Thin Lizzy first formed as a trio (line-up A) in Spring 1970. Lynott had first played with Brian Downey in The Black Eagles over in Dublin. He was also briefly with
Skid Row, where he played alongside
Gary Moore, before being reunited with Brian Downey in Orphanage, who took Tim Rose's Morning Dew into the Irish Charts.
In 1970, the recently formed band released an Irish-only 45 for Parlophone, The Farmer, which is now a mega-rarity, valued by 'Record Collector' at £500!
Late in 1970 they were signed by Decca and moved to London to play club gigs, although initially they certainly didn't pull in the crowds. They made their debut at The Speakeasy. Their first release for Decca was the New Day EP, which is now very rare. Their first album, Thin Lizzy, lacked consistency and the excitement of many of their live performances at the time, relying heavily on Eric Bell's celtic guitar. Many of Lynott's lyrics were rather obscure too and the story was no different on their second album, Tales From A Blue Orphanage.
Late in 1972 they released their first 45 (having already released two albums, though this was not unusual for progressive bands), a rock version of a folk tune, Whiskey In The Jar, which had some very distinctive riffs. The retail version was 5 minutes long, but DJs were sent a special 3 minute version. It was this 45 which gave them their big breakthrough, climbing to No 6 in the Charts. In the short-term, though, they didn't really capitalise on this. Their next 45, Randolph's Tango, missed out and their next album, Vagabonds Of The Western World, (which was in a heavier rock vein and omitted Whiskey In The Jar, which the band wanted to disassociate themselves with) made little commercial impact. However, it gave a clear indication of their future musical direction with strong heavy rock numbers like the title cut, The Rocker, Little Darling and Gonna Creep Up On You. When Deram reissued the album on CD in 1991, Whiskey In The Jar was added.
Disillusioned by their lack of progress, Eric Bell quit the band to return to Ireland in January 1974. His replacement, Gary Moore, who'd earlier played with Lynott in Skid Row, was recruited as his replacement but by April the same year he'd moved on to Jon Hiseman's
Colosseum. Just three tracks were recorded during this period:- the single Little Darling; Still In Love With You, which appeared on the Nightlife album and Sitamoia, which wasn't released until 1978. When
Moore departed guitarist Andy Gee (formerly with
Steve Ellis' band) and John (du) Cann (ex-Bullit,
Andromeda), were brought in to play on a tour of West Germany, which the band were contractually committed to, in May 1974. The band then expanded to a four-piece with the addition of Glaswegian Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham, a Californian. These line-up changes coincided with a new record deal with Phonogram's progressive Vertigo label. The band worked very hard touring the UK extensively in 1975. They built up a burgeoning live reputation, headlining at London's Roundhouse in June 1975 and appearing at an open-air festival at Cardiff Castle the following month with
Their fourth album, Nightlife, made little impression but the fifth, Fighting, crept into the Album Charts, peaking at No 60. However it was on Jailbreak that they perfected their twin lead guitar assault with Lynott's songwriting talents. The album spawned two major hit singles:- Jailbreak itself and The Boys Are Back In Town, which peaked at No 8, and cracked the American market, climbing to No 12 there. A major UK tour capitalising on this success culminated in three nights at the Hammersmith Odeon.
So as we leave the time span of this book, Thin Lizzy were at the pinnacle of their career, and their success continued largely unabated until they split in August 1983. Lynott died on 4 January 1986 from heart failure and pneumonia. He'd collapsed at his home over Christmas 1985 and fallen into a coma following an overdose. The remaining members reunited to play a tribute gig for Lynott in Dublin on 17 May with Bob Geldof on vocals. To many people, Phil Lynott was Thin Lizzy so the band or any prospect of its successful reformation died with him.
"The Friendly Ranger at Clontarf Castle" (Eric Bell, Phil Lynott) – 2:57
"Honesty Is No Excuse" (Lynott) – 3:34
"Diddy Levine" (Lynott) – 3:52
"Ray-Gun" (Bell) – 2:58
"Look What the Wind Blew In" (Lynott) – 3:16
"Éire" (Lynott) – 2:04
"Return of the Farmer's Son" (Brian Downey, Lynott) – 4:05
"Clifton Grange Hotel" (Lynott) – 2:22
"Saga of the Ageing Orphan" (Lynott) – 3:39
"Remembering, Pt. 1" (Lynott) – 5:57
"Dublin" (Lynott) – 2:27
"Remembering, Pt. 2 (New Day)" (Bell, Downey, Lynott) – 5:06
"Old Moon Madness" (Lynott) – 3:56
"Things Ain't Workin' Out Down at the Farm" (Lynott) – 4:32
Eric Bell - lead guitar, twelve-string guitar
Brian Downey - drums, percussion
Phil Lynott - bass guitar, vocals, acoustic guitar
also featuring :
Ivor Raymonde - mellotron on "Honesty Is No Excuse"