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By Joshua Jabcuga
April 1, 2004
In His Wake, Part 2: Lullabies by the Sea: In a follow-up to last week’s JEFF BUCKLEY feature, Josh Jabcuga offers tips on creating the ultimate mix tape of the late artist’s music.
(Note: This week’s column serves as a companion piece to last week’s feature on JEFF BUCKLEY and the 10th anniversary of the release of Grace, which can be found here.
Being a fan of JEFF BUCKLEY is not the easiest thing in the world, especially in the United States. JEFF BUCKLEY has his share of admirers stateside, but he wasn’t completely embraced the way he seems to have been in other countries, such as Europe.
Many of the essential JEFF BUCKLEY tracks are of an unofficial nature, coming from sources such as bootlegged concert performances and demos that managed to find their way out of the vaults. Given the fact that the artist is no longer with us, it is of the utmost importance that all of his material is released in some capacity, no matter the quality of the source. The only way to honor the memory of the man, is to keep that memory alive. JEFF BUCKLEY’s estate, run by his mother, feels that it is necessary to honor the memory of JEFF by only releasing the material that is of top-notch quality, both in terms of performance and sound quality. It may be more a case of the label only wanting to release limited projects, since some feel that in the U.S. there isn’t a large enough market to warrant multiple releases from JEFF BUCKLEY. Others say there is only a limited number of material in the vaults, and the label wants to release it gradually over the course of time, so as not to over saturate the market.
I was fortunate enough to pick up a slew of bootlegs from Singapore at the time when they were still legal. The remainder of my collection was given to me by JEFF BUCKLEY fans who spend their time distributing his music free of charge, in honor of him. If you’re eager to build your JEFF BUCKLEY collection, you should start by picking up all the official releases. Obviously, these are all significant. If you’re like me, someone who couldn’t get enough, you may want to move on to record shows (where you can sometimes still find bootlegs), or even see what you can find through online music subscription sources. While I don’t condone illegal downloading, I have heard there are a number of hard-to-find JEFF BUCKLEY tracks on various sources, the same that you would find on the various bootlegs that I own. Ebay is not even an option, since the Estate closely monitors any transactions that take place there, and any JEFF BUCKLEY bootleg deals are usually deleted in a matter of minutes.
Below you will find my guide to making your own JEFF BUCKLEY mix tape. If I had to choose my own personal favorite tracks, I’d probably be instructing you on how to make a box set, but the songs below will provide you with enough of a range to see all the different sides to JEFF BUCKLEY and his talent. So without further ado, the essential JEFF BUCKLEY mix tape.
Track 1: “Dido’s Lament” (From the Meltdown Festival, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, July 1, 1995): Hear JEFF with piano, performing to an audience that is witnessing a man pour his guts all over the floor in front of them, literally. “Remember me, remember me but don’t forget my fate!” sings BUCKLEY, whose voice is enveloped with the slightest touch of echo, but with enough to be heard to this day. Depending on the mood you find yourself in while listening, JEFF’s take on this song can be harrowing and heart-wrenchingly depressing, or harrowing and just plain eerie. If it’s the former, like say, your girl passed you over for another girl, and your dog got hit by a car, all in the course of one evening, you’ll want to play anything but this. Instead seek out something from ACE OF BASE. If it’s the latter, like say, Haley Joel Osment is roaming your halls saying, “I see dead rock stars!” you’ll want to vacate the premise immediately. In either case, track this down. I’ve heard that ELVIS COSTELLO owns the tapes to this performance. It’d be a shame if he didn’t release them for the masses someday.
Track 2: Lost Highway: B-side to the “So Real” single. HANK WILLIAMS meets JEFF BUCKLEY who brings along some fine some slide guitar work. All you have to do is bring the beer.
Track 3: “Forget Her”: Studio version. Here’s a little advice to any recording musician. If you put something to tape in the studio (or in say…a journal, ala KURT COBAIN) for posterity, and decide that it’s too personal to release and then decide that one day you might be checking out of this gig we call life, whether as a result of an act of God or shotgun, you should DESTROY THE MASTER COPY. Do not walk away, do not leave the room, do not shut your eyes, until you see that tape/video cassette/journal notebook burn. JEFF originally recorded this for his album Grace and at the last minute decided to pull the plug on it. The label initially thought they struck gold. According to the TIM/JEFF BUCKLEY bio Dream Brother, by David Browne, the suits thought this was this best shot at the album gaining radio play. Others say JEFF wanted to keep this one to himself, insisting that the material was not meant for his debut album, because it was too personal, about a failed relationship. Whatever the circumstance may be, JEFF assembled his band and recorded “So Real” to take its place. Everyone was puzzled, but JEFF insisted that they all must forget “Forget Her.” Of course, that wasn’t the case. It’s out there. Sure, it’s possible that you’ll be dishonoring the wishes of the late JEFF BUCKLEY by listening to it, but I guarantee you, it is unforgettable. Hopefully this will be included on the rumored expanded 10th anniversary edition of Grace.
Track 4: “I Know It’s Over”: Source unknown. This is a SMITHS’ cover, right? I’d check into it myself, but I’m sucking on a loaded Glock and bawling like a baby. What’s that he’s singing? “Mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head”? No man should have to sing these lyrics alone. No man should have to listen to them alone. The combination of hearing these lyrics with knowing the fact that Mr. BUCKLEY passed away at such a young age, and it’s equal to washing down several fistfuls of Ambien with some Absolut vodka. Cruel world, make it stop.
Track 5: “Satisfied Mind”: Off Songs To No One 1991-1992. Here we run into another bit of a dilemma. Some may consider this sacrilege. Take JEFF’s vocals, recorded years earlier, then add the backing instruments, years later. Clearly JEFF had no say in this matter. Should it be done all the time? No way. In this case, though, it works. By no means is this a bastardization of JEFF’s music, but then, who has that right to say?
Track 6: “Hymne a’ l’ Amour: From Songs To No One 1991-1992. A vocal tour de force. JEFF at his most self indulgent. One minute he’s channeling the ghost of ETHEL MERMAN, and the next, JON ANDERSON from YES. Add former CAPTAIN BEEFHEART guitarist GARY LUCAS’ insect mating call guitar effects to the mix, and you’ve got the ultimate make-out song…if you’re playing bump-and-grind with a praying mantis.
Track 7: “Grace”: From the Dream Brother bootleg, Rotterdam, Holland, February 25, 1995. JEFF seemed very proud of this song. It was a very demanding song on the voice, and the guitar intro was deceptively intricate and challenging to play. Every performance I’ve heard of this song seemed to be a grandslam for JEFF. It’s the musical equivalent of making love on a roller coaster that goes off the track, does a few loop-de-loops mid air, and still lands safely on the ground. Lucky for us. This bootleg is probably the best in terms of recording quality too.
Track 8: “Radio”: From the Babylon Dungeon Demos (Garage bootleg), September 1990. Proof that even the greats have their off-days. JEFF, with a drum effect intro likely provided by a1986 Radioshack Casio keyboard, serves up a dish of vintage 1982 NYC cheese rap in the vein of DEBORAH HARRY. Hear BUCKLEY (ghetto) blast commercial radio. It’s one BUCKLEY track that’s probably better off not heard on the radio, though. Sample lyrics: “Radio! Fairies wear boots! Radio! Too many company suits! Radio!”
Track 9: “New Year’s Prayer: From Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk. Transcendental and trippy, BUCKLEY pays homage to personal hero NUSRAT FATEH ALI KHAN. “Stand absolved behind your electric chair, dancing, past the sound within the sound, past the voice within the voice.” Sound advice for anyone, mortals and angels alike.
When not watching EDDIE & THE CRUISERS for the 200th time on cable, JOSH JABCUGA can be found writing SQUIB CENTRAL, his other guilty pleasure, published every Thursday, exclusively at www.moviepoopshoot.com.
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