Richard Thompson

1952 Vincent Black Lightning

Composed by Richard Thompson

Song Review by

As one of the founding members of Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson did more than his fair share to keep the spirit of traditional British folk music alive, and as a songwriter he'd long displayed a flair for adapting the tenets of the style to his own contemporary works. He rarely did it better than on "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" from his 1991 album Rumor and Sigh, which in the manner of an old English ballad tells the tale of James and Molly, two motorcycle enthusiasts who fall in love after they're brought together by their shared enthusiasm for James' bike, a 1952 Vincent Black Lightning. While some songwriters would be eager to play such a scenario for laughs, Thompson avoids this; while his tongue edges slightly into his cheek at times, at the core this is a song about love and commitment, and Thompson plays that hand for all it's worth. As the outlaw James meets his fate, he bestows upon the woman he loves the only gift he has to give -- the keys to his bike -- with the words "In my opinion, there's nothing in this world/ Beats a '52 Vincent and a redheaded girl," and if you don't think such a scene could bring a lump to your throat, try listening to Thompson perform the song and you might just change your mind. The song quickly became a fan favorite, and with good reason -- it takes a story old as the hills (good woman falls for noble criminal) and brings it into the present day without robbing it of a bit of it's emotional power -- and it has a killer guitar part to boot.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Rumor and Sigh 1991 Capitol 4:43
No Image 1991 Capitol
No Image 1993 Capitol
Columbia Gold 1994 Soundboard Productions 5:30
Troubadours of British Folk, Vol. 3: An Evolving Tradition 1995
Various Artists
Rhino 4:33
Two Letter Words 1996 Beeswing 5:04
Action Packed: The Best of the Capitol Years 2001 Capitol/EMI Records / Capitol 4:42
No Image 2004
Various Artists
Live in Providence 2004 Spin Art
Live from Austin TX [DVD] 2005 New West
RT: The Life and Music of Richard Thompson 2006 Free Reed Records 4:53
Rough Trade Shops: Singer Songwriter 2006
Various Artists
Walking on a Wire: 1968-2009 2009 Shout! Factory 4:42
101 Dinner Party Songs 2009
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution
No Image 2012 Beeswing
Acoustic Classics 2014 Beeswing 5:12
E-Town Live
Various Artists
No Image
Various Artists
No Image EMCD 4:54
blue highlight denotes editor's pick