2/24/14

Song To The Siren

John William Waterhouse: The Siren (1900).
Songs travel, change and mutate. Songs are sung anew and inspire new songs. Songs are performed, recorded, covered and sampled. Here's an example.

Tim Buckley (1947-1975) was an American singer and musician and the father of singer and musician Jeff Buckley (1966-1997). One of Tim's haunting songs is 'Song To The Siren' which he co-wrote with his writing partner Larry Beckett. Tim performed a great version of the song live on the Monkees TV show in 1968:


This Mortal Coil was a "super group" fronted by 4AD label boss Ivo-Watts Russell and featured a rotating cast of 4AD associated artists. For their 1983 album It'll End In Tears This Mortal Coil got Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie of legendary dream pop band and 4AD signees Cocteau Twins to perform their equally haunting version of 'Song To The Siren':


Fraser's vocal on 'Song To The Siren' was sampled on one of the earliest singles by The Chemical Brothers, released while they were still called The Dust Brothers. This song is also called 'Song To The Siren' and fittingly opens with a siren:

Meanwhile, Cocteau Twins came to a halt in the mid-90's and two years prior the couple of Fraser and Guthrie had gone their separate ways. After parting with Guthrie but still remaining in the band, Elizabeth Fraser struck up an intense relationship with Jeff Buckley, son of the aforementioned Tim Buckley whose 'Song To The Siren' Fraser had covered in the 80's. Their short-lived romance resulted in one unofficial recording: the beautiful duet 'All Flowers In Time Bend Towards The Sun':


When Jeff Buckley died in 1997 the two had lost touch and the news of Buckley's drowning reached Fraser while she was recording her vocals for Massive Attack's 'Teardrop'. In this interview she describes is like this:
"That was so weird," she says. "I'd got letters out and I was thinking about him. That song's kind of about him – that's how it feels to me anyway." It seems she is haunted by guilt: for not being there for Buckley, for everything. As she puts it: "I need to forgive myself."
Wow. Just wow.


To conclude this little song history blog post, I'll add the fact that the aforementioned Chemical Brothers have actually done a remix of 'Teardrop'. It's unfinished and unreleased but it has been broadcast once, on BBC Radio 1 in April 8, 2011. It was played in Tom Rowland's DJ mix during the one hour Chemical Brothers Radio 1 Takeover, as a part of Pete Tong's 20 Year Celebration.

In other words: all the artists and songs in this blog post are intertwined in one way or another. Thanks for reading + listening.

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