Caught this Tim Buckley performance from the non-stop-excellent media feed of master drummer Hamish Robert Kilgour, whose brother once asked the immortal question, "Is it wrong or is right to be a beatnik?" Pulled from the final episode of The Monkees, in which the Pre Fab Four tussle with a sentient potted plant from outer space, Buckley's immaculate "Song To The Siren" is as out of place as can be. Out of place even further in its inclusion on Buckley's farthest-out studio album Starsailor, where it lies hidden behind a wall of free jazz shreik and moan, the free-floating 12-string strum, like lapping waves in the sunset, further rippled out in electric reverb.
Buckley's versions of "Song To The Siren" would ultimately be consumed by the cover contained on the debut album by This Mortal Coil and performed by the Cocteau Twins, Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie. A version that I've found myself listening to lately, driving around Los Angeles alone late at night; a version that so entranced David Lynch, that when he couldn't use it in Blue Velvet, found it necessary to create Julee Cruise to recreate the fatal, enveloping beauty and sadness of the This Mortal Coil version, which he finally got to use in Lost Highway, and whose stamp is certainly on the 'Club Silencio' scene in Mullholland Dr.
The This Mortal Coil version also features in Peter Jackson's Lovely Bones adaptation as soundtrack to the murdered heroine's entrance into heaven, and as the youtube embedded below shows, figures heavily as an object of rapture for the young television taper. (Another cover version finds itself as the theme for one of Heath Ledger's final films in which he portrays a simliarly doomed artist and heroin addict.)
"Song To The Siren" would strangely entangle singer Elizabeth Fraser as she embarked on an "intense personal relationship" with Tim Buckley's son, the singer Jeff Buckley, who himself knew a way around a cover version, and whose death by drowning at age 30 would strangley echo his father's own young death (by emotionally charged heroin overdose) not to mention the romantic, watery annihilation envisioned in "Song To The Siren."
Cover versions of "Song To The Siren" now abound with everyone from Robert Plant to Bryan Ferry vying to bathe naked in its reflective glory -- truly a singer's song -- but we leave you two recent versions from two stars whose ensnarement by gossip-mag extravagance has perhaps obscured the still-current brillance of their talent.