The Tim Buckley Archives

Interviews

Interview transcription
Rockspeak, BBC Radio One 1974


Interviewer (I): I think, first of all, I should tell Rockspeak listeners that you've made about eight albums ... to my reckoning anyway. And one of the earlier ones had people like Van Dyke Parks.

Tim Buckley (TB): The very first one in fact.

I: And you've changed directions many times, I think, and used a lot of musicians. For instance, can you recall that first album with Van Dyke Parks?

TB: Yeah, well we met ... we were living in the same hotel, apartment building I'm sorry, outside of Hollywood and the drummer Billy Mundy was rooming with him and Jim Fielder was with me who later went with Blood Sweat & Tears. And we just got a band together and I got the first contract, so we did an album. And that was basically it. Plus, we recorded ... we helped the Byrds record their first album. We did studio work for them.

I: That would be the era of Mr. Tambourine Man?

TB: Yeah.

I: That particular album ... And what did you actually do on that?

TB: Played Rogers solo (laughs). Then he learned how to play guitar later. I know it sounds ruthless but it was pretty much true. And then Van Dyke finally got his own contract with Warners and did Song Cycle and a couple of things after that.

I: And what did you do following that? I mean, were then a session musician or not?

TB: I did a few things, but when I got my contract with Elektra, I just started writing more and more -- four albums. Then we did Goodbye And Hello and just kept progressing, you know, song-wise and musically.

I: I know that you have a particular thing about the voice in rock 'n' roll. You have a very good voice. A lot of people don't and I gather that you're rather critical of that.

TB: There's always room for another good singer. I mean, maybe not room for another great guitarist because, you know, there are a lot of guitarists and a lot of saxophone players.

But the voice ... It's really hard to have a personality and develop that. And it takes a long time to become a singer. Someone like Stevie Wonder now. When he started and where he is now is really a long time. People that have it naturally, say, like Ray Charles or someone like that, who knows where they come from. Or Nat King Cole, your girl Cleo Lane, you know, that come out of nowhere and they've been great always. But some people actually can develop singing. So I don't know what's going to happen with people that sing this scream-rock 'n' roll thing happening now. Uh, they may develop. If they find something that they like, they may develop.

I: And what about a voice like Rod Stewart?

TB: Well, I don't know ... I think it's hopeless. (laughs) I don't know, he sings well for what he does and for what he wants to do. And obviously, if he wanted to do something else he'd probably develop towards it.

I: Now, I said that you do change direction. What causes those changes? And also your career ... Does it further your career?

TB: In America, to a certain audience, it does. To, let's say, like the Dean Martin audience, no. (laughs) You know, that type of audience. But to people who like music, you know, it's refreshing to 'em. To me, it's almost an integral part of what I am, because I can't write the same thing over and over again. So that's either my problem or my virtue. And whatever I hear, I try to sing it and then try to write it. And that's pretty much, I think, the fact with most singer-songwriters. If you talk to any of them ... they just try to express as much as they can and that's where it's at, that's the art of it.

I: What are you going to do next when you get back to America?

TB: Well, I ... we've recorded half an album, so we'll be finishing that. And then my real project is to record a live album, a double album. And I'm in the process now of going through everything I've done to see what I'll put on it. And that's where I'm at now. I'm just sort of reviewing everything.

I: And how are you going to with musicians? I mean, you say you're going to record your musical history. Would get those musicians like Van Dyke Parks and people like that back?

TB: Yeah. See, I'm gonna have to start deciding on who can do what. It'll be in a club in San Francisco, so I'll probably have to break it up into a couple ... four days and concentrate on a certain style for each day of recording, let's say, with a live remote truck and everything like that. So yeah, I'm gonna have to come to grips with that and see if they'll work. But getting them to go the first go isn't really that hard.

I: Now, let's talk about, or at least you talk about, your album and if you could introduce a few tracks from it for us.

TB: OK. Well, one I didn't write. I think you'd might like to play a song called the "Dolphins" song and that's by Fred Neil, who's a very good friend of mine, and I think it's a very good song. It took me a long time to learn how to sing it because he's one of the greatest singers ... that I know of anyway. And finally I called him up and asked him to come see me play and if it would be alright if I recorded this song. And he gave me the go-ahead and that's why we did the "Dolphins."

(Dolphins)

TB: That was the "Dolphins." I think next what I'd like the people here to hear is the title song "Sefronia," which is in two parts in Europe. It's actually all one tune in the release in America, but it's something to do with the law here ... so maybe there's two titles and it has to be two separate cuts.


So what you're not going to hear is the transitional musical piece that took me four months to write, because it's faded out in the middle ... But I can assure you it's great. The song itself took me a long time to write and it's done in one take. And what I did was sit down with a guitar and do it, and then we orchestrated later for it. And it's pretty much self-explanatory. It's the irony of the slave name Sefronia is what it is. And also from an Ethiopian fable which is called "I've Got a Cow in the Sky but I Can't Drink Her Milk" which just deals with the irony that man thinks he controls woman but doesn't, and vice versa.

(Sefronia)

TB: OK, next song. "Because of You" ... I think I'd like to hear that. Other than "Sweet Surrender," which was on the album before this Greetings From L.A., I think, soulfully, it's my best for that type of song. And, let's see, Joe Falsia is on it playing guitar, and Bernie Mysior on bass, Buddy Helms on drums, myself on 12-string. And I kinda like it. It has that good African-Latin feel ... I kinda like that. Plus it has a good pattern, good melody.

(Because of You)


© 1974 BBC Radio


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