Tim Buckley

No Man Can Find the War

Song Review by

"No Man Can Find the War," the first song on Tim Buckley's second album Goodbye and Hello, is one of the most unjustly overlooked anti-war songs of the 1960s. In general, Goodbye and Hello found Buckley expanding from folk-rock into psychedelic art songs, but "No Man Can Find the War," like most of the album's tracks, did have a folk-rock base. The cut starts with an atomic bomb explosion, followed by a placid yet ominous sequence of chords, which pauses before Buckley launches into the lyrics. Buckley had one of the most gorgeous voices in 1960s rock, and the pseudo-operatic quality of his tenor fits the strident yet trenchant messages of "No Man Can Find the War" well, the images of guns and flame complemented by the somber yet soaring melody. The words, written by Buckley's friend and frequent songwriting collaborator Larry Beckett, are unusual by the standards of popular protest song in that the war getting protested, or commented upon, is a vaguer and more allusive one than a specific or universal one. Though the horrific images obviously refer to the carnage in Vietnam, as Buckley emphasizes at the end of each verse, no man can find the war, though it's raging all around. That reflects the insanity of Vietnam, where victories were measured by body counts and the enemy was often unseen. But as the bridge makes clear, Beckett and Buckley have a loftier point to make: that the real war is not a physical one, but a war inside our minds, in the human flaws that cause people to go to war in the first place, whether in Vietnam or anywhere. The song is appropriately bookended by another atomic bomb explosion, which brings the track to a cold conclusion.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Goodbye and Hello 1967 Elektra / Asylum 2:58
Morning Glory: The Tim Buckley Anthology 2001 Rhino 2:59
Lady, Give Me Your Key: The Unissued 1967 Solo Acoustic Sessions 2016 Future Days / LITA 3:00
Complete Albums Box 2017 Elektra / Rhino 2:58