The Tim Buckley Archives



Portland Songwriter Larry Beckett on Collaborating with Tim Buckley

Paying Homage to John Lennon and Getting Ripped off by Bob Dylan

By Jeff Rosenberg

Beckett co-wrote half the songs on the new Tim Buckley demo collection, "Lady, Give Me Your Key."

High-flying, young-dying '60s troubadour Tim Buckley's already generous posthumous discography gained two important additions this fall. October's Lady, Give Me Your Key: The Unreleased 1967 Solo Acoustic Sessions collects demos for Buckley's second album, 1967's Goodbye and Hello, adding seven previously unknown songs. Roughly half its tracks were written with Buckley's lifelong friend and songwriting partner Larry Beckett, a longtime Portlander; the two met in high school in Anaheim, Calif. A pair of its tunes were re-recorded for a never-released single that same year.

Those two revelatory sides appear on the other new archival release, the just-issued Wings: The Complete Singles 1966-1974. But these tracks aren't the only "long lost" thing about Beckett's creative career nowadays. October also saw the release of his collaborative single with Lancaster, U.K.'s Long Lost Band, a version of his and Buckley's best-known tune, "Song to the Siren," that incorporates Beckett's recitation of an unpublished essay about the song's origins. I sat with Beckett at his Portland home to talk about all this music, old and new.

"And with [the song] "Wings," I wrote two verses and the chorus, and then gave the rights to Tim, because I didn't like his first verse. So I said, "You can have all the royalties." So, I'm not credited"
Willamette Week: What was your reaction when you heard Omnivore Recordings was releasing a Buckley singles compilation, of all things?

Larry Beckett: I'm thinking, "What does Tim Buckley have to do with singles? Nothing! What are they talking about?" So, I was sent the tracklist. They were gonna call it Move with Me, and I said, "Can you call it Wings?" There's a tradition of Buckley albums that have lyrics by me on them being named after a song or a lyric from me.

And, accidentally, that happened again with Lady, Give Me Your Key—they chose that [song for the album title]. So, I thought Wings sounded better. It rhymes with "singles," almost. And with [the song] "Wings," I wrote two verses and the chorus, and then gave the rights to Tim, because I didn't like his first verse. So I said, "You can have all the royalties." So, I'm not credited, but I'm actually the author of everything but the first verse, and the very last section.

You were somewhat skeptical when the standalone single was proposed by the label?

It was kind of an odd idea in the first place, because Buckley didn't seem like a "singles artist." And I think [Elektra Records boss Jac] Holzman thought better of it. Besides, we didn't really put our heart and soul into it. We thought singles were stupid, and we tried to make a mockery of the entire enterprise. Maybe that showed through, I don't know. I never heard why, but it didn't come out.

Moving forward almost 50 years, how did the collaboration with the Long Lost Band, and the new "Song to the Siren" single, come about?

Stuart Anthony is a British folk-rocker who was actually influenced by Buckley and Beckett. Was a big fan of both of us. He reached out to me on Facebook [in 2013], and not too long into us chatting, I'd listened to some of his stuff and thought it wouldn't hurt to try and write a song [together]. So I sent him the lyrics to "John Lennon." He was in awe—didn't know if he could do it, but figured he'd try, and wrote the music to it.

And it went very slowly. It took him forever to write the first song, and then we figured, well, we'll write a second song, and the next song I chose to send him to work on was the last one Tim and I were working on, "On the Hook," which Tim said he had music to, but I never heard it, and it's been lost. So these British blokes, the Long Lost Band, [ultimately] did a whole album of my songs [2015's One More Mile]. And [around the same time] I got my poem, Paul Bunyan, published by a British press. So I thought, something is happening there, in England. I have to go over there and see what's the deal.

With the band backing me up, I got to play Liverpool, across the street from the Cavern Club, and do my elegy for John Lennon. And one of the things the band and I worked up was me reading my essay about the creation of "Song to the Siren," and where the stanza of the song came in [as quoted in the essay], they would perform it, kind of woven in together. And that just killed, actually. It was, by much, the most popular thing we did.

So then what happened was, behind my back, their very clever and talented producer, Paul Walmsley, said, "Let's do a studio version of this." So they used the audio from [a recording of the essay which appeared as a bonus track on the 2007 DVD, Tim Buckley: My Fleeting House], and then they performed the song in the studio.

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