ACL Music Fest Sunday Interview

The droll Fairport Convention founder still shoots out the lights

ACL Music Fest Sunday Interview

Richard Thompson

7pm, Clear 4G stage

"I don't think Henry the Human Fly was the worst-selling album ever, only for Warner Bros."

In a sonorous voice, Richard Thompson mused over that dubious 1972 distinction at his onetime label, then chuckled it off. After all, he ranks in the upper echelon of Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists, boasts a BBC Lifetime Achievement Award (though he's only 61), and still writes the kind of songs that makes other songwriters trade the pen for the want ads.

London-born and -raised, Thompson helped found Fairport Convention in the late 1960s, the band that set the British folk-rock standard dabbled in by Led Zeppelin then and influencing the Decemberists now. His solo career from the 1970s onward dazzled critics; 1982's Shoot Out the Lights, recorded with then-wife Linda Thompson, remains revered in the album canon. Most recently, Dream Attic brings Thompson out on tour to the sheer delight of his fans.

If only one word can be applied to Thompson, it's "droll." When asked what audience Dream Attic is intended for, Thompson unhesitatingly replied, "Really, really intelligent, elegant people," before bursting into laughter and composing himself.

"I can't very easily answer that question, I'm not so sure anymore. It's probably for me mostly, and anybody else who can figure out what's going on. And I'm probably writing more for a British audience than an American audience.

"Cultural references are the difference. In the Sixties over in the UK, we used to struggle to figure out lyrics to a Muddy Waters song, the strange references. Since the Beatles, Americans are used to there being a difference, different cultural things. Even the Rolling Stones, who were trying to be as American as possible, still had British cultural references. Now we're used to each other enough to decipher those things. The way you might watch Miss Marple on Masterpiece Theatre and enjoy that, we can watch Hawaii 5-0 and enjoy the Americana of that.

"It's a wonderful relationship."

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Richard Thompson
SXSW 2013 Records
Richard Thompson
Electric (Record Review)

Jim Caligiuri, March 15, 2013

Spotlight: Richard Thompson
Spotlight: Richard Thompson
10pm, Antone's

Dan Oko, March 15, 2013

More by Margaret Moser
Did I Know Bruce Springsteen Was Going to Play 2012?
Did I Know Bruce Springsteen Was Going to Play 2012?

March 3, 2017

Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler
Adult Audio Coloring Book Sampler
A look back at illustrated album covers old and new

July 29, 2016


Richard Thompson, Fairport Convention

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle