About the songs

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Firstly, two quotes:
Muna (RT's daughter): "He hates bringing any meaning to his songs. He's always said to me he wants people to come to their own conclusions about a song, if there's a picture story already there it can sometimes ruin it.

John Kirkpatrick: "As usual with Richard, when you ask him was that about anything particular? He'll say "Oh I don't know, its just a song".


Even the greatest songwriter in the world must be inspired by something and each and every song has a story to tell. This page outline some of the information that I have collected about RT's songs. Special thanks to those who have sent me to sources which contain this information!


ABOUT THE SONGS

A [back to top]
A bone through her nose-"About a certain breed of English girl who comes from a fairly good family, gets out of school at about 18 and has a couple of years of token rebellion. She becomes a social sort of anarchistic animal, extremely fashion-conscious in the most downbeat possible way. Then, at about 22 or 23 its time to get married. So she marries Henry, who has a very nice house in Smith Square and a charming manor house in Berkshire. They've got dogs and a couple of horses. It's all frightfully good. Yet in their rebellious time some of these sorts become quite serious media figures and spokespersons for their generation and stuff. And it's all a total scam." (Extract from RT Biography)
A heart needs a home-"A Heart Needs a Home" marks the coming of the spirituality that would simultaneously lead some to write Richard off as a crackpot and lead his songwriting onto a new plane, answering some (though not all) of the desperate emotional questions that the first half of the Thompson songbook poses. He and Linda had become involved in Sufism, an Islamic sect also known as the "Creed of Love." "A Heart Needs a Home" was "the first song I wrote after I embraced His love," Thompson says. "Again, it took me a long time to actually perform that one. I did it once and it was difficult. It was my own love song and I didn't want anybody else to hear it. It's about love between creator and creation, but you can take it as you like. It's written in the terms of a love song because it's stronger that way." Richard's double-edged intent charges each of the song's deceptively simple romantic words with meaning that goes far beyond words as Linda sings, "I know the way / That I feel about you / I'm never going to run away . . . Some people say / That I should forget you / I'm never going to be a fool." It shouldn't work -- but it does. Probably because they mean it. (http://members.aol.com/toycritic/tpcm.htm)

B [back to top]
Baby don't know what to do with herself-A song like 'Baby Don't Know What To Do With Herself' is as near as I get to the blues, because I don't feel I can play it. If I'm doing it, it becomes a kind of parody, really." "Baby...," on the new record, uses a blues structure augmented by less conventional chord changes, and parody is thus supposedly averted. (http://www.penduluminc.com/MM/articles/thompson.html)

Bad news is all that wind can carry-Unreleased song that has been covered by a number of John Kirkpatricks bands. Page 76 of the PHB suggests that this was written about the Fairport van crash which happened on the morning of 12th May 1969. (Extract from RT Biography)
Bank Vault in heaven-I suppose it's about fear of the satellite world -- the Rupert Murdochs of this world, who control space, who control the satellites. It's such a global thing. I think it's kind of dangerous when you can reach billions of people. If that gets in the wrong hands, whoa -- look out, world. (www.salon.com interview)
Beat the retreat-A ceremony performed by the English army: drums, fifes and pipes, marshall in an impressive marching display. (Extract from RT Biography)
Beeswing-Written about Anne Briggs. The booklet issued with the recent Anne Briggs compilation on Topic records ("A Collection") quotes RT as follows: "Sadly, the only two times I ever actually met Anne Briggs she was unconscious, living up to her reputation. Which was very sad because I loved her singing and I've certainly got her records. I wrote "Beeswing" about that time, about the '60s and people like Anne and Vashti Bunyan, and about the time when people were beginning to drop out of conventional society and cities and go rambling. A bit of rambling went on, which is physically impossible these days 'cos everywhere is owned by someone." (Anne Briggs compilation)
While 1952 Vincent Black Lightning is full of action and drama, Beeswing is a slower paced, more delicate love story lovingly captured with the aid of Northumbrian pipes, acoustic guitar, fiddle, flute, concertina and mandolin. Sporting perhaps the prettiest melody Thompson has ever written, the title is both the name of a small Scottish village and an entirely unconnected Scottish hornpipe. Years earlier Thompson had written a completely different song, also called Beeswing, that was never deemed good enough to record. He subsequently named his publishing company Beeswing. Clearly, the name had a lot of resonance for him. (Action packed: the best of the Capitol years, liner notes)
Big Chimney-inspired by James Stirling's account of life in a steel mill, /Seven Shifts/ The track's rock 'n'roll feel conjures up the relentless noise and rhythm of the work. (Industry album sleeve notes)

C [back to top]
Cash down never never-Hire purchase is known as the never never. (Extract from RT Biography)
Cold kisses-deals with "jealousy over people's old lives. In a sense, you don't deserve any access to it, but it can still arouse a kind of jealousy, or even a regret that you weren't around." (http://www.penduluminc.com/MM/articles/thompson.html)
In concert, people often laugh nervously at the opening line, "Here I am in your room, going through your stuff/You said you'd be gone five minutes, that's time enough." "For me," relates Thompson, "that's the greatest. To get people to that point and then, as the song progresses, it gets darker and darker. If they started off laughing, then they're involved in the song and they have to listen to the rest of it. I like songs that have comedy and darkness all mixed up together. For some reason, that's effective."....While the lyrics reveal an obsessive nature that borders on pathology, Thompson's vocal performance goes further, conveying a level of sickness barely kept in check, ultimately suggesting twistedness and potential danger that goes well beyond the lyrics. The stark musical setting--Thompson alone playing haunting bass and lead lines on his acoustic guitar--simply intensifies what is already a chillingly ominous atmosphere. (Action packed: the best of the Capitol years, liner notes)
Cooksferry Queen-Inspired by a big jazz, R&B and blues pub in the area where Richard grew up in North London: "It's the first song I've ever had a blues harmonica on" he laughs, "just to set the scene! The events described in the song actually happened somewhere else, but I cheated and moved them to Cooksferry to scan better." "The character in "Cooksferry Queen" was a club owner, a small-time Mafioso guy, with the very sharp Italian suit, really nasty, very threatening, take your kneecaps off sort of guy. And a year later, the next time we played at this particular club, someone had dropped him some acid and he'd got this hippie girlfriend, and he was totally transformed: he'd grown his hair, he had a kaftan on and he hugged everybody who came in...!" (Official RT website) In an interview with Pam Winters for her Sandy Denny Biography (11th August 1997) RT also namechecked Cooksferry: Well, you know--the North London diet in those days--in terms of live music, the stuff you could see--was a real mixture of styles. And we used to go see the Who at the Marquee club, and the Yardbirds, and the Nice, and anybody else who happened to be playing down there. And the John Mayall Blues Band would be playing reasonably locally, they'd be playing at the Manor House, or [Cluque's Clique?], Cook's Ferry Inn, all these clubs around North London. (Biography)
If 1952 Vincent Black Lightning and Beeswing represent the delicate traditional side of Richard Thompson's art, Cooksferry Queen captures him as a full-blooded rocker. Opening with a melody strongly reminiscent of Lefty Frizzell's Long Black Veil, the track quickly picks up in intensity evolving into a rollicking uptempo rave-up partially inspired by the grandfather of the British blues revival, Cyril Davies. "He did a song called Country Line Special," recalls Thompson, "which was sort of an uptempo country blues, harmonica jam thing. Cooksferry Queen rhythmically deliberately comes fairly close to that as a quote from the British blues era. That's probably the first really blues thing that I've done but it was for a reason. It was to invoke an era, a time and a place." (Action packed: the best of the Capitol years, liner notes)
Crawl Back under my stone-RT has said that this song was written about himself, with very few fictional elements inserted. (www.freshair.com interview)
Crazy man Michael-Melody by Swarbrick, lyrics by RT. A song steeped in the imagery of roses growing from the breasts of dead lovers. CMM inadvertently kills his own true love and is forever condemned to wander the earth, shunned by human society. Able to communicate only with animals. Talking to Flypaper's Frank Kornelussen in 1984, Thompson admitted the song was about Jeannie really. "CMM is kind of guilt, because in some way I feel responsible for her dying. There wasn't any way I was, but I just felt that at the time." (Extract from RT Biography)

D [back to top]
Did she jump or was she pushed?-Elements of the song have been taken to refer to Sandy Denny's untimely death. However, Richard has denied this in interviews. (Extract from RT Biography)
Died for love-inspired by "The Choice Wife" an Irish jig popularised by piper Willie Clancy. (Extract from RT Biography)
Drifting through the days-A poignant reflection on the effect of unemployment. As Richard says, "To not be able to get work, and have no prospect of it, is absolutely soul destroying and you read reports of people who don't care if they get out of bed in the morning. We're not pointing political fingers on the record, we're just trying to reflect the frustration and despair of people who - with the best intentions - just cannot find work." (Industry album sleeve notes)

E [back to top]
Easy there, steady now-The familiar story of the psycho let loose (Extract from RT Biography) "About someone pulling themself back from the brink, and in the end, perhaps he doesn't succeed. It's open ended." (Mix - June 1994)

F [back to top]
Fast food-Final verse is inspired by a school holiday job spent working in the cafeteria of London Zoo, down the hill in Regents Park. Experience of animals in cages as far neater eaters than the humans in the cafeteria. (Extract from RT Biography)

G [back to top]
Genesis Hall-Named after a London squat that was busted by police. "Oh my father he rides with your sheriffs / and I know he would never mean harm" is a reference to his dad's contribution in the raid. (Extract from RT Biography)
The ghost of you walks-The ghost walks is theatrical slang for "we are going to be paid." (Extract from RT Biography)
God loves a drunk-"I intended it as a swipe at 'Mormons and Seventh day Adventists, those people with the polyester suits, those people who are very clean and neat and clean-shaven, which mean's they're right with god." (Extract from RT Biography) "One element of the song expresses the view that being righteous and conservative and proper and part of the social order does not equate with spirituality, and that the drunk of the song is closer to God because he is not concerned with preserving his self-image, and he is dissatisfied with himself and the world as he finds it, and likes to escape from it on a regular basis. Personally, I think there's some truth in what he says, although views expressed by characters are not necessarily those of the author." (Thompson press-release)
[Thompson is talking about playing opening act--"cannon fodder"--for Crowded House in Canada.] I played the first night in Toronto, and I kind of scratched my head. Who are these people in the audience? I don't know how to relate to these people. And I thought, I'll make a lot of noise. [Pam's note: I think it's on this tour that he started playing "Ca Plane Pour Moi."] First of all, I'll make this seriously up-tempo. I'll be rude to them. Whatever it takes. But I'll be very, very aggressive. I'll be funny, with a bit of luck. And it worked....I was getting encores...I began to enjoy being more aggressive towards the audience. It's supposed to be funny, but it's definitely aggressive. Also, my songs are more aggressive. There's an attitude in them that demands a response. I hope it's harder for the audience to sit blandly through them. [Kaiser: "Are you trying to make them feel something?"] What I'm trying to do is suck them in, until it's too late for them to get out, and then hit them over the head. I'm trying to plant a time bomb, I suppose. In a song like "God Loves a Drunk," the first line is slightly amusing, people titter, especially girls, who laugh nervously during the first verse because there are silly things in it. It seems kind of stupid, so they're laughing. Then I get them to stop laughing and they get more nervous, and into the song the people get very quiet and look at their shoes and hide under the chair, which is good. I like the fact that people can be drawn into something that confronts something in them that they don't necessarily want to look at. But because it's music and because it's entertainment, it's OK. It's a way to look at uncomfortable things. And by the end of the song it's all right again; the experience has rounded off and the song's finished and you can just say, oh yeah, that's over there, that's OK. That's a little experience block there. (The famous description of Richard working the audience during "God Loves a Drunk." Source: Acoustic Guitar November/December 1993. "Walking on a Wire": interview with Henry Kaiser.)
Great Valerio-The subject of "The Great Valerio" is a tightrope walker (who may or may not be a songwriter). "It's about heroes," says its author. "It's about who you follow in life. 'The Great Valerio' is an allegorical way of stating this ideal: this man who's very perfect, very balanced. If he falls down, he falls off; he understands how precarious his position is. He lives on a tightrope." So knowledge is dangerous? "No, not necessarily. He's just awake because he has to be awake. He can't drift through life. He's got to be right there all the time, to have that awareness." Linda sings over Richard's acoustic with enough somber, riveting precision to make the listener feel like a jackrabbit six inches from the tires of a Mack truck. The track ends with an instrumental coda in which the guitar joins the bass in a pedal point underpinning a ghostly hammer-dulcimer melody that perfectly captures the timeless, airless void through which Valerio walks. (http://members.aol.com/toycritic/tpcm.htm)
Grey walls-Inspired by Colney Hatch Mental Hospital in Whetstone which Thompson passed on the bus as a teenager. Chilling in its clinical description of electric shock therapy, the song had wide implications in the context of Margaret Thatcher's policy of closing down the old asylums and selling off their sprawling sites, without any provision being made for the inmates. (Extract from RT Biography)

H [back to top]
Hai-Sai-Oji-San-"It's a famous Okinawan Folk-Rock classic, and is deeply lascivious and pornographic. It's a young man saying, 'Hey, old man, look at this fabulous bit of crumpet I've got here - I bet you can't even get it up anymore'. And this old man says, 'On the contrary punk, I had three gorgeous whores last night that I totally wore out' etcc...etc... It continues in that vein. Ask your local Okinawan for a full and accurate translation". (Thompson press-release) Translation available
Hard on me-Written about RT's father (www.freshair.com interview)
Hope you like the new me-Written about people who had stolen music from RT. During the freshair.com interview whilst talking about the stories behind some of the new songs, RT seemed less jokey than usual, and his seriousness did sometimes have an edge on it: he seemed especially unsmiling when he was talking about having money and music stolen from him. (www.freshair.com interview)
How will I ever be simple again-A song of contrast. It's about the confusion in a mans mind between his life and the terrible experiences life shows him, and what he sees in this girl - a real pastoral simplicity. (Extract from RT Biography)

I [back to top]
I can't wake up to save my life-"I think because it's a tongue-in-cheek kind of song, the carnival overtone and the darker undertone. It's kind of a cross breed song between those British horror film of the '50s and a kind of Fellini carnival thing where everyones wearing masks. It's a real dream thing, sort of a dream collision of styles. Happiness and horror colliding. (Western Massachusetts Valley Advocate 17 Mar 94)
I feel so good- Q: What overt influence did the label have on the record? A: They changed a song title. One was called "The lost sheep returns to the fold." [original title of "I feel so good?] They didn't think it was snappy enough. They're probably right, but I like those Gilbert & Sullivan titles. It's not really interference though, because in a sense, I don't know anything about record companies or how they work as far as marketing. I don't really care what they do in terms of what they put on the radio or how they package something. If they think they know how to do it, I'm willing to see what they come up with. Q: Speaking of marketing, Capitol is financing an elaborate animated video for "I feel so good." A: Yes, as we speak, thousands of Taiwanese are slaving over it. It?s being done by the same people who do The Simpsons. It doesn?t look like The Simpsons, but it?s very, very interesting. It?s quite an original piece. It?s my first promo video since 1983.(http://www.innerviews.org/inner/thompson.html)

J [back to top]
Jimmy Shands-Thompson was partially inspired to write the song by a story about a young Bob Dylan hogging the record player at a party, endlessly replaying a Robert Johnson LP. Jimmy Shand MBE was born in 1908 and began recording in 1933. Everything you could possibly ever want to know about Jimmy Shand is to be found on the 1994 EMI CD "King if the Melodeon Men." (Extract from RT Biography)

K [back to top]
Killerman gold posse-About a gang terrorising passengers on the circle line. Written before Daring Adventures was released. (Extract from RT Biography)
King of Bohemia-Originally titled Jack Straws Castle. Took its name from a pub which has stood on the heath since the 18th century when as a coaching inn it was patronised by Dickens, Thackery and Wilkie Collins. Written about eldest daughter Muna. (Extract from RT Biography)

L [back to top]
Last Shift-The closure of the Grimethorpe Colliery in 1993 inspired Richard's song 'Last Shift'. As he recalls, "That was the song that sparked off the project...a friend of ours who used to teach at Grimethorpe sent us some press cuttings about the closure of the pit and the state of the town since then...and it was very moving. (Industry album sleeve notes)
Lonely hearts-The world of lonely hearts column, and the enforced, transient solitariness of living in a capital city where you daren't take the chain off the door and your only companion is a blank TV screen. (Extract from RT Biography)
Love in a faithless country-RT inspired to write the song by the early 60's moor murders committed by Iain Brady and Myra Hindley. (Extract from RT Biography)

M [back to top]
Meet on the ledge-Tree called the "pothole tree" on Hampstead Heath, on which was a branch that RT and Brian Wyvill used to know as "The ledge" when they were both intrepid schoolboy tree climbers According to Brian Wyvill, RT could only ever make it halfway up the tree to a branch known as "the ledge." (Extract from RT Biography)
MGB-GT-"I've always enjoyed those Chuck Berry Songs, where he sings 'I've got a brand new Ford something-or-other. It's got this kind of engine, it's got this kind of tires, its got this kind of gearbox.' And he goes through these verses, and you realize that in the song he hasn't sang about anything except car parts. That was the plot of this song. And I thought, thats great. That's kind of poetry. Perhaps I could do an english version of that." (Wester Massachusetts Valley Advocate, 17 Mar 94)
Mingus eyes-A look at hero worship and role models. (Extract from RT Biography) The song, like almost all of them, is about somebody he knew, or somebody he imagined. "You think people will think more of you if you pretend to be something you're not. Actually they think you're an idiot." (Source: Boston Rock #139, April 1994; "Why is this guy smiling?" by Scott Timberg)
Mother knows best-Recorded on the day that Margaret Thatcher resigned. (Extract from RT Biography)

N [back to top]
Never again-Written in memoriam to Jeannie Franklin who died in the Fairport van crash on the morning of 12th May 1969. (Extract from RT Biography) "It's a song about losing people -- a lament. It took me that long to get around to playing it because it was too close to me." And never could sing it -- Linda did. [During his succeeding solo years, Richard has managed an occasional performance of "Never Again."] (http://members.aol.com/toycritic/tpcm.htm)
Nobody's wedding-"Nobody's Wedding" is a "nonsense song," according to Thompson. "It's a sendup of the stuff I grew up with -- Scottish country dance music. I kind of enjoy it -- I can't enjoy it! I hate it! Love/hate. It's like growing up with country music." (http://members.aol.com/toycritic/tpcm.htm)

O, P [back to top]
Pavanne-cowritten with Linda. Lyrics came to her almost entirely in a dream. RT merely tinkered with the structure. (Extract from RT Biography)
Psycho street-Thompson has admitted that the first couple of verses were written while he was thinking of Salman Rushdie and The Satanic Verses. On a lighter level, he also felt inspired to write an anti-Neighbours song, a protest against the ubiquity of the twice-daily Australian soap shown on British television. (Extract from RT Biography) Q: In contrast, "Psycho Street" stems from more contemporary origins. A: There's a soap opera on TV in Britain from Australia called Neighbours and it's sapping the minds of our youth who are engulfed in it. And it has this really cheesy sing-along theme tune. I sort of object to the program because it purports to be about real people. In Neighbours, everyone is basically very nice and friendly, the salt of the earth. I thought this was really not true, so I wrote an antidote to the Neighbours theme. So, it includes a few episodes from real life from my neighbors, or the people who are supposed to be my neighbors. I made all of them up though. (http://www.innerviews.org/inner/thompson.html)

Q, R, S [back to top]
Saboteur-Further research for Industry led Richard to explore written material at the Karl Marx and Trades Union Congress libraries. "I was looking at first hand accounts of people working throughout the industrial period; there were wonderful stories in there and some were translated into song - for example, 'Saboteur' is a direct version of a statement I found." The song's hero is a cotton mill worker who is so maddened by the machinery's unyielding and deafening power that he vows to sabotage it. When he ventures downstairs to the engine, he is so mesmerised by its beauty that he is unable to do any damage. (Industry album sleeve notes)
Sam Jones - Q. "Sam Jones" is also an interesting story--can you tell me what the inspiration for that was? Who are the "bone men"? A. When I was a kid, the bone man used to come up the streets and he would collect bones and rags and they'd be recycled and turned into glue. I don't remember writing that song because I think I was trying to write something else and I kind of wrote that song in the margin without really thinking about it in about two minutes. I discovered it later and thought well, this isn't too bad actually. It was a happy accident. (
Source: Rhythms (Australian), Feb. 1997, interview with Brian Wise)
Shoot out the lights-Thompson's response to Russia's 1979 invasion of Afghanistan. As a follower of Islam, Thompson supported the Muslim government, which had been overthrown by Brezhner's invading armies. (Extract from RT Biography) Q. Last summer, a friend of mine met you in a record store and you told him that "Shoot Out the Lights" was about Brezhnev and Afghanistan. A. Yeah, well, that's the way it was originally written. I hate overanalyzing songs and even giving too much meaning to songs. A song is a three-minute thing and it's whatever you want it to be. When I'm performing, I don't think, "Wow, you know, Afghanistan." I just think of the pictures that the song conveys, which is the idea. A song is a series of cinematic images.
(Source: RECORD (Tower Records magazine), January 1984; "The Record Interview: Richard Thompson" by Derk Richardson.)
Small town romance-Thompson's scornful take on the withering effects of living in a pinched community. A place where blinds twitch, inhabited by old flames with bad memories. (Extract from RT Biography)
Sweetheart on the barricade-Richard looks at the roles taken by women throughout the industrial age. "It's based on several different stories about female emancipation, factory lockouts and picket lines...I couldn't say what period the song's set in..so it's deliberately a little vague." (Industry album sleeve notes)

T [back to top]
That's All, Amen, Close the Door-Written about Sandy Denny. (www.freshair.com interview)
The Angels Took My Racehorse Away-inspired by the Lanark Silver Bell, the oldest horserace in England. Though upbeat, it bears typically Thompsonian touches like the evil bookie who "put one in 'er pail." (http://members.aol.com/toycritic/tpcm.htm)

The New St. George-a political anthem written in the style of a Salvation Army standard, complete with "silver band" accompaniment. (http://members.aol.com/toycritic/tpcm.htm)
Time to ring some changes-Written in 1972 and updated with an extra verse for "Hard Cash." The picture is of a world where nobody and nothing can be trusted, where there is no value in anything. (Extract from RT Biography)

U, V [back to top]
Vincent 52 - "Vincents rather than Harley Davidsons--that's trying to restore a balance. Popular music mythology is totally American. It's a shame Britain's been swamped in that way, but it's been that way since the 1920s, since records started to come from America. It's linked to the romantic popularity of the Wild West.... "'Vincent Black Lightning' is an attempt to restore romance and mythology to an English song, by choosing something with romantic overtones--a Vincent is a prized collectible object, and the characters have this semi-heroic status.... "Rock & roll is basically an American form, and it is the lingua franca of popular music, and that has to be incorporated in popular styles. But it's good to add something of where you came from, and the more you know of British music, the more you're able to come up with something that works." (Source: Making Music, June 1991. "Clever Dick" by Jon Lewin. (Quotes attributed to Richard.) ) Q: Describe the inspiration for "1952 Vincent Black Lightning." A: It's about mythology. A lot of mythology is imported into England from America these days. All of the mythical place names used are American because of the influence of popular song, pretty much through the whole of this century since the 1920s. "Going down to Memphis" or "Going down to San Antonio" sounds great. "Going down to Scunthorpe" doesn't. [laughs] So, I really like to try and validate the use of British mythology in British songs. The Vincent is a rather wonderful, rare and beautiful beast. It is an object of myth. There's not many I can think of in Britain. It's hard to find these things. So, it's the center, the loadstone, around which the characters in the song revolve around. It's a romantic object. I suppose it's a story that relates back to older British and Scottish ballad forms where we have an anti-hero central character, and even though he may die in the end, he sort of triumphs and gets one over on society first. It's a bit like Robin Hood. There were a lot of ballads about Robin Hood in British folk music, always a very popular subject. (http://www.innerviews.org/inner/thompson.html) 1952 Vincent Black Lightning to this day is the most requested song on National Public Radio in the United States. To write the song Thompson did a considerable amount of research. The Black Lightning was a high-end motorcycle manufactured by the British Vincent company between 1948 and 1954. Considered the fastest motorcycle in the world, fewer than thirty were actually manufactured in 1952. To both James Adie and "red haired Molly," the heroes of Thompson's song, the Vincent Black Lightning represents risk, danger, speed and romance. For Richard Thompson, it's just as important that these feelings are conjured up through a piece of British popular culture. As he told biographer Patrick Humphries, "A lot of the mythology of popular music is American...being British, I've always tried to look for objects that have some kind of mythological appeal, that you can write about as a British songwriter. The Vincent is a fabulous beast, it really is a thing of fable and beauty and it's mythological, it's the lodestone around which the characters in the song revolve." (Action packed: the best of the Capitol years, liner notes)

W [back to top]
Wall of death-RT recalls watching motorcycle riders tackling the wall of death. (Extract from RT Biography) "It was two different things, really. In the 1970's it was a motorcycle daredevil stunt. Where there was a bowl-shaped area around which you would ride a motorcyle horizontally. You'd build up to speed around the bottom and then the faster you got, you'd keep going and actually be horizontal. A friend of mine claims to have done that. Thats one thing. But it's also a kind of generic name for a certain kind of fairground ride. Where I grew up in London, there's a very old fair, the Hampshire fair which had been running consecutively for hundreds of years. And they have a Wall of Death. It's one of those things like a gyro thing where the floor drops away and you're stuck to the wall by centrifugal force." (Vol 4 Issue 2 Songtalk)
Walking the long miles home-"I used to do that all the time. You miss the last bus, you're basically screwed, if you're a 16 year-old in London in the pre-car era. I did that countless times -- walk home to North London from the Marquee club or Ronnie Scott's. It's a kind of exhilarating thing to do, although it's exhausting." (Official RT website)
Walking through a wasted land-A song about the brutality of government. (Extract from RT Biography)
Wheely Down-delivers a lyric reminiscent of Robert Burns floating in a dark brew of scraping violin, tooling piano, and bubbling electric guitar noises. Thompson seems determined to leave no style unplundered, though he treats them all with the respect and feeling that lent credibility to the early Fairport. (http://members.aol.com/toycritic/tpcm.htm)
Why must I plead?- Q: The production on "Why must I plead?" sounds like something out of the late '60s. A: It's because the drums are panned to one side. Normally, you put drums in the middle. But it just didn't sound right with the drums in the middle. Very, very strange. They just sounded better on one side. We all agreed. Even the engineer who was playing with the mix said "You know, I can't deny that it sounds better on one side." [laughs] You probably haven't heard anything like that since a late '60s Hollies record. Also, there's no echo on that track at all. It?s totally dead and dry. It fits the song. (http://www.innerviews.org/inner/thompson.html)
Woods of darney-a war narrative about a soldier who becomes involved with a young widow. "War is a very predominant 20th century theme. From the perspective of the '90s, we almost forget that this has been a century of cataclysmic wars--two huge world wars that changed the world tremendously, and people's lives. It's important to reflect that in songs." (http://www.penduluminc.com/MM/articles/thompson.html)

X, Y, Z [back to top]
You don't say-Thompson's interest in Elizabethan poetry. A song expressing Elizabethan ideas. (Extract from RT Biography)

ABOUT THE ALBUMS

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First Light-The Thompsons recorded First Light simultaneously with a self-titled album by Julie Covington which Richard produced, splitting the bill and the hack rhythm sectiion of Andy Newmark (drums) and Willie Weeks (bass). Covington's MOR ambitions seem to have rubbed off on the Thompsons: cluttered with instrumental deadwood, First Light is unsatisfyingly sweet, a bit like downing a gallon of corn syrup. The Thompsons' virtues are present in abundance, but concealed in a blizzard of saccharine. One reviewer suggested the album was recorded for a Fleetwood Mac FM audience, and Thompson admits that "we were trying to do this thing called 'being commercial' under a certain amount of pressure. It's not as if they said, listen, you've got to come up with an FM album. It was just in the air tht they'd invested a lot of money, so we were obliged to go that way. We had too big a budget. We tended to be indulgent. It's not an album I'm really happy with." To those with the patience to listen, however, First Light yields a few rewards. It's the first LP to reflect Thompson's shift away from the Anglo-Saxon model structures on which most of his earlier work is based toward more recognizable pop forms: "There is a real danger in England of being typecast as a folkie," he says. "It's the danger of living in other people's opinions." "Restless Highway," an eloquent account of Richard's return to music, moves toward an Americanized ballad style. "Don't Let a Thief Steal into Your Heart" mingles his effervescent guitar with a straightforward dance rhythm: "I wanted to do something like 'I Heard It Through the Grapevine,' that kind of rhythm, but Andy and Willie started playing it like disco and I was quite enjoying it, so we did it that way." The romantic "Sweet Surrender" and political broadside "House of Cards" continue established Thompson thematic ideas in poppier settings. So does "Died for Love," which unfortunately drowns in its own sentimentality despite the final instrumental, "The Choice Wife," introducing it. Richard cowrote "Pavanne" with Linda. "It was her original idea. It came to her in a dream she had about a woman terrorist, though it's more a picture of a psychopath rather than a terrorist." The slow, circular melody is one of his more memorable ones, and the portrait of a murderer is detailed and chilling. "Layla" provocatively depicts spirituality as a temptress, though Thompson says "I didn't write the lyrics. They were a translation from Sheik Al-Alawi. He was a great Algerian teacher in the early part of the century. It's part of one of his songs. The translation is pretty accurate." The title cut is a kind of prayer, translated from a small part of a poem by Shiek Muhammad Iba Al-Habib. And "Strange Affair," a lament for the dead much in the vein of "Never Again," takes its words from Si Fudul, "a follower of Sheik Al-Alawi. He was a great scholar. He wrote that song about his teacher. He's alive still -- he's quite an old man." (http://members.aol.com/toycritic/tpcm.htm))

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Mirror Blue-Froom and Blake, who have worked with such idiosyncratic visionaries as Los Lobos and Tom Waits, tend to be very involved in sonic processing. This is most evident on the Mirror Blue CD in such engaging touches as the incredibly distorted washboard that opens up I Can't Wake Up To Save My Life. "It's an experimental record," attests Thompson. "It was a deconstructionist sort of record. At the time we were all really bored with the sound of popular music, the big digital reverb sound [and] the bombastic snare beat. So we thought, 'Well, let's just go back to scratch. Let's just take an acoustic guitar and let's just aim for very simple sorts of rhythm section ideas. The drums can be an Indian tom tom and a 1932 school snare drum.' [We were] just trying strange sounds to get away from the clichés of rock music at that time." (Action Packed: the best of Capitol years, liner notes)
Mock tudor-Rothrock and Schnapf, who had previously worked with Beck and the Foo Fighters, took the polar opposite approach to production on Mock Tudor. "I suppose I would have to call it a fairly transparent production," agrees Thompson. "You don't hear the production necessarily. You hear the songs coming through and they sound good. That's kind of high praise really. You don't hear production clutter, you're not distracted by production sounds." (Action packed: the best of the Capitol years, liner notes)

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