The Tim Buckley Archives


The Tim Buckley London Tribute Concert
10th May 2008

10By Stuart Anthony

Stuart Anthony was the headliner at the 2008 Tribute to Tim Buckley, held at the Cockpit Theater in London. A few weeks later, he set down his thought and experiences and passed them onto The Archives.

NOTE: Some spellings have been Americanized.

It was a hot day for England; twenty-six degrees Celsius in London. I arrived late at the Cockpit Theatre after a demanding two hundred-mile haul across the country - slightly dehydrated, but still full of energy. It was 4:45pm and I had originally planned to arrive at 3:00pm.

The Cockpit can be found sitting rather unassumingly on tiny Gateforth St in the Marylebone district of London. I made my way through the pleasant foyer/bar area and noted all the cool pictures of Tim that concert organizer Jay Dubber had plastered everywhere! I followed my nose to the backstage door, which lead down a narrow corridor to two populated rooms.

One room contained a piano and musician Jedd Holden and his three-piece band were having a warm up session. My long time musical partner Eamonn Hennessy was already there, having traveled down overnight on the bus. Jay came into the room and we finally met after months of emails and phone calls arranging the concert.

Jay showed me the theatre space. It was smaller than it appeared in photos, but lost none of the purposeful impact of its three-sided tier design and black interior.

Because I was late I missed my first-to-sound check privilege, but I had already agreed on the phone with Jay that he could let second-on-the-bill artist Cherry Lee Mewis sound check first, and, as I made sense of the theatre, she and her group were rehearsing their lively interpretation of Sally Go Round The Roses.
I also introduced myself to Tom Clark whom I recognized from the webpage that Jay had set up.

While Cherry finished her sound check, I got my Guild D412 twelve-string guitar out of its case and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the stares from other musicians. Twelve-strings seem to have that effect, and I was the only musician on the night that was going to be wielding Tim’s preferred musical instrument.

Time to sound check came and it was readily apparent that the sound engineer and his assistant knew their equipment and knew their theatre’s acoustics. I chose to have the guitar miked rather than use its pickup. Jedd Holden let Eamonn plug my Fender Standard Telecaster into his Marshall Valvestate amp, as it wasn’t practical to for us to bring my amp 250 miles from Lancaster.

Eamonn had bad nerves but once he was on the stage and realized that it all wasn’t quite as imposing as he imagined, he relaxed and even cracked a few jokes.

© 2009 Rik Pennington
Stuart Anthony and his trusty D412
As for myself, I was finally sat on the stage in the vantage point and it felt good. The sound engineer knew his theatre and got us sorted nice and smooth.

My fiancée Christine arrived shortly after, and I showed her backstage and introduced her to Jay and James Edge. I already knew James from the Nick Drake tributes in Tanworth-in-Arden and indeed, I had suggested him to Jay when we were scouting around for musicians to play at the concert.

Someone had laid on food and drink in the dressing room, but I stuck to water and a light salad, terrified that I would affect my pipes if I ate something salty or got slightly inebriated. I wanted to be on top form and not cut loose until after the performance.

The theatre foyer was now filling up with audience members and the sense of anticipation grew with the numbers. There was no sign of our special guests yet, Bob Harris and his wife Trudie and Jeff Dexter, but I told Jay that famous people are never on time!

The audience filtered into the theatre proper. The house lights lowered and Jay Dubber welcomed everyone and introduced the first musician of the night, Stuart Masters. Jay and I stood left of stage peeping through the black curtains as Stuart kicked the night off in great style playing I've Been Out Walking, Strange Feeling, and Phantasmagoria In Two.

The ball was rolling. The concert now took on a life of its own as it lifted itself from the planning page. The cameras purred and clicked.

I found myself hovering between the left stage area and the dressing rooms. Burning off nervous energy, I guess. I chatted in the dressing room to Tom Clark, one of the other names on the bill. He had a headache after getting too much sun two days before in his day job as a tree surgeon, but he was holding it together.

Making my way back to stage left I encouraged a nervous Helena C Carter as she made her way to the stage. She didn’t need to worry. She knocked out a heartfelt atmospheric Once I Was and Morning Glory. I was originally billed to play Morning Glory, but I wasn’t sure I could deliver it right, plus I felt my set was too long. It turned out that Helena wanted to play it, so I agreed to let her have the song.

I’m glad I did. She seemed very pleased when she came offstage grinning a Cheshire cat smile.

Jay was like a cat on hot bricks, tending carefully to the night in which he had invested so much time and commitment. As he began to realize it was all going smoothly, he wound down a bit. There was still no sign of our guest Bob Harris as Jedd Holden took to the stage with his three-piece outfit and launched into Sweet Surrender, Carnival Song and a blend of Love From Room 109/Strange Feeling. I didn’t watch all of his set as I was hanging backstage with the next performer James Edge, whom I was going to introduce on the stage. I met James in 2006 at the Nick Drake Gathering in Tanworth-in-Arden and I had personally recommended him to Jay as a performer.

James seemed calm. He has suffered nerves in the past, but I think he knew he was well prepared. We made our way gently down the corridor and stood in the dark wings watching the last minutes of Jedd’s set, which sounded great.
"It was hot and I was running on adrenaline, as it had been a very long day. I didn’t pick up what Jeff was saying, but I heard him introduce me and call my name. I stepped gently to the stage making sure I didn’t trip or drop anything as I settled into place..."
I then made my first foray into the lights and with great pleasure introduced James to by now, an up and interested audience.

James played Buzzin’ Fly and Sing A Song For You beautifully. While I was watching him, I became aware of an approaching buzz, and as I turned around there was Bob Harris with his wife Trudie and friend Jeff Dexter. It was a very strange moment for me.

Bob is a legend to anyone who cares about music here in the UK and I was so pleased to see him here. Immediately he came across as approachable and friendly and we showed him the best place to peek through the curtains back stage. He was obviously really up for the evening and his enthusiasm was palpable from the start.

James came backstage and we accompanied him and Bob to the dressing room for some group photographs. My memory is a little hazy at this point, but Bob and I got chatting. I think the conversation started when his friend Jeff Dexter who ran the famous Middle Earth club in London in the 60’s pulled out some copies of the original poster that had been made to promote Tim’s concert there.

It was amazing to see it. I had something to show too. I had bought my “Tim Buckley Folder” in which I kept my original 1967 Tim Elektra press release and also my original 1973 press release from Discreet which was circulated in the UK when Tim came over in 1974; the same visit where Tim had met Bob and played the Old Grey Whistle Test.

The folder also contains the handwritten track listing of Tim’s first posthumous compilation The Best of Tim Buckley that was released in 1983 and compiled by Bert Muirhead of Hot Whacks magazine. Bert sold the ‘67 press release and the track listing on E-bay and I had grabbed them. Bob was fascinated to see them and it broke the ice.

We spent the next hour before I went on stage talking about music, music, music. I was just enthralled to be able to talk Tim and Jeff Buckley and Nick Drake with this man I had spent years watching on TV and catching on the radio. Christine had even bought me the Old Grey Whistle Test DVD box set the previous Christmas before any inkling that I might meet Bob had arisen.

It was Bob’s turn to take the stage. His appearance had been a secret and as soon as word got out in the theatre, that Bob was here and on stage, the bar emptied like a bucket with a large hole. He spoke about his appreciation for Tim very eloquently and then introduced a screening of Tim’s 1974 Whistle Test performance of Dolphins, and as it played he came and stood in the wings.

It was just I and Bob in that dark spot, and I tried to reflect on the fact I was watching a Bob Harris/Tim Buckley Whistle Test clip stood in the dark with Bob himself right next to me. It will always be great memory moment for me. Bob turned to me and with his characteristic smile whispered, “Wasn’t he just awesome?” I grinned back and gave the thumbs up.

The next act was Tom Clark, who has a phenomenal voice, but I was keeping Bob, Jeff and Trudie company, so only caught parts of his set wafting down the corridors. Tom played Dolphins, Pleasant Street and I Never Asked To Be Your Mountain.

I was back in the dressing room chatting to Bob and Jeff about all sorts. Jeff told me a bit about hanging out with Tim after the Middle Earth gig that that Tim was a “babe magnet” and great to hang out with if you wanted to meet girls. He also told me that he knew Nick Drake well, and that he had owned the Guild M20 that you can see on the cover of Bryter Layter. It is now owned by Nick Laird Clowes of UK band the Dream Academy and that it’s original owner was, bizarrely, Eric Clapton.

I spoke to Bob about Jeff Buckley and filled in some gaps in his knowledge about the relationship - or lack of it - that he had with Tim. Someone snapped a photograph of that moment and you can see Bob in the picture concentrating on what I was telling him and absorbing new information.

Jeff then asked Bob if he wanted to go outside for a smoke, Bob said yes, and we all trooped outside. Again I was chatting freely with Bob about music. I told him about the Nick Drake tribute I attend each year in Tanworth-in-Arden, and about the unreleased only live tape of Nick that my friend Peter Rice had. Bob was fascinated by this.

He also asked me if I had ever visited the United States and I told him that I hadn’t and had always wanted to but never had the money spare. He said I should visit Austin, Texas as he regarded it as the live-music capital of the US. A few jokes were made about starting a fund to send me to America.

Trudie said she wanted to take a picture of me with Bob and Jeff for Bob’s website, I readily agreed, and we posed outside the theatre as the sun began to set.

It was time for me to go back into the theatre and get my guitar ready to play and to chill with Eamonn so we all went back in. Jeff came down to the wings with Eamonn and I and we watched Cherry Lee Mewis set reach its finale.

Jeff was in an up mood and was bopping like a trooper to the blues sound of Cherry’s band. Cherry performed Sally Go Round The Roses, Healing Festival and Happy Time. Again, I only caught snippets of her set but it seemed like a great lively performance.

Eamonn and I then stood in the wings as Jeff went on stage to talk about his memories of Tim. We were both nervous. I was balancing my guitar, my copy of Lee’s letter, my glasses and his book Blue Melody as I would be reading the letter and showing the book.

It was hot and I was running on adrenaline, as it had been a very long day. I didn’t pick up what Jeff was saying but I heard him introduce me and call my name. I stepped gently to the stage making sure I didn’t trip or drop anything as I settled into place. I was going on without Eamonn for my first song, which was my paean to love, water, color, Christine and Jeff and Tim.

Before I got playing, I read out Lee Underwood’s letter specially written for the concert and plugged his wonderful memoir of his life with Tim. I read Lee’s moving and uplifting letter calmly and with as much grace as I could.

The time came to play and I started The Blue (from Stuart's first album, The Colourful Truth). In the moment, I forgot to remove my reading glasses and kinda noticed as the song started, but managed to ignore it and focus on my performance. My guitar sounded great and I could hear everything good. I slipped into the music and let it take me. My location became secondary.

Eamonn then joined me on stage with my Fender Telecaster for Blue Melody, Venice Beach (Music Boats By The Bay) and Song To The Siren. I sang my heart out. Eamonn played like the gifted guitarist he is and we gave the audience, and ultimately Tim Buckley, the dues owing.

As Song To The Siren came to an end, I felt compelled to look up to the ceiling because I really thought Tim was tuning in. There were moments in our set where I realized I was singing and playing with something more than I had experienced in rehearsal.  

Maybe, partially, it was the fact that Venice Beach had not been performed in public since Tim played it with the Starsailor band in 1970, but things were charged and ready for it. Maybe it was the adrenaline and the sheer fact that the tribute concert had gone so well and that the atmosphere was all there for us to step into. The rehearsals had paid off.

The audience clapped and cheered. The atmosphere had reached its peak on the last song and as the house lights went up, the spell was dispelled.

There was a backstage party. Everyone wound down, drank and smiled and exchanged compliments. I got my twelve-string out again and played Happy Time to a couple of Jay’s friends who asked me if I knew it.

Bob and Trudie had watched my performance, but had to leave just before the concert ended so we didn’t get the chance to talk after. Jeff seemed to like Chrissie and asked her if she loved me, which was delightfully funny. It was all in good humor. Eamonn was smoking his roll ups and winding down and passed me his hip bottle of whiskey, which also helped take the edge off things.

The night drew to a close and after goodbyes, Christine and I called a cab and sped off through the heart of London back to our hotel. As we drove, I gazed out of the taxi window and watched the revelers, drinkers, the good, the bad, and the ugly flow through the streets. After my experiences this night the life of the city seemed distant and unattractive yet poignant and focused. Then it came to me…

“Far behind, the city moans.
Well worthy of the people there”

sang Tim, but tonight Tim Buckley, the song was for you.

Stuart Anthony June 18th 2008

Stuart Anthony Webpage


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