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Music / Richard Thompson

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Richard Thompson (born 3 April 1949) is a highly regarded British singer/songwriter/guitarist, admired for his virtuosity and his incredibly dark but brilliant lyrics. He began with the British Folk Rock group Fairport Convention before striking out as a solo artist (recording a number of albums with his then wife Linda). Highly regarded amongst his peers, including David Byrne, Elvis Costello, Christy Moore, and David Gilmour, he has somehow avoided commercial success.

Solo Albums

  • Henry the Human Fly (1972)
  • Strict Tempo! (1981)
  • Hand of Kindness (1983)
  • Across a Crowded Room (1985)
  • Daring Adventures (1986)
  • Amnesia (1988)
  • Rumor and Sigh (1991)
  • Sweet Talker soundtrack (1992)
  • Mirror Blue (1994)
  • You? Me? Us? (1996)
  • Mock Tudor (1999)
  • The Old Kit Bag (2003)
  • Front Parlour Ballads (2005)
  • Grizzly Man soundtrack (2005)
  • Sweet Warrior (2007)
  • Dream Attic (2009) (a live album consisting of all-new material, its sometimes listed as a studio album as a result)
  • Electric (2013)
  • Acoustic Classics (2014) (a collection of new acoustic re-recordings of Thompson's most popular songs)
  • Still (2015)
  • Acoustic Classics II (2017)
  • 13 Rivers (2018)

Live albums

  • Small Town Romance (1984)
  • Two Letter Words (1996)
  • Celtschmerz (1998)
  • Semi-Detached Mock Tudor (2002)
  • More Guitar (2003)
  • 1000 Years of Popular Music (2003)
  • Ducknapped! (2003)
  • Faithless (2004)
  • The Chrono Show (2004)
  • Live from Austin, TX (2005)
  • Live Warrior (2009)
  • Live at the BBC (2011)

Albums with Linda Thompson

  • I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight (1974)
  • Hokey Pokey (1975)
  • Pour Down Like Silver (1975)
  • First Light (1978)
  • Sunnyvista (1979)
  • Shoot Out the Lights (1982)
  • In Concert, November 1975 (2007)

Albums with Danny Thompson (no relation)

  • Live at Crawley (1995)
  • Industry (1997)

Associated Tropes:

  • Apocalypse Wow: "Wheely Down" plays with this, to unnerving effect.
  • Badass Biker: James, the central character of "1952 Vincent Black Lightning", is a biker and criminal who rides a very Cool Bike, and hence attracts the interest of Biker Babe Red Molly.
  • Book Ends: Possibly unintentionally with the titles of the first and last albums he did with Linda being called I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight and Shoot Out The Lights.
  • Comforting the Widow: The protagonist of "Woods of Darnay" is a soldier who comes home to comfort and eventually marry a fallen comrade's widow. He is subsequently haunted by the fear that he is just a substitute.
  • Concept Album:
    • 1000 Years of Popular Music, popular songs from the last 1,000 years played in Richard Thompson's own unique style.
    • Also Industry, a collaboration with his longtime bassist Danny Thompson (no relation) about the effects of the growth and collapse of industry on British society.
  • Cool Bike: "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" is about a very cool bike.note 
    Said Red Molly to James that's a fine motorbike
    A girl could feel special on any such like
    Said James to Red Molly, well my hat's off to you
    It's a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning:
    • His celebrated version of "Oops I Did It Again". Having the song sung by a middle-aged man makes the protagonist sound way more hypocritical and unsympathetic.
    • His version of "Hey Joe" makes you realise that "Hey Joe" is an old-fashioned Murder Ballad — even though he plays it like Jimi Hendrix, it ends up sounding like a Richard Thompson song.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: "Now That I Am Dead", a song he did with French Frith Kaiser Thompson:
    Now that I'm deceased
    My record sales have increased
    I'm making lots of royalties
  • Death Song: "When I Get To The Border" is one, although it's not immediately obvious.
  • Despair Event Horizon: "Withered And Died".
  • Domestic Abuse: "She Twists The Knife Again" is sung from the perspective of a man being emotionally and physically abused by his partner.
  • Drunken Song: Subverted by "God Loves A Drunk," which paints both alcoholism and suburban conformity as tragically bleak. Pity the audience here, a year before the release of the studio version, who hoot enthusiastically when he asks whether there are any drunks in the audience.
  • Dual-Meaning Chorus: Seen in "Shane & Dixie". The chorus "Fame and love will never die" is sung at first as a quote from the titular Shane as a total sincere expression of his beliefs. By the end of the song (when Shane has committed suicide and Dixie has married a journalist) the lyrics become ironic as Shane is totally forgotten.
  • Epic Rocking: The compilation album (guitar, vocal) includes "Night Comes In" at 12:34 and "Calvary Cross" at 13:27.
  • Exact Words: When Playboy magazine contacted a bunch of musicians, including Thompson, asked them to list some favourite songs from the last 1000 years, he took them at their word and gave them a list that started with "Sumer is Icumen In" from around the 13th century. Playboy never published his list, but he turned it into an album and a great live DVD, both called 1000 years of Popular Music.
  • Freudian Excuse: The murderous protagonist of "Killing Jar" used to get regularly beaten up by his father.
  • I Am the Band: On his second solo album, Strict Tempo!, Thompson plays all the instruments aside from drums, which are played by Dave Mattacks.
  • Intercourse with You: "Hokey Pokey", a song supposedly about ice cream with lyrics such as "Some like it round/Some like it fat/Some like a poke or two".
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Most times the downbeat nature of the music will match the lyrics, but he will often produce an upbeat tune such as "Wall of Death" (a jolly number about a mutually destructive couple), "Read About Love" (a upbeat song about a boy who ends up raping a girl through misconceptions about sex), and "Bad Monkey" (a bouncy little ditty about drug addiction).
  • Oblivious to Love: The male protagonist of "A Blind Step Away" is this: the female protagonist of the song is in love with him, but he never finds out.note 
  • Ode to Intoxication: 'Down Where the Drunkards Roll', which is about how alcohol nourishes all the fondest illusions you have about yourself.
  • Pop-Star Composer: "Pop star" might be pushing it a bit, but he wrote and performed the scores for the 1991 drama Sweet Talker and the 2005 documentary Grizzly Man.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Sergeant McCrae in "1952 Vincent Black Lightning", who summons Red Molly to the bedside of her lover — who has just been arrested for armed robbery, but who was shot in the process and is dying, so this is an act of simple compassion.
  • Romantic Ride Sharing: The romance between bikers James and Red Molly in "1952 Vincent Black Lightning", having developed thanks to their shared enthusiasm for a certain bike, naturally progesses this way.
    Says James to Red Molly "My hat's off to you
    It's a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952
    And I've seen you at the corners and cafés it seems
    Red hair and black leather, my favourite colour scheme"
    And he pulled her on behind
    And down to Box Hill they did ride...
  • Self-Deprecation: In concerts he will often announce he will play a medley of his "hits"..and then stand in silence for a minute.
  • Shout-Out: "Tear-Stained Letter" name-checks The Clash.
  • Take That!:
    • "Mother Knows Best" is an attack on Margaret Thatcher.
    • "Fast Food Restaurant" is a dig at McDonald's.
    • "When We Were Boys At School"—a depressingly-familiar tale of a bullied child, but who grows up to become a merciless leader—might be about Tony Blair.
    • "Here Comes Geordie" is a particularly blatant Take That! against Sting (born Gordon Sumner).
    • See also "I Agree With Pat Metheny", a live-only tune savaging (in hilarious fashion) Kenny G for overdubbing himself onto Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World". "He does play sharp, but let's be fair/He has such lovely crinkly hair."
    • "Blackleg Miner" is an old-school pro-union anti-scab song, which culminates in the blackleg miner getting, well, killed.
    • "Put It There Pal" is about a former friend who betrayed Thompson somehow.
    • The protagonist of "Fergus Liang" may technically be a fictional character, but he sure sounds like a certain former U.S. President:
    Fergus Liang he builds and builds
    Yet small is his erection
    Fergus Liang has a fine head of hair
    When the wind's in the right direction
  • Working with the Ex: Shoot Out The Lights, made during the dissolution of his marriage to Linda. The supporting tour had Linda tripping him as he went onstage, and guitarist and fellow Fairport Convention alum Simon Nicol, who was a member of their backing band, said that the first thing he would do was look for the exits. These concerts, which were apparently incredible and featured some the best performances in either Richard or Linda's career, are commercially unavailable because the acrimony behind the scenes brings back bad memories for both of them.
    • In the 2000's, their relationship as friends had been repaired enough that Richard appeared on Linda's 2002 album Fashionably Late. In 2010, the two performed their first show together since 1982 at a tribute to their recently deceased mutual friend, folk singer Kate McGarrigle, at the Meltdown Festival.
    • They've continued to work with each other into the 2010s. "Love's for Babies and Fools", a song from Linda's 2013 album Won't Be Long Now, features only the two of them — it's effectively the only Richard & Linda Thompson recording since Shoot Out the Lights.
    • The whole Thompson family — Richard, Linda, all three of their children (all of whom are musicians themselves), Richard's stepson, their nephew and their children's spouses — recorded an album, Family, together in 2014 under the name Thompson.
  • Would Hit a Girl: The protagonist of "Killing Jar", who killed his girlfriend because he "caught her running around".