The Tim Buckley Archives



By Andy Childs

(Note: This interview was originally published in ZigZag as part of a longer piece that can be read here)

Current music scene

TB: What do you think of music that's happening today, here and in America, in '74?

ZZ: It's a very complex question as far as I can see. There are a lot of things going on which I think are healthy in a lot of ways. I don't know whether there's any music that's got the magic of say, six or seven years ago, but there are enough good records, and enough talented people to keep one occupied.

TB: Well, maybe it was because of the interest in music. It seemed like everything depended on music in the '60s. Protest movements, the flower-power thing, the acid rock, the acid rock game, now our lives don't depend on that message.

ZZ: No, not to a certain extent. But I still think it's important.

TB: Yeah, I think so. But I don't think the general...

ZZ: Well, they've cheapened the value of it. They take it for granted, or they cheapen the values of people. I don't know, it's a strange thing about the grass always being greener. A lot of American bands come over here and get very favorable receptions, and the same goes for our bands who go to the States.

TB: It is uncanny, because both countries seem to ignore their natural resources. I have a very strong current there, but it's not the Top 40 syndrome. You can say the same thing about Ray Charles, but still he plays in big places. I think the longer you are around and if they know you are going to play, and you are not a coy entertainer, say, like most of the groups who don't play a lot, they'll say "Maybe we'll put out this album", and they are assured of a certain amount of success. Somehow they've done that. What happens with someone like Ray Charles of B. B. King, they're players. You go and see them instead of putting them on the Top 40, ''cause they're around. And to me you are more of a part of the culture that way because somehow the Top 40 is not the culture. I don't know why.
"See, everyone's playing just about the same thing right now, and that's been happening for the last three or four years because I guess it's a business..."
ZZ: Well it's anonymous a lot of the time.

TB: Yeah. That's it, it's anonymous. So like when Foghat go to America, or The Strawbs, they do the entire country and then go back through it again and become part of the culture. Whereas someone like Marvin Gaye never plays. So the only taste people get of him is to buy the album, which is good in one respect, but really kinda tragic in another, because he never gets the real feeling from people. Whereas Ray always does, or Stevie Wonder always feels people. Can't live without them. You don't know if you're writing if you don't play for people.

ZZ: I can only see it from this side of the Atlantic, but there seems to be people in the States, especially the West Coast, they seem to be geared to secluding themselves as much as possible.

TB: Yeah, on the West Coast they actually are. They really isolate themselves from the cities where more active living is going on. I can't strike an analogy with anybody here because I don't know how things are done here as far as people play, but I think it's very important to play Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Boston, the South, and not stay in Los Angeles. Because in Los Angeles you are just with people who are hearing the same notes, and you become a cult instead of a personality. That's a dangerous trap to get into and I know that's what's happening.

"See, everyone's playing just about the same thing right now, and that's been happening for the last three or four years because I guess it's a business. You know, you say something sounds like them or like that, I can really see it 'cause everyone's relating to the same thing over there. The same kind of music. That's what was nice about the '70's. Bill Graham would book Clara Ward, gospel music with somebody like B. B. King, and then something like Faroah Sanders. You'd have four different types of music there.

“What changed was the battle of the guitar night, Jeff Beck, Johnny Winter, all of them on the same bill, and it was really monotonous, and not really culturally good for an audience. What it did was milk an audience for a certain style. Try and make it more important than something else. Which is always dangerous in the long run, culturally [---] -edy of music burning out is that there are people involved in the music that burn out. So Bill Graham was the "hippest " of all the promoters because he put together a show that was America. That's sad, because it's really needed now, in my opinion. It was like when an audience goes to see a director's movie it was almost like going to see Bill Graham's show, you understand?

“And so, you were up for an evening... it was like Jac Holzman, you weren't afraid to buy an album form him. Right now I don't think there is a personality like that, that you can depend on. And that's the problem. That's really the problem. That's why when I asked you the question about what do you think is going on, too much of the same thing is going on, because people are forced to copy each other to exist. Black and white. English and American. That's not good.

ZZ: Are there any originals do you think?

TB: Well, there are some that may emerge. Dr. John is always very unique and fun. Miles (Davis) will always be unique, whether anyone likes him or not or he will always come out smelling like a rose 'cause he's a giant. Cleo has just made a phenomenal impression on America. Cleo Laine. As far as groups, the Mahavishnu thing, well that's dissolving. That had a very healthy effect.

ZZ: You think so?

TB: Oh yeah. In America anyway.

ZZ: I saw them once over here and they just blew my brains out, they were very loud and very fast.

TB: Well let me tell you about Foghat and all those people. The English aren't exactly the softest sounding groups. The thing that's nice about people like Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye, and stuff like that, is that they cook at a musical level, and they don't have to plug into the Grand Cooley [sic] Dam to get it off, y'know, they get it off between themselves and the people.

It's a crock, it's not a bombardment of World War Two. You know the one that did it, that really made it was Jimi Hendrix because it was him. But [--- line missing---] exactly the same thing except without the electronics. You felt an involvement there with the person, that's the important thing. So there are people, there are writers, but it's moving out of music. It's moving into politics, moving into journalism.

Involvement with films

ZZ: I read somewhere that you were working on film scores.

TB: They were a little too expensive the for shape the business is in. They were all comedies. If you find anybody that's interested the door is always open to discuss a million dollar script.

ZZ: Are you still interested in doing it?

TB: Oh yeah. I believe in what I wrote, I always do.

ZZ: You've got everything you've written?

TB: Yeah, I just have two scripts but very few people are prepared to come up with the money. And those who are don't see eye to eye with the viewpoints. When you're talking about a million dollars you're talking about... they can't really believe in what you're saying. It's a little hard to flim flam a million dollars.

Buckley has in fact, appeared in professional productions of Edward Albee's Zoo Story and Sartre's No Exit, and one of the scripts he talks about is titled Fully Airconditioned Inside, which he will probably be turning into a book. According to the latest Warner press release on him he is also adapting Joseph Conrad's novel Out Of The Islands into a concept album with Larry Beckett.


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