Saturday, April 26, 2014

i want to see the bright lights tonight

Richard and Linda Thompson found perseverance and a frail beauty in the drunken mess of this highwire act of heartbreak and hope.  Linda was born Linda Pettifer and changed her name to Linda Peters in college when she began performing in coffee houses around London:   "I come from Scotland, and my parents hated anything English. It was all about the Yanks to them, so I heard American pop as well. When I first moved to London in the early '60s there was a lot of folk stuff going on. Phil Ochs was around, and Tim Buckley. Dylan was in town at one point doing 'Madhouse on Castle Street', a play on the BBC. They all played at the Troubadour and dingy basements around town. There was a brief moment in the '60s when everything seemed to be a folk thing. Like everything's a Starbucks now... On a typical night [at the legendary Troubadour club] Sandy Denny would be there, or Annie Briggs, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn. Nick Drake sitting in the corner. Alan Lomax was around in those days, too. Didn't stay open that late. Maybe one-ish, and then we would all go to people's flats...I knew [Sandy Denny] before [she was in Fairport Convention]. I knew her when she was a nurse. She used to come down to London to sing. She was brilliant. She was my best friend."

Linda also recorded advertising jingles and was eventually invited to take part in the recording of 'Rock On' as part of the supergroup The Bunch with Denny and other members of Fairport Convention, including Richard Thompson:   "He was a very intense young man and I was a flibbertigibbet. And you know how that goes...a weekend hippie...I was not really into that peace and love and brown rice thing. I just thought the clothes were nice, the beads and the bells."

That same year Linda sang on Richard's solo debut 'Henry, the Human Fly' and the two were married in October.   Richard reflects back:    "Fairport was a  folk punk band and we played the sort of music that was a mixture between traditional music and rock music ... I left Fairport as a gut reaction and didn't really know what I was doing, except writing. I was writing stuff and it seemed interesting and I thought it would be fun to make a record. And at the same time – 70–71 – I was doing a lot of session work as a way of avoiding any serious ideas about a career ... When I left Fairport Convention, it wasn’t over personal differences; I just knew I wanted to do something different musically. I was feeling claustrophobic being in a band, so I got out. It was a gut feeling. Going solo didn’t occur to me. I’d met Linda during the making of 'Liege & Lief', because she was in the next-door studio recording a cornflakes commercial, and I enjoyed working with her and having her voice as a vehicle. But even that wasn’t really planned. It was simply that it was a fantastic way to hear the songs I’d written.  We looked at who we were and what we were doing and decided the only way we could survive was in the folk world, and so for at least a year around 'I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight' we played the clubs. It was great fun because it was novel for me to be independent. I don’t think we ever stayed in hotels – we’d sleep on the promoter’s floor. Although, at a certain point, we felt we’d outgrown the folk circuit and got a manager to book us bigger gigs.  People talk about ‘doom and gloom from the tomb’, and I think I’ve always gravitated towards that side of things. It’s partly to do with my growing up. I’d been raised in a part-Scottish household with Walter Scott’s novels and the poetry of Robbie Burns and the border ballads on the bookshelves. The language of all that stuff was on the heavy side. But I don’t really see it as doomy. It’s just taking things seriously… I'm not that affected by surroundings when I write music.  There is an inner landscape that you draw on, a sort of inner Brontë. It's a bleakness in which I always see songs happening. It's a fictional world. Maybe it doesn't even exist."

'I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight' was produced by Richard Thompson and John Wood at at Sound Techniques in London and features  Linda Thompson on vocals;   Richard Thompson on guitar, vocals, Hammered dulcimer, mandolin, whistle, piano, electric piano, and harmonium;  Timmy Donald on drums;  Pat Donaldson on bass guitar;  John Kirkpatrick on accordion and concertina;  Simon Nicol on dulcimer;  Brian Gulland and Richard Harvey on krummhorn;  Royston Wood and Trevor Lucas on backup vocals.   The album was recorded quickly in May on 1973; but would not be released until April of 1974.   The bleak songs about death and futility are tender and emotional, sometimes giddily so.  Linda says she enjoys the dark subject matter:   "That's the kind of traditional music that I like...They're just your standard, run-of-the-mill murder ballads, mate. [laughs] It's what happens every day...You know how they say comedians are the most miserable people on God's earth? I'm the opposite. I'm very easygoing in everyday life, but I've obviously got the soul of Ingmar Bergman."

"Withered and Died"   3:24

"Down Where the Drunkards Roll"   4:05

"We Sing Hallelujah"   2:49

"The End of the Rainbow"   3:55

'I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight' 
full album

All tracks written by Richard Thompson (except for "Together Again", by Buck Owens).

Side one
1. "When I Get to the Border" 3:26
2. "The Calvary Cross" 3:51
3. "Withered and Died" 3:24
4. "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight" 3:07
5. "Down Where the Drunkards Roll" 4:05
Side two
6. "We Sing Hallelujah" 2:49
7. "Has He Got a Friend for Me" 3:32
8. "The Little Beggar Girl" 3:24
9. "The End of the Rainbow" 3:55

10. "The Great Valerio" 5:22

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