It was 1976, me and my pal Per Stenström was hunting for used albums in Gothenburg. I don’t remember what store it was, but we did find a pretty new album called “Jailbreak” by the Irish band Thin Lizzy. I didn’t know that much about them more than that they looked very cool and that according to the Swedish poster magazine “Poster” they were supposed to play boogie rock not to dissimilar to Status Quo. As I didn’t like Status Quo that much I let Per buy the album. When we came home and listened to it I was very impressed, and it was clear that this was something entirely different than Status Quo. I copied the album to a cassette tape and listened to it all the time, “Warrior” and “Emerald” turned out to be my favorite tracks. By this time, I hadn’t relay started to collect albums as I only had a cassette player, even though my parents had a turntable in the basement. I did however have a small MC collection and felt that Thin Lizzy was so good that I needed to incorporate them in it. There was a store in Gothenburg called Rammels that sold MCs and they had three albums by Thin Lizzy, “Jailbreak”, Fighting” and a strange album called “Remembering Part 1”. There were actually a fourth album called “Nighlife” as well, but it was only available on vinyl. I bought the three MC’s and immediately fell in love with “Fighting”, especially the songs “Suicide” and “Spirit slips away”. “Remembering Part 1” was a bit more uneven and different even though I liked most of the songs. There were two tracks that I loved especially much, “Sitamoia” and “Little Darling”. I soon found out that the guitarist on these two songs was a guy called Gary Moore. His playing really stood out and I tried to find out more about him, which wasn’t easy at the time. Anyway, I was now a big Lizzy fan and felt that I needed to get “Nightlife” as well even though it meant that I had to buy the vinyl instead of a MC. Unfortunately, that album wasn’t as good as the other ones, but it still had some good songs like “Showdown” and “Sha la la”.
A bit later the same year “Johnny the Fox” was released and this time I got the MC on the same week it was released. “Johnny the Fox” was just as good as “Jailbreak” and the stand out track was “Massacre”. By this time, I had started to read Melody Maker and soon found out about Brian Robertson’s knife wound in a bar fight and that Thin Lizzy had to temporarily replace him live with none other than Gary Moore on the coming 1977 US tour supporting Queen. I also found out that Gary Moore was playing in a jazz rock band called Colosseum II.
In the summer of 1977, my family moved from Gothenburg Sweden to Eau Claire, Wisconsin in the USA for a year. By this time, I also decided that it was time start collect vinyl’s and forget about the MC’s.
I’t didn’t take me long to find every record store there was in that little town and as records was a lot cheaper in the US than in Sweden I decided to also buy the vinyl’s I already had on MC. My favorite store was “Trucker’s Union”, a kind of hippie store that sold clothes, jewelry and lots of different smoking devices but most important of all, they had a big record section. I became great friends with Herman, one of the guys that worked there. I asked him about Thin Lizzy and he showed me what albums they had and to my surprise they had three records that I didn’t know about. That was of course the three first Decca albums featuring Eric Bell and naturally I bought them on the spot. Unfortunately, I was deeply disappointed when I heard the two first albums and it took many years before I started to appreciate them. However, “Vagabonds of the Western World” was excellent, apart from the boring “Slow Blues”. Some of the songs I recognized from “Remembering Part 1” album. By the way, in another store called UMS I finally found two albums by Colloseum II, “Electric Savage” and “War Dance”, and if I was impressed by Gary’s playing on the two Lizzy tracks I was amazed by what he played in Colosseum II.
In America I started to read other music magazines like “Creem”, “Hit Parader”, “Circus” and my favorite “Record Review”. I now found out that Lizzy had fired Brian Robertson and offered the position to Gary Moore, but he wanted to return to Colloseum II. Most of the guitars on the coming album “Bad Reputation” was recorded by Scott Gorham, but thankfully Brian Robertson was guesting on three tracks. On the day of the release, I went down to Truckers Union and bought both “Bad Reputation” and “A Farewell to Kings” by Rush that was released on the same day. Both albums were amazing even though I never was a fan of “Dancing in the Moonlight”. No, my favorite tracks were “Opium Trail” and “Killer Without a Cause”, two of the tracks that feature Brian Robertson.
Luckily for me Thin Lizzy was going on tour in the US that fall to promote “Bad Reputation” and they were going to play in St:Paul, Minnesota, only a two hour drive from Eau Claire. My parents agreed to drive me and another friend from Sweden, Carl Schneider, who was an exchange student at Memorial High, the same school that I went to. This was the first concert that I went to and amazingly enough we managed to get front row tickets. When we came to the concert hall everyone in the line was wondering who was going to be the replacement for Brian Robertson. I had already read in a magazine that it was Robbo that was going to replace himself on the tour, but when I told them about this, they were very skeptical. Thankfully I was right, and it was an unreal feeling to see the band that I only had seen on pictures before on stage just a meter in front of me. It was even more amazing when Phil Lynott came to the front of the stage and let us shake his hand. When he took my hand, I could not make myself let go and he had to tear himself away from my grip.
Before we moved back to Sweden in the summer of 1978 Thin Lizzy released one of the best live albums in rock history, “Live and Dangerous”. Unfortunately, that was also the last full Thin Lizzy album featuring Brian Robertson. At the time I wasn’t too sorry for that as Gary Moore was going to replace Robbo and this time as a permanent band member for the first time since his three month long stint in 1974.
Back in Sweden Thin Lizzy was now a rather popular band compared to when I left in 1977. Many of my friends was big fans and they did not like that Robbo was gone and most of them had never heard of Gary Moore. When I tried to convince them that Gary was at least as good as Robbo they were very skeptical. When “Black Rose” was released, and I got to see Thin Lizzy live for the second time when the tour hit Gothenburg, most of my friends were finally convinced that Gary would be a great fit. Ironically now I was the one that was skeptical. Of course, Gary’s playing was impeccable, but the songs on the new album missed something that was present during the Robbo years. They were not “dangerous” anymore, they were almost more pop than hard rock. It sounded nothing like the two songs Gary recorded with the band the first time all those years ago. Well, there is a live recording of “Sitamoia” from 1974 that features a part in the beginning that later turned up in the song “Black Rose”…
Anyway, of course I like the album, but not as much as the Robbo albums.
I’m sure you know that Gary then left in the middle of a US tour and that he was replaced on the next two albums by Snowy White who in my humble opinion didn’t work out at all in Thin Lizzy. Personally, I’m not a big fan of “China Town” and “Renegade” even though there are some great songs on those albums, I especially like “Angel of Death”. I think that those two albums lack both direction and energy, but I still saw them live three times with Snowy White and thankfully live there was still some energy in Thin Liizzy.
It was no surprise when Snowy left, but his replacement on the other hand was a big surprise. Phil recruited John Sykes from the NWOBHM band Tygers of Pan Tang. As I was already a big fan of Tygers and especially John Sykes this was great news. Unfortunately, Thin Lizzy only recorded one album with Sykes, the amazing “Thunder and Lightning”. Now the energy was back in the band and I loved every track on the album except for the boring “Bad Habits”. I saw the band two times on their farewell tour in 1983, once in Gothenburg and once at the Reading Festival where they were headlining. Live the energy was almost to much as they played the songs a lot faster than the studio versions, which didn’t always benefit the songs. I also saw Phil Lynott and his band featuring John Sykes on two solo tours of Sweden.
I believe that Thin Lizzy broke up way too early and that they had lots of good music left in them which Lynott proves on the tracks “Military Man” from Gary Moore’s solo album “Run for Cover” and his own solo single “Nineteen”, both released in 1985.
Unfortunately Phil Lynott passed away on January 4th, 1986 before he could make his real solo comeback, there was also rumors of a Thin Lizzy reunion. Now, 35 years after Phil’s tragic passing, only 36 years old, he and Thin Lizzy is still relevant. “Rock Legends”, a new six CD Mega box featuring all UK singles and various demos plus a DVD, and a brand-new documentary “Songs for while I’m Away” was released last year. Of course, as a serious Thin Lizzy fan I have bought the mega box, but I have not yet seen the documentary. I’m eagerly waiting for the Blu-Ray release.