“I couldn’t awake from the nightmare It sucked me in and pulled me under pulled me under Oh, that was so real …” - Jeff Buckley (“So Real”) -
Those lines take on a haunting, horrific nature now. It’s as if some two or three years ago Jeff Buckley wrote his own epitaph: now they echo a sad, painful, farewell.
Jeff Buckley, 30-year-old genius of a singer/songwriter/guitarist, and son of the great and legendary Tim Buckley - a father whose shadow haunted, taunted and perhaps, ultimately, consumed him - is dead, drowned in an offshoot of the mighty Mississippi River in Memphis. The last time he was seen alive he was swimming on his back, fully clothed, singing. Perhaps, that is the memory those who loved his music, his astonishing songs and incredible, incendiary voice - so like that of his father - should cherish.
What to say then of a man claimed so young, who left just one album, an EP and a bunch of singles, and guest appearance tracks, yet was already considered one of the potential greats of his times. Perhaps, that although he always spoke so much of living, of the need to live life at its fullest, to smash the culture of anti-life as he saw much of society, government and authoritarianism as representing, Buckley was as close to death as he was life. He walked such a fine line.
A product of the Greenwich Village folkie and bohemian circuit, Buckley lived on the frontline, choosing to mix it amongst the communes and squats where he found what he called the last real writers, artists, expressionists; people he could relate to, people unafraid of society’s mores and dictates, willing to take a chance.
Over 1994 and 1995 I spoke to him twice. Each time we spoke mostly of life, what he saw around him, the injustices, the fear, the laws that repelled him, the death of Western civilization, the loss of spirituality, the problems he had coming to terms with the modern world and those in silent power, and, sometimes, the shadow of Tim, the father he hardly knew who died when he was just eight.
Tim Buckley knew no limitations; for him, songs were a springboard for risk-tasking, for delving into the dark side of man’s nature and the indefinable nature of the spirit. Tim only knew that once he found the edge, he had to go over it. And through a series of extraordinary albums that tested the limitations of jazz, folk and rock and his own free-form fusion of the elements he took those who listened with him. On June 25, 1975, at the age of 28, Tim Buckley was dead from an accidental drug overdose.
Today, he is revered as a true great, a man capable of charging songs with an emotional depth few have ever reached or dared to try and find: it was a trait that somehow passed itself onto Jeff, even though he was forever trying not to admit it.
One stinking hot LA morning when the temperature had already soared past the older 100 degree mark, Buckley who had been talking with more and more literalness for half-an-hour suddenly said, “All this stuff about my Dad, I never knew him, really. It’s so hard to live with. I’m Jeff not Tim. Do you think what they say is true?”
The question never got answered. How could you tell him, yes, he was so much his father’s son. The way he sang, that extraordinary multi-octave voice, the jaggedness of his music, his willingness to throw it into free-form chaos, to bend between genres, and the passion and the scary, fractured, hanging on and yelling out emotion that flew effortlessly in unforgettable codas that spanned much more than words can ever transmit in songs such as “Grace” and “So Real”.
No, Jeff Buckley could never be told that, it didn’t seem right. He so much just wanted to be Jeff Buckley, and he so badly wanted to change the world. Instead we talked about how LA’s city fathers owned a tank, about the ‘no smoking in certain public places’ law, about how he didn’t want to write the second album the record company or anybody else wanted him to write and how he would write the songs that he felt, no matter what anybody thought. To Jeff, it was all part of beating and breaking the system. The streets romanced him and the edge scared him - there he was different from his dad. He already feared what he might find out and he already feared what he might become.
Somewhere towards the end of the conversation, he spoke of insanity - he saw it all around - and how he feared that he too would become insane. Yet, you sensed there was something driving him on, something terribly urgent and restless within him. He could, easily, have taken the soft option; given the music industry, the public, what they wanted - whatever that was. But it would have been a defeat Jeff Buckley could never have lived with and so he went on, taking a very long time to write his second album, which he was finally just about to go into the studio and record.
Buckley was due to begin working up material for his long-awaited sophomore effort at Memphis’s Easily Studios on Thursday, the day he disappeared. Former Television leader Tom Verlaine was originally down to produce the project, but that partnership was scrapped in March when Buckley decided he needed more time to come up with material for the album. Recording with Andy Wallace - who produced Buckley’s phenomenal debut - was scheduled to begin at the end of June. The not-yet-titled album was set for early 1998 release.
Although Buckley already had more than two-dozen songs finished, he wanted to spend the next month preparing himself for the production of the album. Buckley most recently appeared on a track featuring Inger Lorre on Rykodisc’s Jack Kerouac tribute, 'Kicks Joy Darkness’. He was also going to contribute a song to Hal Willner’s forthcoming Edgar Allan Poe tribute alongside Lou Reed, Diamanda Galas and Leonard Cohen; and was to appear on the 'First Love, Last Rites’ soundtrack.
The facts then as they are: On the night of Thursday, May 29, Buckley was hanging out with a friend at the Mud Island Harbor marina, half a mile inland off the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee. He and the friend were listening to a stereo and playing a guitar when Buckley waded, fully clothed, waist-high into the water. He started singing and laid back on the water, when a boat went by causing waves to come in to the shore.
The friend on shore turned his back to move the stereo away from the incoming waves and when he turned around, he couldn’t see Buckley. After a 10-minute search, the friend called local police. The Memphis police department began dragging the waters that night and continued to do so - weather permitting - for the five following days. They also checked on the chance of him having wandered out the water. Friends were contacted and people in the area of the marina questioned. They came up with nothing. Jeff Buckley simply vanished.
Finally, the news came through at about 7pm on June 4: the body of Jeff Buckley had been found. Police said that a passenger on the American Queen river boat spotted the body at the foot of the city’s famous Beale Street. The body had a pierced navel - like Jeff’s - and was in the same clothes he was described as wearing when he disappeared. His body was subsequently identified by friends and taken to the local morgue awaiting an autopsy. The waiting was over and the tears could finally flow unchecked for a beautiful spirit, tragically gone.
And so we have lost another young genius, and another man who saw perhaps too much, too soon. Worst of all, we’ll never know what Jeff Buckley was thinking, what those 20-plus songs contained, where he would have taken that unshakeable faith and idealism.
Some interviews you remember. And I remember that last one, so well, too well. His voice is still as clear as if it that interview was yesterday; its nuances, its pain, its anger, its frustration and its love. Jeff Buckley could never hide how human he really was.
Ironically, but fittingly, the words that best fit this tragedy are Patti Smith’s in “Beneath The Southern Cross” from “Gone Again”, her stunning comeback album of last year, and one of two tracks on which Buckley appeared, his voice soaring ethereal like some ghostly angel calling from the infinite beyond. It seemed right he should sing with this woman who has known more tragedy than most. They were like spirits. “Gone Again” celebrated life after death and a great spirit; the honesty of loss; an enduring love.
Jeff understood all those qualities and now in their light we should remember this blazing light shaded far, far, too early.
Installation views of Losing the Compass: Quilts at White Cube Featuring quilts by: Alighiero e Boetti, Mona Hatoum, Sergej
Jensen, Mike Kelley, William Morris, Sterling Ruby, Rudolf Stingel,
Danh Vo, Franz West, Amish quilts, & Gee’s Bend quilts
THE SURVEY CORPS VETERANS (PT2: THE FORGOTTEN FEW)
Mike Zacharias: Gee thanks for reminding me of his screaming and tears, guidebook. Let’s talk instead about how he laughs through his nose. HEE. Nanaba: “A young soldier…” I wonder how old she was. Can’t be that young. “Resolve” matches ‘determination’ well I think… I love that they acknowledge that Mike inspires her. Huehue. Gelgar: “Boozy” though. Facepalms. HE LOVED LIQUOR BUT HE HELD BACK! Poor Gelgar. I’m glad they do have intelligent things to say about him here, though. I’m a little sad that Lynne and Henning weren’t even acknowledged, but…whatever. Moblit Berner: RETORTS 10/10. MOBLIT U SASSMASTER. Thomas: A talented rider which is cool… But I totally forgot about him? Yet he’s still alive somewhere… Thomas, where are you? I also vote that he has “biggest mouth” he looks like a titan in that one panel… Dita Ness: Okay I thought Ness was pretty cute. I’m still bitter. Ilse Langnar: Her wits score should be lower imo, since she ran around during the daylight with a journal out instead of paying attention to where she was walking. Maybe by that point she didn’t care anymore, though.
I get emotional sometimes when I talk about this band. Most people don’t understand it or think that I’m just a mega fan. Now don’t get me wrong this is true. But that’s not why I get so emotional over them. My chemical romance SAVED my life. A lot of people say that. I can’t say anything about another person. But I was going to kill myself. I planned it. I could have done it easily. And what’s crazy is I was surrounded by people who knew and loved me. That day when I was going to do it. And no one knew. That’s how good I am at hiding things. I was so close to the edge. So close to ending it. But in my earbuds that day. “Forget about the dirty looks, the photographs your boyfriend took, you say you read me like a book but the pages all are torn and frayed. I’m.. O.. Kay.. I’M OKAYYYYY. IM OK NOWWWW, but you really need to listen to me, I mean it! I’m TELLING YOU THE TRUTH (trust me) IM NOT OKAY, IM NOT OKAYYYYYY” over and over these lyrics screamed and called out at me. They kept me sane that day. They saved me. People write music off or just say “oh it’s a kid that’s too attached to some famous band” well for me it’s more than that. To me the four guys. Gerard, Mikey, Ray, and Frank. They saved my life. And Gerard. He’s such an inspiration to me. I spoke with him briefly. Just once. I would give anything to talk to him again and thank him. And actually have a REAL conversation with him. He’s amazing. An imperfect human like myself. But amazing nonetheless. Thank you gee. Thank you my chemical romance. I wouldn’t be here if not for you guys. I owe you my life literally.
The Jungle Brothers: “It’s A Culture For People of Color”
At last year’s Roots Picnic in New York City, we got the chance to talk to Mike Gee and Afrika Baby Bam from Native Tongues posse, The Jungle Brothers about their thoughts on how Hip-Hop Culture is a BLACK culture.
And listen, excuse the audio but we ain’t traditional! This is some raw hip hop building.
I’ll be honest, I’ve been extremely sick the last 24 hours, so I’m quite amazed I was able to get this written and up on time - I blame Mike and Harvey for their indestructible sexual tension. YES! Today is Suits day, and I couldn’t be happier. There isn’t a show on TV without a more obvious couple on (except maybe Supernatural) and I was thrilled to finally have a chance to write these two.
“You wanted to see me?” Mike asked at the
threshold of the dimly lit office. New
York twinkled beyond the floor to ceiling windows that Harvey was currently
gazing out of, customary tumbler of whiskey in hand. Even relaxed and in contemplation he radiated
assuredness, and Mike felt his insides squeeze a fraction in awe.
He turned and gave a tight-lipped smile to
Mike. “Sure kid, come on in,” he
said. Despite the fact he was pretty
sure they were the only ones left on the floor so late at night, Mike closed
the door after he stepped inside. Any
excuse to be alone.
He was always extremely careful when they
were in the office never to cross the professional line that they had spent so
many years treading. All that had finally
changed, thankfully, when several months ago Mike hadn’t been able to take
torturing himself anymore, and had thrown himself at his boss after a heated,
drunken argument about their usual pointless bullshit. He had been pretty certain he was going to
get himself fired, but he’d not cared.
It was worth it to find out what Harvey tasted like, if only briefly and
To his astonishment something had broken in
Harvey, as he fisted his hand through Mike’s hair and grabbed the back of his
shirt, hauling him in closer and kissing him a like drowning man gasping for
air. Mike had kept telling himself not
to be too disappointed, not to read too much into it or get attached, that as
Harvey had pulled him into his hotel room that it was going to be a one-time
thing and he would be grateful for having it as opposed to the nothing he had
But here they were, almost at the end of the
year, and Harvey was still pulling him into his bed. Pulling him into his life.
“Is this about the case for Jessica?” Mike
asked, still standing as he waited for an indication from Harvey. “Because I haven’t had a chance to look at
the files yet.”
After a moment of hesitation, Harvey turned
and licked his lips, looking at Mike through his eyelashes. “Actually,” he said, a hint of reservation in
his voice that made Mike nervous. “I
wanted to give you your Christmas present.”
Several emotions shot through Mike’s chest
as he struggled to keep his face neutral.
Shock, and then absurd happiness that they were crossing their self-imposed
line by discussing something so personal at work. Fear as to why they were doing it at work.
And then finally, shame and panic.
“But,” Mike blurted out stupidly.
“I thought – I haven’t got your present yet,” he admitted. He thought he had more time.
Harvey though smiled at him warmly, and
waved his glass at the plush chairs where a wrapped box stood on the coffee
table. “I forgive you,” he said with a
smirk. “Now sit down and open your
Mike swallowed, unsure, but slid down into
the leather seat. “I could wait?” he
said, almost afraid to touch it as Harvey sat opposite him. “I feel bad.”
But Harvey bit his lip and leaned forward,
the ice rattling in his glass between his knees. “Don’t feel bad kid,” he said genuinely. “You know part of the fun for me is getting
one up on you.” He winked, and Mike
relaxed a little.
“That is true, you old bastard,” he teased,
scooting the box over to him and reading the tag.
Harvey scoffed. “Okay,” he said, amused and shaking his head. “Don’t push your luck.”
The note simply said “Merry Christmas” on it; nothing more personal or incriminating, such
as their names. But the fact they were
doing this at their place of work made up for that, Mike felt. Like Harvey was defying the firm by doing
this out in the open. There were pretty
strict rules about partners sleeping with associates, and it could get them
both fired. But Harvey Specter was never
really one for rules.
“I take it Donna wrapped this,” Mike said, deliberately
pushing his luck as he inspected the silver wrapping with purple ribbon. It was either that or admit how hard his
heart was banging in his chest.
It had never just been sex between them, not
since that first night, or even since they first met. Mike cared deeply about Harvey, he admired
and coveted him and his approval. But it
had not gone unnoticed how Harvey had held Mike after their first time
together, how his fingers found any excuse to linger on his skin – even the way
he would gruffly fling coffee and the morning paper at him like a he was a nuisance
was him showing his particular brand of possessive affection, and Miked loved
it all the more.
He loved Harvey, he knew he did. But it was much easier to tease and rile him
rather than say the words out loud.
But this ceremonious present giving was
making him nervous that they were about to cross another line, personally
speaking, and he was ashamed to admit he was afraid.
It was always a case of taking what he could
get from Harvey, and appreciating that it could all be ripped away from him at
any given moment. Harvey was always the
one in charge, and if he realised how stupid they were being Mike couldn’t’
blame him for putting an end to it. So
he always held back, just a little, not willing to give himself over fully so
he would have something left of himself when it would all inevitably come
crashing down. It was a sort of
self-preservation, he guessed.
But moments like this, where Harvey caught
him off guard, always brought his defences up.
In case this was the moment of
no return, in case this was finally
the time he would finally shatter Mike’s heart into a thousand pieces.
Harvey took Mike’s barb about Donna wrapping
his present with an arched eyebrow. “What,
you think I couldn’t possibly do a good job wrapping a gift?” he quipped. Mike held the present as if it were fragile,
unable to look up at Harvey.
“No,” he said honestly. “I just don’t think you’d deign to do
something so lowly yourself.”
“Would you just shut up and open it,” Harvey
groused, taking a sip of his drink as Mike laughed, nervously. So he did, sliding his fingers along the
creases and ripping the paper noisily in the quietness of the office. Inside was…another box.
“Gee,” Mike said sardonically as he pulled
the second smaller box out, wrapped again in silver. “Just what I always wanted.”
“Okay,” said Harvey in defeat. “This may have been Donna’s idea, so you can
give her a hard time about it later.
After a moment of paused intrigue, Mike
looked back from Harvey and tore into the fresh paper, lifting the lid and
unsurprisingly finding another wrapped box.
This went on for two more layers, with Harvey looking on in amusement as
Mike got more and more flustered, before finally he reached a small, unwrapped
box that he knew instinctively was the real present.
He paused, turning it over in his
fingers. “Go on kid,” Harvey urged. That was the third time he’d called him kid
since he’d arrived. He was nervous.
It was this that gave Mike the courage to
open the last box. He wanted to alleviate
Harvey’s worries, even if he himself was practically shaking in apprehension. But he was surprised to see that all that lay
inside the box was a simple key, and he fished it out to frown down at it. “It’s a key?” he said, aware of how dumb he
“Nothing gets past you, does it?” replied
Harvey, and Mike looked up finally to see how tense he was. What kind of key could make Harvey Specter tense?
And then it hit him. His eyes snapped back down, and he almost didn’t
dare breath. It couldn’t be, could it? “What’s it a key for?” Mike asked, striving
to keep his voice even.
“What do you think?” Harvey replied. Of course he was going to make him say
it. There was no going back from this if
he was wrong.
He licked his lips and took a steadying
breath. “It’s…a key to your place?” he
said, unable to keep the question from framing his words.
Harvey just gave him a single nod, and hope
and exhilaration exploded through Mike’s chest like the God-damn Fourth of
July. “We talked about you spending
Christmas at mine,” Harvey explained. “And
I figured this would be easier than me having to babysit you.”
A key to Harvey’s flat – he was being intrusted
with Harvey’s home. Mike felt a lump rise in his throat, and he
coughed it away. “Thank you,” he
stammered. “I uh, that’s great.”
Mike looked up sheepishly. He could never fool Harvey. “But why now?
Why not when I come over on Christmas Eve, and have your present to give you back?”
Harvey chuckled affectionately. “What’s the obsession with giving presents at
the same time?” he asked.
Mike rubbed the back of his neck and tried
not to let his emotions creep out. “Because
you always give me so much,” he said. “I wanted a chance to give you something
He risked looking over at Harvey, who put his
drink down and laced his fingers together between his knees. “Well, lucky for you,” he said
measuredly. “That is my present from you.”
“How?” Mike breathed, not daring to let
himself hope. But Harvey’s eyes were
wide with vulnerable sincerity, and he couldn’t help himself. “How is this my present to you?”
Harvey didn’t blink. He just held Mike’s gaze for what seemed like
forever. “It is…if you wanted to move
your stuff in in time for the holidays?”
Mike’s vision went entirely white as he took
the split-second to process what Harvey had said. When it returned, he dropped his gaze back to
the innocuous looking key held precariously between his fingers. “You want me to move in with you?” he whispered
around the solid lump in his throat, unable to stop the wetness collecting
behind his eyes.
“Yes,” said Harvey firmly and simply. “I want you to be home for Christmas.”
Home. He wanted Mike to share his home. He wanted it to be their bed and their coffee
cupsand a million other stupid
things that would be theirs. He wanted Mike to come home.
Without a word, Mike stood and walked around
the table, not stumbling but with purpose as he reached Harvey and folded into
his lap, glass door be damned. He buried
his face into Harvey’s neck and shivered as strong fingers ran up his back, as
lips pressed against his hair. “Is this
what you really want?” he mumbled, and in response Harvey pulled him in
“Yes,” he said determinedly. “I want you in my life. I want you to be there every morning when I
wake up, I want your God-damn bike in my lobby and your toothbrush and ties next
to mine. But,” he said, inhaling deeply
as Mike shifted in his lap to look at him.
“Only if that’s what you want?”
“Yes,” Mike replied immediately, before hungrily
kissing his lips several times. “Yes,
please, that’s what I want.”
Harvey let himself be kissed, his fingers
carding through Mike’s hair as he leaned even further into him. He had been so terrified of falling all the
way for Harvey, he hadn’t once let himself consider how good it might feel. It was
freeing and wondrous, and he hoped it would never end.
After a time, Harvey pulled back and ran his
hand along the side of Mike’s tearful face.
He wasn’t even embarrassed, for once he wanted to be completely honest
about what Harvey meant to him. “What do
you say kid?” he asked, prising Mike’s fingers open from where they had clamped
so hard over the key they had left a red imprint. “How about we go home?”
Mike nodded, his hand entwining with Harvey’s
the key pressed between them. “I think
that sounds perfect.”