Fergus he builds and builds, yet small is his erection. Fergus has a fine head of hair, when the wind’s in the right directionRichard Thompson
Roughly five years ago, Richard Thompson wrote a Celtic folk ballad about an unscrupulous businessman and his shady dealings in Scotland.
It’s called Fergus Laing and, to say the least, is a little bit cheeky.
“Fergus he builds and builds, yet small is his erection. Fergus has a fine head of hair, when the wind’s in the right direction,” Thompson sings.
There was probably little doubt as to who Fergus Laing was inspired by, even if this rule-bending American businessman wasn’t president yet and the details about his controversial development of a golf course on environmentally sensitive lands were better known in the United Kingdom than North America.
But when Donald Trump took over the White House in 2016, Thompson thought the song might take on a new life.
“I continued to sing it a little bit as he rose to prominence in the political sphere,” says Thompson, in an interview from a tour stop in Wisconsin. “I very quickly realized that I could just not keep up. There was too much information every day. I’d have to write a new verse a day. I just had to stop singing that song because it was out of date immediately.”
A songwriter with a knack for sardonic humour and sharp storytelling, Thompson’s political output includes everything from 1991’s stinging Margaret Thatcher rebuke Mother Knows Best to 2007’s tormented Iraq-war anthem Dad’s Gonna Kill Me.
So it says something about the political atmospheres in both Thompson’s adopted country and his native England, which is currently engulfed in its own circus-like, Brexit-inspired chaos, that the songwriter feels unable to properly reflect them in song.
“The political situation in America and in Britain is so strange and so unprecedented in both countries, you have to be a very nimble songwriter to keep up,” says Thompson, who now lives in Los Angeles. “So far, I haven’t managed to. As much as I like writing political things and deflating political egos, I haven’t managed to keep up lately.”
Fergus Laing is a beast of a man
He stitches up and fleeces
He wants to manicure the world
And see it off in pieces
He likes to build his towers high
He blocks the sun out from the sky
In the penthouse the champagne's dry
And slightly gassy
Fergus Laing, he works so hard
As busy as a bee is
Fergus Laing has 17 friends
All as dull as he is
His 17 friends has 17 wives
All the perfect shape and size
They wag their tails and bat their eyes
Just like Lassie
Fergus he builds and builds
Yet small is his erection
Fergus has a fine head of hair
When the wind's in the right direction
Fergus Laing and his 17 friends
They live inside a bubble
There they withdraw and shut the door
At any sign of trouble
Should the peasants wail and vent
And ask him where the money went
He'll simply say, it's all been spent
On being classy
Fergus' buildings reach the sky
Until you cannot see 'um
He thinks the old stuff he pulls down
Belongs in a museum
His fits are famous on the scene
The shortest fuse, so cruel, so mean
But don't call him a drama queen
Like Shirley Bassey
Fergus Laing he flaunts the law
But one day he'll be wired
And as they drag him off to jail
We'll all shout, "You're fired!"
Still, Thompson is nothing if not prolific. So it’s possible these songs may be pending. In any case, biting political commentary is just one of many colours Thompson has in his songwriting palette. Next month, New West Records will release Thompson’s score for Erik Nelson’s Second World War documentary The Cold Blue. While Thompson is no stranger to soundtrack work, fans might be surprised that it features a relative dearth of guitar. Instead, Thompson enlisted a small chamber orchestra featuring French horns, a string quartet, double bass, oboe, clarinet, harmonica and percussion to musically back Nelson’s film about the brave pilots of the Eighth Air Force.
Meanwhile, as of this week, Thompson is also busily working on songs for both an acoustic album and his next full-band release.
“I’ve got two piles of songs,” Thompson says. “We’ll see which one wins, which one is the next record.” [ . . . ]
Source CALGARY HERALD: Richard Thompson brings 50 years of music to Bella Concert Hall | Calgary Herald