1952VBL in The Sunday Times
1/8/2007 (updated 1/8/2007)

Times Readers write about the soundtracks of their lives...

1952 Vincent Black Lightning by Richard Thompson

"Andy Kershaw apparently referred to Richard Thompson as the man who wrote the best song about a motorcycle, despite never having owned one. The song is about red-haired Molly and James, their love of the Vincent Black Lightning of the song’s title, James’s death from gunshot wounds and his gifting of the bike to Molly, as he lies dying and sees “angels on Ariels in leather and chrome”. In 1959, my father bought a 1952 Vincent. Soon the bike was on the road, the sidecar was attached and the whole family set off, with me on the pillion, aged 13 and wearing a flat cap crammed on backwards, held in place by the elastic from my goggles. My father knew exactly where he was heading — the Preston bypass. The first motorway-standard road in Britain had been opened the previous December. Once on the new road, he opened the throttle, and after a few moments he indicated for me to look over his shoulder, which I did, to see the speedometer needle reading 100mph. From that moment, I knew, as Thompson sings, that the Vincent has a soul."

Geoffrey Smith

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