Richard & Linda Thompson – Shoot Out The Lights

15th April 2024 · 1980s, 1982, Music

For years I’ve heard people – usually musicians – say that Richard Thompson is one of the greatest guitarists of all time. And for years I’ve struggled to find any records that convince me of that. Until now.

His searing electric guitar slices through the title track of their sixth and final album, Shoot Out The Lights, like a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting straight to the bone of a song filled with anger and dread.

It was written and first recorded in 1980 for an album produced by Gerry Rafferty but shelved after Richard fell out with him over his perfectionist approach.

Two years later Richard and Linda reconvened with Joe Boyd, by which time Linda was heavily pregnant and their marriage was falling apart, and re-recorded the album.

I’ve always thought of Linda as a British counterpart to Emmylou Harris, not only in possession of a beautiful voice but with an instinctual gift for harmony that makes anyone she sings with sound better.

Born and raised on the Woodberry Down Estate, in the very same road in Hackney where I reside, Linda Pettifer first appeared on record back in 1968, singing a duet of Dylan’s You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere in a folk-pop arrangement as Paul McNeill & Linda Peters.

More representative of a singer who was a regular on the folk circuit was her duet with her flatmate Sandy Denny on a version of  The Everly Brothers’ song When Will I Be Loved? that appeared on a 1972 album by a kind of British folk supergroup (including Richard Thompson) called The Bunch. 

It was a far cry from the full-blown band sound on Shoot Out The Lights created by most of the first line-up of Fairport Convention: Richard on lead guitar, accordion and dulcimer, and his fellow Fairport members Simon Nicol on rhythm guitar and Dave Mattacks on drums, Dave Pegg on bass – though it’s Pete Zorn on this track – with The Watersons on backing vocals.