Thin Lizzy were one of the great rock bands of the mid-1970s, a band that together with AC/DC, maintained the aggressiveness and power of this music at a time when the great bands of yesteryear were beginning to show signs of exhaustion. For his part, Phil Lynott, like Bruce Springsteen, knew how to transmit the romanticism of working class life; he did not make a mistake with the new energy that punk brought and was as hard, if not harder, than any heavy metal band. These are our 10 favorite songs among their extensive catalog of treasures.
10. Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed
The title track of the band's seventh album, Johnny The Fox, saw the band move into funk territory, a terrain they never stepped on again but were especially good at. Lynott was especially a fan of the O'Jays and used to play one of their riffs at all the band's rehearsals, until one day Brian Downey started playing and showed him that, as Funkadelic said, a rock band can also play funk. In the lyrics Lynott shows again his fascination for those who live outside the law, one of his favorite topics.
Fighting, the band's fifth album, opened with this huge cover of a song composed by a Bob Seger who had not yet shot to fame. Phil Lynott's band make it their own by shifting up an extra gear - that is even more noticeable in the version that appears on the legendary live album Live And Dangerous, where they mix it with their own Cowboy Song.
8. Dancing in the Moonlight (It's Caught Me in the Spotlight)
Van Morrison's influence on Phil Lynott was great, as can be seen in this Dancing in the Moonlight (It's Caught Me in Its Spotlight), a song in which Lynott lets out all the admiration he had for the Celtic soul of the Belfast Lion. The song shows a different facet of the band, which is lighter and more gentle. Accompanying the band is the saxophone of John Helliwell from Supertramp, although the one who shines again with an excellent solo is the irreplaceable Scott Gorham. Possibly the best song of the remarkable Bad Education, released in 1977.
7. Do Anything You Want To
Black Rose is my second favorite studio album by the band, after the impeccable Jailbreak, and was the only one that Gary Moore recorded as a member. Moore mainly used his Strat and several Les Pauls, and coincided with a Lynott who was totally lost in a creative fever, resulting in the band delivering the second best collection of songs in their history. The album opened with the fundamental Do Anything You Want To, a song that was pure Thin Lizzy distilled, from the overwhelming beginning with the two guitars in harmony, to one of the most spot on chorus of their career; and one that assured the song a place among the top 20 singles in the United Kingdom.
6. The Rocker
The Rocker, composed by Phil Lynott along with two of the original band members, Eric Bell and Brian Downey, is Thin Lizzy's first great classic and a preview of the sound that would come later with the classic line-up. Included in their third album, Vagabonds of the Western World, The Rocker is a statement of intent on the part of Lynott, and the first of his diatribes about tough guys ("I'm your main man if you're looking for trouble"). Eric Bell puts a Flanger on his Stratocaster and lends some of his sound to the indispensable Scott Gorham when he entered the band. A powerful and primitive song that shows Lizzy’s most rocky facet.
5. Cowboy Song
With Jailbreak, Thin Lizzy reached perfection with their formula, holding on to the charisma and stories of Lynott, embellished by the twin guitars of Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham that blended perfectly. Their sound was pure Les Paul, Gorham had a Sunburst Deluxe that he had bought right after joining the band in '74, while Robertson also had a Sunburst Deluxe from '73. The former's favorite pedal was the MXR flanger, while the latter drew more on the wah. Both were equipped with Marshall 100-watt amplifiers. Their characteristic sound can be perfectly appreciated on songs like this Cowboy Song, which provides a perfect example of their guitars working in unison, while Lynott sings about the idolized gunmen of his childhood.
4. Waiting for an Alibi
With the exit of Brian Robertson the pair that had given Lizzy its mythical sound of twin guitars was broken, but its substitute was an old acquaintance and, possibly, the best guitarist who has passed through this band - Gary Moore - who had been present in 1973, although he only recorded the single Still In Love With You. The relationship between Moore and Gorham was not as cooperative as that which Gorham had with Robertson due to Moore’s competitive character, who always seemed to have something to prove. However on this song he draws fire from his guitar, something which is not so surprising, if we consider how easy it is to be inspired by one of the best songs of Phyl Lynott's career, one with his most careful lyrics and that incredible bass line that opens it.
With its simple riff and perfect chorus, Jailbreak could pass for a lost power pop classic, if not for the fact that Lynott's defiant attitude, outlaw lyrics and energy are pure rock'n'roll. It may be the song with most cover versions in the band's history, with bands like Bon Jovi, Anthrax, Blue Öyster Cult or even the band member, Gary Moore, trying to emulate the tremendous strength of the original. (Spoiler alert: None of them succeed).
2. Whiskey In The Jar
Thin Lizzy were always proud to be Irish and Ireland always had the Lizzys (and Lynott in particular) among its favorite children, so it's no wonder that the first song they savored success with in 1973, sneaking into the top 10 of the British singles charts, was a cover of a traditional Irish song. A cover in which two things stood out, the incredible work of Eric Bell with his Stratocaster and the powerful voice of Phil Lynott.
1. The Boys Are Back In Town
And picking up the award for the least surprising choice in history, The Boys Are Back In Town. It is clear that this song is not only Thin Lizzy’s best, but one of the best rock songs of the 70s. But, what is curious about it, is that the band members did not see the tremendous potential of the song. The Irishmen had just released Jailbreak, their sixth album, and had had a kind of ultimatum from their label, after the previous two failed to sell records. The album appeared on April 17th and it didn't seem that it would have better luck than the others, so the band embarked on a tour of the US (with Phil Lynott with hepatitis and few tickets sold), but suddenly the venues started to fill up and someone told them that they had had a hit in the promised land. Lizzy were reportedly amazed and asked which song it was - and they couldn't believe it when they were told that it was The Boys Are Back In Town. But this ode to the tough guys, full of pomp and circumstance, was pure rock & roll dynamite and the song that would define the band forever.