19 February 2012

In conversation with Jeff Buckey - the clouds within
I have always avoided mentioning Jeff in interviews for a number of reasons:
First, 'cause it's not cool to name-drop at every opportunity - two, 'cause I still find it hard to talk about him - and thirdly, as he's not available to reply, we have to apply utmost care and diligence when citing his name.
Jeff was one of the very few people I made a connection that went way beyond the tour schedules; but if anyone here is hoping this story is going to be filled with gossip of a personal nature, don't bother reading further, for the trust of friendship I had with him was sealed absolute, and that will never be broken.
But I wanted to share a conversation we once had, as it does have some bearing on my own anatomical life as an artist, and therefore, has still some relevance today.
I will be drawing a few parallel lines between us, but I must stress: strictly of a non-musical nature: for Jeff Buckley, in my view, was the brightest of all stars, profoundly talented, and this shabby isabel monteiro - (no capital bold here), just a 5ft meteor lucky enough to hit his path.
But I will draw attention to some idiosyncratic personality traits we shared, this being the topic of the conversation in question.
Anyone who's met Jeff will surely remember him as I do: a really, really funny guy - I mean, he was one of the funniest people I've ever met - sharp, witty, with an incisive sense of humour, always on the money and spot on.
But one could easily see that beyond the jokes and crisp remarks, there lurked a pool of great sadness and disquiet.
In this respect, I believe, we were very much alike.
We were talking about our personalities and moods, and how annoying it was that most people often made the wrong assumption that our 'sad side' was somehow 'more real' than our 'funny side' - which we both concluded it was a mistake, 'cause from our perspective, all those aspects made up the full picture of who we really were.
Then Jeff came up with this beautiful metaphor, one that stayed in my memory, he said:
'You know, it's like we've got this weather system trapped inside us - in the pit of the stomach, the clouds are always forming and waiting to rise. Even when everything's sunny, the clouds are always there, brewing. And every now and again they rise up and it pours for days, sometimes weeks; then it dies away, the sun comes out and the whole thing starts again. We're stuck with it, the clouds within.'
This struck me as such a pretty and lyrical way to describe the complexity of our souls, and it brought to mind this wonderful image of artists going round the world with clouds in their stomachs. poetic.
But then, the implication of what he said hit me , so I asked him:
'But...that means we can never be happy?!'
'Yeah, that's right, people like us can never be happy.'
The last time I spoke to J, sounds quite surreal now and hard to believe, but we've been talking about recording/writing a little acoustic album together in NYC - whole thing was gonna be quite simple, country-esque and gospelly - this now sounds so far-fetched, almost in the realm of fiction - but it didn't then.
I had a few tours booked ahead with Drugstore, but was planning to fly out to NYC once the promo/tours etc were done.
When I got back to London, I checked my voicemail, which at the time was one of those retro BT machines, that had a cute mini-cassette tape inside, remember those? To my surprise Jeff had left lots of little messages - each one under a completely different guise/voice - and very funny they were too.
People may not know this, but he was also a master impersonator - he could do voices, any voice, really well.
The messages ranged from Homer Simpson to Nigel Tufnel, via Al Pacino - each one was funny, quirky and very lovely (in one, he said I should soon be travelling to the US on Concorde 1st class, as the royalties from him singing Alive and No more Tears would soon kick in - though he needn't worry, knowing that he liked my songs was the greatest reward.)
By the time I called him back, he already had travelled south and was stuck in the studio, working on his new record, so I thought it was best to pursue our own little project later down the line, once his album was done.
I never had a chance to speak to him again.
The years went by and, sadly, I lost track of that BT answering machine, (probably deemed obsolete during some last minute flat move).
In this life, I've been given a lot of really expensive crap that had no intrinsic value to me whatsoever, from Cartier to Rolex - all met the same end: a cheap desperados' pawnbrokers in East London.
But if I could have something back, I would choose that little tape with Jeff's messages in it - I'd be very happy with that.
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Lex et ses shets said...

Maybe the precious little tape is just well hidden in some forgotten box and will finally come back to you, some day...? Fingers crossed... xxx

DianaFsc said...

i don't know what happiness really is, but I must say that you both look happy on that beautiful picture

thank you so much for sharing this, Isabel!

Bogman Blogt said...

Beautiful story...

Julie Bennett said...

i loved reading this - was very kind to share your memories of Jeff and photo. Such a shame you never got to make that album it would have been ace! Looking forward to see you at the Lexington in London on April 6th 2012.