Sean’s music 23 … Thin Lizzy

Sean liked Thin Lizzy … in particular, he regarded the guitar riff in ‘Emerald’ as the best rock riff ever. That was his favourite Lizzy song (it’s in his YouTube ‘favourites’); others he liked included classics such as ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ and ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’.

I wrote a piece on Lizzy on another blogsite a few years ago … here it is …

Thin Lizzy were arguably the best Irish rock band. They started as a three-piece in the early seventies … Phil Lynott and drummer Brian Downey from Crumlin in Dublin; Eric Bell, the lead guitarist, from Belfast.

‘Whiskey in the Jar’ is adapted from an old Irish ballad: I think they recorded it as a kind of joke or novelty track.. They expected nothing of it, but it got them on Top of the Pops and on the road to success, and excess. It’s still a great track, in my opinion … one of those happy accidents that manage to capture and preserve some magic from the place and the time and the people present.

The song is about a drunken, thieving, violent, lecherous desperado … Lynott’s natural charm manages to make the character likeable, and Bell’s inspired guitar runs do the rest. The band never did anything like it again. (Metallica do a pretty good version too, incidentally.)

Thin Lizzy went through line-up changes … Bell left and a couple of long-haired American guitar-slingers joined; they became a power-chord stadium-rock machine, but were still great.

Lynott was killed by his lifestyle at the age of 36. He is buried in Dublin, where a statue of him was unveiled in 2005; his mother, Philomena – a lovely, lively woman – tends his grave. There’s a concert in his memory – A Vibe for Phillo – every year, and more Thin Lizzy tribute bands than you could shake a stick at. But the magic is elsewhere.

Phil was a likeable and charsimatic man, as the blogger steddyeddy can confirm … eddy once interviewed him for a pirate radio station; Phil arrived with a crate of Guinness. He was a kind of quintessential Dubliner who fell into the traps that Dublin sets for anyone who’s in any way weak.

The video for Lynott’s single ‘Old Town’ is dated now, but it still has great poignancy for anyone who loved his music, and who loved Dublin in the seventies and eighties. That includes me.



Filed under Blogging, Death, Ireland, Memories, Music

24 responses to “Sean’s music 23 … Thin Lizzy

  1. Dave

    Terrific stuff Brendan! I was always a big fan of ‘Lizzy’ and was listening to them recently after the death of Gary Moore in February.
    Where’s that bar in the ‘Old Town’ video? It looks very like one of our haunts in the mid to late 80’s, Henry St perhaps or is it The Long Hall? Probably neither of those but I’m sure it is one of our watering holes 🙂

    Take care


    • Hi Dave … thanks for this. I must ask Pauline about the bar, which does seem very familiar – maybe Mulligan’s of Poolbeg Street, where she and I first met 30 years ago.

  2. pauline

    I don’t think it was Mulligan’s my best guess is the Palace Bar but it could be the International.

  3. Cymbeline

    Hello Mrs O’Brien. As a mother, may I say that I think of you often. Last weekend, we went for a weekend family jaunt, but Charlotte, our elder daughter was not with us. Our beautiful daughter is nearly grown-up now. She is very much alive in Paris. I ruined the weekend because I was crying about her not being there, and wishing that all my children could be with me. I hope you understand that I may have but a tiny understanding of what you feel. Please accept my deepest feelings.

    Brendano. I did not know that Thin Lizzy were Irish.

    Another photograph of a loved, charismatic and handsome young man.

  4. Dave

    That’s a brilliant idea! We’d have to start in the most unlikely of places or else the research would be over too quickly!

    Yes, I can see a plan a forming!

  5. Pauline

    Hello Cymbeline

    When Sean first went to college I used go into his room just so i could smell his presence. I was upset because I knew he would never live with us permanently again.

    I remember a few weeks before Sean died he told me about his plans to go fruit picking in Australia this summer. I burst into tears at the thought and said what if you don’t come back. I wish he was there now. It takes some getting used to.

    I think loving parents have an understanding of what losing a child would be like. I know I would have thought about it before this happened to us. The difference is that you have to learn to live with it, there is no escape or relief, it’s always in your mind but you have to function and you have to make the best of it.

    best wishes

  6. Pauline

    Thanks Cymbeline, it’s good to know people are thinking of us. I do believe it helps.

    You are right, you can lose a loved one in a second.

    I always tried to make the best of the time we had together when the children were young and I am so glad of it now.

  7. ap

    Don’t google it or you’ll have arrived at your answer within seconds because it comes up straight away…Maybe one of you has already given the correct answer 😉

    Dave didn’t you spend a night drinking with Phil’s mum in Warrenpoint once?

  8. ap

    Ps that is a fabulous picture of Sean looking so happy and healthy. The girl he is with reminds me of Evanna Lynch – the girl who plays Luna Lovegood in the Potter movies.

    • Hi ap … yes, it’s a good pic. A girl called Roisin … don’t know who she was or where she came from, but Sean, Stevo and herself had just been out in a rowing boat on the lake.

      It was a few years ago. That jumper is still in a cupboard here.

  9. Shermeen

    Good morning Brendan
    The eloquence of some comments on this blog makes it a compelling read.
    Your decision to remember your son via this medium has created a very worthy legacy. He would be very proud of it.

    • Good morning, Shermeen. Yes, I think Sean would be proud. He would be glad that he made such an impact that so many people miss him now. He would also be glad of the songs I have written, I think.

      We do feel that he is still with us.

  10. A friend of ours developed some nice old black-and-white negatives (of photos Pauline took when the children were small) and put them on a CD for us, but they are TIFF files and WordPress can’t use them … when I get them converted I’ll post some here.

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