I happened upon this interview with the great singer/songwriter/guitarist Richard Thompson. What particularly caught my eye was that he briefly discusses the track on his last CD (Dream Attic (2010)) which I became almost obsessed by, and which certainly stood out, for me, as one of his masterpieces – Crimescene.
Before looking at what he says about that song, here are a couple of other subjects he covers in the interview which interested me. First this rather wonderful description of the excitement of discovering music during his youth:-
I think there’s a kind of freshness and an originality about the first time that you come to something, you know, the first time you come to music, the first time you come to new ideas. And I think the rest of your life is trying to keep that ability to be naive, to see things for the first time, but when you are young it just happens to you naturally
And about his influences:-
Guitar players, my dad had some jazz guitar records. He had some Django Reinhardt records, some Les Paul records, so that was stuff I was hearing really all my life. Then Rock n’ Roll came along. James Burton, Scotty Moore were probably a big influence. But I think at a certain point I stopped listening to guitar players and started listening to other instruments, because sometimes you can get more ideas from listening to other things, for instance a pianist has got two hands on the keyboard so he can very easily play counterpoint and I think that’s something that a lot of guitar players have tried to borrow from. Guitar players like Chet Atkins try to make guitar a more orchestral instrument, and I’m trying to do the same thing. So, guys like Louie Armstrong. Again, I’ve been listening to him since I was a lot, really. John Coltrane, tons of composers… lots and lots of them. Whole range of stuff really.
Then he is asked about Crimescene, the lyrics of which are here. This is a song with a set-up which is as vivid and atmospheric as a film noir:-
Broken glass, a broken chair
Lamp hangs by a thread
Scattered pages, spattered walls
Mayhem on the bed
Peace is gone and love is gone and
Darkness wins the day
A soul is torn away
A soul is torn away
A crumpled shirt a hank of hair
A shoeprint made of blood
Phone ripped out, shades all drawn
A life is hammered shut
This builds to one of those explosive RT refrains:-
And I should ball my fists and scream
Against the dying of the dream
But I can’t aim my rage at Fate
Where’s the face to pin the hate?
RT says about the song:-
On the face it’s a song about a crime scene, but if the crime scene is your own body I think it makes a bit more sense.
For inspiration I was probably thinking about the way that time chips away at your body. As you get older the bits start to fall off the trolley, you know, and it’s a bit like a burglar breaking into your house and smashing the windows and stealing things, ripping the TV set out from the wall, and it’s a kind of vandalism. I suppose that’s the kind of mood I was trying to create in the song. The imagery is kind of CSI imagery. My father was actually a detective over in England, and when I was a kid growing up there were lots of criminology books on the book shelves at home and as a boy or child, I’d kind of pick these things up and read them and I think it had a kind of lasting effect. Not necessarily a good effect but a lasting effect.