Several emotions can be read into Norman Seeff’s grainy, black and white photograph of Tim Buckley for the back cover of the 1974 album, ‘Look at the Fool’: melancholy, brooding, bored. Perhaps a combination of all three would be most accurate. Certainly happiness is absent.

Even knowing the low ebb where Buckley’s career was at this time, and hearing the musical straitjacket he submitted to on this record in a bid to rescue it, it still seems startling that either the record company or Buckley himself should countenance using a picture that has none of the pin-up appeal of the teenage troubadour of 1967, indeed barely any appeal at all except to the committed fan. This is a man, who in the few years since then, has clearly seen and experienced much, reflected at its best in beautiful forays into folk, rock, jazz and funk.

The shadows encroaching upon him, so pronounced that Buckley seems to be merging with them, are with hindsight tempting to read as some sort of prophecy of the death, at 28, which he was to meet the next year. Yet in truth, he still had musical ambitions, and the drug overdose which killed him was not the culmination of an addiction but attributed precisely to the fact that his body had been clean for some time.

It would still be naïve to deny the fact that the singer of such impassioned ballads as ‘Song to the Siren’ and ‘Blue Melody’ was, at least some of the time, prey to the depths of sadness Seeff’s picture suggests. Even if the mood it captures was fleeting, the engulfing shadows still reveal a man now all too familiar with those depths.

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