RTlist Q&A, Part I
5/23/2004 (updated 5/23/2004)

With thanks to Flip Feij’s ‘RT for Completists’ and
Willis Howard’s 'RT Discussion List' members.

Scott in Washington DC:
Will you be doing any topical songs this year related to the war in Iraq? How about reviving "Yankee Go Home"?

We'll see how it goes - this is becoming such a political albatross, I wouldn't be surprised to see the US forces pulled out as early as possible, in the hopes that the electorate will have forgotten about it by November - they forgave Nixon awfully quickly.

RTF in the UK:
We read recently that you have to pack your arm in ice before and after a performance. Is this true?

Bit of an exagerration. I ice down very lightly before a show, and a bit more intently afterwards, but really as a preventative. I have never had Carpal Tunnel problems, just a little tennis elbow from time to time.

Mike Andrews, UK:
I understand you gave ‘The Great Valerio’ your blessing by reading the draft and talking to the author, but despite the project being an admirable and obvious labour of love, there were a lot of assumptions in there that were way off track it seems to me. Whilst I am convinced many of your songs are deliberately written to work on different levels (an assumption of mine, I know), I am intrigued by analogies made in the book, many of which are simply too deep for me. Do you agree that many of your fans look too deeply into your lyrics, and if so, did the detail of ‘The Great Valerio’ surprise you?

Not really. I think Dave Smith's basic premise is correct - my use of symbols and mythology is influenced by Graves, Yeats and Eliot. I would argue that this is not unusual; this was the diet we were fed by enthusiastic English teachers on A Level courses in the 60s; if I had gone on to study English at university, perhaps the influences would have broadened. It might be worth looking at the lyrics of my old classmate Michael Quartermain at some point, to see if he does the same thing - he wrote a number of songs with Stomu Yamashta. Some of Dave's suggestions of cryptic references aren't too far off, either; on a line like
‘I find myself strangley true.’
I would be turning the four letters of true around in my head as something of a game, and would be happy to find 'uter' in there, but that's what happens to your brain after years of The Times Crossword. I think people should take lyrics as they find them, go into them as much as they feel necessary, or ignore them and just listen to the bass line.

Please settle an argument on the subject of songs working on different levels. Who is the real sad case in 'Turning Of The Tide';
a). the girl in the shabby dress ?
b) the narrator ?
c) the poor little sailor boy ?
d) all (or none) of the above ?

I should say the one deserving sympathy is the hooker. I wrote this remembering a particularly colourful evening on the Reeperbahn in Hamburg. The single of the song was banned on several radio stations because of a perceived misogyny in the lyric. The song has an unflinching narrative to reflect the hardness of the life - but was always intended to be empathetic.

Danny, USA:
Is the song-book still under development? Any thoughts on an instructional-type guitar video a la ??? Millions of guitarists...well, OK, hundreds...would snap it up and make someone a pile of money!

Still crawling along...I might recruit help at some point. My main concern is accuracy, and I am planning something large...

Paul Woods, Bristol, UK:
I'm interested in learning of other guitarists Richard admires, and why.
Was he a fan of the late John Fahey? Does he ever listen to Hot Tuna (Jorma Kaukonen / Jack Casady). I've long thought that an RT collaboration with Jack Casady on bass could be pretty special. Did they ever meet?

Well, I never quite got John Fahey. I liked Jorma from the Airplane era, Jack Cassidy is a terrific player, apparently still playing great. My favourite picker from the San Francisco scene was Jerry Miller, also still playing up a storm. I recently got a message from Hank Garland, one of the all time great Country/Jazz guitarists...some of my faves would be from that era - Grady Nartin, Thumbs Carllile, Jimmy Bryant, Merl Travis - I also listened to steel players like J.D. Maness, Lloyd Green, Jerry Byrd...and Jazz players, Charlie Christian, Django, Johnny Smith...Hank Marvin, James Burton, Otis Rush...Davy Graham was a seminal figure here in the UK...and I listen to a lot of non-guitar music, as being more expanding.

Arie, Netherlands:
The pictures on the "Tracks" EP (the boy on the ledge) are drawn by.....? Any chance it was Bern Sheppard (do you remember him)?

Sorry, can't remember.

Flip, Netherlands:
Island has recently reissued three Richard & Linda Thompson albums (with bonustracks).
- What do potential buyers with an interest in more things than old music have to consider?
- Is there a difference between the three Island reissues and the forthcoming rerelease of your first solo album (by Fledg'ling)?

Fledgling will probably do a more caring job with 'Henry'. Island in recent years has seen potential in its back catalogue, after a long period of neglect. I wish they had consulted with the original artist/producer/engineer on all of these. Personally, I hate the bonus tracks - an album is an album, and was intended a certain way. If tracks are left off, it's usually for a good reason. I think 'Bright Lights' is one of my best efforts, and I'm glad to see it available, but it could have been remastered better.

Paul Woods:
Wondering about the previously-unreleased live tracks on the recent Richard and Linda Island reissues. Were there really not enough available to create a "Live in Concert" album?

As far as I know, there wasn't.