It’s no secret that Jeff Buckley and Cocteau Twins singer, Liz Fraser’s relationship was a whirlwind. They got together sometime in the mid-1990s and were drawn together like magnets. Their dual talent, tortured upbringings and childhood trauma made them seem like kindred spirits on paper. Both were enigmatic and mysterious, and this created an intense romance that imploded as quickly as it was concocted.
Fraser had previously been in a long relationship with Cocteau Twins songwriting partner Robin Guthrie which ended in 1993. However, due to contractual obligations, the band were continuing to produce music and tour, something that had a huge effect on Fraser, and she struggled with the bad blood. She met Buckley at the right time, and said that meeting him was like “being given a set of paints, do you know what I mean? It was just like I had all this colour in my life again”.
Even before the two had met, they shared a connection. In 1983, Fraser sang on the iconic This Mortal Coil version of Buckley’s dad, Tim‘s single ‘Song to the Siren’. Buckley had been infatuated with Fraser’s voice since he first heard the track, and on the other hand, Fraser felt the same after first hearing Buckley’s emotionally affecting music.
On the 2002 BBC documentary, Jeff Buckley: Everybody Here Wants You, Fraser, who is notoriously interview-shy, discussed her relationship with the late troubadour. She said: “I mean, he idolised me before he met me. It’s kind of creepy, and I, I was like that with him. This is embarrassing, but it’s the truth. I just couldn’t help falling in love with him. He was adorable.”
She explained: “I read his diaries, he read mine, you know we’d just swap, we’d literally just hand over this very personal stuff, and I’ve never done that with anybody else. I don’t know if he has. So in some ways, it was very, there was a great deal of intimacy, but then there’d be times when I’d just think ‘oh no, I’m just not penetrating this Jeff Buckley boy at all.'”
It is claimed that Fraser spoke about her relationship with Buckley on Cocteau Twins 1995 EP Twinlights. In a 1996 interview with Alternative Press, she teased this notion and revealed that when she went on tour with Cocteau Twins in 1994, in support of their album Four-Calendar Café, she fell in love with a man. She wouldn’t name him, and this had led fans to believe him be Buckley. She admitted: “My love addiction was worse than ever. I was maniacal.”
“The EP is about that man,” she said of Twinlights. “My last goodbye, as it were. I was too needy, and he was too much of an avoidance person. Naturally.”
Although Buckley and Fraser’s relationship would be finished by 1995, they did manage to record a splendid duet together. Unfinished, the track is titled ‘All Flowers in Time Bend Towards the Sun’, and it provides heart-wrenching insight into what a fully finished Buckley/Fraser duet might have been like.
Leaked onto the internet, Fraser is not a fan of the recording, as she explained in a 2005 Guardian interview. “Why do people have to hear everything?” she bemoaned. Even after she’s told by the interviewer that it’s “wonderful”, Fraser responded, “But it’s unfinished, you see. I don’t want it to be heard.”
Ever the deep thinker, Fraser did append in saying: “Maybe I won’t always think that.” The song is a glorious testament to their relationship, symbiotic nature and gift as songwriters. It’s a shame that it remains unfinished, but in a sense, this lends it a fragile beauty that mirrors how their relationship ended. A real tearjerker, you can understand why Fraser finds it hard to listen to.
By the time Buckley tragically died in 1997, he and Fraser’s relationship had been over for some time. “I just wish I’d been more of a friend,” she told the Guardian. “His career was everything to him, and I wish I had been more understanding – happy with a different kind of relationship. I missed out on something there, and it was my fault.”
When the news that Buckley had drowned swimming in the Wolf River in Memphis, whilst taking a break from recording his second album, Fraser was recording the iconic single ‘Teardrop’ with Bristol legends Massive Attack. “That was so weird,” she recalled. “I’d got letters out and I was thinking about him. That song’s kind of about him – that’s how it feels to me anyway.” Of their relationship, she said, “I need to forgive myself.”
An intense relationship that remains one of the most mystifying in the whole of music, it’s a great shame that Buckley and Fraser never made it as a couple, but at least we got the one nugget of brilliance that their convergence brought. Characterised by a haunting sense of beauty, the song is everything you’d expect from a Buckley/Fraser duet.
Listen to ‘All Flowers in Time Bend Towards the Sun’ below.