Song Stories

“Shoot Out the Lights”

Richard and Linda Thompson | 1982

Richard and Linda Thompson wrote and recorded Shoot out the Lights, their last and best album together, as their marriage was falling apart, occasioning what producer Joe Boyd called "an elaborate soap opera." Its masterpiece is the title track, a slow, dissonant rocker about a psychotic killer made even more devastating by a pair of masterfully unrestrained guitar solos from Richard, the second alternately soaring and twitching, ending on a tantalizingly unresolved note. His lyric, originally about the Russians in Afghanistan, "Somehow developed into this urban melodrama," he told Rolling Stone. "I can't understand how that happened."

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Song Stories


The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

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