THIN LIZZY – The Legend
Thin Lizzy. Legendary band. Creative masters. 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 was at helm of the group throughout their recording career of twelve studio albums, writing most of the material. The singles “Whiskey in the Jar” (a traditional Irish ballad), “Jailbreak“, and “The Boys Are Back in Town” were major international hits. After Lynott‘s tragic death in 1986, various incarnations of the band emerged over the years based initially around guitarists Scott Gorham and John Sykes, though Sykes left the band in 2009. Gorham later continued with a new line-up including Downey.
The band were varied in their musical output, from the soft rock of their debut album, to the jazz fusion of Nightlife to the hard rock of Thunder & Lightning. Their ever evolving songwriting followed the significant lineup changes. One thing (apart from Lynott) remained constant and that was the quality of the songwriting and the amazing lyrics, which were deeply personal, romantic and hard hitting.
This Essential Tracks feature is a companion to the podcast theme this week of a celebration of Lizzy‘s music. My list may not tally with Chris and Aaron‘s, but it goes through their catalogue and picks out tracks that are, to my mind, essential.
Most of the records have single picks from them, but Black Rose has three, showing my deep appreciation for that album.
Let me know if I missed any of your favorites, although I have mostly stayed away from the single choices.
THIN LIZZY – Early Releases
The band starting in a more laid back mood with 1971’s debut. Thin Lizzy were signed to Decca Records and they travelled to London in January 1971 to record their debut album. The album sold moderately well, but did not chart in the UK despite airplay and support from influential DJs John Peel and Kid Jensen.
The album was followed by the EP New Day, produced and recorded by Nick Tauber at Decca Studios on 14–17 June 1971 and released on 20 August 1971. The songs from the EP were included in later editions of the album. My pick is “Dublin” from this EP and I love the relaxed vocal about the Irish capital city.
Moving onto the sophomore record, Shades Of A Blue Orphanage, this is an album I have no more than a passing interest in. It didn’t move me or grab my attention. However, the 1972 release did give notice of a shifting in the sound to a harder end product. The one song that stuck out to me was “Baby Face“, with its sweet riffing and urgent drumming. I include this as my pick from this collection.
In late 1972, the band embarked upon a high-profile tour of the UK with Slade and Suzi Quatro. Around the same time, Decca released Thin Lizzy‘s version of a traditional Irish ballad, “Whiskey in the Jar“, as a single. The single topped the Irish chart, and reached no. 6 in the UK in February 1973, resulting in an appearance on Top of the Pops. It also charted in many countries across Europe. However, the follow-up single, “Randolph’s Tango“, was a pick I liked and it has quite a Spanish feel to it. It was featured on the band’s next album, Vagabonds of the Western World, which was released in September 1973 following strong airplay in the UK, but failed to chart.
1974 saw Lizzy recruit Gary Moore for his first stint after Eric Bell left. The resultant album was Nightlife and, although it was quite laid back, “It’s Only Money” rocked hard and is included in my picks.
THIN LIZZY – Fighting Onwards
In early 1975, Thin Lizzy toured the United States for the first time, in support of Bob Seger and Bachman–Turner Overdrive (BTO). When BTO toured Europe later in the year, Thin Lizzy again accompanied them on what was a very high-profile tour. They then recorded the Fighting album, which became the first Thin Lizzy album to chart in the UK, reaching no. 60, although the singles still did not chart. Opening with Seger’s “Rosalie“, the album showed the first real evidence of the twin guitar sound that would lead the band towards their greatest successes, particularly with the dual harmonies of “Wild One” and both guitarists’ soloing on “Suicide“.
My essential track from this album is the phenomenal “Freedom Song“, which ticks all the classic Lizzy boxes.
Following on from Fighting came the big breakthrough with Jailbreak. I have included “Running Back” and the amazing “Cowboy Song” from this release, as I love them. However, any other songs could easily have been picked. Solid classic album.
Johnny The Fox was released in 1975, but was not a favorite in my house. However, “Massacre” hits the heights and is my choice from the record.
THIN LIZZY – REPUTATION SECURED
The next era is largely considered the high mark for Lizzy‘s output and certainly with Bad Reputation and Black Rose, any fans can be assured of quality material. I have picked the brooding “Soldier Of Fortune” from Bad Reputation. From Black Rose, I could have chosen all the tracks, but I plumped for “Waiting For An Alibi“, “Do Anything You Wanna Do” and “Got To Give It Up“. The band, for me, would never quite repeat the classics, but I do love songs from Chinatown, Renegade and Thunder & Lightning.
I just wanted to say – I LOVE THIN LIZZY! Nothing more complicated than that…Thanks for the music.