Song to the Siren (Tim Buckley song)

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For other uses, see Song to the Siren.
"Song to the Siren"
Song by Tim Buckley from the album Starsailor
Released February 1970
Recorded 1969
Genre Folk
Length 4:36
Label Straight
Writer Larry Beckett, Tim Buckley
Composer Tim Buckley
Producer Tim Buckley
Executive producer:
Herb Cohen
Starsailor track listing
  1. "Come Here Woman"
  2. "I Woke Up"
  3. "Monterey"
  4. "Moulin Rouge"
  5. "Song to the Siren"
  6. "Jungle Fire"
  7. "Star Sailor"
  8. "The Healing Festival"
  9. "Down by the Borderline"
Music sample
Music sample

"Song to the Siren" is a song written by Tim Buckley and his writing partner Larry Beckett and was first released on Buckley's 1970 album Starsailor. It was also later released on Morning Glory: The Tim Buckley Anthology, the album featuring a performance of the song taken from the final episode of The Monkees TV show which aired on March 25, 1968.

Pat Boone was the first to release a version of the song when it was featured on his 1969 album Departure, predating Buckley's Starsailor release. However, the song has become perhaps Buckley's most famous due to a number of artists covering the song after his death in 1975, most notably This Mortal Coil. It has featured as a cover on many artists' studio albums.


The song was written in 1967, but Buckley was dissatisfied with the early attempts at recording it. It would finally appear on Starsailor three years later.[1] The Monkees TV show version featured the song in its original folk song style, with Buckley playing solo with a 12 string guitar. This stands in contrast to the lusher, reverb-filled version present on the Starsailor album. The Monkees television spot features the song in the key of E while the later album version is played in Bb. The album version also features heavy reverb on the electric guitar and high pitched background vocals. In comparison, the live version is more lo-fi, with no effects, and Buckley's voice is accompanied only by his guitar. The 1968 performance also features different lyrics with the phrase "I am puzzled as the oyster" later being changed to "I'm as puzzled as the new born child" in the album version. This was reportedly because when Buckley played the song to Judy Henske, wife of then producer Jerry Yester, she responded to the line with laughter.[2][3]

Despite this, Buckley and Beckett regarded this song as their greatest collaboration effort, with Beckett later stating "It's a perfect match of melody and lyrics. There was some kind of uncanny connection between us."[1]

The song's reference to the sirens tempting sailors at sea stems from Greek mythology. This lyrical style is an example of Larry Beckett's literary inspirations, and stands in direct contrast to Buckley's own more personal writing style.[citation needed]

Version by This Mortal Coil[edit]

"Song to the Siren"
Single by This Mortal Coil
from the album It'll End in Tears
Released September 1983 (1983-09)
Label 4AD

The most prominent recording of "Song to the Siren" is by This Mortal Coil. It was released as a single in September 1983 and spent 3 weeks on the UK Charts where it peaked at #66 on October 23, 1983.[4] More impressive, however, was the sustained demand for the track, the record-buying public helping the single to spend 101 weeks on the UK Indie Charts, a run that ranked fourth in the 1980s after three classic long-selling records: "Bela Lugosi's Dead" by Bauhaus (131 weeks), "Blue Monday" by New Order (186 weeks) and "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division (195 weeks). "Song to the Siren" was included on This Mortal Coil's 1984 album It'll End in Tears which was released a year after the single. This Mortal Coil was a collective name for a number of artists on the 4AD Records label, with Elizabeth Fraser and Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins performing the song.

Following the release of the single by This Mortal Coil, Buckley's work experienced a reappraisal in the mid-1980s.[5] This revival of interest in the artist would be one of the greatest factors in the increase of his posthumous sales, falling second only to the publicity generated by the success of his son, Jeff Buckley.[5]

In 2012, Dawn French selected this song on Desert Island Discs as, in her words, "The song that made me fall in love again"[6]

Film soundtrack use[edit]

The version by This Mortal Coil featured on David Lynch's 1997 film Lost Highway but did not appear on the film's soundtrack album. Lynch has stated that This Mortal Coil's version of the song inspired the first two albums by Julee Cruise. Also, he had previously intended to use the original version of the song on Blue Velvet but was prevented from doing so due to legal issues or budget limitations.[7] It was also used in the trailer for the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and in Peter Jackson's 2009 film The Lovely Bones. The cover by Israeli singer Ivri Lider was featured in Eytan Fox's film HaBuah.[8] The original Tim Buckley version also appeared in the 2006 Australian movie Candy, as well as a cover by Paul Charlier and Paula Arundell. The song has also featured in popular TV shows such as Waterloo Road.

Other cover versions[edit]

"Song to the Siren" has been covered many times since This Mortal Coil's version.[9]

  • The Chemical Brothers made an electronic big beat track called Song to the Siren in 1992, when they were known as the Dust Brothers. This sampled the This Mortal Coil version of Buckley's song, although the sample is unacknowledged on the album Exit Planet Dust, where the songwriting credit is given as Rowlands/Simons.
  • The song was given new life in the form of a trance remix by Lost Witness — "Did I Dream (Song to the Siren)" peaked at #28 in the UK singles chart in 2002.[10] Similarly, a sample of This Mortal Coil's version was featured prominently in Messiah's techno single "Temple of Dreams".[11]
  • It was also sampled by Ratty in their trance track "Sunrise" and a cover is used as the break in a hardstyle track by Deepack titled "Down Low".
  • A cover of the song was the title track of Song of the Siren: Live in San Sebastian (Sub Pop #SP592), a 2002 live album by Damon and Naomi with Kurihara, guitarist for the band Ghost.
  • "Song to the Siren" has also been covered by Robert Plant on his 2002 album Dreamland, and as a duet with Plant and English tenor Alfie Boe on his 2011 album Alfie.
  • Former Two Nice Girls member Laurie Freelove covered the song on her 1991 album Smells Like Truth;
  • Alex Cooke sang it on his 2010 release Song to the Siren;
  • English Indian artist Sheila Chandra covered the song for the 2000 compilation album Gifted on Real World Records.
  • American singer Mikky Ekko covered this song in a Yours Truly Session.
  • George Michael covered "Song to the Siren" on 2012 White Light CD-Single.

"Song to the Siren" has also been performed live by numerous artists, including George Michael[13] and David Gray[14] among others. Brendan Perry, of Dead Can Dance, covered the song accompanied by Robin Guthrie, formerly of the Cocteau Twins, on Perry's 2011 tour, then again for the Dead Can Dance world tour 2012.


  1. ^ a b ""'Song to the Siren' Tim Buckley (1967)" by Robert Webb, The Independent (London), Apr 13, 2007". Retrieved 2008-05-23. [dead link]
  2. ^ Dream Brother: The Lives and Music of Jeff and Tim Buckley, David Browne
  3. ^ "Tim Buckley interview "The High Flyer"". Retrieved 2008-05-03. [dead link]
  4. ^ "This Mortal Coil single: Chart performance". Retrieved 2008-05-10. 
  5. ^ a b "The Rough Guide to Rock". Archived from the original on 2008-02-26. Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
  6. ^ "The song that made me fall in love again". Express Newspapers. 23 December 2012. 
  7. ^ The City of Absurdity: David Lynch's Blue Velvet
  8. ^
  9. ^ Aston, Martin (2011-11-17). "Song to the Siren's irresistible tang". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 18 March 2012. 
  10. ^ "Chart search engine". Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
  11. ^ Reynolds, Simon (1993-01-24). "Recordings View: Hanging With The Nintendo Generation". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-02. 
  12. ^ "Half Man Half Biscuit Unreleased Session Songs". Retrieved 2010-02-11. 
  13. ^ Sullivan, Caroline (2007-06-11). "George Michael Live at Wembley review The Guardian". London. Retrieved 2008-05-03. 
  14. ^ "David Gray official discography". Retrieved 2008-05-03. 

External links[edit]