One of my favorite unheralded albums from what I consider
to be one of music’s greatest years, 1969, is Tim Buckley’s
Blue Afternoon, released on Frank Zappa’s Straight Records
label 50 years ago this November.
I liked it because it burrowed into my moody teenage mind
back then, with its at once soft and pointed blend of
folk and jazz textures, dominated by Buckley’s quirky
but expressive voice, his 12-string playing, and the warm
hollow-body electric work of his longtime instrumental
foil Lee Underwood.
album has a great flow to it, the spare instrumentation
a perfect match for whatever feeling Buckley is trying
to achieve lyrically song to song—in addition to the guitars,
it has tasteful acoustic and electric bass, percussion,
and on some tracks, vibraphone); in some ways it reminds
me a little of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks from that same
song that really grabbed me from the album was the one
that FM radio in New York played, “Happy Time,” which
was catchy and had such a nice vibe; considerably more
upbeat than so many of Buckley’s tunes.
he performs it with guitarist Lee Underwood and percussionist
Carter “C.C.” Collins on Dutch TV in the fall of 1968,
shortly after the song was written.
was always an idiosyncratic artist, never really part
of the mainstream, even during his earlier more folk-rock
days, and Blue Afternoon was not a commercial success
particularly. But I think it stands the test of time pretty
well. (It’s on Spotify and iTunes if you’d like to check
music took a number of strange turns in the early ’70s
(including a seriously ill-advised move into funk), and
by the time he died from a drug overdose in 1975 at the
age of 28, his following, never huge, had dwindled considerably.
So, another sad story of a talented but troubled troubadour
who never quite found his niche in the commercial music
world and could not overcome his personal demons.
most of you undoubtedly know, too, Tim was the father
of Jeff Buckley, who was born in 1966, after Tim had split
with wife Mary Guibert, but was not part of Jeff’s life
at all—they reportedly met just once, when Jeff was 8.
It wasn’t until after Tim died that Jeff adopted “Buckley”
as his surname; previously he was Scott Moorhead (his
middle name and his stepfather’s last name). Jeff, who
became considerably more popular than his absentee father,
drowned in 1997.