MIMO - When Music is Your Fix

Tim, Tim, Harry ….and Nick Drake (Part 2)

Tim Hardin and Tim Buckley. Two genuine artists who shared more than a common first name, a remarkable talent and a propensity to self destruct. I won’t dwell too much on their sickness here – it’s well documented in all the writings about their respective careers – what I would like to do is share some of my memories of sitting in late night coffee bars in London with Tim Hardin talking music, and some quiet time shared with Tim Buckley after he opened the first Knebworth Festival – which also featured the Doobie Brothers (several of whom I nearly wrote off in my car on the Marble Arch roundabout!) The Mahavishnu Orchestra, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, The Allman Brothers and Van Morrison (whose band I was to join shortly thereafter.) Sadly I never got to play with either Tim, but I’m glad I saw and heard them perform – and sound good!

Tim Hardin arrived in London around 1973 – after an abortive ignominious ‘tour’ in ’68 where he either fell over on stage or just didn’t bother to show up. He recorded an album with Jimmy Horowitz and seemingly took root in London for the next few years, showing up around town, particularly at our late night ‘hang’ – the coffee bar Tricky Dick’s on Finchley Road in North London. My old friend Chaz Jankel (later to write all Ian Dury’s hits, and Ai No Corrida for Quincy Jones) had started to play gigs with Tim and write with him, and he soon became a welcome addition to our informal ‘round tables’ where discussion might cover everything from bossa nova to Louis Armstrong via Bob Dylan, and where jam sessions would spontaneously ‘erupt’ (I always had my baritone sax stashed away in the trunk of the car.) I can’t recall jamming with Tim but I do remember making some cassettes for him of the hugely underrated jazz singer Lee Wiley, one of his favourites. His addiction was under control in the UK as he was a registered addict and I never saw him out of control. One particular evening I remember a long discussion about Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Bluesmen and how Tim tried to achieve the same intensity in his writing and singing. He was particularly impressed with the fact that I had met and played with Johnson’s mentor, the legendary Son House, and that I had also had Muddy Waters perform at my 21st birthday party. The best of Tim Hardin lives on in his fantastic catalogue of songs and the respect accorded by all who followed.

Tim, Tim, Harry ...and Nick Drake (Part 2)People are surprised when I tell them how far Tim was into jazz and how knowledgeable. They’re perhaps less surprised by Tim Buckley’s love for jazz. Tim Buckley was a revelation to me from the day I heard Goodbye and Hello and then Happy Sad while a student at Sussex University. When I visited California in 1972 and found myself jamming with Randy California of Spirit, I remember trying to track down Tim Buckley only to be warned that he wasn’t in a fit state to be around! So it was with a mixture of delight and trepidation that I heard he was to open the first Knebworth Festival. Through my friends Pete Wingfield, Jerome Rimson and Pete Van Hooke – who had been recruited at Montreux by Van Morrison and found themselves to be his working band – I found myself the social organizer and designated driver for the visiting musicians – notably The Doobies, the more fun loving members of the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Tim Buckley’s Band.

I ferried them to the Speakeasy, Bibas and various other ‘dens of iniquity’ and drove up early to Knebworth in time for Tim’s set opening the festival. I was blown away by his (to me) newfound jazzy approach – he was even scat singing – and went up to him after the set backstage to compliment him. To my surprise he was quite down about himself and the show – I think he was upset by the fact that he was the first act on and most of the audience was either en route or staking their claims to a patch of land they could occupy for the next 12 hours! We quickly moved on to talk about John McLaughlin and Van and Coltrane and I was struck by his love for jazz and improvisation – and we had a laugh about Van’s wobbly caravan balanced on logs that tipped if you ran from end to end, unlike the personalized winnebagos (and catering) of the Allman Brothers. I really looked forward to meeting him again and maybe playing with him but within a year I was a member of Hot Chocolate and he was gone in mysterious circumstances leaving behind some amazing music and a son who was also to set the musical world ablaze.
I’m so glad that, however briefly, my life intersected with these two masters of their art.

Read Part One


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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

John Altman is a BAFTA and Emmy award winning composer, musician and conductor and was recently made Doctor of Music at the University of Sussex, School of Media, Film and Music. John has a long and distinguished career in music, including performing with Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Sting. His film credits include period music for Titanic and Shall We Dance. In addition, John has scored over 5,000 TV commercials and is cited as among the top composers in British advertising.

A brief look at who John Altman has shared the stage with or worked with since the 1950s:


  • the 50s - appeared with Judy Garland onstage at the London Palladium
  • the 60s - played with Jimi Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, Muddy Waters
  • the 70s - played with Bob Marley, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Elton John. Wrote for Monty Python and the Rutles
  • the 80s - wrote for Simple Minds, George Michael. Played with Slim Gaillard, Chet Baker. Sting, Phil Collins, Jeff Beck
  • the 90s - wrote for Bjork, Tina Turner, Barry White, Diana Ross, James Bond, Titanic. Played with Chaka Khan, Lionel Richie, Bill Wyman
  • the 00s - played with Prince, Amy Winehouse, Pharrell, Black Eye Peas, Jessie J, Joss Stone
  • the 10s - still standing!

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