Other Peoples' Songs Request Line: Richard Thompson
Here's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning"
Thanks, everyone, so much for chiming in on yesterday’s cover request thread. Lots and lots of great ideas out there. Sara J from Tulsa, somewhere down the thread, called out Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” (in reply to Laura Horowitz’s more general RT request) and that seemed like a good place to start.
I might’ve first heard this song from Mary Lou Lord; she does a great version. The Decemberists opened for Mary Lou our first show in New York City, at the Knitting Factory. It was only a couple years later that I fell into my full Fairport Convention/Richard Thompson swoon and realized “Vincent” was one of his songs. I’ve since tried to learn the elaborate tuning and fingerpicking that makes his original version what it is — but with limited success. It always kept me from doing a version of it myself, though I’d strum it here and there. Song Exploder listeners may remember that I at least got one of my own songs out of my failed attempts to learn “Vincent”; “Once In My Life” owes its life to the very odd tuning that Richard uses on his song.
Anyway, here’s my strummy version of “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” certainly one of the greatest songs ever written about a motorcycle, and perhaps one of the greatest songs every written, full stop. And you know what? If I had meticulously got his picking pattern down, then it wouldn’t really be a cover, would it? It’d be a karaoke song. Remember that, when you feel daunted by the technical fireworks in a song. Make it your own! It’s better that way.
Says James, in my opinion, there ain’t nothing in this world
Beats a ‘52 Vincent and a red headed girl
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