Richard Thompson chat: IoW 69, I only remember Dylan and the BanD!
RICHARD Thompson will be making his first return as a performer to the Isle of Wight since the very first of the Island’s iconic original gatherings... the inaugural 1968 festival on Hell’s Field between Godshill and Niton.
Then, he was the lead guitarist and vocalist with Fairport Convention, the band also featured Ashley Hutchings on bass. They were joined by guitarists Ian Matthews and Simon Nicol; the incomparable Sandy Denny on lead vocals and Martin Lamble on drums. The 1968 IoW bill included the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, The Move, Tyrannosaurus Rex and, topping the bill, American band Jefferson Airplane.
But, when we caught up with Richard the other day, he was happy to admit that he and Ashley had returned to the Island for the 1969 festival...as fans. He wanted to see Bob Dylan. Here’s what Richard had to say:
You remember the cold snap of the 68 IoW festival when you performed with Fairport Convention. What about the 69 IoW Festival – is it right you were there with Ashley Hutchings in the crowd, watching events unfold?
RT: Quite a few of us went down to see Dylan and The Band, who were pretty great. It seemed a better organised festival that year.
Were there any other ‘must-see’ acts for you? And who impressed?
RT: That’s all I remember seeing.
How influential has Dylan been in your own songwriting...and has it been a consistent influence down the years?
RT: He’s a very important figure culturally. He brought intelligent lyrics from folk into popular music, and made the whole genre more grown up. Fairport were always a lyric band, and before we wrote ourselves, we were covering Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs - and Dylan.
Without Bob the Beatles would have never tackled serious subjects, you’d have no Radiohead, no Kate Bush, no PJ Harvey, etc. Dylan opened the door for me and a host of others. I’ve never consciously copied Bob, and I don’t think I do anything remotely close to his style, but his influence is indisputable.
Does age have an adverse impact on your creativity and ability to create new material. Or does experience more than compensate?
RT: You should not slow down creatively, but you can lose energy and focus. Experience is a wonderful thing, and can compensate for that first flush of youth.
And what about the impact of advancing years on live performance?
RT: If you love music, you want to play as long as you can, so you try to stay fit and mobile, and keep the important bits - fingers, voice - in working order.
Just checking, will the Million Dollar Bash be your first Isle of Wight live performance since 1968?
RT: It will be.
Without suggesting the book is closed, when you review your career to date, which period gives your most pleasure?
RT: It’s been mostly pleasure all the way...the 60s was so intense, and we were young, and managed to cram a huge amount into just a few years, that the period from 1967-71 seems like a special time to me.