Linda Thompson leads a salute to Britain’s music halls of days gone by

By Bruce Sylvester

In the 1970s and early ’80s, dusky-voiced Linda Thompson with her singer/writer/guitarist husband Richard won cult status for their dark discs echoing trad folk amid the rock.

She was born Linda Pettifer in London on August 23, 1947. When she was six, her parents moved the family back to their native Scotland. After growing up in Glasgow, she returned to London for university. Gravitating to its folk clubs, she sang as Linda Peters. She and Richard (whom she wed in 1972) had three children: Muna, singer/writer/producer Teddy, and Kami, who sings with her husband James Walbourne in the Rails.

Shoot Out the Lights (1982) marked the fiery end of her and Richard’s marriage and musical collaborations. The breakup fed into pain-drenched songs each subsequently wrote. In 1984, she sang in National Theatre’s production of medieval mystery plays. Her solo debut album, 1985’s One Clear Moment, included “Telling Me Lies” (her co-write with Betsy Cook), which garnered a 1987 Grammy nomination for Best Country Song after Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris covered it on Trio.

Then dysphonia (a condition impacting her voice and ability to sing) kept her from putting out albums until drolly titled Fashionably Late in 2002. Her most recent solo, Won’t Be Long Now, came out on Pettifer Sounds in 2013.

Flashback to 2005, when she organized My Mother Doesn’t Know I’m on the Stage, a salute to Britain’s music hall entertainment of the 19th and 20th centuries offering plenty of laughter with tears too. On stage at the Lyric Hammersmith in London, its performers included son Teddy, son-in-law Walbourne, and family friends such as Martha Wainwright, actor Colin Firth, and, from the trans community, Justin Vivian Bond. Now, fashionably late, a CD of the show has been released on Omnivore Records.

Here Linda Thompson talks with Goldmine via email about music halls and more.

Goldmine: Is the CD’s humor especially British (say, the title track and “I Might Learn to Love Him Later On”)?

Linda Thompson: Let’s take “I Might Learn to Love Him Later On” about a young women marrying a rich older man. Is that British? Ask Melania. Continue reading


Little Tich and his Big Boot Dance 

Filmed in 1900 and released 1903, this film directed by Clément Maurice, shows the English performer Little Tich performing his famous ‘Big Boot Dance’.

Born Harry Relph, Little Tich was a 4 foot 6 inch (137 cm) tall English music hall comedian and dancer best known for his seemingly gravity-defying routine accomplished by the wearing of boots with soles 28 inches (71 cm) long. Originally gaining fame as a “blackface” artist, promoters on his 1887 U.S. tour made him drop the act (fearing the British accent would ruin the “illusion”) and so in its place Little Tich developed and perfected his Big Boot Dance, a full 100 years before Michael Jackson would lean in similar fashion for his “Smooth Criminal” music video. Returning to England in the 1890s, Little Tich made his West End debut in the Drury Lane pantomimes and toured Europe before setting up his own theatre company in 1895. He continued to star in popular shows until his death from a stroke in 1928 at the age of 60.

Source: Little Tich and his Big Boot Dance (1900) – The Public Domain Review