Wild Mercury Sound

Hoots mon! It's Richard Thompson!

John Mulvey

I blogged about the new Richard Thompson album here a couple of weeks ago, but I've still been playing it a lot, not least because I had a quick chat with Thompson on the phone last Friday.

Typically charming and reserved, he talked about how "Sweet Warrior" touches on politics and conflict - notably on the GI-in-Iraq narrative, "Dad's Gonna Kill Me" - but how he was uncomfortable with the idea of protest songs. These are more sophisticated narratives, was his gist, whose humanity and longevity are improved by the lack of polemic. I think that was the gist, anyway; I've just spent the afternoon trying to transcribe the interview, since there's so much interference on the tape that Thompson sounds like he was windsurfing rather than sitting at home in LA.

He also talked a bit about the upcoming Fairport Convention reunion at Cropredy in August, when the 1969 line-up (minus Sandy Denny, of course) will be performing "Liege And Lief" in its entirety. Cautious as ever, he scrupulously hid any excitement or sentiment he might feel about the project. "I think that album is important historically," he said, "and I think it'll be interesting to hear how it sounds with the original band". A damn sight better than it would sound with the current and pretty dreary incarnation of the Fairports, I'll wager. But then Thompson is probably the only member of the band to have kept an edge and a questing imperative to his music; even Ashley Hutchings has sounded pretty bland for a good while now.

Anyway, I was grateful to find out that one stupid comparison I made was not totally unfounded. As I think I said last time, "Bad Monkey" on the new album reminds me of "Hoots Mon" by Lord Rockingham's XI, a novelty combination of Scottish jig and big band rock'n'roll that was Number One in 1958, and which an old colleague of mine used to play on his XFM show with incredible - and probably boss-baiting - regularity. "One of my favourite records," admitted Thompson, "That was Harry Robinson, who was a great arranger. He later went on to be string arranger at Hammer, and then he did a lot of string arrangements for Nick Drake." I think he said that Robinson did some arrangements for Sandy Denny, too, but I can't hear for sure. A nice symmetry, though, if that were the case - I'll check on my CDs tonight. I just tried finding an MP3 of "Hoots Mon", incidentally, with no luck, but you can get it as a ringtone. Weird.


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