I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight

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I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
RT Iwtstblt.jpg
Studio album by Richard and Linda Thompson
Released April 1974
Recorded May 1973 at Sound Techniques, London
Genre Folk rock
Length 36:55 (original)
53:26 (2004 reissue)
Label Island
Producer Richard Thompson, John Wood
Richard and Linda Thompson chronology
Henry the Human Fly
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
Hokey Pokey

I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight is the second album released by Richard Thompson and the first including and credited with his then wife, Linda Thompson as Richard and Linda Thompson. It was released by Island Records in the UK in 1974. Although never commercially successful and critically ignored on its release, it is now considered to be a masterpiece and one of the finest works of both Richard and Linda singularly or together.

The album has been included on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.


After the marked lack of success achieved by his first album, Henry the Human Fly, British singer/songwriter/guitarist Richard Thompson started a personal and professional relationship with Linda Peters, a session singer. I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight was the first album by the duo of Richard and Linda Thompson.

Where his first album was treated harshly by the critics, the second was eventually hailed as a masterpiece. Recorded on a shoestring budget in a matter of days (but sitting unreleased for nearly 8 months while the record label tried to decide what to do with it),[citation needed] it is now regarded as a classic of English folk rock and one of the Thompsons' finest achievements.

The title track has been covered by (among others) Lucy Kaplansky, Weddings Parties Anything, Arlo Guthrie, Matt Pond PA, Ocean Colour Scene, Julie Covington and Sleater-Kinney, while Caitlin Cary, Kate Rusby and Elvis Costello have all covered "Withered and Died". Costello has also covered "The End of the Rainbow" as has Barbara Manning. Maria McKee covered "Has He Got a Friend for Me" on her first solo album.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars [1]
Robert Christgau A− [2]
Q 5/5 stars[3]
Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars [4]
Rolling Stone Album Guide 4.5/5 stars [5]
Spin Alternative Record Guide (10/10) [6]

Initially ignored by reviewers, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight later came to be highly regarded. Robert Christgau rated it highly when it was re-released as one half of Live! (More or Less) noting that "[they] don't sentimentalize about time gone—they simply encompass it in an endless present."[2] When it was re-released in 1984, along with other albums in the Thompsons' catalog, Kurt Loder writing in Rolling Stone described it as a "timeless masterpiece" with "not a single track that's less than luminous".[4]

More recent reviews are equally complimentary. AllMusic notes that the album is "nothing short of a masterpiece" and calls it "music of striking and unmistakable beauty".[1] Q (May 2007, p. 135): "After his 1971 departure from Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson found his ideal foil in recent bride Linda. A hugely inventive guitarist, he gives full vent to his talent on this dark, brooding album. Indeed, he never quite recaptured the murky demons inside the likes of 'Withered and Died' ever again."

In 2003 the album was placed at number 479 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[7]

Cultural references to the song[edit]

• In the 2012 American science fiction action thriller film Looper, written and directed by Rian Johnson, the strains of "Bright Lights" can be heard near the end of the film. The song itself is used in a love scene earlier in the film.

• The song was used in the opening sequence of the second season of the HBO comedy-drama television show Enlightened, which starred Laura Dern.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Richard Thompson (except for "Together Again", by Buck Owens). 

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "When I Get to the Border"   3:26
2. "The Calvary Cross"   3:51
3. "Withered and Died"   3:24
4. "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight"   3:07
5. "Down Where the Drunkards Roll"   4:05
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "We Sing Hallelujah"   2:49
2. "Has He Got a Friend for Me"   3:32
3. "The Little Beggar Girl"   3:24
4. "The End of the Rainbow"   3:55
5. "The Great Valerio"   5:22
2004 CD bonus tracks (previously unreleased)
No. Title Length
11. "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight (live)"   3:04
12. "Together Again (live)"   2:46
13. "Calvary Cross (live)"   9:54

Bonus tracks recorded at the Roundhouse, London, on September 7, 1975.


Bonus tracks: Richard & Linda Thompson with John Kirkpatrick, Dave Pegg (bass guitar) and Dave Mattacks (drums).


  1. ^ a b Deming, Mark. I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight at AllMusic. Retrieved 28 March 2006.
  2. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "Richard Thompson: Live (More or Less)". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 14 November 2011.  (I Want to See the Brights Lights Tonight was included as half of this release, which the review notes as more significant.)
  3. ^ Q, May 2007, Issue 250.
  4. ^ a b Loder, Kurt (March 29, 1984). "Henry the Human Fly / Hokey Pokey / I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight / Pour Down like Silver / Sunnyvista > Hannibal Reissues Review". Rolling Stone (419). Retrieved 26 September 2011. 
  5. ^ Considine, J.D. (2004). "Richard and Linda Thompson". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. London: Fireside. pp. 812–813. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  6. ^ Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig, eds. (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. p. 405. ISBN 0-679-75574-8. 
  7. ^ Levy, Joe; Steven Van Zandt (2006) [2005]. "479 | I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight – Richard and Linda Thompson". Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (3rd ed.). London: Turnaround. ISBN 1-932958-61-4. OCLC 70672814. Archived from the original on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 18 February 2006. 


  • Richard Thompson – The Biography by Patrick Humphries. Schirmer Books. 0-02-864752-1
  • The Great Valerio – A Study of the Songs of Richard Thompson by Dave Smith.
  • 1001 Albums by Robert Dimery and Michael Lydon