In the end, it’s always the drugs. Drugs, and their good buddy, denial. After years of hunger and hard work, a band hits the big time and samples all that it has to offer. It’s too much, too soon…and, almost always, too damn bad. The story of Thin Lizzy is no different, a tale of a band plagued by a revolving door of guitar players, bad habits and a recurring penchant for shooting themselves in the foot. Somehow, however, Thin Lizzy was still able to rule the rock world for a far too-brief moment before being blinded by the bright lights.
In Thin Lizzy: The Boys Are Back In Town, we get the whole story, from the inside. We get each of the guitarists’ perspective and they all acquit themselves well. Eric Bell is quite candid about his time in Lizzy and the artistic differences that led to his departure; Brian Robertson admits to being out of control and, eventually, out of the band; and Gary Moore (who has since also passed) talks about his perpetual reunions with Thin Lizzy. Scott Gorham, the guitar anchor of the classic Lizzy lineup, serves as the (now) clear-eyed narrator throughout most of the book. He also served as Phil Lynott’s chief partner in both song and, more importantly, crime.
If twin guitars were the calling card of Thin Lizzy, Phil Lynott, a natural frontman (and an underappreciated songwriter), was the heart and soul. Thin Lizzy was Lynott’s vehicle. And that vehicle was best when on the road; Thin Lizzy was a superb live band. It’s no coincidence that Live and Dangerous, despite the rumors of overdubbing, is their signature recorded moment. But the road historically has taken its toll on stronger bands than Lizzy and they became caught in a tour cycle they could never break. It affected the records — with little time to write ; their stability — drummer Brian Downey left due to the pressures of the road several times, and health — Gorham eventually left the band to confront his addiction. Fellow addict Phil Lynott chose to stay the course and paid the ultimate price, losing his battle with drugs, dead at the age of 36.
Thin Lizzy left behind one single for the ages, a couple of good records — one great one in Live and Dangerous — and some damn fine memories for anyone who had the chance to see them live.
Scott Gorham and longtime band confidant Harry Doherty pull no punches and spare no detail: Thin Lizzy: The Boys Are Back In Town is a concise, well-written history of the band and may well be the definitive word. It presents the good, the bad and the ugly of the Thin Lizzy story.
And man, I still think them cats were crazy…
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