Richard Thompson - guitar & vocals Michael Jerome - percussion Judith Owen - vocals The idea for this project came from Playboy Magazine - I was asked to submit a list, in late 1999, of the ten greatest songs of the Millenium. Hah! I thought, hypocrites - they don't mean millennium, they mean twenty years - I'll call their bluff and do a real thousand-year selection. My list was similar to the choices here on this CD, starting in about 1068, and winding slowly up to 2001. That they failed to print my list among others submitted by rock's luminaries, is but a slight wound - it gave me the idea for this show, which has been performed occasionally, and will hopefully receive a few more airings. The idea is that Popular Music comes in many forms, through many ages, and as older forms get superceded, sometimes the baby is thrown out with the bathwater - great ideas, tunes, rhythms, styles, get left in the dust of history, so let's have a look at what's back there, and see if still does the trick. I am unqualified to sing 98% of the material here, but me having a go could be considered part of the fun. Also, trying to render an Arthur Sullivan orchestration with acoustic guitar and snare drum is pretty desperate stuff, but may, at a stretch, be thought charming. What appears on this CD is a performance, rather than a chronological, distillation of several different shows - hence some gaps in the 17th and 18th centuries, and too much weight on Music Hall and Rock & Roll - we just felt that some performances weren't quite captured - perhaps on Part Two?
As Richard Thompson explains in his typically droll annotation, 1000 Years of Popular Music
came about after Playboy
asked various musicians to rank their top ten songs of the millennium. While most dipped no farther back than a few decades--a century at most--Thompson's musical memory rose to the challenge. The result is this concert set's encapsulation of 22 songs that trace a musical progression from the Middle Ages through Britney Spears, with Judith Owen and Debra Dobkin providing spare instrumental and rich vocal support. Released as a concert DVD with two audio CDs, the selection is irrepressibly idiosyncratic, from rounds, madrigals, and British balladry that recall Thompson's early days in Fairport Convention through the music-hall singalong of "I Live in Trafalgar Square" to dips into the songbooks of the Kinks ("See My Friends"), Squeeze ("Tempted"), and Bowling for Soup ("1985"). Among the highlights are the soulful tenderness of the 17th century's "Bonnie St. Johnstone," a haunting "Shenandoah," a samba arrangement of Cole Porter's "Night and Day," and a deliriously rocking rendition of the Easybeats' "Friday on My Mind." --Don McLeese