Songs About Lightning

Songs About Lightning


Posted 2024-04-18 by Steven Gfollow
Following on from my recent column listing some songs about electricity , I decided to go for the next stage in that topic.

Lightning is an arc of natural electricity that travels between two areas that have an electrical charge. Thunder is the sound of lightning as it discharges and creates a zone of incredible heat. Lightning strikes can be very dangerous; lightning storms can be spectacular viewing. I have tried for years to take a photograph of a lightning storm… and have failed every time.

But lightning appears in many songs, and so, after looking at all the electricity and electric things in music, it felt logical to collate some of these.

Here are Songs About Lightning!

Image by Ron Rev Fenomeno from Pixabay

As far as metaphors go, lightning striking something means a sudden realisation or a sudden surge of emotion. Lightning can also mean something travels really fast. Normally. Of course, some songwriters like to muddle with those. But that is generally how it goes. And it is surprisingly well-used.

The rules: the word “lightning” (or “lightnin’”) must appear in the title, one version of each song, one song per artist, I need to like the song. They are listed in chronological order, the date of first release, either as single or the home album. These are not just charting singles, but songs from my collection that fulfill the requirement and that I like.

Here are a dozen songs about LIGHTNING!!

Let’s start this with a classical piece!
Thunder And Lightning Polka (Unter Donner und Blitz)’ composed by Johann Strauss II (1868)

I’ve put the André Rieu version here as it just feels like he’s having fun. This is one of Strauss Jr’s best-known works, and has appeared in pop culture and media since it was first performed. It is one of those pieces people know, but often do not know the name of. And it is, like I said, fun.

Now to the pop music!

Smokestack Lightning’ by Howlin’ Wolf (1956)

I was introduced to this song through a live Yardbirds’ album, and then through a live Twilights’ recording. I went through a blues phase in the late 1980s, and that was when I discovered this, the original, and actually the best, made that way by Wolf’s voice. Covered by so many and so influential, this is one of the best blues tracks.

White Lightning’ by Waylon Jennings (1958)

A very early example of country-rock, this song was one that first helped catapult Jennings to the mainstream. It was written by the Big Bopper who would die in the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, and which Jennings was also supposed to be on, but missed out on due to a coin toss.

Lightning Strikes’ by Lou Christie (1966)

That falsetto chorus still amazes me after the deeper verses – Lou Christie was regarded as one of the better singers of the 1960s for just that reason. When I was collating this list, this was one of the first songs I thought of. It is one of my favourite tracks and I will rip my vocal cords trying to hit those high notes.

Thunder And Lightning’ by Argent (1974)

Argent gave us so many great songs that many stayed on their albums and have become forgotten over time. This is one of those, a soaring track that captures the rock sound Argent did so well, with Russ Ballard’s vocals at the fore.

Lightning Love Affair’ by The Rubinoos (1977)

Some glam rock from a band that people only know because they sued Avril Lavigne for plagiarism. I have a few of their albums, and this is an album cut, but it is fun and cheesy and I think the band deserves to be known for more than just legal matters.

Greased Lightning’ by John Travolta (1978)

This was the first song I thought of when this topic came to me. One of the highlights of a silly but enjoyable musical film (Grease%... of course) that has stood the test of time, it is about a car. That’s all – a car. But it is so darn catchy; I saw kids dancing to this at school discoes in the 2000s, so it is still as popular as ever.

Thunder And Lightning’ by Thin Lizzy (1983)

The title track of Thin Lizzy’s final studio album (they released a live one subsequently), and I think released as a single because I remember hearing it on the radio, this is a heavy rocking track, reminiscent of the band’s earlier albums. It is a fine way to remember frontman Phil Lynott, who died in 1986.

Ride The Lightning’ by Metallica (1984)

The title track from Metallica’s second album really put them at the forefront of heavy metal music. I was into NWOBHM when this album came out, and this was harder and rougher, and I gravitated towards it straight away. For me, my fandom of Metallica started with this album.

Lightning Crashes’ by Live (1994)

This was the song that broke the band Live in Australia; it was the first one my friends and I heard, and resulted in Throwing Copper, its parent album, being in most households, mine included. This is a good track, which I always think of as post-grunge.

White Lightnin’’ by Lita Ford (1995)

While still the hard rock we’ve come to associate with Ford, there is definitely something of blues here, from the opening harmonica to the lyrics. This song is one of the highlights of the Black album, a collection that should have done better.

White Lightning’ by Rogue Traders (2005)

Rogue Traders were an Australian dance-rock band. They were also considered pop, but they had some interesting instrumentation that made them veer almost in a rock direction. This is an album cut from Here Come The Drums, the first album of theirs I bought, and it is an underrated collection. It is so catchy from top to bottom.

The Shock Of The Lightning’ by Oasis (2008)

The first single from the final Oasis album is a decent track, and probably the best song on its parent album. While not reaching the highs of the songs from their first two albums, it is still not a bad way for them to go out. And, yes, those Beatles influences are there.

So we have twelve songs about lightning, covering a huge range of years and genres – blues, classical, country, rock, pop – and showing that many songwriters love that metaphor. I hope there is something here for everyone, and that you enjoyed this strange musical topic.


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