Rumor and Sigh

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Rumor and Sigh
RT Ras.jpg
Studio album by Richard Thompson
Released May 1991
Recorded 1991 at Sunset Sound, Los Angeles and Konk Studios, London
Genre Folk rock, alternative rock
Length 61:19
Label Capitol
Producer Mitchell Froom
Richard Thompson chronology
Sweet Talker
Rumor And Sigh
Watching The Dark

Rumor and Sigh is the sixth solo album by British singer/songwriter Richard Thompson, released in 1991 on the Capitol label. The album was a commercial success for Thompson, and he received a Grammy nomination for the album. The album saw a close collaboration with producer Mitchell Froom who also played keyboards.


The American spelling of the word "Rumor" is due to the fact that Thompson took the title of his album from a posthumously published poem by Archibald MacLeish: "Rumor and sigh of unimagined seas/ Dim radiance of stars that never flamed." [1]

Patrick Humphries described the central character of the song "I Feel So Good" as a ne'er do well who has been freed from prison and expresses his "bullying exultation at his freedom. In an interview Thompson explained, "If you make someone the subject of a song you're almost inevitably making him a hero. But he obviously isn't. Nor is he an anti-hero. He's no worse than the society that created him. It's a very twentieth century moral dilemma."[2]

"Grey Walls" was inspired by Colney Hatch Mental Hospital in Barnet, North London, which Thompson passed on the bus as a teenager. The song describes the disturbing effect of ECT on psychiatric patients. Thompson has also called the song a comment on the effects of Thatcherism—in the context of closing down mental institutions and selling the facilities for profit.[2]

Thompson as said he was inspired to write "Don't Sit On My Jimmy Shands" after hearing a story of Bob Dylan at a party, hogging the record player so he could play only Robert Johnson recordings. Thompson planned his song as a tongue in cheek tribute to Jimmy Shand, Scottish musician who achieved popularity in the 1930s and 40s by arranging traditional Scottish songs for his accordion band. Shand's music loomed large in Thompson's childhood.[3]

Thompson wrote "Mother Knows Best" to mark the resignation of Margaret Thatcher and express his feelings about the departed Conservative Prime Minister: "She says 'Bring me your first-born. And I'll suck their blood/ Bring me your poor/ I can trample in the mud'."[4]

Although a teetotaller,[3]Thompson wrote "God Loves A Drunk" to suggest that alcoholism can be a path to spiritual ecstasy. He has described the song as "a swipe at Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists, those people with the polyester suits, those people who are very clean and neat, which means they must be alright with God."[3]

"1952 Vincent Black Lightning"[edit]

The track "1952 Vincent Black Lightning", despite not being issued as a single, became a fan favourite and is one of Thompson's most highly acclaimed solo compositions.[5] Interviewed in the 2003 BBC Four documentary Solitary Life, Thompson said: "When I was a kid, that [the Vincent Black Lightning] was always the exotic bike, that was always the one, the one that you went "ooh, wow". I'd always been looking for English ideas that didn't sound corny, that had some romance to them, and around which you could pin a song. And this song started with a motorcycle, it started with the Vincent. It was a good lodestone around which the song could revolve".[6]

In 2011 Time magazine listed the song in its "All TIME 100 Songs", a list of "the most extraordinary English-language popular recordings since the beginning of TIME magazine in 1923."[7]

A live version of the song appears on Thompson's album Two Letter Words: Live 1994.

The song has been covered by several artists:


The album peaked at number 32 on the UK Albums Chart and was Thompson's first Top 40 album in the UK.[9] The album did not chart in the US, although the lead single "I Feel So Good" peaked at number 15 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, his second and highest charting single on that chart.[10] Its follow-up single, "Read About Love" failed to chart.

Two videos, for "I Feel So Good"[11] (animation inspired by the cover artwork) and album track "I Misunderstood"[12] were produced to promote the album. Thompson also promoted the album's American release by performing "I Feel So Good" on Late Night with David Letterman.[13]

The album was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album in 1992, but lost to R.E.M.'s Out of Time.[14]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Richard Thompson:

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Read About Love" 3:34
2. "I Feel So Good" 3.21
3. "I Misunderstood" 4.05
4. "Grey Walls" 4:21
5. "You Dream Too Much" 4:06
6. "Why Must I Plead" 4:58
7. "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" 4:43
Side two
No. Title Length
8. "Backlash Love Affair" 4:49
9. "Mystery Wind" 4:35
10. "Don't Sit On My Jimmy Shands" 4:26
11. "Keep Your Distance" 4:11
12. "Mother Knows Best" 4:59
13. "God Loves A Drunk" 4:43
14. "Psycho Street" 4:28





  • Cover Art: Laura Levine
  • Photography: Laura Levine
  • Set Design: Kelly Ray
  • Art Direction: Tommy Steele
  • Design: Jeffery Fey


  1. ^ "What is the origin of the title Rumor And Sigh?". April 10, 2015. Retrieved August 3, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b Humphries, 1996, Richard Thompson: Strange Affair, p.275
  3. ^ a b c Humphries, 1996, Richard Thompson: Strange Affair, p.277
  4. ^ Humphries, 1996, Richard Thompson: Strange Affair, p.276
  5. ^ "1952 Vincent Black Lightning - Richard Thompson - Song Info - AllMusic". Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  6. ^ "Richard Thompson: Solitary Life - BBC Four". Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  7. ^ "All-TIME 100 Songs: 1952 Vincent Black Lightning" (retrieved on Feb. 26, 2014).
  8. ^ "July 14, 2013 Clarkston, MI - The Official Bob Dylan Site". Retrieved 18 September 2016. 
  9. ^ UK Albums Chart - Richard Thompson
  10. ^ "Richard Thompson Billboard chart". Billboard. Retrieved July 19, 2016. 
  11. ^ emimusic (12 March 2009). "Richard Thompson - I Feel So Good". Retrieved 18 September 2016 – via YouTube. 
  12. ^ joni36 (8 June 2008). "Richard Thompson - I Misunderstood - Video 1991". Retrieved 18 September 2016 – via YouTube. 
  13. ^ joni36 (17 August 2007). "Richard Thompson - I Feel So Good - Letterman 91". Retrieved 18 September 2016 – via YouTube. 
  14. ^ Pareles, Jon (January 9, 1992). "Grammy Short List: Many For a Few". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved April 30, 2010. 


  • Humphries, Patrick (1996). Richard Thompson: Strange Affair - The Biography. Virgin Books. ISBN 0-86369-993-6. 

External links[edit]