Poet/Lyricist and Friend

Larry Beckett the poet/songwriter, wrote the lyrics to one-third of
Tim Buckley?s recorded songs, and for 9 of the 10 years that they
knew each other, Larry was always just a phone call away when Tim
needed a friend. If anyone knew Tim Buckley, it was Larry. They
brought out the best in each other and it showed in their musical
collaborations. The songs that they wrote together are as follows:

I Can?t See You
Song Of The Magician
Strange Street Affair Under Blue
Valentine Melody
Song Slowly Song
Grief In My Soul
She Is
No Man Can Find The War
Knight Errant
Goodbye And Hello
Morning Glory
I Woke Up
Moulin Rouge
Song To The Siren
Honey Man
Sefronia-After Asklepiades After Kafka
The Kings Chain
Freeway Blues
Tijuana Moon

Larry Beckett, as Jerry Yester pointed out, is one of America?s great
poets. I am extremely happy that he decided to address our forum
and answer my questions.

This interview is divided into SIX PARTS. Each part will follow the







Please post any comments or reactions to this interview in the folder
entitled ?Reactions To Larry Beckett?s Interview?.


Jack: Welcome Larry, and thank you for participating in our Tim
Buckley Discussion Forum.
I?d like to begin by asking you where you were born and raised?

Larry: I was born on April 4, 1947 in Glendale California, though we
lived in Los Angeles at the time. After a year, we moved to Ashland
Oregon, after another, to Downey California, and when I was ten, to
Anaheim. My dad was a teacher of English and speech, and my mom
had her own business in career counseling.

Jack: Could you tell us a little about your family life? I understand
that you recently became a father for the second time. It must be
great to be a new dad while in your fifties.

Larry: In 1988, I married Laura Fletcher, a photographer; in 1990
Susannah was born, who?s looking into acting; and in 1999, Liam
was born, who?s a natural born musician. I get to live in the same
house with my three favorite people.

Jack: In our previous conversation, you told me that you were still
writing songs and that you're working on a piece about Paul Bunyan.
Hopefully we'll talk about that in-depth later on in the interview. I
also understand that you're involved in the computer industry, would
you care to tell us anything about that aspect of your life?

Larry: I make money as an information systems manager and
Independent computer database consultant.


Jack: Which came first...your interest in music or your interest in

Larry: I?ve always been a writer, since before I was aware of it. Music
is my second passion, and I play piano, sing, and compose, but life
isn?t long enough to master two forms.

Jack: When did you find out that you could write poetry?

Larry: I had been writing poetry for years, inspired by Allen Ginsberg
and James Joyce, though I was intending to be a mathematical
physicist, inspired by Albert Einstein. A high school English teacher
changed my life with a question. After having me recite a new prose
poem to school district officials, he asked me what I was going to be.
Mathematical physicist, I said. He laughed, and said, No, you?re a
writer. Light rained on all the writing I?d done since I was a little kid,
and my image of myself shifted toward the reality.

Jack: When and under what circumstances did you meet Tim?

Larry: I?d been friends with Jim Fielder, who saved my writings in a
drawer, and he, who was friends with Tim, I guess through music,
introduced us: we were all in the same gym class, and became

Jack: Can you tell us much about Tim?s family life?

Larry: I don?t remember his dad, maybe he?d already gone insane;
his mom was a sweetheart, with great music lying around, Johnny
Cash, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Pete Seeger.

Jack: What was it like for Larry, Tim, and Jim at "Loara"? Did you
perform often?

Larry: Jim and I were in honors classes, and Tim was barely making
it to school. Tim played solo at folk concerts at our high school, but
after we formed our rock and roll band, ?The Bohemians?, and our
poetry & experimental music & comedy group, ?The Harlequin
Three?, we played at other schools and night clubs.

Jack: Do you have any high school stories that you wouldn't mind

Larry: A few weeks after the sit-in protest demonstration was
invented, in 1965, by Mario Savio at the University of California at
Berkeley, some student council campaign posters I?d made for my
sister were torn down by the vice principal. One read ?DRINK UP?,
with a picture of a big cocktail, and one, ?KEEP A COOL TOOL?. I
planned a sit-in at lunch to protest it, and Tim and other friends
spread the word. At noon, half of the school sat down in the quad
and the other half watched. I spoke about free speech. When the bell
rang, nobody went to class. At last they turned on the sprinklers, and
more or less dispersed the crowd. I took all responsibility and named
no names, for which, though I was vice-president of the school and
president of the Honor Society for years, I was suspended for three
days and banned from the senior prom. While I was gone and unable
to speak for myself, the administrators pressured the student council
to strip me of my office. Tim made a point of going to the meeting,
where he defended me, and the idea was voted down. In newspaper
article, asked to explain the incident, the principal said, Spring is
spring and kids are kids. On prom night, Tim and Jim and I took our
dates to the famous Hollywood night club, the Cocoanut Grove,
where we saw the jazz singer Nancy Wilson. She was beautiful.

Jack: What did you and Tim do outside of school for recreation?

Larry: I was a straight A student for years and a perfect though
increasingly arrogant schoolboy; Tim showed me how to let my
natural rebellion out. We?d play hookey and drive to Hollywood, to
go through La Cienaga Boulevard art galleries.

Jack: How would you describe Tim's personality at that time in his

Larry: He dressed like a man, not a boy, had sex in the backs of cars,
and was happy-go-lucky and contemptuous of all institutions. When
he sang, you thought you were sitting around with fucking Caruso.

Jack: When did the two of you actually sit down and try to write your
first song together? What method of writing did you use, and what
was that first song called?
Jack: Do you remember what songs were on Tim?s demo tape, and do
you have a copy of it anywhere?

Larry: Dylan and Lennon & McCartney were writing the songs they
sang, and it inspired me to suggest to Tim that we write our own. I?m
not sure which song was first. I thought it was one of those on the
Orange County demo, recorded by our band in 1965. At least some of
those songs should be included in a Tim Buckley boxed set
retrospective planned by Rhino Records.
I always wrote the words first, which he set to music. On several
important occasions, he?d suggest an image to me that would inspire
the words.

Jack: Was your involvement in writing lyrics influenced by literary
poets or particular songwriters that you listened to?

Larry: In songwriting, my major influences from literature were
Shakespeare, Keats, Hopkins, Yeats, Ginsberg, Joyce, and from
music, Robert Burns, Bob Dylan, Donovan, and Fred Neil.

Jack: Did you and Tim listen to the same music, and who were you
guys listening to at the time?

Larry: Our music started with the Beatles and Dylan and so-called
folk rock, and then fanned out to include Indian raga, Miles Davis,
Bulgarian folk music, Villa-Lobos, Erik Satie, Peggy Lee, B. B. King,
Ramblin? Jack Elliott, Bach? When I lived in a duplex in Venice,
nicknamed Big Pink by Tim, Lee Underwood lived in the other half.
Tim was over constantly, and we listened to all of this all day and

Jack: How many songs did the both of you have before Tim recorded
his demo for Herbie?

Larry: There was only the Orange County demo, for anyone, and
then a four-song demo for Elektra. We had written around one
hundred songs by the time Tim signed with the record label.

Jack: Was it hard deciding which songs to include on the first album?

Larry: It was easy; we knew what our best were.

Jack: What was it like for a couple of teenagers putting together a
new album for an established label like Elektra?

Larry: Jac Holzman, head of Elektra, who never attended the
sessions, was the source of our total artistic freedom. We were
confident in our songs and Tim?s singing.

Jack: Did you guys have any type of label for your music? Did you
consider it to be "rock", "folk", or "folk/rock"?

Larry: Labels are for journalists and salesmen. We just worked on

Jack: Was there a Fred Neil influence on Tim and was it personal ( as
a mentor ) or just a brief acquaintance?

Larry: Jerry Yester said that Tim met Fred at Herbie?s house before
he even signed a recording contract. Later, Tim and I went to one of
Fred?s recording sessions, where he was working out Dolphins, and
from that day on, Tim became obsessed with him. This shows up in
his writing on ?Goodbye and Hello?, his singing on ?Happy Sad?,
and lasted till the end.

******** "TIM BUCKLEY" RELEASED OCTOBER 1966 ********

Jack: Were you present at any of the recording sessions for "Tim
Buckley"? If so, what were they like?

Larry: I was at all the sessions for the first two albums. Tim wasn?t a
leader, so it was hard to get everyone in sync, but when the sound was
right, he?d nail it in one take. He hated later takes, because repetition
dissipated the passion.

Jack: You wrote the lyrics to seven of the albums twelve songs...did
you have any say in the musical arrangements?

Larry: On both ?Tim Buckley? and ?Goodbye And Hello? I was able
to make musical suggestions on every track. On the second album,
this included ideas for orchestration.

Jack: Did you help Tim with the lyrics on the five songs that he wrote?

Larry: ?Wings? was Tim?s 1-verse fragment completed by me; in
Strange Street Affair Under Blue, I completely revised his and Mary?s
versions. The others he wrote on his own.

Jack: Were you happy with the guitar playing style of Lee Underwood
on your songs?

Larry: Lee could play in many musical genres, and Tim liked the way
he could take an unexpected turn in his compositional style and have
his lead guitarist right there.

Jack: A lot of the songs on that first album were written about people
in your lives...which songs were specifically written for which people?

Larry: The songs were inspired by people you probably don?t know,
and transcended them, so it?s best just to listen and dream your own

Jack: What kind of a feeling was it for you to drop the needle on that
album and hear "Summer princess, midnight maiden" as the opening

Larry: I considered songwriting and poetry as two different things,
and songs not as important as poems, so it wasn?t much of a pleasure
having songs recorded. By the time the first album came out, we were
concentrating very hard on the next.

Jack: Do you remember how much your first royalty check was and
what you spent it on?

Larry: I used to get a monthly allowance out of my royalties, and go
out on a spree, dinner with my lover, and then to see Zeffirelli?s
Romeo and Juliet.

**** "GOODBYE AND HELLO" released November 18, 1967 ****

Jack: In a review for our forum (which I never came close to
completing) I wrote the following: "The album "Goodbye And Hello"
was an unabashed duo's musical commentary on the social climate of
America back in 1967. It conveyed compelling and compassionate
tales in rhyme that capsulated some of what was occurring at the
time. Drugs, love, war, heartache, and disillusionment were all topics
touched upon in this break-through album. Beckett and Buckley
saturated every song with their own unique poetic logic. They
flaunted their ambiguous lyrics and then challenged the rest of us to
decipher them."

On this second album, you and Tim obviously got a lot more serious
and insightful. What would you consider the "theme" of this album
to be?

Larry: Dylan said it in ?Tangled Up In Blue?: ?There was music in the
cafes at night / And revolution in the air?. We had no theme, only
worked on individual songs, but soaked up all the themes and
divisions of the sixties, and they found their way into the album.

Jack: Did song writing come easy to you or was it a difficult task that
required a lot of changes and re-writes?

Larry: Because I didn?t take songwriting seriously, I used songs as
quickly written experiments; if the experiment worked, I?d use the
technique in poetry. When Tim died, I vowed that every song I wrote
would be song and poem, and close to perfection.

Jack: Do you think that the psychedelic songs on the album could
ever have been written if you two didn't experiment with drugs?
Would the ideas for songs like "Hallucinations" for example, have
come anyway or were they a direct result of your own

Larry: Drug allusions were just taken out of the air; my couple of
grass experiences inspired nothing by me. The word ?hallucinations?
was a metaphor of a love breaking down, and the idea of
hallucinations was a pretext for experimental music.

Jack: I believe that the song "Goodbye And Hello" was a true
masterpiece because of its many intricacies. I'd sit there reading the
words and marvel at how Tim pulled off the chorus-combination of
the two sets of lyrics and made it work. I don't think that a person
can fully enjoy this song without reading the lyrics as they listen to it.
I think that the brilliance of that song is lost on today's listeners
because they don't use that approach. Where do you rate this song on
your list of lyrical accomplishments?

Larry: I was proud of Goodbye and Hello for its musical ambition,
Lee Underwood?s inspired twelve-string lead guitar, and Jerry
Yester?s fresh orchestration based on it. The chorus lyrics, whose
form was indirectly suggested by James Joyce?s musical experiments
in the Sirens episode of Ulysses, were meant to be sung on top of each
other, contrapuntally, not side by side, antiphonally.

Bob Dylan almost single-handedly moved our generation to write
songs more like poems, listen to the language, and interpret the
complexities. All that didn?t last too long, though for me, it?s alive.
Unfortunately, though I?m nostalgic about the old songs, I think all
but a few of my lyrics for Buckley are clumsy and not worth saving. I
do love ?Song to the Siren?, the first two verses of ?Monterey?,
?Starsailor?, an unreleased song called ?Venice?, and ?Tijuana

Jack: Would you care to explain the lyrics to "Morning Glory"? Was
the "fleeting house" a metaphor for fame as I reasoned in my
"Psychobabble" message a while ago on our message board?

Larry: Tim said, ?Can you write a song about a hobo??. I don?t
think it?s my place to interpret my lyrics, but the more poetry and
criticism you read, the easier it is. Because images in poetry can have
more than one meaning, ?fleeting house? means all the things it can
reasonably be taken to mean in the context.
For me, the real meaning is more in the feeling it gives you.

Jack: Was Tim using "Pleasant Street" as a metaphor for the
euphoria one feels when using a particular drug?

Larry: Tim was nowhere near heavy drugs when he wrote ?Pleasant
Street?. It is what it sounds like, any surrender to any seduction, even
if degrading.

Jack: I feel that "No Man Can Find The War" was probably the best
anti-war song ever written; my second favorite being "The Great
American Eagle Tragedy" by Earth Opera. When you were inducted
into the army, did your superior officers know that you wrote that

Larry: Thank you for the compliment on ?No Man Can Find The


Jack: How did you feel about being inducted into the U.S. Army?
How difficult was that period for you?

Larry: It was very painful to be unexpectedly torn away from my life
and lover, as the government tried to make me a slave.

Jack: Did you and Tim write back and forth to each other?

Larry: We were out of touch for that year, missing the opportunity to
write the theme song for the film ?Midnight Cowboy?.

Jack: Were you in any mood to listen to "Happy Sad" while you were
in the Army?

Larry: I didn?t know about it till I got out, though I did hear the
songs once at The Troubadour.

Jack: After the Army days, how long did it take to get back into the
swing of things?

Larry: I took a bus home, instead of flying, so that slowly going into
that prison would be matched by slowly coming into freedom.

Jack: What did you think of the three albums that Tim made without

Larry: The music is haunting, the words not too important or good;
some experiments fail, but he was brave to try.
He was following his own way of growing into new music, influenced
by everybody and nobody.

Jack: When you returned to writing with Tim on the "Starsailor"
album, were you convinced that this was the right direction for Tim to
take his music?

Larry: We never went in any conscious direction, only followed that
mysterious beauty.

Jack: Lee Underwood has stated that Tim considered "Starsailor" to
be his masterpiece. Do you agree?

Larry: Tim was too dissatisfied with his work to think anything a
masterpiece, though he was proud of the lyrical, chordal, and time
signature experiments on Starsailor.

Jack: What do you consider Tim's best work to be?

Larry: ?Dream Letter?, the live 1968 London concert, though it could
have used ?Song to the Siren? as an encore, is his finest work.

Jack: Did Tim tell you of his struggles with management over his
career moves?

Larry: We were best friends for ten years, and he told me everything
important. The record company was trying to make career moves for
him; he didn?t think about that.

Jack: Did the song ?The Earth Is Broken? move you at all?

Larry: I was unaware of the song?s existence. Imagine, I?m standing
listening to the Dream Letter Concert for the first time, ?The Earth Is
Broken? comes on, and it slowly dawns on me that in part it?s an
outpouring of love by his live voice to me in captivity, all these years
later, when he?s a ghost and I?m in freedom. I was deeply touched.

Jack: I understand that the failure of "Starsailor" was almost
devastating to Tim...Why didn't he see that if "Lorca" wasn't
accepted by his fans then "Starsailor" wouldn't be accepted either?

Larry: Starsailor?s poor sales were devastating to the record
company, not Tim. He knew it was experimental, and for a select

Jack: Was Tim thinking illogically at that time or was he just being a
"true artist" devoid of outside advice or interference?

Larry: Neither Tim nor I, from the beginning, ever thought about
sales or popularity. The focus was on songs as works of art. One of
our heroes was Miles Davis, independent, always changing, and
success not defined by quantity but quality.

Jack: Were you happy with the outcome of "Starsailor"?

Larry: I was at the Starsailor sessions. I never did really approve of
the lyric change to ?Song to the Siren?; the real words are in the
Monkees? TV Show version. Tim?s French on Moulin Rouge, despite
my careful coaching, was ludicrous. These objections aside, I thought
?Starsailor? a fantastic beauty.

Jack: Why did Tim and Lee Underwood go their separate ways?

Larry: When Tim decided to go with a funkier sound, he realized
he?d need a much funkier lead guitar.

Jack: Were you privy to what Tim was up to when he frequented
"Max's Kansas City" in New York? Did Tim get the idea of "sort of "
re-inventing his image while hanging out with the Andy Warhol crowd
who resided there? Were you ever in that place? How many times did
you visit New York in the old days?

Larry: I was with Tim in NY in the summers of ?66 and ?67, and did
visit Max?s Kansas City. I wasn?t aware of him being up to anything.
He would laugh at the idea of having an image or reinventing it.

Jack: What did you think of Tim's completely new direction in music,
his abandonment of the acoustic 12-string, and his new approach to
lyrical content in his songs?

Larry: The vulgar soul sound, adopted to please the record company
while perhaps laughing at it, was dreadful and unnatural. The lyrics
are briefly amusing; our collaborations often were collages of
different lyrics I?d sent him. For my own work, ?Honey Man? and
?Sefronia ? The King?s Chain? stand out.

Jack: On ?Greetings From L.A.? you were credited with co-writing
?Make It Right? along with Joe Falsia and Jerry Goldstein. You also
co-wrote one other song with Tim called ?Nighthawkin?. Is there a
story behind that song?

Larry: Nighthawking is interesting. The lyrics are based on a story
overheard in a little grocery.

Jack: The album "Sefronia" featured two Beckett/Buckley
compositions..."Honey Man", a great funk-rocker and of course, the
much-heralded title track. Is there a longer version of the song
"Sefronia? around someplace and do you have a copy of it?

Larry: With ?Sefronia ? The King?s Chain?, Tim had asked for a
song about Africa. I used a section of Frazer?s The Golden Bough
about taboos on kings. There is a longer lyric about Africa he never

Jack: You, Tim and Jim Fielder were reunited on the "Look At The
Fool" LP. It's like you guys almost came full-circle. In what direction
do you think Tim would have gone next?

Larry: There were two exciting projects in the works.

One was a live double album, not of ?greatest hits,? but of best
compositions, for which we?d chosen ten songs for stretched out

The other was a song cycle, which even Dylan had never done, and
we?d dreamed of for years. Based on a Joseph Conrad novel, it was
called ?The Outcast Of The Islands?. All the lyrics had been written,
and some of the music, sounding like ?Sefronia ? The King?s Chain?.
Tim was confident we could get the record company?s backing. I was
to appear for the first time, reciting connecting narrative passages
from Conrad?s text. It was a turn back toward art and experiment.

Jack: Did you keep in touch with Tim right up until the end?

Larry: We had phone calls lasting through the night.

Jack: Do you have anything at all that you'd like to say about Tim's
death in retrospect?

Larry: It was accidentally on purpose. He never liked being inside his


Jack: You and Tim are two of many people in a photo taken on a
staircase in front of Linda Ronstadt's house back in the old days. Did
you guys hang out there much?

Larry: We did come across Ronstadt in different places. I even wrote
her a song she never did. We thought she?d lost all taste when she
took a turn toward a country sound, but it was our taste that was
limited then.

Jack: Of course Linda and BS&T covered your songs as well as
Fairport Convention, This Mortal Coil, Chrissie Hynde and the Swiss
group Comebuckley. Can you tell us of any other people who've
covered your songs?

Larry: There?s yet another version of ?Morning Glory? by an obscure
folk rock group McKendree Spring, and supposedly a version of
?Goodbye And Hello? by the Chad Mitchell Trio, which I haven?t

Jack: I like Liz Fraser's cover of "Song To The Siren" the best. Which
is your favorite cover?

Larry: I also choose This Mortal Coil. Fraser?s sinuous melodic
decorations sound like a siren out of Homer?s ?Odyssey?.

Larry: I?m a poet, and when I write songs, they must be able to be
read without music as well as being sung to. In the past twenty years,
I?ve only written thirty-five songs, though I tried to make each a

Here?s one that was published in the counterculture magazine
RayGun, with an article on my work by the rock journalist Paul
Williams. The music is a Bach chorale, as arranged by Jerry Yester.

********** SECOND AVENUE **********
In the hissing street, that old girl goes
with a newspaper over her bowed head,
and I blow my hands and walk on hard
in the fool?s rain on Second Avenue,

all the holes closed for the night
and the bad wine wearing off,
and nothing for the cold but that fire
in an iron barrel, my knowledge of you.

Jack: I've read that you were working on a project related to Paul
Bunyan. How far along is that project?

Larry: My poetry includes American Cycle, a series of 100-page
poems called Paul Bunyan, Chief Joseph, P. T. Barnum, Amelia
Earhart, as well as a book of sonnets, a book of madrigals,
translations of the Tao Te Ching, called The Way of Rain, and poems
by the T?ang dynasty Chinese poet Li Po. I?m working on a new
American Cycle poem, Blue Ridge. I don?t try very hard to publish in
the common way; instead, I invite audiences and recite the book,
publishing it to the air.

Here?s a poem that was just published in a book called Portland

********** Sonnet 4 **********

Look, this winter won?t quit; it?s hanging on
like the old panhandlers, and the slow hookers
on the thin streets, who?d go kick in good money
for a crack of sunlight above the waterfront.
Oh the rain hurts, and down by the mission, by
the dirty movies, peace leaks out of our morning:
when we miss breakfast we squabble over nothing,
and it?s too cold for kisses under a poor sky.
We can scrape by for now with our lean love,
and be in the greenbacks by April, if we skimp,
and scratch for buys in the hand-me-down stores:
it?s okay if you?re a waitress, I?m a dishwasher,
my dollar says we?re stars and our first show
is a sure fire, oh sweetheart, weather with me.


Jack: Why do you think that Tim did not become the icon that some
people feel he should have become?

Larry: To become an icon in your lifetime in America you have to sell
a lot of product. Marketing and sales are boosted when a musician
stays inside a category, but Tim?s music was outside the idea of
categories. In each note, you can hear he?s singing out of different
streams of American music, to which he?s added his own original
melodic beauty, which changes from album to album. To this day, in
used record stores, he?s filed under Folk Music, though there?s not
one folk song on any of his studio albums.

Jack: Of all the times that you spent with Tim which one do you think
about the most?

Larry: I remember most the morning he wrote the music to ?Song to
the Siren?. He picked up his guitar, and started to sing it, with almost
no changes, like it was an old song. That miracle.

Jack: If Tim came back to visit with you for a little while, what do
you think you guys would talk about?

Larry: He does come back, in these dreams I have, not like my other
dreams, but clear. We talk about new songs, like always. I usually say,
?How can you put out a new album? You?re dead.?
But as you can see, he?s succeeded.

Jack: Would you like to see a movie made about Tim's life and

Larry: Only if Tom Stoppard does the screenplay.

Jack: What would the title be?

Larry: ?Starsailor?, and I want a percentage of the profits.

Jack: What did you like most about Tim?

Larry: We loved each other, for the reasons you love anybody, which
are deep and mysterious. I was too thoughtful and he was too
thoughtless, and we tugged each other toward that opposite we
needed to become whole. I love artistry, and he is a real artist; I love
music, and he is a true singer.

Jack: We thank you, Larry.