Songwriter Larry Beckett on Collaborating with Tim Buckley
Paying Homage to John Lennon and Getting Ripped off by Bob Dylan
By Jeff Rosenberg
co-wrote half the songs on the new Tim Buckley demo collection,
"Lady, Give Me Your Key."
young-dying '60s troubadour Tim Buckley's already generous
posthumous discography gained two important additions this
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.
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unpublished essay about the song's origins.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
What was your reaction when you heard Omnivore Recordings was
releasing a Buckley singles compilation, of all things?
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"
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.
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.
were somewhat skeptical when the standalone single was proposed
by the label?
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,
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
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.
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
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.