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Jeff Buckley

Blogposts  are funny little things.  You don’t do one for ages and then two come along at once.  This wasn’t the one I planned to post today, but it feels imperative that I do, because it marks a day, that many people around the world are taking a moment to pause and consider.

Life is hectic and I would be a liar if I said that if it hadn’t been trending on Twitter, I might not have noticed this very fact.  But it was 15 years ago that singer song-writer, son of Tim and Mary, Scorpio, Mystery White Boy and the American boy with the gorgeous, multi-octave voice, actually christened Scott – but known as Jeff Buckley, drowned.   He was last witnessed wading into the water, playing his guitar.  It was widely regarded as an accident.   I believe it was too.

He was young, barely thirty, and at the time he was completing his follow up album to cult success and his critically-acclaimed debut, Grace,  with a record titled ‘ Sketches for my Sweetheart the Drunk.’  Back in 1994, Jeff had become a folk-rock poster boy.  He was an attractive, more handsome version of his father,’ Song to the Siren’ tunesmith, Tim Buckley.  A father who had been largely absent from his son’s life.

I remember reading about him in SKY magazine.  If memory serves me well, he featured in the same issue that featured a young, stunning Cameron Diaz on the front.  I think I took one look at her and decided ‘ Right,  young lady, you are coming home with ME!’

I had no idea that it would be the boy with the eyebrows featured inside, who would steal my heart both musically and otherwise.  I still have the issue.  I loved the piece on Jeff.  I remember buying  ‘Grace‘ on tape from Reckless Records in Islington for £5.99, which was a whole heap of cash to me on a student grant.  Plus both the CD single releases for ‘ Last Goodbye,’ because I wanted the extra tracks.  Not that I had a  CD player to play them on.  I was always a bit of a completist when it came to buying the things I loved.

I really, really wanted to see him play live.  I remember scanning gig dates and then spotting with huge excitement that he was actually playing dates in the UK.  But then the disappointment that I’d missed his London dates.  There was one gig left listed.  It was all the way in Cambridge.  And I had my finals on at University.  I would love to write and say that I dropped everything and went to see him play.  But I can’t because I didn’t.  It was too big an upheaval when I had a bunch of Russian history dates to learn and the suchlike.  I told myself, I’d see him play the next time I spotted he was touring and playing live.  But that time never came.  Because on May 29th 1997, Jeff Buckley died.

I read about it in TNT magazine.  One of those freebie titles you see handed out at tube stations and I still remember how utterly shocked I was.  It was a lovely,sunny day and I was probably gallivanting around Londinium as you do.  I just remember feeling numb and thinking, what a senseless, senseless waste of one so young.  I couldn’t quite comprehend it.   Accidental deaths are heartbreaking, because you end up thinking, if he’d decided to sunbathe he’d still be alive.  If he decided to go and eat an ice-cream he’d still be with us.  But that kind of thinking just leads nowhere fast thanks to the butterfly effect.  Different actions herald different consequences.

The music press all debated what would happen to Jeff’s album ‘ Sketches for my Sweetheart The Drunk.’   I knew he’d not completed it, many of the songs were unfinished or in demo form.  I just know that the idea of never hearing it felt awful, so I am so grateful that his mother, Mary, decided to finish it somehow and release it.  As records go I genuinely think it’s a great one. It was released as a double CD I loved it.  I loved the rawness and flaws of  the lo-fi tracks especially, and the one that jumped out at me was ‘Gunshot Glitter.’

I thought what a title!  What an absolutely cracking, fantastic title.  It put all kinds of images in my head and I loved how twisted and raw his voice sounded on it.  The music has an almost splintered quality to it.  I never forgot that song.   Almost a decade later when I was working on my debut novel, which is set in London and Manchester and features an anti-heroine who is dark, messed up, but struggling to find her way back to redemption,  despite having committed some seriously heinous deeds, I had to name a club which was the focal point of the story and I remembered the name of the song I loved so much. Gunshot Glitter.  The line ‘ Lipstick my name across your mirror/ Bloodred with faked gunshot glitter.’

It stayed in my head.

It never left.

And so I chose it as my title and named the club after it.  As is the case when someone beautiful  and talented dies, the media and the world eulogise them and the sales of their records shoot through the roof.  We do that thing of coveting something, because we don’t realise what we had until it’s gone.  Jeff Buckley was awesome and I am so glad I twigged that in his life-time.  To me,  music, art, film, books are enduring and it means a lot to me that I am surrounded by it and can look to it all for my own creative inspiration.

So, thank you, Jeff, for Gunshot Glitter.  Thank you for being one of the key  inspirations for my debut novel.  It’s going to be self-published later this year because I wanted to do it my way and retain creative control.   You ‘ll hear more about it all in due course.

There was a place for him in the world and judging by this beautiful outpour and the remembrances on Twitter, there was a place for him in many people’s hearts and music collections too.  If you have your own memory of Jeff or his music, share it.  Let’s all remember the Mystery White Boy today.

Yasmin Selena Butt  x