'Josef Locke'
a song by Richard Thompson
performed by Norma Waterson on her album
The Very Thought of You
released June 1999
Read Richard Thompson's lyrics
Cover of Norma's CD - The very thought of youNorma Waterson is one of England's foremost folk singers. In her album `The Very Thought of You', she links old-time tunes with contemporary ones.

After singing Blaze Away - a staple of Josef's repertoire - she sings a rather melancholy one called Josef Locke, based on an incident in Covent Garden, between the UK folk group Fairport Convention and a singer claiming to be Joe Locke.

Intrigued, I wrote to Norma asking her what she knew of the story, and here's her reply:

Dear Peter, I know only a little of the story behind the song. It happened to Fairport Convention after a gig in Covent Garden. Richard Thompson says the man came in and said he was Josef Locke, and that his music was better than theirs.

He proceeded to sing, and Richard says he wasn't bad, but he has no idea if it was him or one of the many imitators of Josef in those days.

He finally got very drunk and was thrown out of the pub.

I am a big fan of the man, as is my mum

Yours, Norma Waterson

UPDATE: December 2005

Richard Thompson recorded his song Josef Locke in 2005 especially for his upcoming box set RT The Life and Music of
Richard Thompson. It's an acoustic version with just the composer singing & accompanying himself on guitar. 2'48"

The liner notes say on page 135:

Joseph Locke
(Thompson - exclusive recording for this set 2005)
Previously unreleased
Also recorded by Norma Waterson

"Never before released by Richard (though he plays lead guitar on Norma Waterson's version), this song was inspired by a real event.
RT:"It was an incident which made a real impression - one of those late night/early mornings in Covent Garden that we talked about...
that curious mix of people; there was this character who claimed to be Josef Locke. I don't know if it was...or if we believed he was. That's not what's important". 

The scene is the all-night pub, open at unearthy hours for the Market Workers and Middle Earthly hours for the underground freaks.
Add opera-goers into the mix, and an Irishman, somewhat worse for drink, making this amazing claim and proving his point by singing
(RT: "As I recall, he wasn't bad"). Eventually, he became too drunk and was evicted. "And there he was, gone". 

Richard wanted to turn his recollections into an appropriate musical form and so wrote an aria, in which his character tells his life story, just as a character in an opera might introduce himself or
reveal his innermost thoughts to the audience. He briefly quotes from a piece by Scarlatti".  

For more Richard Thompson-related information, you can visit this excellent site

Covent garden Covent garden Covent garden
Covent Garden - pictures I took in June 1999
RETURN to the Josef Locke home page