Dylan’s Once only file “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” “Blue Moon” “Weeping Willow”

By Tony Attwood

Everyone who knows Richard Thompson’s incredible contribution to popular music knows the 1952 Vincent Black Lightning.  The song was included in Time magazine’s “All Time 100 Songs” list of the best English-language musical compositions released between 1923 and 2011 – and indeed in 2011 Richard Thompson was given an OBE.  This song comes from the Rumour and Sigh album.

You might also know the work of Richard Thompson through Fairport Convention and through Richard and Linda Thompson.

Bob played the song just once (hence an inclusion here) on July 14 2013 in Clarkston MI

Of course one of the great problems with featuring once only performances is that the song and the performance may be wonderful, but sometimes bits of the recording are not so good, but I beg you to stay with this and ignore the voice that occasionally pops up.  It is so worth it.

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 cafés it seems
Red hair and black leather, my favourite colour scheme"
And he pulled her on behind
And down to Box Hill they did ride

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
I've fought with the law since I was seventeen
I robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine
Now I'm twenty-one years, I might make twenty-two
And I don't mind dying, but for the love of you
And if fate should break my stride
Then I 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 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

18 June 1999 with Paul Simon, Concord CA


I love the way the guys got together and played making it sound as if they had not rehearsed when they apparently had.   You only get one minute 32 seconds of this, but still it is great fun.

Blue Moon of Kentucky was written in 1945 by Bill Monroe and recorded by his band, the Blue Grass Boys and is described as one of the greatest country songs of all time.  And as the composer says in the intro below, Elvis recorded it too.

And one more, Weeping Willow

A different Bob again!  November 17 1993, at the Supper Club New York.  He followed this rendition with “Delia’s Gone” and “Jim Jones at Botany Bay”.

This is a Blind Boy Fuller song,

Man, that weeping willow, moaning like a dove
Weeping willow moaning like a dove
Man, there's a gal up the country I sure do love

If you see my baby tell her to hurry home
You see my baby, tell her hurry home
I ain't had no lovin' since my little girl been gone

Where it ain't no love, ain't no gettin' along,
ain't no love, mama, ain't no love and gettin' along.
My baby treats me so mean and dirty, can't tell right from wrong

Gonna buy me a bulldog, watch you while you sleep
Buy me a bulldog, watch you while you sleep
I have to stop them men from makin' early mornin' creep.

You gonna want my love, mama, some old lonesome day,
You gonna want my love, mama, some old lonesome day,
But it'll be too late, I'll be gone too far away.

Oh, that weeping willow, mourning like a dove
Weeping willow mourning like a dove
Well, there's a gal in the country man I sure do love.

It’s a song that has guitarists tearing their hair out because of the unusual chordal accompaniment.  Here’s the original – it really is a fantastic tune with a gorgeous guitar part.  What I can’t understand is why, having worked on this song Bob would only play it once; it is a super song, and his arrangement is exquisite.  I will never understand this guy no matter how much I listen.

For what it is worth, I think it is really worth listening to Bob’s version again after hearing the original; it gives a greater insight into the song and the process Bob and the band had gone through to get to their version.

This is the second piece in the new “Once only file” series.  If you are enjoying it one tenth as much as I am, scurrying around listening to the once only played songs and tracing the originals, then you are having a good time.  If not, well, I’m still having fun.

And just in case you would like a little more

And down to Box Hill they did ride….

Dylan’s “Once Only” File: 10,000 men and 20/20 Vision

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  1. In reference to “My Version Of You”:

    Oh, bury me under the weeping willow
    Yes, under the weeping willow tree
    So he may know where I am sleeping
    And perhaps he will weep for me
    (Carter Family: Weeping Willow Tree ~ traditional)

  2. loving this new series! keep it going!

    McCartney also did Blue Moon Of Kentucky on his Unplugged show.

  3. Bob performing Weeping Willow- exquisite! Thanks so much for your fine writing/insights and bringing this to my attention. I’ve always loved Blind Boy Fuller’s rendition. Here’s a version with the Hebrew words of a liturgical poem, Yedid Nefesh (Beoved of the Soul) written in the 16th century by Raabi Eliezer Azikri. https://youtu.be/7Pr-CYEWhn0

  4. David, thank you for your kind words – and that link – it’s really gorgeous. I’ll give it a mention on our Facebook page, I’m sure a lot of readers will love it, and may have missed your comment.

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