The Tim Buckley Archives


1975 Goldmine interview - Part Two

Goldmine: What led to your first recording contract?

Tim Buckley: My high school band and I went to Hollywood.

Goldmine: Did that include bassist Jim Fielder, who was later in Blood, Sweat & Tears?

Tim Buckley: Uh-huh. Also, I had gone to school with Larry Beckett who I've been writing with ever since. Beckett was a drummer and we had a guy named Brian Hartzler on guitar. He's writing operas now but he started out on a Stratocaster. Anyway, we went to Hollywood to find a manager and a gig to establish ourselves.

We went to a club called It's Boss; now it's called Art Laboe's. We auditioned for this guy and we didn't finish one tune. We played 25 tunes for him and halfway through each one, he'd say, "Okay, let me hear the next one." We had an amazing repertoire; we did everything. We didn't know anything about the Top 40 thing at that time; we thought, "They're gonna love us, man; we wrote all our own songs." Not so; he wanted Top 40 -- The Midnight Hour or Knock On Wood. But then he'd heard that we had all these songs, so he wanted to find a record company for us.

We ended up sending a tape to Jac Holzman and he made the decision; he called back. So we went by Volkswagen to New York. Beckett and I were the only ones that stuck together because Brian was underage and Jimmy Fielder wanted to play with this more successful rock group he was with. He had a funny turn of events; he got into the Buffalo Springfield who folded as soon as he got into the group (laughs) and then about three other people whose things folded as soon as he got into the group.

Finally, when we got to New York, he teamed up with Al Kooper as the Blues Project was folding. Those were great days in New York. Just the other day, I heard that first Blood, Sweat & Tears album that Al Kooper did and the arrangements were just amazing. At the time, I really didn't dig it that much but when I heard a tune from it just the other day, it sounded just great, really innovative.
"... it was getting pretty ridiculous to go on after the people that plugged in the Grand Coulee Dam, the mind-wipe music. It was like a fart after a hail storm to go on after Pink Floyd or Blue Cheer."
Goldmine: There were a lot of musical innovations happening in the late '60s.

Tim Buckley: Well, we all believed in something.

Goldmine: Were the socio-political songs on the second album just of that period or were they more Larry than you or what?

Tim Buckley: We both felt that way plus Jac left us alone to do what we wanted to do. The song Goodbye and Hello was not played on any radio stations at all. No Man Can Find The War was not played. Pleasant Street and Morning Glory were played. But all the political things were carefully screened by whoever it is, the CIA or FBI or the program directors, whoever it is that keeps the information flow not going out to the people.

I thought they were terrifically entertaining songs but they were not allowed to reach mass proportions. And I dare say, today they wouldn't be either. Bye bye, Miss American Pie/Drove my Chevy to the levee... Somehow, that song's about John Kennedy's assassination. If you have to do it that way, you might as well send codes.

Goldmine: Was there just a slow, word-of-mouth trip going on at the time about you?

Tim Buckley: Yeah, but in those days, that worked, because there was a street and the word of the street was the best publicity you could have. Now, when a record company tells you that, it's a joke. But before each of my first three albums, I didn't have a guitar until a week before the sessions because I had had to sell them to live.

It wasn't until after Happy/Sad that I was making enough bread to pay a band. I had Carter Collins on congas and Lee Underwood on guitar; we did that for years until it was getting pretty ridiculous to go on after the people that plugged in the Grand Coulee Dam, the mind-wipe music. It was like a fart after a hail storm to go on after Pink Floyd or Blue Cheer.

Goldmine: What happened to change things when you were writing the material for Happy/Sad?

Tim Buckley: Larry and I were writing differently at the time and if you write together, you're usually good enough to know when you can't. What I was doing on Happy/Sad was a lot more musical. The overall lyric expression is pretty hot to this day but I'm not the giant of the lyric that he is. For people to write together, it takes a lot of understanding because you're not just writing a song, you're writing an album. A song is just part of it, you know.

Even though they cut the music up into different bands on the record, still, each song has got be part of the whole. I keep real good track of what I've done before and try to add on a new dimension, which wreaks havoc with business because they have to sell something over and over again if it clicks. But I know to this day I could never write another Goodbye and Hello because why say it twice? Followups are never as good as the original song.

Goldmine: At that time, your material became more personal; was this a choice that you sat down and thought about or did it just flow at the time? Hello, Beckett wanted to get even rawer than I did so that's why I did the album by myself. At that time and still today, I do believe that things cannot be changed in the world by hammering into people's minds that some things are right and some things are wrong. You can't pound in a point of view or a lifestyle.

It has to be done by example, and doing songs on one-to-one relationships because you're talking about rudimentary things that we all live on. I don't regret doing the political trip; I just regret that the American people haven't been told anything. And now, the paranoia is becoming real; it's real great for a lot of us to know that what we were fearing in those days was right.

Goldmine: So we find out ten years later that the CIA really was spying on a lot of people back in the '60s.

Tim Buckley: Right (laughs). Now that we're off the streets and demobilized, it's okay to tell us.


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