I’ve inherited a lot of my musical tastes from my dad. His record and CD collection played a big part in weaning me away from just new releases. I’ve got a really distinct memory of driving down the highway in the back of the car listening to Paul Simon’s “Look at That” trying to imitate his quick scatting in the second half of the song (on the topic of Paul Simon, I also remembered being absolutely shocked by his song “Pig, Sheep, and Wolves” when I was young). Other guitarists like Nick Drake, Leo Kottke and Chris Smither also played a big role in my musical childhood.
But the artist that brings back above and beyond the most memories is Richard Thompson. Hailing from West London, Thompson, a skilled guitarist and the son of a Scottish detective, formed his first band (named “Emil and the Detectives”) at his all boys high school. That was around 1967. By 1972, after playing with two more bands, Thompson was playing solo with his newly married wife, Linda Thompson.
But it wasn’t until after their separation in 1982 that Thompson really fell into stride with the audience he had been collecting: members of the rock and folk communities, as well as those drawn in by his Scottish and jazz influences. In 1991, Rumor and Sigh was nominated for a Grammy, and rightly so. One of his singles off of that album is still the most requested song on NPR. Can you guess which one?
1996 saw the release of You? Me? Us?, my favorite Richard Thompson album to date. The record was released as a double disc set – one side labeled “nude” and the other “voltage enhanced” and they make a truly unique listening experience. “Business on You” is a great track, but he also provides dual versions of “Hide It Away” and “Razor Dance”, which are lovely to hear back to back.
Richard Thompson released his latest album Sweet Warrior in 2007, and has managed to preserve the sound and styles while evolving and pushing the boundaries of his music. “Needle and Thread”, the first song on the album is a great example of this. It’s a throwback to some of the songs off of You? Me? Us? but has a lovely new feeling to it.
But there have been a few gems that have popped up online that stick out of the regular Richard Thompson canon for a variety of reasons.
Obviously, this one was a shocker when it first appeared on the internet:
At first it seems to be a trifling cover, but as one YouTube commenter says “I think It’s [sic] amazing how [Richard Thompson] can play a bit of fluff and take it beyond irony into something artistically relevant.” Too true, adjectivesarecool – especially the section when Thompson takes the pop song and changes it into a 12/8 folk instrumental.
But going back to Rumor and Sigh, there was one song that didn’t quite fit in with rest of the pack. That was “Psycho Street” – apparently Thompson’s “antidote” to an Australian song about hopelessly happy neighbors. Here we see a decidedly younger and more energetic Thompson howling and acting and quipping from behind the mike:
If you missed some of those lyrics, I’ll give you a sample.
A man has an inflatable doll made that looks exactly like his wife.
He murders his wife, dissolves her body in acid, and marries the doll
Three years later he leaves her, for another doll…
Thompson’s music has become somewhat tempered in the twenty years that have come and gone since that video was made. However, his quirkiness is still quite intact at 61. As we know, with age comes wisdom – something that Richard Thompson is known for appreciating to its fullest. Here’s a song all about his love for women – of the wise and intelligent kind, of course:
Thompson, who played the Paramount Theatre in Peekskill last year doesn’t have any New York shows coming up soon, but I highly recommend you see him when you have the chance. So, thanks Dad for introducing me to some great music. Maybe one day I’ll convince you that Muse deserves a second listen, yeah?
Concerts This Week:
FLAMING LIPS!!! TONIGHT!! GO SEE IT!! 8 pm at the Wellmont Theater
Jakob Dylan @ Town Hall on Wednesday at 8 pm.
Thursday’s got a bunch of shows:
– Famed Jennifer-Lover (ew) Mike Doughty will be at Le Poisson Rouge at 7 pm
– Hot Chip (see last week’s post!) will be playing at Terminal 5 at 8 pm (or catch them the next night, also at Terminal 5 but at 9.
Friday will bring you Mr. Elvis Costello at United Palace 8pm
– Also see Willie Nile at the Turning Point in Piermont on Friday!
PEAK KEYWORD: INFLATABLE