Week 13: Thin Lizzy

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Live and Dangerous

Another live album but this is the first of the classic double live albums. When I was getting into music in a big way the double album was either a rock band’s definitive statement or a contractual obligation and sometimes both.  If you were a rock band you had to do a double live album, 4 sides of vinyl and effectively a best of album but live.  There is a huge list of great double live albums some of which will feature in future weeks but this one will head a lot of lists as the greatest.

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From my failing memory I think I first heard Lizzy on the Waiting For An Alibi single in 1979 closely followed by the Do Anything You Want To single.  I remember seeing them on Top of the Pops and the single was duly purchased.  It wasn’t long before I discovered Live and Dangerous which had been released in 78 although had been recorded across shows in 76 & 77.

That’s the great thing about discovering music one small door opens up and behind it lies great riches.  At the time music was coming at me from all angles and I was trying to soak it all in and sort out what I actually liked and not what I should like.  Peer pressure was sometimes hard to resist at that age and you were trying to find your feet regarding the types of music that you liked and what you were allowed to like.  Some guilty pleasures around then like Sex Pistols, Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army among others.  You couldn’t actually admit you liked some other kind of music then.  So stupid and petty but I’m much more adult about it now.  Kind of.

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Lizzy were one of the first bands I heard who had a more softer, gentle side and weren’t afraid to show it.  Charismatic frontman Phil Lynott was clearly a huge romantic at heart and it came out in many of his lyrics.  Just listen to the live version of Still In Love With You, which also contains one of my favourite ever guitar solos and drips with emotion, for evidence.  That said Lynott wasn’t a man who didn’t know how to charm the ladies.  His between song chat with the crowd on this album says a lot about his cheeky demeanour when he asks the crowd;

“Is there anybody here with any Irish in them?”

“Is there any of the girls who’d like a little more Irish in them.”

There has always been a massive debate about how much of this album is actually live.  There were certainly overdubs in the studio but there seems to be a lot of disagreement about how much of the album was re-done in the studio.  Personally I don’t really care as the album sounds fantastic whatever they did.  The twin guitars of Brain Robertson and Scott Gorham became Lizzy’s signature sound and this was the classic Lizzy line up completed by Brain Downey on drums.  It’s a pity this line up split after this album as Gorham and Robertson complemented each other brilliantly.

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It’s an album full of Lizzy classics and really is a great place to start for any Lizzy virgins.  From the air raid siren beginning of Jailbreak through the more laid back Southbound, which producer Tony Visconti claimed was actually recorded at a soundcheck with crowd dubbed in, Bob Segar cover Rosalie, the genius twinning of Cowboy Song seguing into The Boys Are Back In Town and closer The Rocker from the formative rock years of the band.  It’s 17 songs long and even has Huey Lewis from Huey Lewis and the news playing harmonica on Baby Drives Me Crazy.  If you are a rock fan but never listened to this or Lizzy then I highly recommend this album.

Thin Lizzy

Sadly Lizzy is on my list of ‘if I had a time machine who would you go back and see’ list. I just never got round to seeing them back in the day.  I remember my brother was going to see them in 79 I think and I played the singles all day hoping he’d say ‘do you want to come?’  He never did and I don’t know why I never just asked him although I’m pretty sure the answer would have been a resounding no.  It would have been my first concert although I only had to wait another month or so before that happened. They played Glasgow another few times but I think as Robertson had left I lost a little interest and something I do regret.  I have seen the resurrected Lizzy a couple of times.  The John Sykes version was actually very good but the later version seemed to have turned into a more metal band and completely destroyed the Lizzy classics.  One of the very few times I’ve left a gig early.  They’ve now changed their name to the Black Star Riders but I can’t get any enthusiasm for them at all.

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In January 1986 Phil Lynott died after his years of partying and living the rock star life to the full sadly caught up with him.  Although most people would think Lynott was born in Ireland he was actually born in West Brom and moved to Dublin to stay with his gran when he was four.  Being born out of wedlock and from a mixed race relationship life must have been pretty tough back in those unforgiving days.  Lynott was the ultimate charmer though and he was the perfect frontman and played his bass like a demon.  In 2000 when I was in Ireland to see Pearl Jam I took a trip out to visit his grave at St Fintan’s cemetery in Sutton just outside Dublin.  Took me a while to find it as all the graves are much the same and didn’t have headstone but stones laid on the ground.  Once I did locate it though it was festooned with mementos from those who had previously visited.  I’m never quite sure why I visit graves of those people I never personally knew.  I suppose they have played a small but significant part in my life and just want to pay my respects although it doesn’t really sit with my belief that when you die that’s it, no afterlife etc. so I’m really just paying respect to a bit of stone and earth really. 🙂

I’ve still to see his statue in Dublin.  Last time I was there it had been removed for cleaning or something.  I’ll catch up with it next time but Lynott and Lizzy left quite a legacy behind.

See you on week 14.

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