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Rhino uncovers a Tim Buckley Nugget

A lost single resurfaces

October 6, 2009 - 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.

In a April 3, 1999 interview with Beckett, Tim’s collaborator explained the process behind the recording to veteran rock writer Richie Unterberger.

“Jerry Yester said there was an unreleased single around 1967.”

“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. 

"Rhino 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).

"So 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? 

"As 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.


"On 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."

So 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.”

Used with Permission
© 1999 Richie Unterberger

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