I have a confession to make. For most of my life, I have not been a Thin Lizzy fan. Of course, as a rabidly committed old school rocker from the age of thirteen, I’ve had a more than passing familiarity with their biggest songs lo these many years. And I certainly enjoyed the fret-shredding turn of the heavily Whitesnake-inflected version of the band that I saw opening for Deep Purple back in 2007. Yet something – perhaps ultimately deriving from having ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ drummed into me when I began to learn to play bass – had always prevented me from taking the critical next step of, you know, buying their albums and stuff. With this month’s sad passing of Gary Moore, and an excellent extended feature in the January issue of Classic Rock magazine commemorating the 25th anniversary of Phil Lynott’s death, I decided it was time to remedy that fact, and finally invested in the officially sanctioned Universal Greatest Hits collection. I’ve had the two discs on constant rotation ever since.
As well as being immediately impressed by the clear influence of rockers like ‘Cold Sweat’ and ‘Killer on the Loose’ on the 80s L.A. bands I love so much, I was nothing short of blown away by two songs in particular: ‘Still in Love with You’ and ‘She Knows’. The easy way that the former, wonderfully poignant and affecting love song, drifts into such a deliciously languid Latin-flavoured extended ending is a credit to the accomplishment and sensibility of all concerned, while the interplay of Robertson and Gorham’s guitars on the latter is downright jaw-dropping. Listening to the collection as a whole, it occurs to me that advancing any notion of a signature Lizzy ‘sound’ – a notion that has more than a whiff of reductiveness – must take in far more than the trademark twin leads that pointed the way for many of the band’s peers (notably Judas Priest). What strikes us as unmistakably Lizzy has at least as much to do with the coolness of Lynott’s vocal delivery, the deceptive simplicity of his basslines around which so many of the songs are built, the sophistication of the chording whatever the pairing of guitarists may be, and the stylish dash with which – thanks to Lynott’s singular creative vision – hard rock, folk, soul, reggae, pop, Latin and Celtic elements were incorporated and intermingled on so many of their songs.
Of course, none of this will be news to the discerning rock ‘n’ rollers out there. But I thought it would be as well to let the world know that I’m finally catching up. Next up, methinks: Live and Dangerous. Always was a sucker for a great live album and – so I’ve been told – they don’t come much better than that one.