Video Classics: ‘Tightrope’ – Stevie Ray Vaughan

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Stevie Ray Vaughan Plays "Tightrope"

Stevie Ray Vaughan Plays "Tightrope"

According to Wikipedia, “Tightrope” is a song by [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Electric Light Orchestra[/lastfm]. It is also a song by[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Stephanie McIntosh[/lastfm]. Additionally, it is the name of a track laid down by a group of somebodies known as ‘[lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Screeching Weasel[/lastfm]‘. What it is not, again according to Wikipedia, is a [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Stevie Ray Vaughan [/lastfm]tune. This is something of an object lesson illustrating how the modern world’s most-used information tool has its curious gaps. Never fear, Video Classics is here to fill you in.

Part of the problem may be that after Vaughan recorded “Tightrope” with his backing band [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Double Trouble[/lastfm], it saw exposure principally on a compilation album, the unimaginatively named [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Greatest Hits[/lastfm]. But its first appearance was on In Step, a studio album released just a year before Vaughan’s untimely death.

In Step was the first album Vaughan minted after coming ‘clean,’ kicking the hard-living habits that had led him into trouble over the previous decade. Double Trouble bassist Tommy Shannon had similarly cleaned up his act, and the resultant change in lifestyles actually had a noticeable effect on the sound and feel of Vaughan’s songs. Some may argue that indulging in controlled substances makes one more creative, but for Vaughan, going on the wagon meant a more focused approach to his work and a willingness to explore new ideas and experiment in new directions, something that shines through on In Step and “Tightrope.”

The song itself arose out of an impromptu groove session the developed while the band was working on another song. That other song was “Crossfire,” which would go on to become Vaughan’s highest-charting song. The fact that Vaughan was beginning to experiment with his blues-based sound, and the fact that his biggest success came so soon before his death makes it all the more tragic that his career, and life, ended so soon.

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