The Saddest Songs in History: Richard and Linda Thompson Walking On A Wire


thompsonshoot

The clear sound of a marriage falling apart. It is about regret and resignation but no anger, and so much more sad for it. The Album, Shoot Out the Lights was a culmination of Richard & Linda Thompson’s career together.

In hindsight, we see how their records and Richard Thompson’s texts of jealousy, rage, and betrayal lead to this emotionally  document of sadness.

Walking on a Wire with Richard’s lyrics for Linda to interpret, well, it must have been hard.

Linda:
“I wish that I could please you tonight”
 “I hand you my ball and chain/You just hand me that same old refrain.”

“Too many steps to take
Too many spells to break
Too many nights awake
And no one else”

My god, how harrowing a break-up can be!

Richard and Linda:
I’m walking on a wire, I’m walking on a wire
And I’m falling”

..they both fall and they share the blame and the regret, and they know how this is gonna end.

Richard Thompson cries through his guitar in a solo just as painful as the lyrics (starts at 4:42), it is incredible and he manages to convey his/their sadness in a howl from his electric guitar! He has done some great guitar work through the years but this must be one is his most emotionally demanding solos committed to record.

Richard and Linda Thompson – Walking On A Wire (Spotify):

The song had to be included in our series of the saddest songs in history.

Linda Thompson was several months pregnant when the album (Shoot out the lights) was recorded and so there was no prospect of an immediate release or supporting tour. By the time the album was released Richard and Linda Thompson’s marriage was over.

Ironically, the album was their best-selling album and acclaimed as one of their greatest artistic achievements.

…but as I said, it is the sad sound of a marriage falling apart.

Richard and Linda Thompson – Walking On A Wire (audio):

 Walking on wire (lyrics):

I hand you my ball and chain
You just hand me that same old refrain
I’m walking on a wire, I’m walking on a wire
And I’m falling

I wish I could please you tonight
My medicine just won’t come right
I’m walking on a wire, I’m walking on a wire
And I’m falling

Too many steps to take
Too many spells to break
Too many nights awake
And no one else

This grindstone’s wearing me
Your claws are tearing me
Don’t use me endlessly
It’s too long, too long to myself

Where’s the justice, where’s the sense?
When all the pain is on my side of the fence
I’m walking on a wire, I’m walking on a wire
And I’m falling

Too many steps to take
Too many spells to break
Too many nights awake
And no one else, oh

This grindstone’s wearing me
Your claws are tearing me
Don’t use me endlessly
It’s too long, too long to myself

Oh, it scares you when you don’t know
Whichever way the wind might blow
Oh, I’m walking on a wire, I’m walking on a wire
And I’m falling

I’m walking on a wire, I’m walking on a wire
And I’m falling
I’m walking on a wire, I’m walking on a wire
And I’m falling, oh

 The beauty of the song enhances it sadness to unbearable heights for me.

– Hallgeir

Also check out some more sad songs:
Townes Van Zandt – Marie
George Jones – If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will)
Leonard Cohen and Sharon Robinson – Alexandra Leaving
Billy Bragg – Tank Park Salute

One thought on “The Saddest Songs in History: Richard and Linda Thompson Walking On A Wire”

  1. One of my favorite lps of all-time. And RT is my favorite guitarist. His guitar work on “Walking on a Wire” is absolutely brilliant!! thanks.

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