For this Cheery Ch(T)une Ch(T)uesday, we’re going to take a look at the beautiful SONG TO THE SIREN. It’s a much covered song from the late 60s. Its mood is languid, melancholic, dreamy. The version we are looking at is from its composer, Tim Buckley.
The clip says that it’s a performance from the Monkees TV show in 1968. The off-screen announcer (is it Davy Jones or Mickey Dolenz?) simply states, “this is Tim Buckley”. Then a 21 year-old Tim slouches up onto a stool with his ample 'fro and his tan corduroys, starts plucking away at his 12-string & WOW!This glorious song comes out….
Buckley strums and plucks his 12-string guitar with precision and clarity as he passionately sings the lyrics that Robert Plant (the voice of Led Zepplin) calls “some of the most beautiful he has ever heard”.
The song and the performance are captivating, transcending the flakey 60’s camera work, where a static camera is given some false life by the operator pulling in and out on the zoom lens like it’s a trombone! Take a listen...
A Word about the Sirens – a Tragic Legacy..
The song is a retelling of the Greek myth of the Sirens, who lure sailors into their island with entrancing song only to have their ships wrecked on the island’s treacherous, rocky shore. Buckley’s lyrics are haunting as he sings from the point of view of the hapless sailor, captivated by the song of the temptresses.
One can imagine that the Sirens are a metaphor for all those things to which we can be attracted to our detriment. It might be the lure of the relationship that is destructive or the substance that diverts us from concerns but leads to a cycle of addiction.
Buckley, himself, died tragically young from an overdose of heroin. Some say that he was not a chronic substance user and this was a first-timer’s bad luck, while others who knew him say that he went hard at everything, and his premature death came as no surprise. As is often the case in such matters, it is hard to say just where the truth lies.
It’s a trans-generational tragedy that Tim Buckley’s son, Jeff, also died young, robbing the world of another huge musical talent. Jeff took an ill-fated swim in the Mississippi River, disappeared in the current and drowned at the age of 30 in 1997. Father and son barely knew one another, but shared the capacity to captivate others with their music. Sadly, they each succumbed to their own Siren song.
The Old or the New(er)?
I first became aware of the SONG TO THE SIREN from the 1984 version performed by This Mortal Coil. For old time’s sake, here it is. I noted that the Tim Buckley version has some classic hallmarks of the 60s. Look for the unmistakable 80’s elements in this version (I’m thinking hair!).
Please leave me a comment on which you prefer, or any other aspect of THE SONG TO THE SIREN.
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