The Best Songs: 1952 Vincent Black Lightning by Richard Thompson

A simple boy meets girl story, somewhat complicated by the presence of a motorcycle
– Richard Thompson

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. Despite not being issued as a single, became a fan favourite and is one of Thompson’s most highly acclaimed solo compositions.

Some months ago me and some friends had a “music night”. Music Nights are gatherings where we pick a theme and each of us bring a playlist with 5 songs (and a few back up choices), we play our songs in turn, say why we picked the song and what it means to us. I’ve discovered many great songs and artists on these nights. This particular night the theme was “Story Songs” and one of my songs was 1952 Vincent Black Lightning by the great Richard Thompson. This made me listen, and “go into” the song even harder than I’d done before. What a great story song it is, a masterpiece.

“’Vincent’ started with the frustration of coming from Britain and wanting to reflect British culture. It’s hard to find mythological elements from my lifetime to build a song around, because American culture has been so dominant. The mythical places are Laramie and Cheyenne. ‘Going Back to Lancaster’ doesn’t have the same ring to it. It’s important to make music that incorporates elements from where you come from, so you’re contributing something of yourself into the music. If you’re from England and you’re writing about the Mississippi Delta, there’s something missing. You can be a good imitator, but what are you bringing to the process?”
– Richard Thompson, 2001

“When I was a kid, that was always the exotic bike, that was always the one, the one that you went ‘ooh, wow’. I’d always been looking for English ideas that didn’t sound corny, that had some romance to them, and around which you could pin a song. And this song started with a motorcycle, it started with the Vincent. It was a good lodestone around which the song could revolve”
– Richard Thompson to BBC radio

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Classic concert: Van Morrison The Wonderland Tapes June 22, 1977, NL (video and audio)

For years the best known set of Van’s brief collaboration with Dr. John in 1977 has widely circulated only in incomplete form and mediocre sound on a bootleg known as Amsterdam’s Tapes. Now, thanks to the persistence, dedication and collaboration of VLS (vanlose stairway) members and friends, this rare show has finally been assembled from the best sources available to us, complete as broadcast on Dutch FM radio. After 20+ years, we are sure fans will agree that it is about time!

Musicians:
Van Morrison: Lead vocals, piano
Dr. John: Piano, organ, back-up vocals
Mick Ronson: Lead guitar, back-up vocals
Mo Foster: Bass
Peter van Hooke: Drums

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September 26: Abbey Road by The Beatles is 50 years old today!

beatles abbey road

Released 26 September 1969
Recorded 22 February – 20 August 1969,EMI, Olympic and Trident Studios,London
Genre Rock
Length 47:23
Label Apple
Producer George Martin


Abbey Road
 is the 11th studio album released by the English rock band The Beatles. It is their last recorded album, although Let It Be was the last album released before the band’s dissolution in 1970. Work on Abbey Road began in April 1969, and the album was released on 26 September 1969 in the United Kingdom, and 1 October 1969 in the United States.

Abbey Road is widely regarded as one of The Beatles’ most tightly constructed albums, although the band was barely operating as a functioning unit at the time. Despite the tensions within the band, Abbey Road was released to near universal acclaim and is considered to be one of the greatest albums of all time. In 2012, Abbey Road was voted 14th on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. In 2009, readers of the magazine also named Abbey Road the greatest Beatles album.

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BBC documentary: Elvis the Rebirth of the King (2017)

The widely accepted Elvis narrative is that the Vegas period was the nadir of his career, but this film argues that Elvis reached his peak both as a singer and performer in the first few years of his Vegas period. He became, in those short years, the greatest performer on earth. The film tracks this five-year renaissance with some of his key musical and artistic collaborators of the period, including the creator of his most memorable jumpsuits, to celebrate the greatest pop reinvention of all time. (BBC) Continue reading “BBC documentary: Elvis the Rebirth of the King (2017)”

Gene Clark sings Bob Dylan

Harold Eugene “Gene” Clark was an American singer-songwriter and founding member of the folk rock band the Byrds. He was the Byrds’ principal songwriter between 1964 and early 1966, writing most of the band’s best-known originals from this period, including “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”, “She Don’t Care About Time”, and “Set You Free This Time”.

Although he did not achieve commercial success as a solo artist, Clark was in the vanguard of popular music during much of his career, prefiguring developments in such disparate subgenres as psychedelic rock, baroque pop, newgrass, country rock, and alternative country. We are very fond of Gene Clark and we think he is an overlooked artist.

He has done some incredible Bob Dylan covers, we have collected some of them here (some alone and some with others):

Mr Tambourine Man, from the Gene Clark album Firebyrd and The Byrds classic rendition :

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September 20: Everyday/Peggy Sue the single was released by Buddy Holly in 1957

peggy_sue_nor_va_jak_1957

Peggy Sue” is a rock and roll song written by Buddy Holly, Jerry Allison, and Norman Petty, recorded  early July of 1957. The Crickets are not mentioned on label of the single (Coral 9-61885), but band members Joe B. Mauldin (string bass) and Jerry Allison (drums) played on the recording. This recording was also released on Holly’s eponymous 1958 album.

The song went to number 3 on the Billboard Top 100 chart in 1957.

In 1999, National Public Radio (NPR) included “Peggy Sue” on the NPR 100, a list of the “100 most important American musical works of the 20th century”. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. Acclaimed Music ranked it as the 106th greatest song of all time and the third best song of 1957. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 197 on its list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” in 2010.  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum placed the song on its list of the “Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll”.

Peggy Sue (tv performance from Dec. 1957):

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