Tim Buckley’s name may only be familiar to today’s most encyclopedic of music aficionados, but during the late 1960s and early 1970s he enjoyed a minor cult following for his folk-pop ballads (not to mention his woolly hair and chiseled good looks). This wonderful DVD release collects all of Buckley’s known TV appearances, spanning three countries and a variety of performances.
TV viewers first caught a glimpse of Buckley in 1967 when he did a guest solo rendition of the hauntingly beautiful “Song to the Siren” on “The Monkees.” He followed that up with a live take of “No Man Can Find the War” on a CBS News special report called “Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution” (narrated by, of all people, Leonard Bernstein).
After that, Buckley’s American TV appearances were primarily on obscure local programs. British and Dutch TV offerings are also included here, and he seems to excel in the audience-free studio settings of those foreign network presentations.
Buckley never had a hit song, so the bulk of the tunes in this collection are probably unfamiliar to most viewers. He literally offered something from almost everyone, as he was equally at home in folk, pop, rock and blues. His performances will come as a surprise – he was a natural on camera and it is odd he never ventured successfully into acting. Or maybe that was an intentional bypass on his part. He excelled at singing, but not at conversation – a rare network gig on Steve Allen’s talk show presented him visibly ill-at-ease, while a political discussion with a studio member from a Los Angeles TV guest shot is embarrassing for Buckley’s surprisingly inarticulate theories on political life.
(Actually, this DVD omits Buckley’s attempt to land an acting gig. Bootleg clips from his one movie role, a no-budget shot-on-video 1971 feature “Why?”, can be seen on YouTube. However, the clips are too brief to determine if Buckley could act.)
Interviews with his collaborators Larry Beckett and Lee Underwood and biographer David Browne underscore Buckley’s importance in contemporary music. If anything, this collection brings a dreadful sense of rue: Buckley’s death in 1975 at the age of 28 from a heroin-alcohol overdose suggests a tremendous loss of talent and artistic opportunity. Where his career could have progressed is anyone’s guess, and the video performances would suggest he was capable of triumph in any musical sphere.