Musician Richard Thompson turns 70

London Calling. Purple Rain. The Joshua Tree. Remain In Light. Graceland. Born In The U.S.A. Thriller. Murmur. Shoot Out The Lights? Tracy Chapman.

Richard ThompsonLong before I ever heard of Richard Thompson by name, I was familiar with Fairport Convention. But I never owned any of the group’s albums until friends of mine, unloading their vinyl in favor of the shiny new technology called compact disc, gave me a few. I learned that he was the nifty guitarist.

I still only have one of his CDs. Or more properly, it was the last of several albums by Richard and Linda Thompson.

I’ve told the story before, back in 2011. I owned nine of the Top 10 on the “Rolling Stone – The 100 Greatest Albums Of The 80s”, as they were dubbed in the mid 1990s: London Calling. Purple Rain. The Joshua Tree. Remain In Light. Graceland. Born In The U.S.A. Thriller. Murmur. Shoot Out The Lights? Tracy Chapman.

I was given #9 on the list by co-workers for some occasion, Christmas or my birthday, and understood very quickly why it was so well-regarded.

I do have one other CD, which I recommend. Beat the Retreat: The Songs of Richard Thompson, is a 1994 compilation disc of covers by an eclectic roster, including Maddy Prior, June Tabor, David Byrne, X, and Los Lobos. As more than one critic suggested, fans of Thompson will disagree on which of the cuts they like/hate on the album. Here are the REM and Bob Mould cuts.

There’s one song in Richard Thompson’s oeuvre that continues to affect me greatly, the autumnal Dimming of the Day. I may have heard it first by Bonnie Raitt on her 1994 Longing in Their Hearts album. The Blind Boys of Alabama perform it on Beat the Retreat.

This old house is falling down around my ears
I’m drowning in a river of my tears
When all my will is gone you hold me sway
And I need you at the dimming of the day

You pulled me like the moon pulls on the tide
You know just where I keep my better side

Richard Thompson has a vast discography which I need to investigate.

Listen to:
Fairport Convention
Crazy Man Michael
Sloth

Richard and Linda Thompson
I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight
A Heart Needs A Home
Dimming Of The Day – Dargai
You’re Going To Need Somebody
Shoot Out the Lights album

Dimming of the Day
Bonnie Raitt & Richard Thompson
Mary Black
Five Blind Boys Of Alabama

More Richard Thompson here.

Music throwback: Telling Me Lies

Don’t waste your time in the arms of a man
Who’s no stranger to treason

One Clear MomentListening to Telling Me Lies from the Trio album (1987) always affects me greatly. Part of it is the tight harmony among Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, and Emmylou Harris.

The song was the album’s second single, and it reached #3 on the US Billboard country singles charts. The recording was nominated for a Grammy award in 1988 for Country Song of the Year.

The message is painful:

You told me you needed my company
And I believed in your flattering ways
You told me you needed me forever
Nearly gave you the rest of my days

Should’ve seen you for what you are
Should never have come back for more
Should’ve locked up all my silver
Brought the key right to your door

The song first appeared on Linda Thompson’s One Clear Moment album (1985), her first solo collection “after divorcing husband and former collaborator, Richard Thompson.” The track was written by Linda Thompson and Betsy Cook, as were most of the songs on the album, which many critics believed included many well-written songs, often marred by that era’s heavy-handed production.

Don’t put your life in the hands of a man
With a face for every season
Don’t waste your time in the arms of a man
Who’s no stranger to treason

Listen to Telling Me Lies:

Linda Thompson here

Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris here or here

I cover my ears, I close my eyes
Still hear your voice and it’s telling me lies
Telling me lies

***
For good measure, another 1980s female trio with tight harmonies, though a somewhat different style:

You work too hard to take this abuse
Be on your guard jerks on the loose

Listen to Keep On Doing What You Do/ Jerks On The Loose – the Roches, written by by Terre and Suzzy Roche, from the Keep On Doing album (1982)

Wall of Death

“You can waste your time on the other rides
This is the nearest to being alive”

Someone I knew personally died last week; he’s the third one in 2012, and the year is only a third over. He was a guy named Nate. I knew him because he represented his agency, the state Department of Transportation, in the same way I represent mine within the New York State Data Center Affiliate program. Early on, he would speak in such technical terms that he might well have been speaking Klingon, so little I understood. But as I became savvier with the data and the terminology, he became more comprehensible. He became a great resource for me. About 15 months ago, he discovered he had lung cancer, which had been treated until the last few days when he went into hospice. He died at the age of 61. I missed going to his funeral and the shiva, though I did learn about the best kosher supermarket.

In the same Sunday obituary section was news of the death of the adult daughter of a friend of mine. A sad story.

A couple of years ago, an old buddy of mine from the FantaCo days died at the age of 47 after a stroke. I posted his obituary, which I didn’t write, online. A few days ago, his sister wrote to me. She hadn’t seen him in 30 years, did not know he died until she saw my reposted document, and wanted to know more. I got her in touch with a former employer of his who wrote to her. She wrote back with a three-page thank you.

A woman on my floor who I would see regularly had been missing for a week and a half. She mentioned that her mom just died.

Yet with all of that, or maybe because of all of that, the song running through my head is Wall of Death by Richard and Linda Thompson, from their last album together, Shoot Out the Lights.

The lyrics:
Let me ride on the Wall Of Death one more time
Oh let me ride on the Wall Of Death one more time
You can waste your time on the other rides
This is the nearest to being alive

Here’s a live version much in the style of the record.

From this article: “They approach the song’s declaration, joyfully or not, as a philosophy for living. Ideal for a pub setting, their vocals are stout. The same goes for the attitude Thompson has conjured. A world of risk and intrigue is favored over one with the comforts and predictability of an orderly life.

“A life of mystery and a hope of fortune occur when breaking from the ordinary. Thompson declares riding ‘The Wall of Death is the nearest to being free.’ He takes a dim view toward the rides (and a lifestyle) that offer a familiar outcome.”

So perhaps the lesson I’ve absorbed is to live your life to the fullest, for you just don’t know how much time you have.

The Rolling Stone Top 10 Albums of the 1980s

There are plenty of Richard Thompson solo, usually live, versions of most, if not all of these songs.

There was a period, before such lists became ubiquitous, that I actually looked forward to Top 10 or Top 100 musical lists. Such was the case with “Rolling Stone – The 100 Greatest Albums Of The 80s”, which someone kindly listed here.

1. London Calling – The Clash
2. Purple Rain – Prince & The Revolution
3. The Joshua Tree – U2
4. Remain In Light – Talking Heads
5. Graceland – Paul Simon
6. Born In The U.S.A. – Bruce Springsteen
7. Thriller – Michael Jackson
8. Murmur – REM
9. Shoot Out The Lights – Richard And Linda Thompson
10. Tracy Chapman – Tracy Chapman

By the early 1990s, I had nine of these albums, all except #9. So one year, probably for my birthday, but possibly for Christmas, I received Shoot Out The Lights from my workmates. It has to be the least well-known album of the bunch.

Here’s the Wikipedia telling about the tortured history of the album, involving the late Gerry Rafferty. “Richard and Linda Thompson’s 1982 masterpiece, Shoot Out the Lights, is a celebration of love gone sour. Like all great works, its themes are at once specific and universal.”

Side one
Don’t Renege on Our Love – 4:19
Walking on a Wire – 5:29
Man in Need – 3:36
Just the Motion – 6:19
Side two
Shoot Out the Lights – 5:24
Back Street Slide – 4:33
Did She Jump or Was She Pushed? – 4:52
Wall of Death – 3:43

There are plenty of Richard Thompson solo, usually live, versions of most, if not all of these songs on YouTube.