New Musical Express, May 2, 1998

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Jeff Buckley

Elvis Costello

In 1995 I was the musical director of a festival at the London South Bank, and I was looking for voices that I liked, doing music that they wouldn't usually do. It was clear from Jeff doing Benjamin Britten's "Corpus Christi" on his record that he'd be the ideal man to come and surprise everybody, and work with musicians that he wouldn't normally work with. We had a closing concert which was called "Glad To Be Unhappy," and people could do whatever song they felt would fit under that title. Jeff came up with some amazing ideas. I think the thing that's so fascinating about him were the choices that he made — apart from what he wrote. He'd suddenly say he wanted to do something, and I'd say: "Jeff, it's ten minutes long. And it's in German....". But he'd just learn it. Like he'd do those Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn things. I'm pretty certain he didn't speak the language, but his ear was so tuned to sound, he could pick it up and create a really incredible version. He was really ready to do this song by Mahler and I had to try to dissuade him, not because I didn't believe he could do it, but because I was afraid the other musicians would be terrified by the notion"

I went to the (second) memorial. Jeff's family invited me and said he would have like to have me there, but everyone was so inside out and torn up, and at first I didn't feel I knew him well enough to justify being there with his family and band and people who saw him every day. But Marianne Faithfull and I sang some songs that we thought he would like, which gave everyone some breathing space, and I think that in doing that we did our job as friends.

I know that the release of Sketches For My Sweetheart, The Drunk is very difficult. It's still such a raw time for his mother, the band members and the record company. I know that they went back and forth about whether or not the material should be released, but it's all we've got. And I love it!! I even like the Genesis cover ("Back in New York City" from 1974's The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway). Can you imagine how much he must have loved that record in order to learn it? It shows so much about his curiosity. He's the only singer who can do that sexy rock and roll without making me embarrassed to listen to it. When he does "Yard Full Of Blonde Girls" it makes me want to laugh, whereas if you think of some metal guys doing it you just want to look away. Some of the songs are very rough, but the singing is still so amazing. When you listen past all the distortions and all the conflict that's going on, there are such beautiful melodies. Even though he was struggling with what he wanted to do, I'd rather hear the unfinished pieces than nothing at all. I don't think there's anything that does a disservice to him. We should just accept what ended up on tape, now he isn't around to say how he intended things to come out. I feel that the joy and the beauty that's in the music is the thing to concentrate on and remember.

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New Musical Express, May 2, 1998

EC writes about Jeff Buckley as part of a larger NME feature entitled "Goodbye...And Hello, Jeff Buckley Remembered."


1998-05-02 New Musical Express cover.jpg


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