June/July Qs, Part II
9/22/2009 (updated 9/22/2009)

Really enjoyed seeing you on the wonderful documentary about Island Records. Tell me, were you allowed as much freedom on Chrysalis, Polydor and Capitol as you were on Island? I get the impression (I may be wrong) that with Island you were pretty much left to your own devices. Did the other labels get more involved (or stick their noses in) with the recording process? Cheers, Jamie

Island was the hip place to be at the time, and we had a lot of freedom to develop. Part of this may have been the cushioning effect of working through Joe Boyd, who would have dealt more directly with the business end – but I get the impression that most acts were given a lot of free rein. I’d say by about 1972, when Chris was less hands-on, that had largely evaporated, and we had the dickens of a time getting Bright Lights released. I would say it was more the changing times, than any record company policy, that made the climate a bit more business-like from that point on.

Greetings from New England!!!! My wife and daughter and I have been to countless shows. I first heard you play "Love You Can't Survive" in Manchester, NH and can honestly say it may be my favorite song!!! For my question and the Strawbs are my favorite artists and have been for almost 30 years. Not sure if you have ever been asked this, but what are your impressions of The Strawbs and which configuration do you think was their best? Can't wait to see you again!! Regards, Robert

I confess to great ignorance about the Strawbs after about 1967! I saw them a couple of times in folk clubs when they were the Strawberry Hill Boys, playing bluegrass, and they did it very well. I know the stuff with Sandy, and then its all a bit of a blank.

It seems we have a plague of greenfly and blackfly here in the UK this summer, so I was wondering how an insect lover like you deal with those pesky aphids. Thanks for all your great music over the years, I will see you at the Waterside Centre in Leicestershire. Regards, Paul

As a California gardener, I may do things slightly differently, but a greenfly is a greenfly…ladybirds (ladybugs) purchased from your garden centre, are very effective. Release them in the evening, and damp down the foliage first, and they’ll be more likely to stay put. I also use a spray called Rose Defense, which contains Neem oil, which is effective against nearly all rose pests and diseases.

How much does "Shoot Out the Lights" owe to Peter Gabriel's "Intruder"? What do you chaps do together? Cheers, Kane

Nothing and not much.

Will the songbook incorporate any of Danny Thompsons basslines? Cheers, Dave

No, it won’t. You need ‘Danny Thompson plays the bass lines of Richard Thompson’ available from stockists everywhere.

In the “Strange Affair” biography you mention meeting poodle-rockers Bon Jovi when you were on Polydor. What happened? Jamie

Jon Bon Jovi was up at the Polydor office at the same time as me, so they said, ‘Oh, you must meet him!’, but he looked through me as if I didn’t exist, and of course I hardly do. I think Keith Emerson was there the same day too, with a similar outcome.

Re: Cabaret of Souls
Richard, So how did it go? Bruce Young, Santa Cruz

I think, on the whole, it went extremely well, for a one-off performance. Listening to the recording, some of the vocals are a little out of tune, and there are few places where we don’t all synch up, but on the whole, amazing job. Peter Askim was extraordinary, and pulled a fantastic performance from the strings. Pete Zorn did such a good job, on 2 rehearsals. Judith sang her songs with such empathy, and Harry was the pivot of the whole show. Debra was note-perfect on vocals and percussion. I hope we can get the clearances to release this show, otherwise we’ll re-record it at a later date. As composer it was wonderful to hear it all put together!

Having recently begun to wrestle with the pedal steel, I wonder if you have ever tackled the instrument? Most country and western steel players work in pretty much the same conventional idiom, but there are obviously a lot of harmonic possibilities there -- it would be intriguing to see what your steel playing would bring to a song like When We Were Boys At School. Are there any steel players whose music has caught your notice? - Incidentally, hope we can see you in Toronto soon -- it's been a few years. All the best, Ash

I spent formative years listening to steel players – Leon McCauliffe, Buddy Emmons, Lloyd Green, D J Maness, etc. – trying steel licks on guitar is a way of stretching one’s technique. I don’t find at this point a lot of cultural application for me. B J Cole has done some wonderful work outside the genre, which I would heartily recommend.

If you were on Mastermind, what would your specialist subject be? Also any advice you could give me on developing my musical skills would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks, Nathan Kirkwood. Dumfries, Scotland. Thank you. Nathan Kirkwood

Easiest one for me would be ‘Richard Thompson and his music, 1967-2009’. Otherwise, Birds of Central America? Or California Horticulture? History of the Abbasid Dynasty? I’m really good at the useless trivia.