Tim Buckley Strummed His Twelve String Electric Fender Like it Was an Acoustical

Tim Buckley Strummed His Twelve String Electric Fender Like It Was an Acoustical, like Freddie.

by Russell S. Buddy Helm all rights reserved copyright 2013

Tim Buckley strummed his twelve string electric Fender like it was an acoustical, like Fred Neil; big broad strokes that rolled out waves of romantically mystical chords into the empty soundstage. Frank Zappa’s trainset had been dismantled and put on the road. It was just Tim playing his 12 and Joe playing lead, I was on a drumset they had rented for the occasion from SIR, seeing as how I did not even have a drumset in L.A. After the first song, Tim said, “You want to go on the road? Next week?” That was better than Frank’s offer. I would have had to memorize all of Frank’s charts in three days because he didn’t want music stands on stage. I nodded. “Give me your albums, so I can learn the arrangements.”

“No. Don’t bother. Play whatever you want to play.”

There is a certain level of trust that occurs between humans when they share rhythm. It is part of our DNA. When we can recognize another person’s rhythm, we tend to trust them because of some unconscious shared common language.

The Boarding House in Francisco was the first gig with Tim Buckley. We had a five piece band. “Sell out!” Someone yelled half way through our set. The San Francisco crowd was mostly appreciative but that remark hurt Tim. He was working very hard, sweating and singing with a voice that could not be compared to anyone. His vocal chords were a force of nature. I was in my element. The vocal drum improvisations got wilder and wilder, cooking AfroCuban RnB with Tim going off singing in tongues. It was VooDoo only nobody back then knew that. I had come directly from the heart of magic grooves and lit his fuse. He bloomed onstage, burning with a young engine on the drums. We didn’t really need a band. The climb up the credibility ladder was pretty quick. We started headlining with Bob Seeger, Return to Forever, Mahavishnu Orchestra, too many to remember. Central Park, New York at the Shaffer festival, plus every dive in the Midwest that would have a rock n roll stage. We were too busy to notice how much fun we were having. Toured Europe with Van Morrison, Allman Brothers, Doobie Brothers, Mahavishnu, Amsterdam, London, on and on. We recorded “Dolphins” by Fred Neil, and it became the single; huge arrangement with chimes and his angelic voice. I think it did pretty good. This band was good, but I wanted something else. “You deserve a better band than this.” I said coming back from Europe after three years of touring. “Besides, I won’t sign publishing with Herb so we can not really write together. So, I am leaving the band.” He nodded his head sitting in the back of the limo. He understood. We were finishing up a worldwide tour at Stanford, in Palo Alto playing with Loggins and Messina. By cosmic coincidence my girlfriend had gotten us a ranch house close by so that I could go back to art school at San Jose State. Jim Fielder, the bass player with Blood, Sweat and Tears, sat in the back with Ed Green, the guitar player with Ricky Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band. “Write if you get work.” Ed said with a wry grin. I shut the door to the limo, and carried my suitcase into the Trailways bus terminal. Katherine would pick me up down by our newly rented ranch in the Santa Cruz mountains.

The situation was complicated, even though I liked the keyboard player and the bass player and the guitar player. Their playing was alright, but there was some underlying dynamic that bothered me. The piano player was from Baltimore. We shared a motel room in Albuquerque and watched the Watergate hearings on TV where everyone witnessed a U.S. Constitutional Crisis in full bloom. Mack knew all the moves before they happened. “See that guy behind Spiro Agnew, with the white shirt, black tie, crew cut, sunglasses? That’s my father. He personally busted Spiro Agnew. He’s the head of the FBI in Baltimore.”

by Russell Buddy Helm copyright 2013 all rights reserved.

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