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Richard Thompson – My Life In Music

Richard Thompson – My Life In Music

Fairport Convention founder, solo artist and folk-rock guitar legend Richard Thompson is featured in Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes in the latest issue of Uncut (May 2012, Take 181), out now. The songwriter appeared in My Life In Music in our February 2009 issue, speaking to Terry Staunton about his favourite cuts, from Les Paul to Klaxons…

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The First Record I Bought
Roy Rogers – A Four Legged Friend (1952)

“I must have been about three when I got this, a bit young to be buying records I suppose. I first heard it on the radio, on Family Favourites or such like, rather than in a cowboy film. I don’t think it was from any deep love of country and western, but I liked the idea of a man with a hat and a horse making a record together. It’s important to mention Trigger – he sort of neighs at the end.”

The Record That Made Me Pick Up A Guitar
Les Paul – Caravan (1950)

“This was in my dad’s record collection, and it really stood out from the other jazz stuff. It was
an odd-sounding start, sort of Oriental, and then Les Paul’s echo, multi-tracking effects and double-speed guitar made it seem like music from another planet. He was the first person I ever saw on TV holding a guitar. He inspired me to pose in front of the mirror with a tennis racket, long before Elvis came along.”

The Song I Wish I’d Written
Bob Dylan – Tangled Up In Blue (1975)

“It’s a ballad of sorts, but it’s not a linear ballad, the story jumps about back and forth. It’s great storytelling, and it shows how Dylan really studied Irish and Scottish folk music. He really knows that stuff, and it’s reflected in his contemporary take on the story song. There’s dozens of equally good examples in his back catalogue, but how he gets the message across in this one is particularly breathtaking.”

The Song That Changed My View Of Love Songs
Leonard Cohen – Suzanne (1967)

“Fairport Convention used to play this a lot in the early days, though I think we learnt it from the Judy Collins version. It struck me as an extraordinary way of writing about a love affair, really groundbreaking. It was clearly written by a poet. “Famous Blue Raincoat” is another with a great poetic quality, a remarkable song about a complex triangular relationship that very few writers are articulate enough to pull off.”

The Record I Wanted To Steal From My Sister
Jerry Lee Lewis – Big Blon’ Baby (1959)

“My first exposure to rock’n’roll was at Hampstead fairgrounds, blasting over the dodgems, or from the music seeping through my sister’s bedroom wall. Jerry Lee was the biggest influence on me. I still sing his stuff at gigs, and “Big Blon Baby” [the B-side to “Lovin’ Up A Storm”] is the ultimate lascivious rocker – a perfect picture of an obscene Mamie Van Doren type. If there was ever a reason to ban rock’n’roll, here it is.”

The Record That Makes Me Miss Vinyl
Louis Armstrong – St James Infirmary (1928)

“A song I heard a lot growing up, it sounded like it was from the Victorian age, dusty and ancient. It was a scratchy copy that my dad had, very poorly recorded to start with, but that just made it seem more exotic. There was always a sense of anticipation before you dropped the needle onto the groove, and then there’d be two seconds of hiss. I’d give anything to get those back again.”

The Record That Taught Me Something New
Klaxons – Myths Of The Near Future (2007)

“There’s very little new stuff that has the ability to blow you away. I don’t hear another Hendrix or Beatles, but I do find the Klaxons very interesting. It’s hard to come up with original melodies or chord structures, but they have a spirit of reinvention and seem to have found a way to rearrange the building blocks of rock’n’roll into something fresh and extremely listenable.”

The Music That Scared Me At The Cinema
Bernard Herrmann – Psycho (1960)

“He was a trained classical composer, but to most people he’ll be most closely identified by his Hitchcock scores. The Psycho score was as terrifying as the film itself. I’d never heard anything so menacing, especially when you’re sitting in the dark. There was a less-is-more simplicity. It was just strings but it was very disturbing, and you can hear how he harnessed influences like Ravel and Shostakovich.”

The Song That Restored My Faith In Pop
Abba – The Name Of The Game (1977)

“They’re a classic example of pop music surpassing its supposed limitations. It’s rare that something so sophisticated can have such mainstream appeal, popular music as a whole hasn’t had much sophistication since the swing era. ‘The Name Of The Game’ is a multi-layered work of art, full of musical and lyrical sub-plots. It may seem simple, but there’s so much detail.”

The Band That Taught Me Trad Folk Was Cool
The Watersons – For Pence And Spicy Ale (1975)

“Seeing The Watersons really opened my eyes. It was rare to hear that kind of harmony singing back then; it wasn’t considered cool compared to all the singer-songwriter types, but I thought they were very, very cool. This was sort of a comeback for them, nearly all traditional songs, and time proved just how influential they were. They certainly had a huge impact on Fairport.”


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