The Jeff Buckley Documentary:
PHOTO CREDIT: Mikio Ariga
It Can’t Have the Word ‘Grace’ in It!
OVER the next few weeks…
I am keen to publish a few features that look at various corners of the music industry. Björk’s Debut was released on 5th July, 1993 so, given the fact it is almost twenty-four-years-old; a timely reminder of how influential that album is – and how inspiring Björk is as an artist. That is something I want to enforce: not only is her music unlike anything else but she has changed so many things in the industry. She strikes against sexism and shows how incredible female-made music can be. In a lot of ways, she is the most inspiring musician we have and someone, one hopes, will continue to make music for many years to come. In addition, I will look at Urban artists and, given the fact the country is going through more change (of the bad kind) and tragedy than any time this generation – why they are not more vocal and mobilised. They might be but it seems the most effective and compelling artists, in these situations at least, are those in Grime and Hip-Hop/Rap. Also, I will look at albums that, when released, get negative or lukewarm press but receive huge accolades down the track. This applies to classic albums for the most part but true of some modern records. It is interesting whether time and the state of contemporary music influence critics and their opinions. I will continue to delve into those unpolished corners of the industry and update you accordingly.
The point of this piece was to introduce an idea that seems rather obvious: making a documentary about Jeff Buckley. He died in 1997 but, in the short time he was with us, inspired more artists than I can name. It is not only male artists who I can detect a connection to Buckley – many female artists, bands and unexpected sources have come out to show their appreciation and connection to the great man. I have put the header as it is because, invariably, anything associated with Buckley will have ‘grace’ in the title. I want to avoid that simply down to the fact it is obvious and overdone. It does not matter what the title is – although a bit of a nag at the minute! – but getting something out there is paramount. Many might say there have been enough Buckley features and it is not exactly apropos at the moment. The second point is true but, considering Buckley died twenty years ago – it seems like it is worth re-examining the vaults. A lot of the Jeff Buckley films/documentaries have been U.S.-made and covered particular ground. What I want to do is include a lot of modern musicians and people who have been compelled by his music. There has been new music – uncovered from the vaults – since the last documentary so there is enough material to put in there. Some lesser-heard performances and tracks warrant new breath and there are many who want to pay tribute to Buckley. In terms of the time period, it will spend less time focusing on the early life and more around 1992 – 1997 – Buckley moving from an unknown (but hugely talented) act to someone known the world around. A lot of fans are unaware of how Buckley first came to public attention and the sort of gigs he was performing. I want to get into those café/small performances and, if possible, find people there at the time. I am a big fan of Buckley’s gigs at the New York coffee-house, Sin-é. That spot bore witness to some of his most ethereal and people-moving gigs ever.
PHOTO CREDIT: Mikio Ariga
There are some fantastic Buckley clips on YouTube and plenty of songs many people would not have heard of. What I want to do is unearth those and provide my own take on why he was so incredible and why his legacy should not be ignored. There are some who say Buckley was over-hyped and didn’t achieve much. The fact he was one man and lived (in the public consciousness) for a few years does not detract from the amount he achieved and how influential he is. You only need turn on any radio station and, within a few songs, hear someone with flecks of Buckley in their voice. It may only need to be a whisper but it will be there, I can assure you! There is no denying the power and mystique of Jeff Buckley’s music. Listen to any of his performances – whether on-record or live – and you can see the effect it has on people. THAT is something I want to capture and highlight. I am a big fan of all the other Buckley documentaries and think they do him proud. Of course, if he were still alive today, you know he would hate all of them! Buckley hated the celebrity aspect of the game and want his music to remain pure and in his own hands – releasing rare material and imperfect cuts would have angered him. What I want to do, in a nutshell, is start from those early performance days and chart backwards – the artists and songs that influenced him and how his songwriting started out. From there, it will be into the New York gig scene and those pre-label days. I am fascinated by those intimate gigs and what Buckley was achieving before he recorded his debut. Naturally, a large chunk must be dedicated to Grace and promotion around that. Looking at the gigs and events around 1994/’95 is important.
PHOTO CREDIT: Mikio Ariga
Right now, I am torn whether the documentary should be audio or filmed. In terms of gig material, it is more vivid and impressive seeing the man in the flesh but so much of Buckley’s quality and archive is sound-based. I guess costs are important to consider – it will be less expensive doing it as a radio broadcast than filming – but there are people who want to have their say on camera; gig footage of Buckley that illustrates the emotion and physicality he put into his performances. The main thing is to convey my impressions and give my take on things. I feel a lot of Buckley documentaries spend too much time on the facts and conversations with people who knew him. There is a new generation coming through that want to express their experiences with his music and how it has impacted them. For me, there is an influence that has spread to journalists and D.J.s. It is not only musicians who feel the effect of Jeff Buckley. As a writer and music-lover, he has transformed my life and made me more daring and bold. I look for artists who have the same sort of fearlessness and innovation as him. Some of Jeff Buckley’s best performances have hit me so hard and remain with me still. His voice, at the time, was beyond compare and it remains unique even now. No singer has come close to matching the range, beauty and potency of Buckley’s voice (I don’t think anyone ever will). I am determined to carry Buckley’s music with me and let it reach as many as people as possible. I know more and more people are turning on to him but I feel there is that feeling his legacy is undeserved – maybe they are judging him on a song like Hallelujah and unaware of the sheer depth and range of his career. Let’s get it going and show just how important and influential Jeff Buckley is to music. I am passionate about it but am still confused as to…
WHAT will it be called?!