TIM BUCKLEY : Starsailor (1970)

Like most o' yers I expect, my attention was originally drawn to Tim Buckley by This Mortal Coil's 1983 cover of Starsailor's "Song To The Siren" (#66 with a bullet, folks!). It being Cocteaus-related, Peel played it to death on his evening show &, despite my initial reticence (it didn't sound like The Fall or Captain Beefheart for God's sake!), I inevitably ended up loving it, though the appeal of This Mortal Coil in general continues to elude me (afterall, a handful of decent covers does not a great band make).

I'd love to be able to tell you that my love affair with Buckley's Starsailor began at that point but, of course, it didn't because it was already long unavailable, the legal straights at, erm, Straight Records ensuring that it remained unobtainable due to some litigious dollar-centric stand-off between label owners Frank Zappa & Herb Cohen (which is why you've ended up downloading Lick My Decals Off, Baby, An Evening With Wild Man Fischer & Buckley's Blue Afternoons from the 'net innit?). So I did the next best thing & bought everything else by him instead. Needless to say, it's everso slightly frustrating that Buckley's dual masterpieces, Starsailor & Blue Afternoons, only exist as prohibitively overpriced Ebay booty or bit-torrented blogload but, sadly, that's what happens when rock'n'roll surrenders to ugly commerce. Fuck 'em & download without prejudice I reckon, it's not like Tim needs the money is it...?

Released in 1970 (along with Blue Afternoons & Lorca - blimey!), Starsailor captures the moment 23 (!) year old Buckley's folk-rock origins were finally eclipsed by his interest inpoetry, avant jazz & leftfield rock. Branded inaccessable at the time & often written off as an unlistenable self-indulgence since, it's ironically nowhere near as challenging as the prior, troubled (& troubling) Lorca & actually sounds like a more ambitious, better executed attempt at the ideas initially expressed on Goodbye & Hello - it's certainly not the unapproachable excercise in freeform skronk & holler that some rock histories would have you believe. Basically, if you like the explorative jazz-infused folk of the Dream Letter live album you'll love this. And if the rest of it gets your back up, remember it's worth it for "Song To The Siren" alone (written, like much of Starsailor, with lyricist Larry Beckett) which Buckley actually debuted as early as 1968 on the very last episode of The Monkees t.v. show at Mickey Dolenz's personal request. One other thing that struck me when I listened back to the album before uploading it: "Starsailor" itself sounds exactly like the haunting outro of Lou Reed's "The Bed" from his masterpiece, Berlin (1972). Er, gotcha!

LINK REMOVED: The 4 Men With Beards label released an official vinyl-only edition earlier this year, & the complete album is also available c/o iTunes (£7 gets you the entire LP).


  1. great post and agree totally re: This Mortal coil.
    May i take the liberty of pointing you here, where there is a good gig by TB that you may have not heard. I have a few others that will pop up from time to time. Also there is a great DVD floating around that has all his known TV appearances on it.

  2. Yeah, This Mortal Coil's 3 ho-hum LPs could easily be edited down into one BRILLIANT e.p. basically, don't you think? That Tim B DVD you mention sounds very interesting though - how much t.v. footage of him is there...?

  3. The DVD is called 'My Fleeting House'
    Track list:
    Song To The Siren - The Monkees Show 1967
    No Man Can Find The War - Inside Pop 1967
    Morning Glory - Late Night Line Up 1968
    Happy Time - Late Night Line Up 1968
    Who Do You Love - Greenwich Village 1968
    Sing A Song For You - Dutch TV 1968
    Happy Time - Dutch TV 1968
    I Woke Up - The Show 1970
    Come Here Woman - The Show 1970
    Blue Melody - Boboquivari 1970
    Venice Beach - Boboquivari 1970
    Pleasant Street - The Christian Licorice Store 1971
    Sally Go Round The Roses - Live Performance 1973
    The Dolphins - Old Grey Whistle Test 1974
    It is still available, also has a couple of interviews primarily with Larry Beckett who played with TB. Well worth getting. If you can't find it I could burn it for you.

  4. Looks REALLY good! I'll see if I can download if from somewhere but, yeah, a burn would be a.w.e.s.o.m.e. if I can't find it...

  5. Anonymous26.5.12

    re up?? please please

  6. Apologies Anon, Starsailor is now available - legally - both on vinyl (from 4 Men With Beards) & digitally (through iTunes).