In the year and a half between Berkeley and Berklee (late 1990 – 1991), I had a job at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel as a bellman. One afternoon I was wheeling a bellcart back to the lobby when I passed a meeting room that had a function going on for some music label people. I heard a man playing acoustic guitar and singing. While I’m no guitar expert (and was certainly less so then), I could recognize that he was playing it well, not just strumming big open chords, but very specific stuff. So he could play. But I heard that voice and said, well, he’s not going to be the next big pop star. But fine, so what, I did notice that at least he had a distinctive voice, and that counts for a lot.
So, maybe 6 months later (I can’t be sure at this point), I wandered into Rhino Records (the store, not the label office) on Westwood Blvd. Right inside, where they were pushing the new releases, I saw a handwritten write-up for a new album by Richard Thompson. I didn’t know him from, well, from anyone else I didn’t know. The write-up mentioned that he had been in Fairport Convention, and damned if that didn’t sound like a classic band that I should be familiar with (I was about 24 at the time, just for reference) even if I couldn’t think of just who they were. (Years later I would finally read a bit more about Fairport Convention and realize that I didn’t know them even a little bit.) Anyway, the write-up basically said, that after his time in that important band, he has had a long and, if underappreciated, damn fine solo career* and here was his latest, and it’s damned fine, too, so you really oughta pick it up right now!
So I did. I kind of liked it at first, but there was a lot to chew on, and something else kinda bothered me about it… I could swear I knew that voice. Hmm, from where… Then it dawned on me that this was the guy I heard singing in a meeting room at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel!!!
Well, I have no proof, but I still believe that it had to be him showing off his shiny, new material to industry types before the release of the album – I’m 99% sure of it. I’m in LA now (though he is of English extraction, he lives in LA these days) and hope I run into him so I can bombard him with this story and have him corraborate it. (Teddy, do you read music blogs? If you see this – ask him for me! By the way, A Piece of What You Need is a great album, Teddy!)
So Rumour & Sigh will always seem like one of his most important albums to me, but I have almost all of them and have become a huge fan, and I must say, I think my favorite must be Mock Tudor. In fact, I suggest you go buy it right now! If you don’t know anything about RT, well, now’s the time to start learning. I’ll keep it simple: he writes great songs and plays awesome guitar. At #19 on that Rolling Stone link, I think he might still be under-rated.
The first song is, to me, very representative, and a charmer at that. The second one is for my friend Helen, she has a horse (Hi Helen! Hi Chris!) (No, Chris is not the horse.) The third one is the most famous song from Rumour & Sigh, and quite a dramatic story! The last one ROCKS. Enjoy!
And here’s one from Teddy (that would be RT’s son, Teddy Thompson):
* I don’t recall if the write-up mentioned anything about the Richard and Linda years.