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Saturday, 3 September 2011

Long Afloat On Shipless Oceans

This is the first post in a mini-series that will last at least four posts. I can see you're excited. Tim Buckley's Song To The Siren is one of those legendary songs that in the pre-internet age you could read references to for years before actually hearing. Once heard you might go.. Uh? It's certainly an acquired taste and there isn't much else in his back catalogue I can listen to in the same way (feel free to make suggestions). Tim yodels. There's no other way to put it. But this song is a beauty- sparse, almost non-existent backing but there's some weird phased, reverb heavy guitar in there too, Tim's voice and a stunning death trip lyric.

Written in 1967 Tim Buckley struggled to record a version he was happy with, with the consequence that Pat Boone released the first version of it. Buckley performed it on The Monkees tv show in a folk style, before releasing it on his 1970 Starsailor lp. It also underwent lyric changes between recorded versions ('I'm as puzzled as the oyster' became 'I'm as puzzled as the new born child'). In the end, it's one of those songs which is impossible to describe satisfactorily, which will always be incomprehensible to some people, and which others will never get tired of hearing or get to the bottom of.

A friend of mine once described buying a Tim Buckley cassette years ago and drifting off to sleep with it on, only to be awakened by what he thought was a man swallowing a mewling kitten.


davyh said...

Try his Peel Sessions.

Best song ever written*, by the way.

*Apart from 'Downtown', obvs.

Anonymous said...

(This Mortal Coil cover version... goes without saying)

I've seen long threads on some forums which still discuss the lyrics. It will never cease.

swiss adam said...