Thin Lizzy

TrackAlbum
The RockerVagabonds Of The Western World
Still In Love With YouNightlife
RosalieFighting
SuicideFighting
EmeraldJailbreak
Don't Believe A WordJohnny The Fox
Bad ReputationBad Reputation
SouthboundBad Reputation
Cowboy SongLive And Dangerous
The Boys Are Back In TownLive And Dangerous

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Contributor: Keith Shackleton

Enough already, it’s time I submitted this list. An undue amount of time has been spent looking at the early records, the late ones, the BBC recordings … but I can’t improve on this list and I’m sorry but it’s totally obvious what the list should be. It’s not obscure in any way. It could have been culled almost exclusively from Live And Dangerous, but it would have been a total cop-out to ignore the sterling work put in on the studio albums by the band members and their associates.

So for me, it all begins with the slashing guitar work of Eric Bell on The Rocker from Vagabonds Of The Western World, once Lizzy had cast off the millstone that was (and shall forever be, God help us if I never hear it again it’ll be too soon) Whiskey In The Bloody Jar (I think that’s the title). The Rocker is a statement of intent, the kind of foot-on-the-monitors, leather-trousered, knuckledusting attitude that defined the band.

An attitude that wasn’t fully on show on the next album up, Nightlife, a subdued yet soulful record, maybe due to uncertainty with the new four-piece line up, the introduction of young Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham. There’s a tentative approach shown even on the one absolute classic from the record, Still In Love With You, with guest vocals from Frankie Miller and the defining solo from Gary Moore. Robertson allegedly refused to put his own stamp on it, claiming Moore’s guitar work couldn’t be improved, though subsequent performances would prove that Robertson had the touch and the sensitivity to do exactly that.

The self-produced Fighting is where the Lizzy sound starts to come together. The guitar tone spits and bites, and there’s swagger in the rhythm section not heard previously. Lizzy had to steal a song from Bob Seger to gain a little chart action, but how they transformed it – Rosalie is their song now, not Bob’s. But Lynott’s writing was getting sharper too, and I’ll also have Suicide from this record, an engaging little pulp fiction tale with some tremendous ensemble playing.

Jailbreak consolidated the gains made by Fighting, it’s a little tighter, the sound of a rock band on form, it bristles with intent … sure, there’s lyrical cliché, but let’s face it, no one did cliché better than Phil Lynott and he bloody knew it too, the twinkle in his eye told you so. I’m not going to forgive him THAT lyric though.. you know the one, the one about the “jailbreak, somewhere in this town”. Might just be near the jail, Phil, do you think?

Anyhow, I’ll take the thunderous Emerald from this record, a pretty much perfect slice of heavy Celtic rock-ery, and another couple of tracks too, but you’ll have to wait a paragraph or two, there are terms and conditions associated with those. I will come to them shortly.

Was Johnny The Fox due to be some kind of concept album? It doesn’t seem so. It’s not as coherent as it might be. Lynott was recovering from illness and there were episodes in the life of Brian which resulted in his sacking, reinstatement and sacking once more, and that definitely affected the band’s output. But the two minutes and eighteen seconds of Don’t Believe A Word are almost worth the price of admission alone. It might not have been that way, if Robertson hadn’t expressed his disgust at Lynott’s original slow blues concept – which eventually appeared on Gary Moore’s Back On The Streets – and reworked it with Brian Downey.

There’s not much of Robertson on Bad Reputation … he’d missed a tour with a hand injury sustained in a fight, and was clashing personality-wise with Lynott, but Gorham did fine double duty, and Tony Visconti polished the sound to perfection. I’ll take the shuddering funk of Bad Reputation and the sentimental Southbound from what was their best sounding studio recording, and maybe their best overall.

Not that much of Live And Dangerous was actually ‘live’, if you believe what Visconti says about it. We know that a fair few 70s double albums were tinkered with in the studio, of course, but as much as 75% tinkering? Ah well, at least one band member has an alternative point of view. The truth probably lies somewhere in between, but it is the high water mark of Thin Lizzy. It encapsulates them perfectly, and is in truth all the Thin Lizzy you’ll ever need, save for, as I have written before, a slight dip in quality in the middle of side four. And here are my terms and conditions on the remaining two songs on the list … they must only be listened to the Live And Dangerous way… Cowboy Song slipping into The Boys Are Back In Town via Phil’s “… the cowboy’s life, is the life for me”. Hard rock heaven.

Robertson was gone from the line up by mid-1978 and Downey took a break too. Back came Mr. Moore (you can check out his form during this period by taking a squiz at the Sydney Opera House gig, Mark Nauseef on drums here), and business was pretty much as usual.

Black Rose is a strong record I almost but couldn’t quite squeeze in to the list, with excellent pop-rock tunes like Waiting For An Alibi and Do Anything You Want To, and another complex Celtic rave-up on the title track, but it didn’t feel the same. I wasn’t anywhere near the same person in 1979 as I was in 1976: I changed, the kinds of music I was listening to changed and all of a sudden I was looking back at Thin Lizzy fondly, instead of moving forward with them. But I have my memories of THE great line-up of a terrific band, and those memories are solid gold ones. I’m absolutely made up with these ten songs. Guilty pleasures? I’m never guilty about the music I listen to. Now, where are those cowboy boots?

 

The Official Thin Lizzy Website

Thin Lizzy Supporters Website & Forum

Thin Lizzy Guide fansite

Thin Lizzy biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #218

10 Comments

  1. Ian Ashleigh
    Mar 9, 2014

    It’s not often I disagree with a post, but my head appears above the parapet this morning. If only for Eric Bell’s guitar I listen to Whiskey in the Jar frequently and this proves how personal music is. I would have added Things Ain’t Working Out Down on the Farm from Vagabonds of the Western World, apart from being a great track, I marvel at how Phil Lynott could make ‘out’ into a four syllable word. I have an album called ‘Rare and Unreleased’ and would draw everyone’s attention to ‘Song For Sandy’. Now which three to exclude …

  2. Roger Woods
    Mar 9, 2014

    Great list for an under-rated band but I don’t think they can be appreciated properly without listening to the second album – Shades of a Blue Orphanage. “Chatting Today” is a masterpiece and “Shades of a Blue Orphanage” is a biographical piece about Phil Lynott’s childhood. I’d never overlook Whisky in the Jar – a version of Gilgarra Mountain featured in the preceding listing – Peter, Paul and Mary.

  3. David Lewis
    Mar 9, 2014

    I thought ‘wot no’ whiskey in the jar… But nonetheless a superb list.

  4. Andrew Shields
    Mar 10, 2014

    Great list – Lizzy were the first big name band I ever saw play at a concert in Galway in the West of Ireland in 1979. That gig still stands out as one of the best I have ever seen and Phillo remains the most charismatic frontman…

    Have to disagree about ‘Whiskey’. Both The Dubliners and Lizzy’s versions of it are classics and Eric Bell’s riff on it is among the most memorable I have heard.

    Agree with you on ‘Live and Dangerous’ which is on my top 5 live albums ever list – which, strangely enough, also includes albums by two other Irish artists – Rory Gallagher’s ‘Live in Europe’ and Van Morrison’s ‘Its too late to Stop Now’…

    Only track I would add is ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’… one of Lynott’s best lyrics…

  5. Keith Shackleton
    Mar 10, 2014

    I spent a fair bit of the 80s in a five piece Pogues-y folk band (whaddya call three Irishmen, an Englishman and a Scot? The Boys of Blue Hill, and we weren’t half bad, as it happens) and a fair bit of that time backing people in pubs who wanted to get up and sing and that song … well, you know how it goes, the people who get up only know the first two lines and ‘whack for my daddy-o’ and it just gets all too much. Even if Ronnie Drew was singing, it wouldn’t make it any easier. Let alone Phil (or Metallica, for God’s sake). I respect your choices, but [breaks down, sobs] I just can’t.

  6. David Lewis
    Mar 10, 2014

    There, There, Keith, it’s ok. Understood.

  7. Ian Ashleigh
    Mar 10, 2014

    Keith, I’m with you regarding Metallica (if you’ve not heard it, find it on You Tube) but Eric Bell’s guitar, how can you not …

    You have encouraged me to dust off my copy of Live & Dangerous, that must be a good thing.

  8. Peter V
    Mar 10, 2014

    I was keeping quiet, because I dislike Whisky In The Jar by almost anybody, except Thin Lizzy, and even then I wouldn’t cross the road to hear it if it were raining. I would if not. I know what Keith means about a song that is ruined by the number of bad pub interpretations.

  9. Andrew Shields
    Mar 11, 2014

    From my experience growing up in Ireland in the late 70s/early 80s there were two pub singalong songs which everybody knew the words of – the first was ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ and the second was ‘The Boxer’ by Paul Simon.

    Don’t know what happened with subsequent generations…

  10. Keith Shackleton
    Mar 11, 2014

    I dunno, I write some pin-sharp stuff on Big Star and Arctic Monkeys, and what gets everyone in a kerfuffle? 😉

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