- Long considered lost somewhere in the Elektra vaults, the
Tim Buckley/Larry Beckett 1967 composition Once Upon A
Time has surfaced on the new Rhino Records compilation
Where the Action Is! - Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968.
Written as a conscious
attempt at cracking the Billboard Top 40, the 45 rpm double-A
side single was allotted a release number - EKM 45618 - but
was not to see the light of day for another 42 years. The other
side - Lady, Give Me Your Key - continues to be unreleased,
although a small sample can be heard below.
a April 3, 1999 interview with Beckett, Tims collaborator
explained the process behind the recording to veteran rock
writer Richie Unterberger.
Jerry Yester said there was an unreleased single around
The A-side was Once Upon a Time, the B-side was
Lady, Give Me Your Key. "Key" was slang
for a certain amount of marijuana in those days. That
actually was recorded after Goodbye and Hello, to my
memory, separate from the sessions.
is trying to dig up the tapes from Elektra. They wanted
a single, and they didn't think that anything on the album
was a single. So they said, can you guys write a single?
Of course, as always, we said yeah. So then Tim and
I went to my apartment in Venice, and listened to rock'n'roll
FM radio for like 24 hours straight. And then, at the
end, we said okay, what have we heard here? We finally
decided that most pop songs were like little fairytales, really.
So if we wanted to write a good single, it should be a fairytale.
This is our deductive reasoning (laughs).
then I wrote the words. I think he actually helped a
little bit with the lyrics [with] Once Upon a Time.
And then, we thought, okay, now that's your Top 40 stuff.
But what about the stuff that everybody actually listens to,
the hip people? Well, what they really like are songs
that refer to, that use images that could refer to sex, or
could refer to drugs, but actually can't be banned because
they're all metaphorical. So couldn't we write a song
that was along those lines?
the B-side, sort of the FM side of the single? And that
resulted in Lady Give Me Your Key. So both of
'em are sort of like parodies, almost, of mid-sixties procedures
in songwriting. What happened was that Once Upon
a Time, including a sort of Beatlesque freakout section
in the instrumental part with all kinds of weird overdubs--it
was just stupid. It sounded stupid when it was all done.
the other hand, Lady Give Me Your Key, although it
started out as this exercise in mimicking sixties songwriting
maneuvers, it turned both in my writing and in Tim's writing
and singing, into this really beautiful, incredibly haunting
poetic piece. One of the best things we ever did, as
a matter of fact. It had this sort of damned beginning,
but a glorious end.
And, of course, Elektra listened to both of them and said,
"Nah! Never mind. Not going to put out a single."
they sit in the vaults. Jerry [Yester] said they never
throw anything out. So they are probably still there,
and we're hoping that Rhino can dig 'em out. At least
Lady Give Me Your Key.
© 1999 Richie