Some semi-random thoughts on Thin Lizzy:
- Thin Lizzy. You know them from “The Boys Are Back in Town”. In fact, you may only know them from that song, as it’s been overplayed ad nauseum and was even co-opted as “The Toys Are Back In Town” for one of the Toy Story movies. Which makes me nauseum. You may also have heard “Cowboy Song” or “Jailbreak”– the only other two Thin Lizzy songs that seem to ever get any airplay (all 3 songs are from 1976’s Jailbreak album). A passing knowledge of the band may give you the impression that they were only about strut and swagger, with lead singer/songwriter Phil Lynott’s testosterone-drenched voice and heavy guitar riffs. If you scratch beneath the surface a bit, though, you’ll find Lynott and company had a bit more depth and “worth-of-interest” than might be expected.
- Lynott, a black Irishman raised by his grandmother, displayed a tough guy image but also had a big sentimental streak (witness the two songs he wrote, years apart, called “Sarah” – one about his grandmother and one about his daughter). The band even let an elderly fan do a guest performance on the song “Hollywood” with them on a television show – not their best song, but entertaining to watch:
- Lynott was also a natural storyteller and poet, publishing two books of poetry in his lifetime. To be honest, sometimes his reach exceeded his grasp, but he always brought with him a lot of conviction.
- Many of Thin Lizzy’s songs were configured as epic tales, with the romance of the Old West (“Cowboy Song”, “Southbound”, “Genocide – The Killing of the Buffalo”) and Irish legends (“Black Rose”, “Emerald”, “Eire”, etc.) figuring prominently. Some of his songs, like “Romeo and the Lonely Girl”, and “Dancing in the Moonlight”, aren’t too different from Bruce Springsteen’s character driven songs of the 70’s. “Dancing in the Moonlight” sounds like it could’ve come from a 1970’s version of “West Side Story”.
- There’s a sense of humor here and there – at least I hope that the repeated “buffalo, buffalo, buffalo…” in “Buffalo Gal” is supposed to be funny (actually, that loop effect sort of sounds ahead of its time, at least for 1972). And how about the lyrics in “Romeo and the Lonely Girl”? “Oh poor Romeo / Sitting out on his own-ee-o / Oh poor Romeo”. I guess they had trouble thinking of a rhyme for “Romeo”…
- Some fun song titles as well – “The Rise and Dear Demise of the Funky Nomadic Tribes”, “The Friendly Ranger at Clontarf Castle”, “Johnny the Fox Meets Jimmy the Weed”.
- Lynott always said he wanted Thin Lizzy to be remembered as a great guitar band – and they were. I find this interesting as Lynott was the bass player, singer, and songwriter, yet he wanted the band’s legacy to rest on the guitar playing. The twin lead guitars (by Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson on most albums) are inspiring in “The Boys Are Back In Town”, but also in “Whiskey In The Jar”, and any other number of their songs.
When it comes to melodic, yet powerful, hard rock it’s difficult to beat Thin Lizzy.