October Answers, Part II
11/7/2009 (updated 11/7/2009)

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the excellent C of S and Loud & Rich shows over the last few months, but also the stunningly good taping of Spectacle Elvis Costello with … taping on build a band night – amazing!!  (Thank you Tim) Can you share a bit about it - how this came together, what your thoughts and impressions of the evening were (especially playing with Elvis, Allen Toussaint, Nick Lowe, Levon Helm, Ray LaMontange, et al), the incredible guitar additions to Certain Girl came about, etc. It was truly a unique and wonderful evening – thank you, Jack Mycka

Elvis filled me in on the general plot beforehand, and who they were hoping to get on the show – Levon was touch and go, because of his health. I also had an idea of the playlist, although that changed a bit. I was surprised how small the Apollo was – seats maybe 1,000 – and how few 8 x 10s were on the wall, considering the history of the place. What ghosts! Who had sat in that same dressing room? Billie Holiday? Ray Charles? The concept of the show was to ‘build a band’ piece by piece, until myself, Allen, Nick and Levon were all on stage for a finale or three. I was very excited about playing the guitar intro to The Weight, and looked around expectantly, waiting for someone to give me the nod at rehearsals. Alas, Levon’s arrangement starts with a drum intro (although he sang it on the record, Richard Manuel played the drums, so perhaps he felt it needed some reinterpretation). Still, a thrill to sing Rick Danko’s verse with Levon 3 feet behind me, Good to work with Nick Lowe, who has been writing great songs of late, and I’ve been on records with Allen Toussaint, without meeting him – fine fellow. Those old Toussaint arrangements and compositions are in the blood, and don’t need a lot of rehearsal. I can’t believe I’ve never been on stage with Elvis before, but that seems to be the case. I thought he did a fantastic job of holding the evening together.

How did you get the quasi-sitar sound heard on 'Book song' from Fairport's second LP - a piece of ivory in front of the bridge/underneath the strings, just like a real sitar, maybe? Max Cuthbert

Not so much of the quasi, Mr. Cuthbert. Just like a real sitar? How about a REAL SITAR?? I took sitar lessons for a while (’67 – ’68), in a class with Andy Somers – well, you had to, didn’t you? Our teacher was Nazir Jaurasboy (sp) of London University Dept. of Oriental Studies. He had house concerts at the weekends, featuring all the cream of Indian touring musicians, which were stunning, and really stayed with me.

Are you an organic gardener; and, what's your favorite perennial? Wendi, NJ

We grow plants and vegetables organically. My favourite perennials? Hmm…probably things I can’t quite grow, although I’ve tried, like Aristolochias. I’ve had some success with some of the rarer Passifloras.

Recently enjoyed the Loud & Rich Tour , prompting me to correct my lack of Louden . Always enjoy the texture of music blended with between song humor . Leo Kottke and Arlo Guthrie spring to mind. Any thoughts or comments on either of these gentlemen ?

Tom Lehrer was probably the ultimate singer/songwriter/wit, under whose shadow we all fall. Leo is very dry, and enjoyably so. I’ve never seen Arlo live.

Also recently visited England for the first time, quite taken with Northern England. Any thing in the memory pertaining to the Lakes region , Long Meg and her Daughters, Hadrians Wall? Cheers, Jeff West, Enfield , CT

I’ve spent more time a little further up, on the other side of the Solway Firth, staring across at Workington and Maryport on the English side. I’ve walked sections of Hadrian’s Wall, and would like to do more – maybe the whole thing one day, or do Wainwright’s coast to coast. So just Peter Rabbit and Swallows and Amazons for me.

Dear Mr.Thompson,   I would like to begin by thanking you for your great contribution to our  global  society. Your entire career has been a delight as well as thought provoking for me and all  to see  you have impacted this world. You  have helped me to take a interest in a wide variety of things musical. Thank you sir. If it would be at all possible could I receive of you your autograph and answer to a question. I do imagine your are a very busy individual. but if possible I would much appreciate it. 

 "What is the main purpose of music?" Thank you again sir, Jeff Thompson 

This would be a tricky question if it came up as a piece of school homework, because there is no answer. It’s a basic human expression.