Thompson Family's Musical Sweater: 'Smells Funny, Lot Of Personality' Folk heroes Richard and Linda Thompson split up, creatively and romantically, in the early 1980s. Now their son Teddy has brought them together — along with other family members — for a new album.

Thompson Family's Musical Sweater: 'Smells Funny, Lot Of Personality'

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TESS VIGELAND, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WALKING ON A WIRE")

LINDA THOMPSON: (Singing) I'm walking on a wire. I'm walking on a wire. And I'm falling.

VIGELAND: In 1982, the beloved British folk duo Richard and Linda Thompson split up both creatively and romantically. Ever since, fans have longed for their reunion - one fan in particular, their son Teddy.

Teddy was just a boy back then. Now he is 38 with a recording career of his own, and Teddy has done something kind of incredible. He brought together about a dozen musical members of the extended Thompson clan, including Richard and Linda, for a new album called "Family."

I spoke with both Richard and Teddy about the project, which turned out to be slightly more complex than any of them had expected. Here is Teddy.

TEDDY THOMPSON: At the time, I thought it would be sort of easy, if you will. I thought we'd only have to write two songs each. I thought that that would be quick and easy.

RICHARD THOMPSON: Something like this had sort of dimly occurred to me over the years. But I thought well, it's impossible. It can't be done. It's impractical.

T. THOMPSON: (Laughter).

R. THOMPSON: No one would ever come up with that.

T. THOMPSON: No one would be foolish enough to attempt it.

R. THOMPSON: Exactly, yeah. But I think technology was a great help in doing this - the fact that we could do stuff in our little home studios and send stuff around. Couldn't have done that really a few years ago. And it's turned out great.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BONNY BOYS")

L. THOMPSON: (Singing) Here you are my bonny boys? You're all dressed up to seize the world and all its toys.

VIGELAND: Every voice, every instrument here is played by a Thompson relative, either a blood relative or someone who married into the family. Is this a requirement if someone marries one of you that they have to be able to sing or play an instrument?

T. THOMPSON: It helps.

(LAUGHTER)

R. THOMPSON: Yeah. It just seems to happen anyway, you know? I suppose if you're a family of plumbers, you tend to marry other plumbers, so it's the same.

T. THOMPSON: No you don't.

R. THOMPSON: Don't you?

(LAUGHTER)

T. THOMPSON: Great example.

R. THOMPSON: I'm sorry. I don't actually know any plumbers.

(LAUGHTER)

VIGELAND: Well, Teddy, you have said that your therapist had a field day with this idea. Tell us about that.

T. THOMPSON: Well, I mean, you know, I don't want to get all into - well, yeah, why not. Let's start with therapy session.

VIGELAND: Yeah, why not?

T. THOMPSON: In retrospect, there was definitely something about the fact that I was trying to sort of knit my family together, albeit musically. And I was blissfully unaware that there was any sort of connection. I just mentioned it one day. And he was flabbergasted that I hadn't sort of realized what I was doing, you know?

R. THOMPSON: It's like an enormous cardigan, you know, with sort of eight holes for heads you knit everybody into.

T. THOMPSON: Yes, a musical sweater.

R. THOMPSON: Musical sweater if you will.

T. THOMPSON: A musical family heirloom sweater. It smells funny but it's got a lot of personality. That's how - that's how we'd like you to think of the album.

(LAUGHTER)

VIGELAND: You know, speaking of this family dynamic, Teddy I would love for you to share what you said in the liner notes about what it was like to have control over all kinds of family members and what they sounded like.

T. THOMPSON: Yeah, well, I think what I said was that there's nothing so satisfying as erasing your parents. Which - how's that for an Oedipal moment?

(LAUGHTER)

T. THOMPSON: I don't want to sound like I'm ganging up on you, dad, or making you pay for, you know, childhood...

R. THOMPSON: Yeah, right. Yeah, yeah.

T. THOMPSON: ...Traumas or anything. But, you know, it's - when I was a kid and it was, you know, the - you feel sort of out-of-control, I think is the overwhelming feeling, you know, when your parents split up. So there was something about being in control of this which was enormously satisfying.

R. THOMPSON: But Teddy, it's over now. The record's finished.

(LAUGHTER)

T. THOMPSON: No, I'm carrying it forward. This is the way...

R. THOMPSON: No, wait, wait, wait.

T. THOMPSON: This is the way I'm going to operate from here on out.

R. THOMPSON: No, we're going back to normal now.

T. THOMPSON: No.

VIGELAND: Well, Teddy, the first song on the record is one of yours. And it is - it's clearly a mission statement for the album, maybe even a therapy session itself.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FAMILY")

T. THOMPSON: (Singing) My father is one of the greats to ever step on stage. My mother has the most beautiful voice in the world. And I am betwixt and between. Sean Lennon, you know what I mean. Born to the manor, never quite clamoring free.

VIGELAND: Richard, as Teddy's dad, when you hear this song, what goes through your mind?

R. THOMPSON: (Laughter) It's a little close to the bone in some ways. I'm slightly taken aback about this song in a good way.

VIGELAND: Taken aback in a good way - what do you mean?

R. THOMPSON: Well, I'm not always ready for a song that kind of tells it like it is, if you like that. Sometimes songs have veils over them, you know? But this song really is about family reality. And it's OK, because it's a well constructed song. It's a good piece of craftsmanship. I can get used to that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FAMILY")

T. THOMPSON: (Singing) My grandmother gave me all of the love that she had. She lived for us kids, never a thought for herself. But she never dealt with her pain. And I've done exactly the same, pushing it down or trying to drown it away.

VIGELAND: To be clear, this is not a Richard and Linda Thompson creative reunion. As far as I can tell, only one song features the talents of both. And that's enough. Richard, was that a conscious decision - let's not make this a perceived reunion album?

R. THOMPSON: No, it wasn't a conscious decision. But people sometimes have that expectation, and I don't think that's something that we want to do. We don't want to perform again together. Linda has a lot of problems with her voice anyway, and I think that really nips it in the bud. But so people should not have that expectation.

VIGELAND: Richard, this all - this all has to be pretty amazing for you. I mean, what's it like to hear these generations of Thompsons all together on one album?

R. THOMPSON: Well, it's great. I'm, you know, I'm very proud of my children and grandchildren. I think it's fantastic that they chose not to go into banking and accountancy as I was hoping they would.

(LAUGHTER)

R. THOMPSON: They went into the family business instead. They went into music, which is, as we know, it's a hit and miss profession. I'm sincerely glad that they have because they have the talent to do it. And to hear the family harmonizing on something, it's just such a fantastic feeling. It's wonderful.

VIGELAND: That's Teddy and Richard Thompson. Together with many members of the Thompson family, they've released a new album called "Family." It's been great to have two elements of that family with us. Teddy, Richard, thank you so much.

T. THOMPSON: Thank you.

R. THOMPSON: Thanks.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THAT'S ENOUGH")

R. THOMPSON: (Singing) Times are tough. Time are tough. That's enough. Oh, that's enough.

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