12 Conference Report #techonomy12

Richard Thompson in Conversation and Performance

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  • (All photos by Asa Mathat)

    (All photos by Asa Mathat)

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Speaker

Richard Thompson, OBE
Award Winning Musician

Interviewer

David Kirkpatrick
Founder and CEO, Techonomy Media


Noted for his “guitar technique and strange, darkly-funny lyrics,” as Wikipedia puts it, Richard Thompson has received a lifetime achievement award from BBC and the Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth. Here he performs and talks about his craft with Techonomy founder David Kirkpatrick. Read the full transcript of their conversation, including song lyrics, below.

Kirkpatrick:  Now some of you—I’m actually losing my voice. Lucky for microphones. Some of you told me that you weren’t that familiar with Richard Thompson. But those of you who are familiar with Richard Thompson are like, “Holy shit, you’re having Richard Thompson!”  And you’re going to see why a lot of people had that attitude.

He’s been a favorite of mine for decades, ever since I began getting good musical advice from friends who actually knew something. Just to give you a little bit about Richard, he started recording with Fairport Convention in 1967, when he was 18 years old, and he really is—his father was Scottish, played a lot of Scottish music growing up. And there’s a tremendous folk influence in Richard’s music.

But he’s really one of the great synthesizers of folk and rock-n-roll, in my opinion, and he’s known for his song writing, guitar playing and his singing. Some of the people that have covered his songs, Shawn Colvin, Elvis Costello, Marshall Crenshaw, David Gilmour, Los Lobos, Maria McKee, Graham Parker, Robert Plant, Bonnie Rate and REM have all performed songs that he wrote.

One of the things about Richard that I like, his songs, as you’ll hear—if you haven’t heard his songs before—he’s got some of a down beat sensibility of his lyrics. You might even call some of them bleak.  But the other thing is, you can see right now, he’s always smiling.

We can probably get to that in the discussion portion, how that is squared. He did one of my all-time favorite albums, an album I played as much as any that I own — that includes Beatles alums—called Shoot Out the Lights, which he made with his then wife, Linda Thompson, which is kind of an inadvertent chronicle of the breakup of your marriage or something like that.

Thompson:  So they say.

Kirkpatrick:  We’ll, get into that.

Last year he was made an OBE by Queen Elizabeth. And he also received honorary doctorate from the University of Aberdine. So he’s much honored, amazing guitarist, Richard Thompson.

Thompson:  Thank you. I’ll never live up to that. We’ll see.

Sweet thing, believe me, you’ll never deceive me.

Step me down without breaking, that’s when I really start to thinking.

You must have been running around.  Must have been running around. Because you were smiling.

Your friends say you’re rising for something.  Like a caged bird, that’s broken free. You want to fly high or mess on me.

Well, I know you’ve got a secret or two. Your hair’s in a brand-new do. You’re so happy.

Good things happen to bad people. Good things happen to bad people. But only, but only for a while.

The quiet, the day I walked you down the aisle. But I know you been bad from the way you smile.

Mona Lisa, what a teaser. What’s my strange cologne I’m smelling. You know more than you’re telling.

Well, I know you’ve been running around. I know you been running around. Because you’re so happy.

Good things happen to bad people. Good things happen to bad people. But only, but only for a while.

You cried the day I walked you down the aisle. And now I know you’ve been bad from the way you smile.

Kirkpatrick:  Whoa. It’s weird to sit up here while you’re playing, I’ve got to say, but I feel better than I have felt all day, listening to that music. I’ve not been relaxed today.

What’s the story with that song?

Thompson:  It’s just a piece of fiction. It’s actually a jealousy song.

Personally, I don’t have a jealous bone in my body.

Kirkpatrick:  When is that coming out?

Thompson:  In February.

Kirkpatrick:  I had the privilege of looking very closely at your finger work when you play your guitar. You don’t use a standard tuning.

Thompson:  That’s fairly standard, but not totally standard.

Kirkpatrick:  What is it you do differently by your guitar strings?  I think — it’s not a tech question, but it’s a music question.

Thompson:  If you’re a solo performer, sometimes you want to get a bigger sound out of the guitar—if you’re playing the guitar up here, it sounds a little small, small, tiny, minute.

If you have more strings ringing, you can create kind of a bigger sound, more orchestral sound. So a lot more folk guitar players use these open tunings. Also, these open tunings can be modal, they can suggest a unresolved tension in the music, which is also a very useful thing if you’re writing strange music.

Kirkpatrick:  I don’t think it’s strange.

Thompson:  I do.

Kirkpatrick:  You have multiple tunings you use, not just one?

Thompson:  Different. Yes.

Kirkpatrick:  I’ve been listening to your music a few days really getting ready for this. Although, as I said, I’ve been listening to your music for years. It’s been a huge pleasure.  And I’ve doing it entirely on Spotify.

How do you feel about that?

Thompson:  Well, I love Spotify, as long as they pay musicians.

Kirkpatrick:  But do they?

Thompson:  I’ve received precisely zero from Spotify. There was something in the paper the other day, Beyonce got something like $6. So if they are paying, it’s an incredibly infinitesimal amount. But mostly they are basically ripping off musicians, as far as I’m concerned.

Anyone here this evening from Spotify?

Kirkpatrick:  Last year we had Sean Parker here. But nobody from Spotify here, I don’t think. So it’s something you’re a little dubious about as a commercial thing?

Thompson:  Well, you know, like a lot of Internet technologies, they’re kind of a double-edged sword. It’s great to have the promotion from something like YouTube, but there’s no revenue stream from it. So it’s a tough one for musicians.

You know, I’m fairly established—on the established end of music. But for young kids, it would be great if they had their income stream as well. Just to keep them alive, basically keeping them eating. Because for young bands, it’s a real struggle at times.

Kirkpatrick:  We were talking at breakfast. My daughter, who is 20, was telling me what most of the college kids do now is rip the songs off of YouTube. There is software that they get, and they just take the music which is the accompaniment of the videos, and that’s what they put on their iPhones.

Thompson:  Well, the quality of sound they’re getting in that process is really, really bad. You know, probably only 5 percent of people who listen to music are listening to it in the way it was meant to be heard; i.e., high fidelity, good sounding speakers, good sounding technology, good sounding CD or vinyl or whatever you choose.

Most people are listening on ear buds, not very good, usually on an iPod. It’s pretty crappy. So I’m always surprised that people will put up with that.

Kirkpatrick:  Well, you know, Neil Young is famously acerbically critical of MP3s, especially. He has this whole thing with special disks that he produces.

Have you ever tried to bypass that problem in any technological way; or is it something you sort of resign yourself to?

Thompson:  I’m not sure there’s anything I can do. We try to make records that sound as good as they can sound. And beyond that, there’s nothing you can do really.

You have to get it into a format. CD format isn’t, again, absolutely perfect. It’s not bad. It’s close.

Kirkpatrick:  But you still sell quite a few CDs, too?

Thompson:  I have what is called a “mature audience,” for the most part. They are slowly getting younger, or dying off, I’m not quite sure which. They are a rather traditional fan base, and they tend to buy CDs, to the point where I outsell a lot of younger artists on CD, which is amazing.  I get in the charts on CD, how about that, folks?  How about that?

[APPLAUSE]

Thompson:  Thank you, you’re too kind. I didn’t say where in the charts.

Kirkpatrick:  The charts are the charts.

Thompson:  Somewhere on the charts.

Kirkpatrick:  I want to talk to you about your website. Maybe I can do that in a minute.

Can I ask you another question that leads to a song?

Thompson:  You could try.

Kirkpatrick:  You know, you have a great song called Money Shuffle, which I happen to like. I thought since we have—unfortunately, for possibly the song—quite a few wealthy people in the audience. I thought it might be funny for you to play that song.

Can I ask you to.

Thompson:  You could. This is kind of—I wrote this a couple years ago as kind of a diatribe against the shortcomings of Wall Street and some investment bankers.

Kirkpatrick:  You’ll find a lot of sympathy for that.

Thompson:  I think I will. We’ll see. If I last the whole song.

I love kittens and little babies.

Can’t you see that’s the guy I am? And your money is so safe with me.

You never met such an honest man.

Glossies on my office wall.

The rich and famous, I know them all.

Come on and do the money shuffle.

I’ve got you write there where I want you.

Come on and do the money shuffle.

Can’t find your money if you want to.

Stock market going through the roof now.

So rich I’ll never add it up now.

I’ve got your savings here somewhere.

Here at Warbrook and Jones, it’s all tradition.

We never pimp and we don’t hustle.

But if you’ll just bend over a little, I think you’ll feel my financial muscle.

Spread it wide, wide as you can, to get the full benefit of my plan.

Come on and do the money shuffle.

I’ve got you right there where I want you.

Come on and do the money shuffle.

Can’t find your money if you want want to.

My God, the market’s in a free fall.

I’ll save my arse and skip the country.

Wish the hell I know what I was doing.

Oh, how sublime, now it’s subprime time.

One man’s junk’s another man’s Triple A.

If you need a little refuge for your pension funds, just for you, I’ll throw some jewels your way.

Just spread it wide, wide as you can, to get the full benefit of my plan.

Come on and do the money shuffle.

I’ve got you right there where I want you.

Come on and do the money shuffle.

Can’t find your money if you want to.

I hear the sound of distant thunder.

AIG and Lehman’s going under.

Will I get my bonus I wonder?

Come on and do the money shuffle.

Come on and do the money shuffle.

Come on and do the money shuffle.

Come on and do the money shuffle.

[APPLAUSE]

Kirkpatrick:  Well, thank you for that. That was amazing. And I don’t think most of us would disagree with whatever the sentiments were that were being expressed there.

Thompson:  Whatever the sentiment was. All positive, I’m sure.

Kirkpatrick:  All positive, I’m sure.

Do you consider yourself—to what extent do you consider yourself a traditional musician?

Thompson:  Well, I grew up listening to folk music. Particularly Celtic, Scots Irish music. At the same time, rock-n-roll was around. So I kind of fused Celtic and rock-n-roll. And whatever other bits and pieces. I’m not a traditional musician, but I build on the tradition.

Kirkpatrick:  How do you feel about, as technology has completely overturned the way that music is consumed and distributed, has that been good or bad for what you think of as traditional music, in your opinion?

Thompson:  Probably good, I think. Yeah, the fact you can get music from anywhere. You can get, you know, Siamese music as easy as you can get Scottish music as you can get African music. It’s all right there.

But as the world shrinks, as it becomes a smaller globe, I think at some point people will want to emphasize their difference, rather than their similarity to other folks. People are going to want to say this is where I’m from, Ireland. This is the way we dress traditionally, this is what we eat traditionally. This is the kind of music we listen to traditionally. I think that will become important to people.

Kirkpatrick:  I think that’s somewhat happening already.

Thompson:  It kind of goes in cycles a little bit.

Kirkpatrick:  So by that logic, it’s good for traditions that might have otherwise been hard to sustain.

Thompson:  Well, I think so. One of the things that has happened in traditions is technology has wiped them out. When the gramophone arrived in Europe, traditional music almost disappeared completely, because imported music was more interesting, more romantic. It was better to be freezing in Britain and listening to something like Carolina Moon somewhere else, that seemed nicer than where you lived than listening to your own indigenous music.

So that’s always the danger. But I don’t think that’s going to happen this time.

Kirkpatrick:  So at some point I’m hoping tonight you’ll play one of those songs that’s more of a real traditional song, if you feel like it.

Thompson:  Sure, yeah.

Kirkpatrick:  So you are very aggressive in the way you use the Web, right?

Thompson:  Yeah. I try to be, yeah.

Kirkpatrick:  Should we talk about that? I don’t want to make you play too many songs too fast here. I would love to. But I really want to hear you talk about your website.

You’ve really made a real effort to connect with your community, which is something that we talk about at Techonomy a lot, the ability to self-organize, to draw connections for people to have relationships they couldn’t otherwise have.

How would you say it’s changed your career to have such a very sophisticated website, in terms of the number of functions you have and the ways you give your fans to experience your music and buy it and learn about what you’re up to. And you have dialogues with them to answer their questions and things like that.

Thompson:  Yeah, I think the incident replaces the old model of the music business, which is the big record companies. Big record companies had their faults. The biggest one probably that they never paid you, which is a fairly serious fault, I think.

Kirkpatrick:  I guess so.

Thompson:  But they also nurtured young artists. I will take a good example. Say Warner Brothers in the 1960s, 1960s, Warner Brothers, which was run by music fans. Enthusiastic people who knew about music and could spot talent. That’s a very, very important thing. They knew how to spot talent, and they didn’t have to answer to a committee. They could say I’ve got a hunch about this artist. I’ve got a hunch about Bonnie Raitt or Ry Cooder or Randy Newman. Let’s sign them.

And they weren’t expecting immediate returns. They keep Randy Newman on the books for ten years, at least.  Same with Bonnie Raitt without selling any records. Vandyke Parks, Ry Cooder, all these great people. They made their money from the crass pop stuff, but the company had enough money to nurture new talent.

And record companies also would promote you if they believed in you, they would spend money to promote you. Now, there’s nobody spending money to promote artists anymore except the artists themselves.

So the Internet is a way of reaching the audience. You still have the hurdle of letting people know you’re there. And I suppose—you know, we’ve been talking about algorithms and stuff and databases. I think more and more, it’s possible to reach your target audience these days on the Internet, your potential audience.

Once you have the audience, they now expect a kind of interchange with the artist. They expect the artist to have some profile on the Web, to actually write something. I do kind of Q&A every month with the fans on the Web, and I think they like that very much.

I kind of indirectly post stuff on Facebook all the time. Our Facebook page is renewed almost every day, there’s something new on there. I think our website gets like—gets over a million hits a month, which is pretty good. Gets like 1.3 million hits a month. Which for an old rock-n-roll dinosaur is pretty good, who never sold any records.

Kirkpatrick:  That’s pretty good. You do sell quite a bit of material on your website.

Thompson:  We do. Since the ’90s, we’ve been doing our own kind of bootleg. I got rather horrified by the bootleg industry in the late ’80s, early ’90s. At some point we said, let’s just put out the same things that the bootleggers are putting out. We have a tape of this concert as well that these guys have bootlegged. We’ll stick it out and see who wins. And the bootleggers went away. Very interesting.

So that was the beginning of us offering things as website exclusives, and we’ve been doing that regularly ever since.

Kirkpatrick:  And your record label was okay with that?

Thompson:  They were actually, yeah. Even the major labels said, well, we don’t really care. It was so far below their radar. They wouldn’t notice anything under 700,000 records.

Kirkpatrick:  Well, we were talking about the savoir-faire of the record industry earlier. You were saying that you could put out songs that they didn’t give you the rights to put out and they didn’t notice.

Thompson:  That’s really true. A friend of mine—can I mention his name—Geoff Muldaur, a wonderful blues singer. A couple years ago, he wanted to put out sort of the greatest hits of his career, and he went to Warner-Reprise and couldn’t get through to anybody at the record label. So he said screw them. I’m going to put it out anyway. If they come after me, I’ll pay them. They never did. He put it out, fine.

Kirkpatrick:  Well, that industry has thrived with such an attitude.

So we’re going to take a few requests, I think, if you’re willing. Can I make a request, though?

Thompson:  Go ahead.

Kirkpatrick:  One that I think a lot of people here, including me, want to hear is 1952 Vincent Black Lightning. Can I do that?

Thompson:  You can do that. I would like to stand up for that one. This song is very much in a kind of traditional format.  I grew up listening—I was a sad, lonely child, and I grew up listening to these 17th century Scottish ballads where everybody dies and gets killed. But it was wonderful.

Kirkpatrick:  Before you play it, talk about what happened in the bluegrass industry with this song. This song has been turned into a bluegrass song.

Thompson:  It’s a very British song, it’s about a British motorcycle group.

At some point it was picked up for a bluegrass band, and it was like the biggest bluegrass hit of whatever year it was.  I was very proud, pleased and proud.

Kirkpatrick:  Still one of his most popular songs that he performed.

Thompson:  Said Red Molly to James, that’s a fine motorbike

Oh, a girl could feel special on any such like

Said James to Red Molly, my hat’s off to you

It’s a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952

And I’ve seen you at the corners and cafes it seems

Red hair and black leather, my favorite color scheme

And he pulled her on behind

And down to Boxhill they did ride.

Said James to Red Molly, here’s a ring for your right hand

But I’ll tell you in earnest I’m a dangerous man

For I’ve fought with the law since I was seventeen

I robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine

Now I’m 21 years, I might make 22

And I don’t mind dying, but for the love of you

And if fate should break my stride

I’ll give you my Vincent to ride.

Come down, come down, Red Molly, called Sergeant McRae

For they’ve taken young James Adie for armed robbery

Shotgun blast hit his chest, left nothing inside

Come down, Red Molly to his dying bedside

When she came to the hospital, there wasn’t much left

He was running out of road, he was running out of breath

But he smiled to see her cry

Said I’ll give you my Vincent to ride.

Says James, in my opinion, there’s nothing in this world

Beats a ’52 Vincent and a red headed girl

Now triumphs and Nortons and Greeveses won’t do

They don’t have a soul like a Vincent 52.

He reached for her hand and he slipped her the keys

Said I’ve got no further use for these

I see angels on Ariels in leather and chrome

Swooping down from heaven to carry me home

And he gave her one list kiss and died

And he gave her his Vincent to ride.

[APPLAUSE]

Kirkpatrick:  Whoa. I like that.

I don’t know how long we can go with this. Tell me what you want to do. Shall I ask you some more questions?

Thompson:  Certainly.

Kirkpatrick:  Your creative process and technology, has it changed it? You’re a pretty digitally aware guy, and you’re a traditional musician. But what does it mean for the way you make music. Create?

Thompson:  Technology is a wonderful adjunct. It’s a wonderful help. For instance, there’s amazing little recording devices. You can get amazing stereo recordings out of something this big.

It’s really good. If we come out to rehearsal with a band, I can send out files of upcoming songs and scores, you know. It saves 50 percent rehearsal time. That’s a great time to have. Musical notation software, fantastic. Wonderful thing. Which—you can import from a keyboard. You can input from a computer keyboard or a keyboard keyboard or a MIDI instrument. Speedy way of writing notes down. Say you’re writing a symphony for an orchestra, it’s a massive savings of time. Otherwise you have to write out every single part.

Imagine, Frank Sinatra in 1956 is in the studio with Nelson Riddle. And he says to Nelson Riddle, Nelson, I love the arrangement, fantastic. You’ve got the band, the strings, it all sounds wonderful. But the key, you’ve written it in B flat. Can you drop it to A. Nelson Riddle will say, shit, what do I do? Because Nelson Riddle knows that to move everything to semitime is a massive amount of work. He’s got to get his six copyists to work all night to get the new arrangement. With a good software like Sibelius. I think it’s the best one, really good stuff. It’s a huge labor saving device.

Kirkpatrick:  That’s just instant what would have taken overnight for six people.

Thompson:  If you have a repeating passage, you’ve got a section here that repeats forty bars further down, you grab it and copy it. It’s fantastic.

And also kind of a lazy man’s way of orchestrating. It will tell you if you’ve gone below the bottom note of the bassoon or above the usual top note of the oboe. It will tell you, which is fantastic. Inputting strange clefs, like viola. I found it really hard to read viola music, but you just input the note and it just magically appears on the viola clef. Just wonderful stuff.

Kirkpatrick:  This has been more relevant to you lately even, because you’ve been writing some fairly complex arrangements for the musical you’ve written called Cabaret of Souls. Talk about that a little bit.

Thompson:  Cabaret of Souls. We just performed this for three nights in Los Angeles. This is kind of a musical play that’s set in the underworld. The audience is basically dead. They’re not really dead.

Kirkpatrick:  He’s such an upbeat guy.

Thompson:  It’s a dark comedy. There’s funny stuff as well. This has a string orchestra. Has huge giant, massive puppets, dancers, 15 musicians on stage. This is a big undertaking. It’s about 80 minutes of music that all had to be written. So I wrote all of that on Sibelius, which is a huge time saver. A wonderful thing. And if you fancy sponsoring a musical, see me afterwards. Thank you.

Kirkpatrick:  And that is going to be an album at some point.

Thompson:  It is an album now. The album is done.

Kirkpatrick:  That’s not released yet, though?

Thompson:  It’s released, yes.

Kirkpatrick:  It just was released. It wasn’t on Spotify. I’m concerned.

Thompson:  I’m very sorry about that. That’s just finished. We don’t have the video to go with it, but that’s coming as well soon, we hope.

Kirkpatrick:  So that’s available commercially now?

Thompson:  Yeah.

Kirkpatrick:  Okay. I had a question that I just forgot. But it’s the end of the day.

You know, we talk about maybe taking a few requests from the audience. Would you be willing to hear somebody’s request?

Thompson:  I would be amused to hear someone’s request.

Kirkpatrick:  Anybody have a request? I did hear Shoot Out the Lights, which is definitely one I want to hear.

Unidentified:  Do a duet?

Kirkpatrick:  Do a duet. Bullshit. Sam, we’re going to kick you out of here.

Thompson:  Shoot Out the Lights, Valerie.

Kirkpatrick:  Valerie, that was the one I wanted to hear. Should I sit up here or should I sit on the floor and worship you?

Thompson:  I get enough worship in my life.

Kirkpatrick:  Do you want me to just stay here?

Thompson:  Yeah. Have you got a tambourine there? Just a cocktail shaker will do fine.

In the dark who can see his face?

In the dark who can reach him?

He hides like a child

He hides like a child.

Keeps his finger on the trigger.

He can’t stand the day.

Shoot out the lights.

Keep the blind down on the window.

Keep the pain on the inside.

Just watching the dark

Just watching the dark.

He might laugh but you won’t see him.

As he thunders through the night.

Shoot out the lights.

Shoot out the lights.

In the darkness the shadows move

In the darkness the game is real.

Real as a gun.

Real as a gun.

As he watches the lights of the city

And he moves through the night.

Shoot out the lights

Shoot out the lights

Shoot out the lights

Shoot out the lights.

[APPLAUSE]

Kirkpatrick:  You’ve added a few elements to that song since the original album.

Thompson:  I’m very sorry.

Kirkpatrick:  I like it, actually.  It’s a little jazzified.

Thompson:  Times change. Let me just do Valerie.  You’ve all had a hard day. Unwind, relax.

Oh Valerie! You give me heart attack.

Oh Valerie! You put me on the rack.

Oh you say that I’m history, you say I’m no good

Then you want to be two babes in the wood.

That’s what I call playing to the gallery

Well, I’m a-wait, wait, waiting for Valerie.

Hey Valerie! She got a scar down here

Valerie! She got gold in her ear

A figure like this, lips like that

Red fingernails, teeth like a cat

She never gets home till five or four or three

Well I’m a-wait, wait, waiting for Valerie

Well I’m soft in the head, I give her hard cash

She spends all my money on junk and trash

Nylon fur, plastic shoes

And fifty-seven things she’s never going to use

Never, never, never going to use

Oh Valerie! Oh Valerie! Oh Valerie!

Well Valerie!  You’re going to choke or drown

Valerie!  Why don’t you put that down?

If you don’t get over this eating jag

They’re going to take you home in a body bag

I can’t stand to see one more calorie

Well I’m a-wait, wait, waiting for Valerie

Now every time I turn my back

She’s ’round the corner looking for a crack

It’s going to be the ruin of me

I’m running on nervous energy

Running on nervous energy

Oh Valerie! She wants to move out of town

Valerie! She wants the money down

She wants a leopard skin this, tiger skin that

Matching luggage, lipstick, hat

I can’t afford her on my salary.

Well I’m a-wait, wait, waiting for Valerie.

Well I’m a-wait, wait, waiting for Valerie

I’m a wait, wait, waiting for Valerie.

Hmmm…hmmm…hmmmm…

Whoa!  Oh oh!

[APPLAUSE]

Kirkpatrick:  Now that’s a folky who can rock, man.  I see Andrew up there, who used to own a music club. I’m sure he’s familiar with some of this.

Richard played at your place?

Unidentified:  He used to run Irving Plaza. Now he’s a tech dude.

Thompson:  That was a great place. I loved playing there.

Unidentified:  You were one of the best shows we ever had. Thank you.

Thompson:  Crowd was fantastic.

Kirkpatrick:  Shout it out.

Unidentified:  Who’s Valerie?

Thompson:  She’s actually a woman I sat next to on a plane once, absolutely extraordinary. She was quite on another planet entirely. I filled in a few of the gaps, if you know what I mean. I speculated somewhat about the rest of her life. But she was quite interesting.

Okay. This is—oh, good choice, excellent. Let me get through this really depressing song before I get to the next really depressing song.

This old house is falling down, around my ears.

I’m drowning in the fountain of my tears.

When all my will is gone and you hold me sway.

I need you at the dimming of the day.

You pull me like the moon pulls on the tide. You know just where I keep my better side.

A broken promise or a broken heart. Now all the bonny birds have wheeled away. I need you at the dimming of the day.

Come the night you’re only what I want. Come the night you could be my confidant.

Now I see you on the street in company.

Why don’t you come and ease your mind with me.

I’m living for the night that we steal away.

I need you at the dimming of the day. I need you at the dimming of the day.

[APPLAUSE]

Kirkpatrick:  How many artists have covered that song?

Thompson:  I don’t know.

Kirkpatrick:  A lot.

Thompson:  Quite a few, yeah.

Kirkpatrick:  A lot of really famous artists.

Thompson:  Tom Jones just did it.

Kirkpatrick:  Really? Bonnie Raitt famously—

Thompson:  Yeah, Bonnie Raitt. Blind Boys of Alabama did it. All kinds of interesting people.

Kirkpatrick:  A good song.

Are you going to do more requests or should I ask you more questions?

Thompson:  Ask me more questions.

Kirkpatrick:  I was going to ask you about this dour, bleak thing and the smile on the face. How do you square that?

Thompson:  Well, you know, I grew up listening to traditional music. Where there’s sort of mining disasters every five minutes and unbelievable incest and a lot of people dying.

So to me that’s sort of normal. That’s the line of normal there. And I tried to put myself on the optimistic side of that, of my upbringing.  I’m working my way to happiness.

But I think we like sad music, the Louvin Brothers or Everly Brothers singing sad songs. It touches something inside of us. It’s not where we live all the time. But it’s nice to touch that point and move on eventually. It’s sort of cathartic sometimes as well. I love that stuff. Sorry.

Kirkpatrick:  But you have a good time singing about sad things.

Thompson:  Well, I do. There’s only so much Julie Andrews I can take. I mean.

That’s nice too, occasionally. But I think as a general—we like kind of like love songs and sad songs, yeah. I don’t think I’m alone in this, am I? You’re looking at me as though I am.

Kirkpatrick:  No, but I don’t know what it is. No I think that you have a particular reputation for having a dark side as a song writer without it  being a downer for the listeners. Clearly we love it.

I do think Shoot Out the Lights is one of the most—there’s sort of a tragic undertone to it that makes it even more powerful aside from the fact that every song on the album is amazing. Which is just an interesting thing.

Thompson:  Except the bad ones.

Kirkpatrick:  I didn’t think—there are only eight songs on that album.

Thompson:  Well the shorter the album is, the better chance you have of not having too many bad ones.

Kirkpatrick:  You succeeded, I think.

Thompson:  I don’t know.

Kirkpatrick:  So are you enjoying Techonomy so far?

Thompson:  I thought today was fantastic. I found it so interesting. I started at the beginning and nearly got to the end. I had to get my stuff ready for sound check. I think it’s absolutely great.

Kirkpatrick:  We’re happy to have you here.

Thompson:  Thrilled to be here.

[ APPLAUSE ]

Kirkpatrick: I mean, I’m just blown away that I’m sitting up here on this HermanMiller school next to Richard Thompson. You can wrap it up whenever you want to. I don’t want to press you too hard.

Thompson: Good choices. Let me do those two. I’ve been playing lots of up tempo stuff. I’m going to send you to bed feeling really, really like you’re going to kill yourselves now.  This is a song for all the drunks in the audience this evening.

Brian and Samantha. This is an Irish traditional song.

Will there be any bartenders up there in heaven?

Will the pubs never close, will the glass never drain?

No more DTs and no shakes and no horrors.

Very next morning you feel right as rain. Because God loves a drunk, the lowest of men. Like the dogs in the street and the pigs in the pen.

But a drunk’s only trying to get free of his body, and soar like an eagle high up there in heaven.

His shouts and his curses, they are just hymns and praises, to kick start his mind now and then.

Oh, God loves a drunk. Come raise up your glasses.

Does God really care for your life in the suburbs?

Your dull little life full of dull little things.

Bring up the babies to be just like daddy, and maybe you’ll be there when he gives out the wings.

Because God loves a drunk, although he’s a fool. or he wets in his pants and he falls off his stool.

And he can’t hear the insults and the whispers go by him, as he leans in the doorway and he sings Sally Racket.

He can’t feel the cold rain beat down on his body, and soak through his clothes to the skin.

Oh God loves a drunk. Come raise up your glasses. Amen.

Will there be any pen pushers up there in heaven?

Does clerking and wage-slaving win you God’s love?

I pity you worms with your semis and pensions, if you think that will get you to the kingdom above.

But God loves a drunk, although he’s a clown. You can’t help but laugh as he gags and falls down.

He don’t give a cuss for what people think of him. He screams at his demons alone in the darkness.

He’s staying alive for just one more pint bottle. Won’t you throw him a few pennies, friend?

Oh God loves a drunk, for ever and ever. Amen.

[APPLAUSE]

Kirkpatrick:  And you don’t even drink. That got he thinking about — I’m a poetry guy, and there is a great poem called A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle, by a great Scotsman Hugh MacDiarmid.  I love that poem. Although it’s in Scots, and I have trouble understanding it.

You know, he plays a lot of weird covers. I want you to know that he plays, Oops I Did It Again.

I was sort of hoping, if you had to end—I don’t know what you were going to play for the other song, but I would love to hear that one.

Thompson:  I’m sorry. So my music is not good enough for you?

Kirkpatrick:  You know, he does some shows that are all requests. And not just requests of his song. Any song. He will do that. Not that he’ll do it tonight. But I hope he’ll play Oops I Did It Again.

Thompson:  You asked for it. I think this is actually a really good song. A classic pop song.

I think I did it again. I made you believe we’re more than just friends.

It might seem like a crush. But that doesn’t mean that I’m serious.

But to lose all my senses, it’s just so typically me.

Ooh, baby, baby.  Oops, I did it again. I played with your heart, got lost in the game.

Ooh, baby, baby. Oops you think I’m in love. I’m sent from above.

I’m not that innocent.

You see my problem is this. I’m dreaming away, wishing that heros truly exist. I cry watching the dead.

You see, I’m a fool in so many ways. But to lose all my senses, that’s just so typically me.

Ooh, baby, baby. Oops, I did it again. I played with your heart, got lost in the game.

Ooh baby, baby. Oops you think I’m in love.

I’m so far above. I’m not that innocent.

Oops, I did it again. I played with your heart.

You don’t know this one, do you?

Oops, I think I’m in love. I’m sent from above. I’m not that innocent.

Oops, I did it again. That’s pathetic. Played with your heart. Got lost in the game.

Ooh, baby, baby. Oops you think I’m in love, I’m sent from above.

I’m not that innocent.

[APPLAUSE]

Kirkpatrick:  You know what I was thinking about when you were playing that? Did anybody see the South Park episode of Britney Spears? That is one of the weirdest South Park episodes ever. If you get a chance and you have a strong stomach.

Thompson:  I have one more.

Kirkpatrick:  Fine. Play all you want.

Thompson:  This is a traditional Irish song—not a traditional Irish song. It was a actually a poem that was set to music in I think about 1930s. It’s called A Ghost Story.

My young love said to me.

My mother won’t mind.

And my father won’t slight you.

For your lack of kind.

And she let her hand on me, and they she did say, oh it will not be long love, till our wedding day.

And she stepped away from me, and she moved through the fair.

And fondly I watched her, move here and move there.

And then she made her way homeward with a one star awake.

Like the swan in the evening, glides over the lake.

Last night she came to me, my dead love came in.

So softly she came that her feet made no din.

And she let her hand on me and she did say, it will not be long lord, til our wedding day.

[APPLAUSE]

Thank you.

Kirkpatrick:  Well, thank you.

Thompson:  Well, thank you.

Kirkpatrick:  It’s really an honor to have you here. We really appreciate it.

Thompson:  It’s a real honor to be here. Thank you so much. That you for having me. I really appreciate it.

Kirkpatrick:  Thanks for playing so many beautiful songs, too.

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