One thing about taking a wander down the vinyl canyons is that you are reminded how short albums often were.
This Richard and Linda Thompson classic from 1982 has eight tracks and, unlike some CD versions, comes without assorted outtakes and live recordings. In an interview once, Thompson told me that all the bonus tracks added to CDs had been left off originally for a reason: they weren’t good enough.
Shoot Out The Lights is often seen as one of the great break-up albums. This is because it was recorded as the couple were splitting up, although many of the songs had been written a couple of years earlier. What is true, however, is that Richard and Linda were obliged to carry on touring, appearing on stage together each night as their relationship fell apart.
The album is produced by Joe Boyd, but it didn’t start out that way. Gerry Rafferty stepped into help the couple by funding and producing the album, but Richard Thompson wasn’t happy with the results, so the Rafferty-produced version was never released. Instead, folk-rock supremo Boyd took over, giving the album the feel Thompson wanted.
The songs do seem sustained by the tension of a failing relationship, with titles such as Don’t Renege on Our Love, Walking On A Wire, and Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed.
As for the title track, that remains a Thompson classic, and one he plays still today (witness the amazing guitar work-out on Acoustic Classics, 2014). It’s a great song, full of anger and pyrotechnic dazzle. If Richard played better than ever on this album, Linda sang more sweetly than ever, and the combination is affecting, especially given the marital context.
There is folky fun here too on Back Street Slide, and two further classics, both playing to the power of gravity: Walking On A Wire and Wall of Death.
And here’s a nerdy point: the 1982 version on Hannibal Records has a different track listing on the album cover than on the album itself: took me years to work that one out.