On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Richard Thompson – 1952 Vincent Black Lightning (1991)
“1952 Vincent Black Lightning” is a song by guitarist Richard Thompson from his 1991 album Rumor and Sigh . It tells the story of a thief named James and the girl Red Molly whom he charms with a ride on his 1952 Vincent Black Lightning motorcycle.
Welcome to 1991, dear reader. We begin this new year by leaving Mali and returning once more to the UK. We find ourselves in London and in the company of Richard Thompson. He has previously been on our list as a member of Fairport Convention and then working in the 1970s with his then wife, Linda. It’s now 1991 and Richard Thompson is solo and has just released his sixth album, Rumor and Sigh, and from there 1001 Songs have gone with the track – 1952 Vincent Black Lightning.
The title refers to a rare motorbike of which less than 100 were made but in the song the bike brings a young couple together. James is the owner of the bike and he has his sights set on Red Molly. It sounds like a lovely romance is in the air but James is a bit of a tearaway and always ends up on the wrong side of the law. His luck eventually runs out and Red Molly is taken to the hospital to see her dying lover who has been shot by the police. Before he dies he gives her his motorbike, one final token of his love.
1952 Vincent Black Lightning is a simple song in terms of structure with essentially Richard Thompson along with an acoustic guitar and relying on his voice and his words to see him through. Luckily, it all works very well, especially when you have a carefully laid out story like this. The song soon became a fan favourite but was never released as a single strangely enough. Thompson is now in his seventies but continues to perform.
Favourite songs so far: