It’s a mystery…

We haven't heard the last of Jeff Buckley. His mother, Mary Guibert, who compiled both of Buckley's posthumous releases, including the recent Mystery White Boy live album, is now planning a subscription-only series of previously unreleased recordings which could run to as many as 20 CDs. They will include unedited recordings of entire live concerts, Buckley's first demos and material he wrote with Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins. In addition, Guibert told Uncut, there are "20 to 30" tapes left in the Buckley archive which she has not yet even begun to investigate.

Guibert says she prefers the subscription-only idea to a more commercially-oriented box set. "I want to do it warts and all rather than refining it down as we did for Mystery White Boy," she explains. "I think for those who really have an affection for Jeff's work, giving them the opportunity to have half a dozen, full-length unexpurgated concerts would be the way to go. I'm moving away from the idea of more high-profile, high-promotion releases. Mystery White Boy may be the last one we do like that. I tend towards a more hand-made series where we take orders and then only produce so many."

The albums would be sold via the Jeff Buckley free e-mail newsletter which Guibert sends to 12,000 subscribers every fortnight (sign up at jeffbuckley.com). "That's what gave me the idea for a subscription series," she says. "Bootleggers are getting 50 dollars a pop for lousy recordings. So let's put out the Glastonbury concert and Rotterdam, and the recordings of all the other special nights. They deserve a place in the Jeff Buckley aficionado's collection.  We could have a row of 20 CDs of full concerts from beginning to end."

According to Guibert, there are also six-and-a-half hours of tapes of Buckley performing at New York's Sin-e club in 1993. Some 25 minutes taken from the performances were issued on the EP, Live At Sin-e, on Big Cat in 1994, but tapes from the same shows include Buckley singing Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit", various Van Morrison and Bob Dylan covers - and a 20-minute version of a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan song in perfect Urdu.

"I've also got his first demos which include a song called 'Strawberry Street', about the casting couch in Hollywood, and there are also tapes of some songs he wrote with Liz Fraser. I'd like to see all of that come out. Then there are 20 or 30 unmarked DAT tapes - we still have no idea what's on them. It's going to take time to go through them. "

Meanwhile, on the 25th anniversary of the death of Tim Buckley, Guibert remains bitter about the attitude of Jeff's father towards his son. "The only influence Tim had on Jeff's life was that it made him a sad little boy knowing that he had a father who made no effort to be part of his life, she says. "Jeff didn't have a single Tim Buckley album. He appreciated his father's music for what it was. But he didn't resonate with it. The only time he learned his father's songs was for the tribute concert in 1991. And that pretty much put it to rest for him."

She's also deeply critical of "Dream Letter", the song on Tim Buckley's 1969 Happy/Sad album in which he sang about the pain of being separated from his then three-year-old son. "What a farce that was," she says. "All he had to do was pick up the phone and come and see him. When I heard that song for the first time, it really made me cry because I remember going to find Tim with my baby on my hip and his friends wouldn't tell me where he was. He had told them he didn't want us in his life.

"We got the child support cheque for 80 dollars from him every month, so he knew where to find us. He didn't need to write some pathetic, sappy little song that made everybody think, 'Poor Tim, he can't be with his son.' That's bullshit. Perhaps he wrote it to assuage his guilt. But he didn't so much as send Jeff a birthday card or a Christmas card. So that song was a joke and it wasn't lost on Jeff at all. It was a very sad part of his life."

The two were briefly reunited for a few days just before Tim Buckley died when Jeff was nine years old. "I was reading a newspaper one day ands saw that Tim was performing at a local club," Guibert recalls. "I asked Jeff if he wanted to go and meet his father. I called the club and Tim was there doing a sound check and I took Jeff to see him. There was an amazing reunion between the two of them and Tim and his wife asked if they could take Jeff home with them for a few days and I consented.

"After three or four days, they sent him back on the bus with a little match-book in his pocket with his father's telephone number on it. Thirty days later, Tim was dead, What Jeff said he remembered of that time was that his father was mostly behind closed doors, sleeping or whatever after being up all night composing.

"But everybody thought there would be more times together. It could have been the breakthrough moment that might have changed all the tragedy and allowed Tim to make it up to his son. I'm glad I was brave enough to do what I did because it would have been horrible for Jeff not to have any memory of his father. I will always be convinced that if he had lived, Tim would have done the right thing eventually."


Back to Feature Articles