Friday, December 25, 2009

*In Search Of The Great Working Class Love Song- Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning"

Click on the title to link to a “YouTube” film clip of Richard Thompson (yes, that Richard Thompson from way back in Fairport Convention days) performing his classic tale of true working class (maybe lumpen?) love, “ 1952 Vincent Black Lightning”.

Markin comment:

This entry started life as a question posed by one of my class officer high school classmates with who I am in occasional contact, and who has this nasty habit of asking me to write questions in her incessant quest to know every flimsy detail of what, if anything, goes through of the minds of our well-aged fellow classmates. I have only myself to blame on this one though because I started off a couple of years ago actually performing this ‘service’ when I, innocently, thought there was some limit to such inquiries. In any case, as is my wont I turned her question around slightly to reflect the high tone class-struggle nature of this site, and in appreciation of the ethos of our old beaten down working class town.


Yes, I know, just when you thought it was safe to, discretely, peruse this page without having to be bombarded by some outlandish commentary from a fellow classmate here he is again asking those infernal, eternal questions. Well, yes. For some time now I have been doing a little of this and a little of that, including some writing, in order to make ends meet. But now I have time for some serious writing and so it goes.

Today’s subject is prompted by a question that I have been asked about before - what music were you listening to back in the day? Well, for me at least that subject is exhausted. I no longer want to hear about how you fainted over “Teen Angel,” Johnny Angel,” or “Earth Angel”. Moreover, enough of “You’re Gonna Be Sorry,” “I’m Sorry,” and “Who’s Sorry Now”. 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. It is time, boys and girls, to move on to other musical influences from our more mature years.

But why, as the headline suggests, the search for the great working class love song? Well, hello! Our old town was (and is, as far as I can tell from a very recent trip to the old place) a quintessential working class town (especially before the deindustrialization of America). At least the great majority of us came from working class or working poor homes. Most songs, especially popular songs, reflect a kind of “one size fits all” lyric that could apply to anyone. What I am looking for is songs that in some way reflect that working class ethos that is still in our bones, 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, once you read the lyrics, this song reflects my take on the male angst in the age old love problem. However, any woman classmate is more than free to choice songs that reflect her female angst angle (ouch, for that awkward formulation) on the class hit parade.

1952 Vincent Black Lightning-Richard Thompson

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

Come on now, after reading these lyrics is any mere verbal profession of undying love, any taking somebody on a ride to some two-bit carnival ("Jersey Girl"), some buying a gold ring ("James Alley Blues")or some chintzy flowers going to mean anything? Hell, the guy is giving her his BIKE. Case closed.

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