A Six-Pack of Thin Lizzy

I always liked Thin Lizzy but when they were popular I would not have told you they were one of my favorite bands. Now that I go back and listen, I say to myself, what the fuck was I thinking? I enjoyed them on the radio but I definitely should have followed more closely, maybe gone to see them. They were just a great band, period.Β 

Wikipedia: Thin Lizzy are a hard rock band formed in Dublin, Ireland, in 1969. Two of the founding members, drummer Brian Downey and bass guitarist and lead vocalist Phil Lynott, met while still in school. Lynott led the group throughout their recording career of twelve studio albums, writing most of the material.

Lynott and Downey met while at school in Dublin in the early 1960s. Lynott joined a local band, The Black Eagles, as vocalist in 1963, and Downey was recruited as drummer in 1965.

In 1967, Lynott was asked to join Skid Row by bass guitarist Brush Shiels who brought teenage Belfast guitarist Gary Moore into the band early in 1968. After a disappointing television appearance in June 1969, Shiels fired Lynott, although they remained on good terms and Shiels subsequently taught Lynott to play bass guitar.

Belfast guitarist Eric Bell was in the last incarnation of Them to feature Van Morrison, between September and October 1966. Bello saw Lynott’s band Orphanage and introduced himself to the band. He, Lynott and Downey agreed to form a band on the condition that Lynott play bass guitar as well as sing, and that the band would perform some of Lynott’s compositions.

“The band name came from a robot character in The Dandy called Tin Lizzie which they adjusted to Thin Lizzy as a playful reference to the local Dublin accent, in which “thin” would be pronounced as ‘t’in’.”

By the end of 1970, Thin Lizzy were signed to Decca Records and they traveled to London in January 1971 to record their debut album, Thin Lizzy. I can’t tell you much about their first two albums as the band was not yet on my radar.

It is, however, interesting to note that while Gary Moore was on both albums, he is not listed as a band member but only as part of “additional musicians.” (In fact, only one of their later albums list him as a member although he did become part of their touring band.)

I don’t necessarily do these six-packs in any kind of chronological order. I really gave a hard listen to a lot of Lizzy stuff before I picked these gems. I added a few extra to the Spotify playlist for your dining and dancing pleasure.

As a matter of fact, the first tune comes from their tenth album, 1980’s Chinatown. This album features long-time guitarist Scott Gorham and new addition, guitarist Snowy White who also played with Pink Floyd and Roger Waters.

This is the title tune and it’s a corker. Whatever happened to bands like this?

Spotify link

“Dancing in the Moonlight (It’s Caught Me in Its Spotlight)” is a totally anomalous tune for the band. It’s funky and it swings and sounds very much like early Springsteen. It’s from their 1977 album Bad Reputation, by which time Thin Lizzy had been on the map for a couple of years.

Now we go steady to the pictures
I always get chocolate stains on my pants
And my father he’s going crazy
He says I’m living in a trance

Spotify link

I mentioned earlier that Gary Moore was kinda sorta part of the band. My sense of it is that he could have been a full-time member had he so chosen but maybe wanted to do his own thing. Moore was (he died in 2011 of an alcohol-induced heart attack) a great blues player if sometimes a little bit too bombastic for my tastes.

Here he does a nice job on “Still in Love with You.” from 1974’s Nightlife. (Interestingly, Sade later covered this song in an acoustic version.)

Spotify link

The album that really put the Irish lads on the charts in the US was Jailbreak from 1976. Gary Moore was nowhere to be found. Scott Gorham (a wildly underrated guitarist) and Brian Robertson handled the guitar duties quite well indeed.

I wasn’t gonna do the title tune just to go deeper into the catalog. But boy when I heard it I said, I gotta do that song. It’s still all over classic rock radio. I marvel at what a tight fucking band these guys were. And I love Lynott’s voice;

Spotify link

The next album after Jailbreak was 1977’s Johnny the Fox. Guitarists on this were Gorham and Brian Robertson. Robertson was sacked after this album due to “creative differences” with Lynott. Gorham talked about other twin-guitar lineups. He said the Allmans had more of a major-chord country sound whereas Lizzy’s was more minor. He’s semi-accurate in that statement as it only speaks to one part of the ABB’s catalog.

From Johnny the Fox comes the short but tight “Don’t Believe a Word.” (Phil Collins plays percussion on this album but nobody can seem to remember exactly what he played on.)

Spotify link

By now – assuming you’ve even gotten this far – you’re probably saying to yourself, er, Mr. Music Enthusiast aren’t you overlooking a certain song? No, I am not. I am saving the best for last. There are certain songs that, when they come on the car radio, you turn up to 11 and go 100 miles per hour, even if you are in your driveway.

Such a song is “The Boys Are Back in Town,” IMHO one of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time. It’s all there – a kick-ass song, killer riff, great vocals, great lyrics. The story of my life! (In my fantasy world).

Friday night they’ll be dressed to kill
Down at Dino’s bar and grill
The drink will flow and blood will spill
If the boys want to fight, you’d better let them

That jukebox in the corner blasting out my favorite song
The nights are getting warmer, it won’t be long
It won’t be long till summer comes
Now that the boys are here again

Spotify link

Lynott had developed a heroin dependency over the years, perhaps the main occupational hazard of being a musician. As a result, he died of pneumonia and heart failure due to septicaemia on 4 January 1986, at the age of 36.

The last time the band was known to perform was for a handful of shows in 2019 with Scott Gorham the only long-time holdover.

 

 

29 thoughts on “A Six-Pack of Thin Lizzy

  1. I dig Thin Lizzy as well. For the longest time, I had only known them for “Whiskey in the Jar.” I love the harmony guitar action on this tune. The same is true for “The Boys Are Back in Town” and some of their other tunes.

    It’s also not very common to see a white rock band being led a person of color/mixed heritage. Unfortunately, Phil Lynott became yet another casualty to drugs. While he didn’t become another member of the freaky Club of 27, 36 years is just way too young!

    Two tunes that aren’t in your Spotify list I also really like are “Look What The Wind Blew In” from their eponymous debut album and their cover of Bob Seger’s “Rosalie”, off “Fighting,” the album that preceded the excellent “Jailbreak.”

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    1. Yeah, didn’t you do a take on them a while back? Was that you? Somebody did. Anyway, these guys were rock solid. I think “Jailbreak ” was the only album I had by them. “Rosalie” I know but not the other one. Some of their earlier stuff is mellower. But they rocked hard, had great songs and didn’t fall into a “hair band” mentality. It’s too bad there weren’t more black performers in rock.

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      1. Yep, I did. Frankly, I couldn’t remember off the top of my head when, so had to look it up. It was in January last year. πŸ™‚

        In addition to being multi-racial, Thin Lizzy also transcended religious division, featuring both Catholic and Protestant members, and all of it during the period of the Northern Ireland conflict.

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        1. Musicians have always found a way to transcend all the bullshit. For the longest time the session guys at Stax were multiracial. It was only after MLK was assassinated that things got a little weird and uncomfortable.

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  2. I didn’t realise they formed back in 1969 – I kind of think of them as among the last wave of classic rock before new wave hit – kind of 1975-1976 era stuff like Springsteen, Tom Petty, Boston etc. The guitar solo in Boys are Back in Town is pretty amazing – great melody, great guitar harmonies.

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        1. I’ll keep my eye open for that one when it goes to streaming. There’s not even an Irish fest in Boston and we have the highest percentage of any major city in the country!

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  3. Yeah I really like this band. Lynott had a great presence. They rocked hard with good songs. Moore? Strange guy with a truckload of varied styles. Oh yeah, love Lynott’s vocals. I even have a solo record by him. Good pick Doc.

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    1. Damn shame how many of these rockers we lose to substance abuse. Two of the guys in the original Pretenders, two (at least) of these guys. Do the arts drive people to drink or are people who drink and drug attracted to the arts?

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      1. People just drink and drug period. Good, bad , indifferent, all races, sex, This pops up on my travels in this music thing we do. The lifestyle of musicians lends itself to it. Watched a doc on Louis last night and you could see it in that take. Louis kept it under wraps but a lot didnt.

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