi Flükiger on percussion with dampened drums.

Then the greatest challenge - a piece from 1970’s Starsailor. Jungle Fire is one single ritual séance, beginning with a moderate intro with sampled whale sounds, then 160 seconds later, the outburst and entrance of tenor saxophonist Tommi Meier, a creative chaos: “Mama Lion, I love you like a jungle fire” - which leads to a wonderful, totally original contribution of the Comebuckley Crew.

A quote from Buckley - “Everything is Music“ - had been expanded and translated to Italian: Tutto e musica-continuere a vivere-finche tu amerai-la mia musica. The four singers of the female a capella band Sophisticats - Clara Buntin, Eva Enderlin, Yvonne Geraedts and Erika Stucky - were invited to improvise on these words during a special recording session in the woods at the Uetliberg, close to Zurich:

Since there already was a New York garage band with the same name, the group later changed their name to Sophisticrats and released two albums Four Singers and Bass in 1990 and We Love You two years later. Afterwards, Erika Stucky began a successful solo career as a jazz singer.

The final song was the beautiful Blue Melody, featuring the lead guitar of Breitschmid and Ben Jeger on accordion.

The following week I listened nonstop to the rough mix. The astonishing result of thirty minutes saved my inner life in the early summer of 1987.


I had been in contact with Tim Buckley guitarist and journalist Lee Underwood since November 1985. His reaction was euphoric and encouraging.

“I am impressed with your dedication to Tim and his music, as well as how closely the singer resembles Tim’s tone and nuance. Obviously, a lot of work went into studying Tim, working out the arrangements, recording etc. I think you guys are terrific, and, indeed, I wish you all the best of success!”

On one hand, we had huge expenses to meet in order to mix the songs at the Powerplay studio, while on the other hand the preparations for the album release party on the fifth of December 1987 at the nightclub Rote Fabrik were at full speed. Comebuckley was scheduled for a big party for 1500 people.

Timing was perfect when then-WEA employee Paul Fischli gave me a video that he had found in Claude Nobs’ Montreux Jazz Festival Archives. It was there that for the first time I saw Tim Buckley in action, singing two tracks; Dolphins and Honey Man, recorded in May 1974 with crack British studio players Tim Hinkley, Ian Wallace and Charlie Whitney. I was emotionally overwhelmed.


Comebuckley Light
Sturzenegger and Czech

In February 1989, we had the chance to go on stage again. The studio band of 1987 was no longer available, so Fish of Hope, the band of Basel songwriter Sky Bird, filled the gap. This time we chose seven different Buckley songs that we arranged in our usual fashion: Sally Go Round the Roses, Honey Man, Mexicali Voodoo, Song to The Siren, Sefronia, Stone In Love and Dolphins.

In 1992 Andi Czech began his newest project Radio Osaka, an amalgam of experimental rock, jazz, electronica and ambient. This band included Tommi Meier and Fredi Flükiger of Comebuckley and from 1993 until 2004, recorded seven CDs, including two remix CDs and a live CD. A new addition was guitarist Stephan Thelen, a pupil of Robert Fripp and an important figure for the 2007 production.

In 2003, Czech initiated the duo project Comebuckley Light. First, he covered Buckley songs as solo unplugged versions, but soon asked his friend Martin Sturzenegger to join him. The songs had been sung by Andi at home over the years, and were now expanded to fit the new duo.

Martin (in 1982 a member of the punk band K.O.K. and for years a member of the Neil Young cover band Young) convinces with his earthy rhythm guitar as well as with effective backup vocals. This smaller Comebuckley formation takes the initial concept a few steps further; sticking very closely to the original versions, while revealing unexpected qualities of the material.

In this context, a minor mystery was recently unraveled and Buckley managed to surprise me again. I thought that Sally Go Round The Roses was a cover version of the 1963 hit of the female black band The Jaynettes. In the 1974 UK version of Sefronia, Lona Stevens and Zell Sanders are listed to be the authors, while all other versions declare Tim Buckley to be the author and the publisher seems to be indecisive). The truth is that Buckley only kept the refrain, wrote his own lyrics and conjured a completely different tune…

Personally, I would loved to have given Comebuckley Light two songs of Fred Neil and two of Jeff Buckley, and then send the duo (which performs in Switzerland on a regular basis) on tour abroad: this in accord with my ironically meant motto, created at a 1979/80 New Years Eve party for the City Vibes, “I will take you to America!“

   


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