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Refound Sounds: Discovering Tim Buckley


One of the many reasons Jesus became the most powerful Social Media Celebrity of all time is because of a deep fascination with martyrdom amongst Greco-Roman, Jewish, Arab and Germanic cultures in the classical world. Add them up, and until you get to India and China they were the most together of our ancestors in 0 AD.The idea of a man, misunderstood, neglected and irrevocably dead who brought some kind of magic or insight or secret knowledge was pure romance.It took a big wasted chunk of my life before I could discover Tim Buckley for this very reason.The discovery happened in Rat, which is so often a musical time machine that lets me find young new love from spaces, places and sounds I had rejected for teenage reasons.This messianic concept, riven with guilt, loss and battered beauty remains toxically powerful, and nowhere more so than in art. Many artists sort of almost made it, or had small or wrong audiences when they were most active.And death is ultimate way to seal a legend. Unless you are in some kind of cult, messiahs need to be dead or not even born yet.I remember the lost, loved sometimes UK indiepoppy mag SELECT, had a wonderful, challenging article on the anniversary of Ian Curtis' manipulative self-martyrdom. Like most of my best friends, I had all his records, bootlegs, pictures on my wall and T-Shirts too.This was a tough read for me. I was being insulted.I stopped in disgust and anger a few times before finishing it off in the bog like hot shame. The writer asked: What if the Great Man had lived?The chances in 1993 he would be a Mancunian Bono crossed with Chris Martin, filling stadiums while spewing out increasingly vapid tracks about Soft Left politics, world peace and having a good time, were worse than even.It stung, because it did not change my view of the music I loved already, but was tough to dismiss.Tim Buckley is a far more complex figure. I can't begin to cover him, or his work in a few words here, and so with all compelling art, will have to return again.I had a very vague awareness of him, via his self-martyred son and to some Second Coming, Jeff. Jeff was clearly talented, and very pretty and very much loved. Got a great press. Everyone I knew and loved was into dance, hiphop, or darker, louder sounds of one sort or another.And when I heard he had baptised himself with death,I thought what a cop out and a sideshow trick.The cover of Grace looked himboish to me, and the acclaim from Rolling Bone and SPIN/spit that he was the GREATEST OF ALL TIME probably did a lot to crush, cripple and kill him. As well as turn me right off like a cheap light bulb. It's not praise, its a burden that burns through any attempt to achieve. I forgot all the Buckley business, until it tickled me by accident.David Lynch is/was (it's up to him to wake up from cultish jive and decide that) the greatest living audiovisual artist I know. In 1997, when movie money was far freer than today, he made a last Big Budget attempt to sort of nibble at the mainstream. He assembled a hot cast, and told a pretty simple noir/thriller story with a small but crucial sprinkling of Quantum Physics and Mental Illness to make it majestic. He even deviated from his normal musical partner, Angelo Badalamenti, to work with Trent Reznor (cool) and fucking "Marilyn Manson" (blasphemy) and a little Bowie too (ok). All the ingredients of accessible cult cinema were present and correct. Too much so for his fans, not enough for the masses.Of course it totally fucking bombed. Lynch will never touch so much cash again and when asked why he lamented "Beats me!".The soundtrack was unclean to me. I harboured a torch for Trent, dirtied as he'd been by Courtney Love and self indulgence. "Marilyn" was and remains intolerable. Like an undersexed spotty teenage boy shouting "SHITCUNT" in Misfits Makeup at randoms at a bus stop. With his cock out and pierced. Oh I am so offended and scared. Go fuck another Z list titster. A juggolo with pretension. Yawn.So I never bought the record. But there was one very sexy scene, not just in flesh but art, that had this odd overprocessed gothy but great track with a female vocal talking poetry. Something about the Sirens (yes I know my Classics) and Here I Am. I didn't even know it was from an old 4AD vanity project and had merit despite the haircuts.Then one delicious day I was again in Rat, and saw a tasty looking record on the wall. Greetings from L.A. Tim Buckley. What? Who? The Time Machine was in full effect.I half remembered a story that the first Springsteen LP, Greetings from Ashbury Park, New Jersey was some kind of ironic riposte by the king of MOR Heartland Rawk to this. I had the bombastic Born In The USA and turgid Tunnel of Love on tape before I had taste and realised I'd been conned so was curious.I asked Phillippe about it. He had a lot of Science to say. I bought it.I had been wrong.Dirty, stupid teenage wrong. This was an artist I was unaware of because of somewhat rational prejudice and mental self defence and fitness. But I had missed.I might have missed a lot. More and less than I could know. And it's always later than we think.

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