The fashion police have decreed it's okay for us all to rock again, apparently, so...
Mick Fitzsimmons 2004-06-08
The fashion police have decreed it's okay for us all to rock again, apparently, so what better time to celebrate the career of one of the greatest rock bands that ever stalked a stage?
From their formation in Dublin in the late 60s up until their dissolution in September 1983, Thin Lizzy released some of the finest rock albums of their era. Not only that, but they managed the rare feat of being a credible rock band who released great singles.And in Phil Lynott they had possibly the coolest frontman ever to squeeze into leather trousers.
Their early three piece line-up featuring guitarist Eric Bell scored some success with their version of Irish folk standard ''Whiskey in the Jar'', but Lizzy's most enduring line-up came after Bell was replaced by the twin guitar attack of Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham. Their first album together, 1974's Nightlife, suffered from weak production but included one of Lynott's most affecting songs, the ballad ''Still in Love With You'' as well as the playfully melodic ''She Knows''.
Over the course of the following four years they released five more albums, including the double Live And Dangerous, possibly the greatest live album ever made. Throughout, Lynott mixed an aura of swaggering machismo with a sense of romantic vulnerability. This was amply demonstrated on ''The Boys Are Back In Town'', the song which finally broke them into the mainstream in 1976. Elsewhere, ''Dancing In The Moonlight'' recalls Van Morrison without the spiritual baggage, while the pile driving ''Bad Reputation'' showcases Lizzy's most under-rated asset, Brian Downey's astonishing drumming.
Robertson was replaced by Gary Moore for 1979's Black Rose, which yielded yet more hit singles, including the sharp ''Waiting For An Alibi''. The astonishing title track found Lynott passionately exploring his Irish musical and literary heritage while Gorham and Moore pulled off a guitar tour de force.
However, Lizzy were becoming mired in both financial and drug problems, compounded by Lynott's confusion over the band's direction. He recorded solo records, with variable results, although the fine Elvis tribute, ''King's Call'', ranks among his best songs from this period. Both Chinatown (1980) and Renegade (1981) had their moments, but the writing was on the wall. Lizzy's final album, Thunder and Lightning (1982), featuring new guitarist John Sykes, showcased a heavier sound, and both the title track and ''Cold Sweat'' proved that they could still hit the target. However, it wasn't enough, and the band split the following year.
Sadly, Lynott's post-Lizzy career never really got off the ground. A 1985 duet with Gary Moore on ''Out in the Fields'' returned him to the upper reaches of the charts, but his health was failing. His death, on January 4th, 1986, robbed music of one of its greatest talents and finest characters.
For the moment, though, this will serve as a fine introduction to Lizzy's legacy for initiates, and a useful resume for fans.