robert johnson, the king, and the president
picnic at hanging rock (peter weir, 1975)

music friday: once i was

Tim Buckley was prolific. By the time he died of an overdose at the age of 28, he had already released nine albums, and I’m not counting the inevitable posthumous releases that always accompany the death of a musician. (Not that there haven’t been plenty of those, including SEVEN live albums since his passing.) Musicians know who he is, as do fans of late-60s folk-rock, but for most people, he is known, if at all, as Jeff Buckley’s dad.

Buckley was an adventurous musician, who often went in new directions with each album. His second, Goodbye and Hello, is considered by many (i.e. me) to be his best, but by his fourth album, Buckley had integrated jazz into his music, and by his fifth album, Lorca, he jumped into the deep pool of experimentation, losing a lot of his audience in the process. Greetings from L.A. was a bit of a return to accessibility, but it was too late. (I’m not making a value judgment here ... granted, I mostly lost track of him over the years, but he was committed to his art, and his later works have fans to this day.)

Goodbye and Hello is a seminal work of 60s psychedelic folk (or, as AMG called it, “Psychedelic/Garage”), and as such, is unsurprisingly one of my favorite albums. I admit that in 2016, some of Goodbye and Hello sounds a bit silly and dated (like that’s a bad thing!). Song titles like “Hallucinations” and “Phantasmagoria in Two” are indicative. But the propulsive backing on “I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain” is hard to resist, even as the lyrics (“O Flying Flying Fish, please flutter by my door”) are charmingly clunky::

The pinnacle of this style in Buckley’s music came on his next album, Happy Sad. “Gypsy Woman” occupies, to my ears, the perfect spot between the folk-rock of his beginnings and the more experimental work to follow:

But this post is titled “Once I Was”. This quiet song, from Goodbye and Hello, holds a special place in my heart. Once long ago, I listened to it after the departure of a loved one, someone I thought I’d never see again. And ever since, “Once I Was” is my go-to song for such moments.

And sometimes I wonder
Just for a while
Will you ever remember me?


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