This song is from YouTube performed by Thompson, although a stronger version is done on a cover by folk singer Greg Brown not there.
Said Red Molly to James that's a fine motorbike
A girl could feel special on any such like
Said James to Red Molly, well my hat's off to you
It's a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952
And I've seen you at the corners and cafes it seems
Red hair and black leather, my favorite color scheme
And he pulled her on behind
And down to Box Hill they did ride
Said James to Red Molly, here's a ring for your right hand
But I'll tell you in earnest I'm a dangerous man
I've fought with the law since I was seventeen
I robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine
Now I'm 21 years, I might make 22
And I don't mind dying, but for the love of you
And if fate should break my stride
Then I'll give you my Vincent to ride
Come down, come down, Red Molly, called Sergeant McRae
For they've taken young James Adie for armed robbery
Shotgun blast hit his chest, left nothing inside
Oh, come down, Red Molly to his dying bedside
When she came to the hospital, there wasn't much left
He was running out of road, he was running out of breath
But he smiled to see her cry
And said I'll give you my Vincent to ride
Says James, in my opinion, there's nothing in this world
Beats a 52 Vincent and a red headed girl
Now Nortons and Indians and Greeveses won't do
They don't have a soul like a Vincent 52
He reached for her hand and he slipped her the keys
He said I've got no further use for these
I see angels on Ariels in leather and chrome
Swooping down from heaven to carry me home
And he gave her one last kiss and died
And he gave her his Vincent to ride
As noted in the headline, the search for the great working class love song, was prompted by a question that I had been asked about before from old North Adamsville high school classmates in the recent past- what music were you listening to back in the day? Back in the early 1960s day when the music was exhausted and we were waiting, waiting impatiently, or I was, for some fresh breeze to come from somewhere when Elvis died (or might as well have), Jerry Lee was busted up with some second cousin, Chuck was out of circulation for messing with Mister’s women, and we were stuck with a batch of songs and singers who made us want to head back to mother womb 1940s music that at least had good melodies. Well, for me at least that subject is totally exhausted. I no longer want to hear about how you fainted over Teen Angel, Johnny Angel, or Earth Angel. Christ there were more angels around then than could fit on the head of a needle or fought it out to the death in John Milton’s epic revolutionary poem from the seventeenth century , Paradise Lost.
Moreover, I have had enough of You're Gonna Be Sorry, I'm Sorry, and Who's Sorry Now. What was there to be sorry about, except maybe some minute hurt feelings, some teenage awkward didn’t know how to deal with some such situation or, in tune with today’s theme, some mistake that reflected our working class-derived lacks, mainly lacks of enough time, energy and space to think things over without seven thousand parents and siblings breaking the stream. And a little discretionary dough would have helped(dough for Saturday night drive-ins, drive-in movies, hell, even Saturday night dance night down by the shore everything’s all right) to take some teen angel somewhere other than the damn walk to seawall down Adamsville Beach.
And no more of Tell Laura I Love Her, Oh Donna, and I Had A Girl Her Name Was Joanne, or whatever woman's name comes to mind. Old sweet woman, sweet mama. sweet outlaw mama, Red Molly, all dolled up in her black leather (and set off by her flaming red hair making every boy dream, dream restless night dreams, until James took over and then you had best not look, not if you wanted to keep your place in the sun, or breathe to find your own leather tight woman. Guys tried, guys tried and failed as guys will, so be forewarned. ) put them all to shame, yah, puts them all to shame. So it is time, boys and girls, to move on to other musical influences from our more mature years, say from our post-traumatic stress high school years.
But why, as the headline suggests, the search for the great working class love song? Well, hello! Our old town, our old beloved North Adamsville, was (and is, as far as I can tell from a very recent trip back to the old place) a quintessential beat down, beat around, beat six ways to Sunday working class town (especially before the deindustrialization of America which for North Adamsville meant the closing of the shipyards that has left it now as a basically low-end white collar service-oriented working class town, dotted with ugly, faux-functional white collar office-style parks to boot). The great majority of us came from working class or working poor homes. Most songs, especially popular songs, then and now, reflect a kind of "one size fits all" lyric that could apply to anyone, anywhere. What I was looking for was songs that in some way reflected that working class ethos that is still in our bones, that cause our hunger even now, whether we recognize it or not.
Needless to say, since I have posed the question, I have my choice already prepared. As will become obvious, if you have read the lyrics, this song reflects my take on the corner boy, live for today, be free for today, male angst in the age old love problem. However, any woman is more than free to choice songs that reflect her female angst angle (ouch, for that awkward formulation) on the working class hit parade.
And a fellow female classmate did proposing Bruce Springsteen’s version of Jersey Girl and here is my response:
Come on now, after reading these lyrics above is any mere verbal profession of undying love, any taking somebody on a ride at some two-bit carnival going to make the cut. I am thinking here of another working class song suggested to me by a female classmate , Bruce Springsteen's cover version of Tom Waits’ Jersey Girl where they go down to the Jersey seashore to some amusement park to while the night away in good working class style, cotton candy, salt water taffy, win your lady a doll, ride the Ferris wheel, tunnel of love, hot dog, then sea breeze love , just like our Paragon Park nights, some buying of a gold ring like every guy on the make is promising to do for his honey if she…, or some chintzy, faded flowers that melt away in the night, or with the morning dew going to mean anything? Hell, the guy here, bravo James, is giving her, his Red Molly, HIS bike, his bike, man. No Wild One, Easy Rider, no women need apply bike night. HIS bike. Case closed.
And you think, big deal he gave her his bike as a dying declaration, that such an action is so-so and just a guy trinket love thing, not the stuff of eternity. No way. I KNOW of at least one female, noted above in the dedication, who might relate to this song. I also know at least one male, who shall remain nameless, who snuck out the back door of old North Adamsville High with another classmate, a female classmate, to ride his bike during school hours back in the day. So don't think I have forgotten my medication, or something, when I call this a great working class love song. Romeo and Juliet by what’s his name is nothing but down in the ditch straight punk stuff compared to this. And I repeat, for the slow learners here, the guy, my boy, my corner boy James, in the song gave her HIS bike, man. That is love, no question.