Richard Thompson For Completists

Quotes From Richard Thompson


























Picture Courtesy Mark Rogers

First Fairport gig in 1967

"That was about 2,800 gigs ago, and I don't remember much. Kingsley Abbott's slim but fun-packed publication (forgotten title) is probably better than anything else for setting the scene...we were trying to remember everyone in the audience, not as hard as that may seem (35 bodies?). Repertoire - Byrds version of "Hey Joe", "Killing Floor", Phil Ochs' "Flower Lady"...I'm stumped beyond that...I bet that swot A. Hutchings still has the set list, or something contemporary".

RT List June 13 2002

On the same tour since

"At the age that we were having kids, there wasn't really a thought that rock 'n' roll was something that you could do forever, a real job. There was always the thought that this is going to peter out soon. I've been on the same tour since 1967. There isn't any thought that you can stop or time off"

Rolling Stone,November 2000

Sandy Denny

Richard Thompson wrote the foreword for a Sandy Denny biography (by Pamela Murray Winters) that was never released. The notes were  picked out of the dustbin and published here


A communication with audiences

"I see myself on the periphery of rock, of popular music. I think I do have what are considered slightly strange influences for a rock musician or a pop musician. It has more of a Celtic root to it. It's somewhere between Celtic and rock, or Celtic and popular. So that's a little strange for some people. It seems like contribution...I mean, I don't know if I made any contribution, but that's not really the point of what I do. I'm not on a mission in that sense. I try to do a good job. I might try to do a high-quality work if I can. The thing I do, really, is a communication with audiences more than any achievement through records". 2001

It wouldn't be fair 

"To go into real popmusic would be a disaster - not really appropriate for the music or the potential audience. It wouldn't be fair to the Britney Spears audience for me to just appear, now would it ?"

(Boston Herald, November 15, 1999)

Between Two Stools

"I don't think I'm capable, to tell you the truth, of making a commercial record, because it wouldn't be very good. It would fall between two stools. It wouldn't really be me and it wouldn't be commercial..."

Addicted To Noise


Writing Songs

"I've always got ideas. I still see tremendous possibilities in popular song. I listen more and more to roots music. That's why it's great to New Orleans, where you get an insight into tradition and Professor Longhair is more important than Shania Twain"

Mojo October 2001


Playing Solo

 "It's scary - there's no drummer to blame! I sort of like it and hate it, but I also think it's a way to test how good you are, if you can strip away the backing and just do it. If I'm at a party and someone hands me a crappy old guitar and says, "Give us a song," I think, Well, they're right to expect that, considering that this is what I do for a living. I suspect many people in the music business would be unable to respond.  I'm glad that I can".

Guitar World Acoustic 2001



"It's like plastering walls - do you want it ultra-smooth, adding and sanding finer and finer layers, or do you want it a little rough-textured, allowing a little character to come through?"

"Stages in the recording process:-
1) Pick songs. How many to record? 14 and pick 12? 12 and pick 10?
2) Record songs. Spontaneity versus familiarity - try to keep fresh-sounding while knowing the structure - 3 or 4 takes and things usually start to decline, re-do another day.
3) Add "sweetening". Harmony vocals, harps, tubular bells, 32 piece string section.
4) Mix. Balance contents, add reverb, effects.
5) Master. Maximise the oomph, add a little sparkle.
Phases 2 and 3 can take some people a year or two...I get bored after a couple of weeks in the studio, and want to get done. I don't believe in perfection, it usually sounds lifeless".

RT List June 13 2002

People's Needs

"I think that people's motives, like those of radiostations and record companies, aren't always musical. Their motives are increasingly financial. I think the reason the music appears to be so bad at this point is that it's corporate-driven.

It's not driven by creativity, as I think it has been from time to time. I don't think audiences are necessarily addressed by things like radio. Vast numbers of people are not having their tastes addressed or satisfied by any given time, because of the nature of media. This could change if you have hundreds of satellite radio stations, or cable radio stations. This could change drastically. People's needs could be addressed, but I don't think they are at the moment". 2001



"What I miss about England are the bits that aren't there anymore that I grew up with. The greyness. The pride people had in being working class, in their country and their street. People would wear uniforms and be proud of it. It's all gone".

Mojo October 2001



"Muslims and Terrorists: Not The Same"

"The Taliban are Nazis, it has to be said. They hate women and their version of Islam is very, very selective. The bits they like, they keep. But they just like beating people up and telling them what to do. They're facists. As far as I'm concerned, anything in the United States is better than the Taliban. Barbie dolls, Las Vegas, I Love Lucy...It's just vastly superior than anything the Taliban has to offer, because they're as repressive as it gets. It's deeply upsetting. I think it upset most people in the Muslim world."

October 2001


"Winded And Kicked In The Groin"

Richard Thompson's touring plans haven't been seriously affected by the attacks on the US since September 11th 2001. At the time of the events RT was at home in Los Angeles, looking after his young son & working on new projects. But like many other people he experienced quite a few concentration problems. Just before the September 29 concert in Reno (Nevada) Thompson stated, there had been times he found himself unable to think about music at all: 

"I was completely winded, kicked in the groin, by what happened. All my little dramas are so unbelievably trivial.  This is a time for inspirational music, for hymns, for patriotic pulling together. It's not a time for egoistical whining."

"But now, in the past couple of days, I've written a lot of stuff. Some of which is interesting and some of which isn't. But I just felt an emotional, artistic outpouring. I just had to say some stuff. A lot of artists are going to react and there are going to be a lot of bland, predictable things thrown out there as a result of this. But I think there's going to be a subtle sea change in the nature of what people write in the coming years because I think something really has changed, certainly in the American
sense of the world and security."

Reno Gazette-Journal September 28 2001


"If that's Islam I'm a Buddhist"

The "language of prejudice" against Islam, meanwhile, goes back to the Crusades, he notes. "I'd rather be using a language that hits people at a different level. When they said 'Osama bin Laden-Islamic extremist' on Sept.11, I said, 'If that's Islam, I'm a Buddhist... a Jew... I don't care: Religion is a process, not the thing you worship. The Qur'an clearly states that there be no compulsion in religion, and the great Islamic civilizations of the past were arenas of scientific inquiry, social equality, and human generosity."

And while it is "easy to be critical of Western governments and the domination of global corporations over our lives," Thompson has gained a new appreciation for the U.S., where he lives most of the time when he's not on tour.

"Barbie dolls, Las Vegas, The Price Is Right--they're all superior to anything under the Taliban," he says. "One could say the U.S. is a country founded on Islamic principles. Certainly, one is more free to practice one's spiritual path in the U.S. than in almost any country in the Middle East." 

Billboard December 8 2001


First Record Bought

"Four Legged Friend by Roy Rogers, bought for me, I think, in HMV. On the label it says 'Roy Rogers with Trigger' and Trigger actually neighs at the end of it. Not a bad record actually, and the B-side is called There's A Cloud In My Valley Of Sunshine which I think has influenced my entire songwriting career. Wonderful title!"


All time favourite album 

"REVOLVER. For sheer invention, imagination, creativity, wonderful recording quality and just a band being a band. A great record".


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