That Moment: Jeff Buckley

Image © Rolling Stone, 1994

In this feature, we invite anyone to submit a short piece on ‘that moment’; a place in time where you click with a singer, a record, a band or even a gig that becomes a seminal part of your musical history. Our founder and online editor, Hannah, kicks us off with her story of her ‘moment’ with Jeff Buckley.

I had never heard of Jeff Buckley when I was younger, he wasn’t on a constant loop on my parents stereo, neither was his vinyl strewn across the house waiting to be soaked up by a young unaffected mind. I heard him on TV, on one of the best teenage shows that was around, The O.C. It was a very angsty and dramatic end to the first series, each character going their separate ways, a key scene to leave the audience with, and Buckley’s ‘Hallelujah’ was calmly playing over the unfolding sadness. It may seem obviously cliched but it was the start of a fascination and love of his music; I was 13 and hormonally mad with the world and he seemed to be the musical pariah I was so desperately waiting for. Don’t ever doubt the secret musings of a young teenage girl, most are hankering for that one singer or band to hail at the alter of and treasure every lyric sung. The rawness and pain behind his songs were so in synch with the daily traumas I imagined I faced. These traumas being boys and spots of course, but still I felt he understood that despair I had coursing through me. I tried out other legendary greats; Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon, but they all just felt like a badly fitting pair of shoes compared to the comfortable slip of Buckley.

Of course I proceeded to listen to ‘Hallelujah’ continuously and was devastated when I found out he didn’t write it. You can imagine the anguish once I found out he had died! I bought his album, ‘Grace’, on my iTunes account, secretly smug at my superior musical taste at the ripe age of 13 and enjoyed listening to it immensely when life was giving me metaphorical lemons in the shape of my combat trousers being shrunk by my Gran (the horror!).

Title track ‘Grace’ captivated me completely with its pained sweeping vocals and the repeated ‘Rain in the fire, rain in the fire’ sent me to a teenage place that felt protected by Buckleys understanding and music. Listening to the power behind the final notes sung felt like an emotional release for someone who took so much solace in their music. I still revered his cover of ‘Hallelujah’ and admired the simplicity of ‘Lilac Wine’ but a few tracks confused me slightly; despite they’re hauntingly lovely quality, at such a young age I couldn’t comprehend asking a ‘lover’ to come over or ever seeing ‘love die’ as lamented on ‘Last Goodbye’.

Fast-forward a good few years and my obsession with Buckley hasn’t faltered at all, relaxed slightly yes, but not faltered. I shared a mutual appreciation of him with someone I cared greatly about and we sometimes lamented how great he would’ve been to see live, or what his next album would have sounded like. I pawed at him to snap up the opportunity if it ever arose to play him if a biopic came about, I was enthralled with the idea that my boyfriend could one day portray my biggest music crush. The first gift I had off him was a mix CD with some live version tracks of Buckley’s, we played him incessantly on our first holiday, needless to say it was an ongoing ‘thing’ that was part of what kept us ticking. An inside thing that brought me closer to both the music and to him.

The split came as unexpectedly as the relationship started and aside from the obvious loss, there was a gaping hole of torture waiting for me in a place where I normally sought solitude. Accidentally listening to ‘Last Goodbye’ on the tube one day soon after nearly finished me off there and then.  I felt every word and every note literally tear through my heart and that 13 year old me finally understood. It was another ‘moment’ where I felt it had been written for us, it was uncanny and frankly very upsetting. The lyric ‘Just hear this and then I’ll go, you gave me more to live for, more than you’ll ever know’ was literally paraphrasing our last conversation.

Despite the rocky emotional ground ‘Grace’ lies on, it still remains, and always will remain, one of my most treasured albums.

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