While the road to Richard and Linda Thompson's final album and tour together was rocky, the husband-and-wife duo closed the book on their career together with one of their best efforts.
Shoot Out the Lights, released in March 1982, was the duo's sixth album. It was produced by Joe Boyd, who'd worked with Pink Floyd, Nick Drake and Fairport Convention - but that wasn’t who was supposed to helm the album. To set the stage, let’s rewind to the spring of 1980, when the Thompsons were touring as the opening act for Gerry Rafferty. After those dates, Richard and Linda went into Woodworm Studios in Oxfordshire to lay down some demo tracks. A few months later, however, the duo still remained without a record deal, so Rafferty offered to not only produce but also finance their new album.
Unfortunately, Rafferty and Richard began butting heads during their sessions, with Richard’s tendency toward spontaneity clashing with Rafferty’s fastidiousness. It eventually reached a point where Richard decided he couldn’t be bothered to be a part of the mixing process, believing that Rafferty would simply ignore his thoughts on the matter anyway. Surprisingly, the album did actually end up being completed, but even someone with Rafferty’s profile couldn’t sell a label on the LP, and it’s been reported that he ended up losing somewhere around £30,000 when all was said and done.
Enter the aforementioned Mr. Boyd, who – in the summer of ’81 – signed Richard and Linda to his own label, Hannibal Records, but there was a caveat: Boyd wanted the album recorded in a short amount of time, so that he could take any leftover funds and utilize it for a U.S. tour by the Thompsons. In order to make that work, they re-recorded six songs cut with Rafferty, throwing in two additional songs to make a proper album.
Mind you, Richard described the situation in far less complicated fashion when asked about it by the A.V. Club in 2012:
We did an album with Gerry Rafferty a year before Shoot Out the Lights that we didn’t really like. It wasn’t released. It just sat in the vaults… and it’s still in the vaults. But probably four or five songs that were on the Rafferty album were also used on Shoot Out the Lights. We liked the songs; we just didn’t like the recordings. So we hung on to those songs and moved them over to the next project, really.
However you look at the situation, Shoot Out the Lights ended up being the best-selling album of Richard and Linda Thompson’s recording career, not to mention arguably the most critically acclaimed album that either of them ever had a hand in putting together. As for the subsequent tour... well, despite the fact that the twosome called it quits both personally and professionally after it was over, the success of those concert dates helped set Richard on the path to a successful solo career.