1952 Vincent Black Lightning

I can’t get this song out of my head.   It’s on my new Richard Thompson Live @ Austin City Limits CD, and although it’s one of his older tunes, it’s timeless.  

Oh says Red Molly to James That’s a fine motorbike.
A girl could feel special on any such like”
Says James to Red Molly “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 favourite colour scheme”
And he pulled her on behind and down to Boxhill they did ride

Oh says James to Red Molly “Here’s a ring for your right hand
But I’ll tell you in earnest I’m a dangerous man.
For 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
He 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 Greeves won’t do,
Ah, they don’t have a soul like a Vincent 52”
Oh he reached for her hand and he slipped her the keys
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.

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9 Responses to “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”


  1. 1 Simonne August 6, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    Wow, the lyrics made me cry! Wasn’t expecting that! Thanks OB, loved it!

    I know! This seemed especially suitable for a melancholoy Monday.

  2. 2 poseidonsmuse August 6, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    As a kindred red-head to that girl in the song…I saw myself sidling up to Jame’s side as he handed me the keys to his Vincent 52…a decadent year that was too (I would kiss his cheek as he drew a dying breath…). Richard Thompson is a magical lyricist. “Red hair and black leather, my favourite colour scheme” – that is simply gorgeous. Thank you OB. That was really special…

  3. 3 Deb August 7, 2007 at 5:09 am

    Aw, that made me want to cry too. And it seems a good song for a terrible tuesday (since I missed hearing it yesterday) as well as a melancholy monday!

  4. 4 observantbystander August 7, 2007 at 5:47 am

    Yeah, this one was for the girls. And how I would love to ride on the back of such a magnificent bike.

  5. 5 V- August 7, 2007 at 5:58 am

    Troy’s got some Richard Thompson, I need to pull them out and listen. I really like this one. Perfect music to listen to on the way to Sturgis. I’ll have those bikers all romanticized in my mind by the time I get to South Dakota.

  6. 6 prisonmike August 7, 2007 at 9:13 am

    I must confess, I’ve never heard the song that you refer to. However, Vincents were (and still are)the stuff of legend in the motorcycle community. Andi and I recently attended the Heart of America Vintage Motorcycle show, (at her insistance, natch!)and several Vincents were there. A couple of Black Shadows and a Rapide if I recall. No Black Lightnings though.
    Lightnings were specially made for racing with rearset pegs, lightning through liberal use of magnesium and enhanced horsepower. Only about 30 were made. Until the Z1 Kawasaki of 1972, the Vincent Black Lightning was the fastest production motorcycle in the world. It would approach 150 mph.
    Vincent HRD was dead by the mid 1950’s. Cheaper cars and the public’s fear of hooliganism associated with bikes killed the company.
    I probably told you much more than you wanted to know, but your article title intrigued me.

  7. 7 V- August 7, 2007 at 10:35 am

    Hey Karen, Didn’t there used to be a motorcycle track on Grandad’s farm? I remember an old wooden tower that stood out in a feild and I thought Uncle Tom mentioned something about racing back in the 60’s. Do you know anything about that?

    Boy, do I remember that! I used to have to hang out there with mom & dad every weekend during racing season. We worked concessions there. It was a scrambler track and our uncle Tom convinced Gram & Gramps to do it out on the farm. It was always PACKED with bike people. I can’t remember if it was before or after they traded houses with Jack & Phyl, but I seem to remember doing some award-winning whining about how hot it was, and being allowed to walk up to the house to hang out – and I remember it being the one Mike lives in now. The track was in an unused field on the same side of the road as Mike’s and your mom’s house, about halfway between there and the farm house. Anyway, I don’t remember how many years that went on – seems like at least a couple. We should ask Tom about it next time we’re all together. Man, I’d forgotten about that!

  8. 8 observantbystander August 7, 2007 at 10:59 am

    Mikie: I looked at pics online last night and man oh man, those were some kick ass bikes. I didn’t know they were so rare, though. Thanks for the info -never too much, Mikie, never too much.

  9. 9 Cop T July 1, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Heard this song performed this past Sunday afternoon by the “Florida Mountain Boys” (a kickass Blue Grass Band) performing at the Limestone Biker Bar in Hardee County Florida. About 70 Harleys and misc. # of riders and no one knew what the fastest production MC was in 1952, the year I was born. The lead singer who played the banjo had asked the question, that no one could answer. They did the song which meant a lot to me as I like all types and kinds of music, except rap and music such as that.
    Molly reminded be of a Redhead I use to date back in my younger years. Never could afford a HD until recently . . . so I bought myself a new FAT BOY.
    This morning, I just had to research the Vincent Black Lighting 1952, hence found this site and Richard Thompson singing the song.
    Ordered the album from Amazon.com

    Great Song – “Keep it in the wind”.


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