Greil Marcus & RT at the Old Town School of Folk Music
10/27/2003 (updated 10/27/2003)

Greil Marcus,
former editor at Rolling Stone and Creem
(author of Lipstick Traces, Mystery Train, Dead Elvis, et al)
held a pre-concert conversation with RT, October 24th, 2003

Highlights included:


Quoting Sheffield professor Georgina Boyce as proclaiming 1952 Vincent Black Lightning (Rumor & Sigh 1991) as one of the Top 2 essential ballads in the history of songwriting, Marcus stated that ballads have gaps in time where it’s up to the listener to read between the lines. Richard explained that for him this practice could be the result of a 20th century ‘cinematic society’ where we often see TV shows or movies where the viewer needs to fill in the details themselves. Richard continued to say that he enjoyed the sparse nature of ballad writing, “I’m glad the ballad form is kind of surviving and amazed as well, “ and said that two of his most requested songs are both ballads: 1952 Vincent Black Lightning and Beeswing (Mirror Blue 1994).


Marcus cited the opening lyrics of Tale in Hard Time from Fairport Convention's What we Did on Our Holidays as the beginning of The Punk Movement:

Take the sun from my heart
Let me learn to despise

Richard replied that there has been a Johnnie Rotten character in British history every hundred years, and that the punk movement is an “old British tradition”. RT went on to say that Punk defined music again, and made him personally emerge from a self-imposed musical exile.


When Marcus commented that he could see Thompson playing a lute in medieval times following a funeral cart, Richard exclaimed that his songs are less dark and morbid than they seem at first listen. “You dare yourself to go to the edge but that’s not where you live. You go there on an excursion and then take a couple of steps back.” Thompson continued to explain how pain and death are locked away in hospitals and morgues and how it’s the artist’s duty to bring it out of these artificial environments and confront people’s consciousness. “It’s a life affirming thing to write about. It’s like a memo to myself to wake up!”


Marcus applauded the work as new and vibrant, unlike it’s title which leads one to expect a ‘Greatest Hits’ style more than the breaking of new ground, calling Jealous Words the best thing he’s heard since Moby Grape. Richard said that was the highest possible praise, since Moby Grape was about breaking barriers, and that is what he set out to do, saying, “You need to reaffirm to yourself what you do for a living. “


When asked how Richard chose the songs he included on 1,000 Years Of Popular Music, he shared this criteria:

1) Reducibility to a three-piece ensemble
2) Songs he likes and enjoys playing

Richard explained that the set list is “heavy on the Elizabethan era and the 20th century”. He continued to explain that the Elizabethan era was the peak of the English language, and that Shakespeare took advantage of that, as did music. "Then there were complex lyrics and complex tunes. Now complex lyrics have simple tunes, or simple lyrics have complex tunes. "

After the interview, fans were treated to the second of two SOLD-OUT performances of 1,000 Years of Popular Music.
Recorded for archival purposes, portions of Friday's concert may be included on a future Old Town School of Folk Music compilation CD.

Watch this site for possible additional 1000 Years of Popular Music dates in 2004.