Saturday, January 03, 2015

Memories of Richard and Linda Thompson from 40 years ago

In the past few days, with thanks to my new wonder shoes, I've managed to increase the distance that I walk in the evening. Yesterday I completed 6km - and that was on a Friday night, when I frequently feel bloated from dinner. Of course, the further I walk, the longer it takes: yesterday took 55 minutes. Walking such distances is dependent on three factors (that I can think of right now, there are probably more): good shoes, stamina and an occupied brain.

On some walks, I solve programming problems and on others, I think about my doctoral studies (for example, the other night I was thinking about the pilot study). When I was working on the literature review during October, I would actively think about everything which I had read and written that day and what needed to be improved. During the 'old' days of the MBA, I would 'revise' whilst walking. This is valuable thinking time, when I am not distracted by anything, and I'm sure that it's one of the contributing reasons to the comparatively fast pace of my doctorate.

Of course, all the time I'm listening to music - or rather, there is music playing in the earphones that I wear. All of the songs are familiar to me but recently I added about ten more hours of music which I have listened to properly in the past years: Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Randy Newman and Richard Thompson.

Which brings us neatly to memories of 40 years ago: January 1975. I was starting my second term of the first year at university and there are two series of extra-curricular events which have stayed in my mind and have had no small importance of my life. At the beginning of this term, I started helping out with the university newspaper, which came out once a fortnight. At first I helped collate the papers but then I started writing. As I recall, my first review was about an exhibition of painting which I saw in the Tate Gallery by Paul Klee.

An added bonus for writing these reviews was that I was able to hear new music (cue Hatfield and the North) and go to concerts for free. I have just proved to myself that memory can be elastic as an event which I thought took place in February 1975 actually took place two months later, but I'm going to treat it as if it took place when I thought it did.

This event is concerned with Richard Thompson, with his then wife, Linda. I have written before about purchasing his first solo album, 'Henry the Human Fly'. In February 1975, I bought his third (and their second) album, 'Hokey Pokey' from a short lived record shop in West Hampstead. At the time, I thought that this record was the bees' knees as it was filled with good songs and good arrangements, but later I revised my opinion in favour of the starker albums which came directly before and after HP.

For some reason, I had missed the preceding record, 'I want to see the bright lights tonight'. The story is that it had been recorded in 1973 but wasn't released because of the Yom Kippur war which led to an oil shortage which led to problems manufacturing records. It was finally released some time in 1974 when I wasn't in Britain, but strangely I didn't buy it when I came home. Maybe it wasn't in the shops. As it happens, I have a memory of visiting Bath University around May/June 1973 with a schoolfriend and hearing the title song on the radio, so it was 'in the can' for some time before being released.

Back to the story at hand. On 25 April 1975 (I thought that this was earlier), R&L had a 'coming out' concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in the South Bank complex. I was able to score free tickets to this (as I was reviewing it) and took my girlfriend, G, who wasn't too aware of the Thompsons. On the steps outside the hall there were people selling what I took to be programmes but were in fact copies of a new music magazine called 'Licorice'; I bought one and greatly enjoyed reading it.

The first half of the concert was Richard and Linda acoustic. Someone sent me years ago either a cassette of this  (which I must dig out and digitise) or a cd. I remember thinking during 'Valerio' how Richard was an excellent electric guitarist and it wasn't fair that he was also an excellent acoustic guitarist - leave some room for someone else!

The 'electric' second half, with John Kirkpatrick (accordion) and the ace rhythm section of Daves Pegg (bass) and Mattacks (drums) was as good as the first half; the strange combination of electric guitar and accordion sounded as if it were creating a new kind of soul music.

My records show that the next day I went out and bought a copy of 'I want to see the bright lights tonight'. I discovered shortly afterwards that G had done exactly the same thing. I have a memory of staying overnight at her house once and playing the record the next morning. They had an acoustic guitar (with which I accompanied some of the songs) and a piano, which one of G's younger sisters was learning to play. I wonder whether I tried teaching her one of the songs.

Whilst listening to the songs from IWTSTBLT last night, I wondered whether G updated her vinyl copy to CD, whether she ever listens to it and whether she thinks of me when doing so. I certainly think of her when listening to them.

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