"I think there are too many people on the planet and the rate of population increase is unsustainable and something will happen to change that through necessity. I liken us to the dinosaurs… they got too big for their environment, ate up all the food and got wiped out. I know that’s dramatic, but the way we live just cannot last. It’s a shame because it is a wonderful world."
Chris Thompson: The Message of Music
Best known as the lead vocalist for Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and their major hit “Blinded By The Light,” legendary singer Chris Thompson has penned a seething new message about the current US administration with his single “Blood On His Hands” (released digitally on October 5th). Recording it because of the lockdown situation was difficult so Chris first put down a rough drum track and started recording the guitars. He farmed the bass part out to an old band mate from New Zealand, Sid Limbert, drums were done in Norway by Steinar Krokstad. Keyboards were done in Belgium by the 3rd writer of the music Pieter Akkermans. Background vocals and lap steel were done in California by Jesse Siebenberg and other vocals in Spain by Hille Belemans and in England by Lance Ellington. Chris’s vocals were done at home. Although complicated, he was really happy how it turned out. The track was mixed in Belgium where Chris resides with his wife and two daughters. Chris Thompson’s vocals made a permanent mark on the landscape of modern rock with the release of “Blinded by the Light” with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band in 1976, a No. 1 hit throughout the world then and still on worldwide constant radio rotation today. He enjoyed continued success with The Earth Band with 5 more top ten singles in England and Europe. Well known for his high-energy vocal powers and moving ballads, his talents have been used by the likes of Jeff Wayne, Queen, Elton John, Tina Turner, Alan Parsons, Jan Hammer and Sarah Brightman. Chris recorded and toured with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band from 1974 to 1999 and has recorded 7 solo albums, including 2 albums with his band Night, with one top 5 singles in the USA, “If You Remember Me” and one top 20 single “Hot Summer Night.” In 1984 Chris worked with Doobie Brother, Patrick Simmons on his solo album “Arcade.”
Chris was involved in The Freddie Mercury Tribute concert as vocal support to all the artists throughout rehearsal and the event (artists included David Bowie, Annie Lennox, George Michael, Lisa Minnelli and many others) and at the Mandela Concert in Cape Town in 2003, where he sang “The Show Must Go On” with Queen. Chris has written songs for or with The Doobie Brothers, Roger Daltry, Ray Charles, Rita Coolidge, Michael McDonald, Patrick Simmons, Bonnie Tyler, Isaac Hayes, Jan Hammer, Jennifer Rush, Heart, John Farnham, Harold Faltermeyer, David Foster, Elkie Brooks, Jane Wiedlin and Starship. Vocals on record with Tina Turner, Elton John, Roger Daltry, Brian May, Ozzie Ozbourne, Queen, Def Leppard, The London Symphony Orchestra, Sarah Brightman, Toto, Mike Oldfield, Alan Parsons, Jeff Wayne’s “The War of the Worlds” and Mavis Staples. In 2020 Chris wrote and sang the end title song for “After Arabia” a new film about Laurence, which won best song at the Los Vegas film festival in July. He continues to work on his Musical called ‘DO IT FOR LOVE’ based on his original story, with all original new music, which will have it’s premiere when theaters return to normal!
Interview by Michael Limnios Photos by Alex Vanhee
Special Thanks: Chris Thompson & Bill James (Glass Onyon PR)
How has the Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?
Obviously, I was greatly influenced by the great writers as I was growing up. From the beginning with skiffle and folk music, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger and the early Blue legends, speaking out through songs about the injustices in the world at that time. Then Bob Dylan, Neil Young etc. writing anti- establishment themes, so I suppose those songs and the rebels in rock music like Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendriks, the Who, the Pretty Things and the Rolling Stones made me realize music has and always will have something to say about what is happening in the world. It all helped me see through the smoke screens that some politicians hide behind.
How do you describe your music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?
I have always written from my heart and my experience, I don’t think I have a music philosophy as such, apart from trying to make my songs as good as possible and stay true to myself. My creative drive comes from within and what is happening around me.
(Chris Thompson /Photo by Alex Vanhee)
Which meetings have been the most important experiences? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?
I think working with Manfred has probably had the greatest influence on me as a singer, having a Number one with Blinded By the light was such a great experience, especially for me growing up in a small town in New Zealand, it was a dream come true. Working with Jeff Wayne on War of The Worlds was where I began to be interested in outside projects and Jeff also taught me a lot about my voice and how to use it.
It was great to sing with Elton and Alan Parsons and all the other people I have sung with. Singing ‘You’re the Voice’ with Alan in Holland to 170,000 people, and sharing the stage with Joe Cocker, one of my heroes has to be way up there.
Even this year winning the best song at the Las Vegas Film awards for ‘After Arabia’ something I have never experienced before. So, I guess I have been very lucky working with so many great people, trying to learn something from each experience.
What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
I miss new bands that really have something to say with great songs. I’m sure there are some, I just don’t get to hear them. Bands just don’t have time any more to play and develop their style and songwriting skills over 6 years or 3 albums, there just is not the money to do that anymore.
I fear rock/ pop music will disappear completely, because so much is available for free it’s just not possible to make enough money to live, so unless something changes and the younger generation get interested again in something that is longer that 15 seconds it will die, just as all the musicians who created our music business are.
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
I would like to see record companies invest money in young talent and stick with them and nurture them, so music could really live again.
What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?
Nothing comes easy, but don’t give up, just keep believing in what you do, and even if nothing happen at least you have given it your best shot!
"I have always written from my heart and my experience, I don’t think I have a music philosophy as such, apart from trying to make my songs as good as possible and stay true to myself. My creative drive comes from within and what is happening around me." (Chris Thompson /Photo by Alex Vanhee)
What is the impact of music on the political and socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?
I can only speak for myself. I want people to listen to the lyric in this song ‘Blood on His Hands’ and vote that man out of the White House, for the good of the whole world.
In general terms, hopefully music can help heal some wounds that exist in our society and people can live peacefully with one another.
What do you think the major changes will be in the near or far future of the world? What do you think is key to a life well lived?
I think there are too many people on the planet and the rate of population increase is unsustainable and something will happen to change that through necessity. I liken us to the dinosaurs… they got too big for their environment, ate up all the food and got wiped out. I know that’s dramatic, but the way we live just cannot last. It’s a shame because it is a wonderful world.
The key to a life well lived for me is love what you do and enjoy the simple things that life brings. Never expect too much.
How started the thought of Blood On His Hand? What was the hardest part of writing a song about the current US administration?
It was born out of a conversation with my 88 year old uncle in New Zealand, we were having a video call and discussing how things were in Belgium where I live, as regard the Covid 19 cases Eventually we moved on to the situation in the United States and then on to President Trump and his handling of the situation and my uncle said ‘ that man has blood on his hands, and that’s how the title was born, Then I discovered amongst my current ideas, this riff verse and chorus that fitted totally with the idea and the title sang perfectly with it. We recorded all the musical parts with friends from all over the world. Then we worked on the words, saying exactly how we felt and that’s what you hear now.
I think the hardest part was writing the lyrics, making sure it was to the point, but sounding good when sung and that the point we were trying to make could be clearly understood.
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