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An Interview with Chris Thompson

In 1982, I discovered the music of Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. One of the people who clearly stood out of that band was it’s main vocalist, Chris Thompson.

Later I rediscovered him through more of the Earth Band’s music, as well as through other works. One of the most notable was Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds. But also, I heard him leading for Alan Parsons, as well as for his own albums.

I’ve had the honor of having a conversation with Chris, and discovered a very nice person, a man who knows his place, but doesn’t let it get to his head.

Chris started off by reviewing his career. “I joined Manfred Mann’s Earth Band in 1974, and stayed with them until 1997, on and off. I started on the album that had “Blinded by the Light“, which is the song that most people seem to remember when referring to Manfred Mann.

“Then, from 79 to 83 I was in a band called Night. We had a hit with the song “Hot Summer Nights,” which you still hear on the radio.”

Chris has had a very busy career, writing, doing albums, playing concerts, working with such artists as “Ozzy Osbourne, right through to the Doobie Brothers.”

Then there was SAS. Rather than actual touring, SAS played individual gigs. “We’d have three or four different singers, and the musicians that were around us. Each show was unique.”

I asked him about the Alan Parsons session. “It was an interesting experience. It was his (Alan Parsons) first work without Eric Woolfson. It was on the album “Try Anything Once“. The touring was fine, we went to Brazil and around South America, I’d never been there, so that was interesting.

“At first, the show was simply too long. So we had to shorten it, get other hits. They had never been on tour. So they learned that what’s important in the studio is not always important on the road. And what’s important on the road is not always important in the studio. So once we taught them that, everything was fine.”

Having worked with so many people (Manfred Mann, Alan Parsons, Jeff Wayne, Steve Hackett, Ozzy Osbourne, the Doobie Brothers, etc), I asked him whether he was ever in a situation where all he was thinking about was getting out of there.

“I would’ve got the hell out of there. Actually, there was one situation where I did get the hell out of there. At the end of the day, I told them I wasn’t returning the next day. I felt like they were wasting their money.”

About writing for others, I asked him whether people ask him for songs he’s already written or do they want him to write specifically for them. “Trying to write for someone else usually ends up something else. It’s better to give them something I’ve already written.”

Of course, one cannot talk to Chris without discussing Jeff Wayne’s “The War of the Worlds” album. He had nothing but praise about Jeff Wayne and his whole experience with him.

“Jeff Wayne is one of the most talented producer’s in the world! Doing that album, to me, was like being part of rock history. And it was! The album sold eight million copies! And it probably still sells about a half a million copies a year.”

He says that Jeff Wayne worked him harder than anybody else ever has. “I spent the day doing the vocals and, just as I thought I’d done it perfectly, Jeff told me that the next day he wanted to do it all over again, to double-track it!

“He’s such a tremendous person! I can’t say enough of that good album.

“Jeff is such an incredibly talented guy! I was working on another project with him. It was called “Spartacus“. We spent four years working on it. Jeff actually spent eight years on it. Anthony Hopkins was narrating it. Then Sony came in and decided they didn’t like the vocals. They got some unknowns in on it and probably spent more money on the launch than on the whole project.”

To my question about his not being too enthused about Sony (what have I been saying all this time?), his reply was quite direct. “Of course I don’t like them! They wasted four years of my life and eight years of Jeff’s life.”

However, Chris does have a copy of the album as it was, with his vocals. Unfortunately, we cannot hear it…

Now it’s his new album, the first one since 1992. Too long, if you ask me. But then again, he is busy.

But, overall, with such a career, has it been rewarding? “It has, it has! Now I’m sitting down and concentrating on myself.”

Is he really? I wouldn’t have expected him to be a selfish person. He told me he’s going to England for a few weeks. His son is starting his exams. Chris is going over there, just to help him study.