The Tim Buckley Archives

Interviews

Melody Maker (UK) - April 1968

"Don't Call Me a Poet..."


By Tony Wilson

Tim Buckley is slightly built and a mass of brown curls wreath his head. He is a quiet, rather serious, person but is quick to smile when something appeals to his sense of humor.


Tim headlined at London's Middle Earth club on Aril15, 1968

At twenty-one he is one of the best contemporary singer/songwriters to emerge in recent years, as his two albums, "Tim Buckley" and "Goodbye And Hello," prove.

Call him a poet, and he denies being such. "Poetry is poetry and songs are songs," says Tim currently on tour in Britain, "I know poets who write things I could never write."

Originally from New York, Tim grew up in Southern California. "I've lived in most places in America. I went to school in New York, then my folks moved to the West Coast because all the work was there."

Tim started his musical career playing country music, teaching himself first banjo, then guitar. "I learnt to play for a country band," says Tim. "I played with them for a couple of years then I started getting into my own thing."

Tim first came to light when he was working clubs with Larry Beckett, whose poetry he set to music, and bass player Jim Fielder. At a club called It's Boss he met Mothers of Invention drummer, Jim Black, who introduced him to the Mothers' manager, Herb Cohen.

Herb booked Tim into New York's Night Owl cafe and there he was heard by Elektra Records chief, Jac Holzman, in August 1966 and two months later Tim's first album was released. Critics acclaimed it, and from there on in Tim began to work the big clubs and festivals throughout America.

It was while appearing at the Cafe Au Go-Go in Greenwich village that the late Brian Epstein went to hear Tim on the recommendation of Beatle George Harrison.

In June 1967, Buckley cut his second Elektra album, Goodbye And Hello from which a single, Wings has just been released in Britain. Though Tim denies being a poet, there is a poetic feeling about his songs.

He points to no particular influences saying, "I listen to what other people are doing, but I have never been a chameleon. Of course you learn from other writers and you learn from everything around you--I don't learn anything from pop--I'm not saying that to be careful, I mean it. One person I have learned from is Eric Clapton. We just sat and played guitar together.

"But there is a vast difference between what happens on stage and on an album. Some people have more time to sit and write. It depends on how much time I have. I write on stage. If you are playing three sets a night for three weeks then you have to have new things.

"A different city suggests different ideas. But you have to be open or you don't really communicate with people. You have to keep up with people in order to communicate."

Has Tim's music changed much? "It's not for me to judge," he replies. "I'm living too close to it. It's a transition. I have to be ruthless and say what is happening. I'm not sentimental over old songs. I'm constantly writing. The main thing is the music."

Tim was worried at the start of his visit as to what he should sing and what the reaction would be. Judging by his appearances on the recent Incredible String Band concert at the Royal Festival Hall and London's Speakeasy club, it has been good.

"I'm writing things now that are unbelievably simple, very commonplace. I guess you would call them clichés, but they are clichés to the point of how you say them," he says.

Tim Buckley is concerned only with his music. He dresses casually, simply.

Perhaps the story he related about his appearance on the Monkees show sums it up. He had been writing with Monkee Mike Nesmith in Texas before Mike had become a Monkee.

"They asked me to sing on the show. I went along and there was Mike in his mohair suit, and I turned up in working shirt and trousers.

"Mike said, 'Hey, you're still wearing the same old clothes.' I replied, 'Yes, and I'm still singing my own songs.'"


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