Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thin Lizzy Thursday: Thunder and Lightning

Thin Lizzy never really cracked the US, but were superstars in Europe. Lizzy leader Phil Lynott was, like so many of the great Irish bards, a born outsider in an extremely insular culture. Born in England to an Irish mother and a Afro-Brazilian father, Lynott later moved to Ireland and got swept up in the late-blooming Irish Rock and Roll scene. Inspired by Jimi Hendrix and the nascent British heavy metal sound, Lynott formed Thin Lizzy. He brought some much needed Soul to Hard Rock as well as the poetic tradition from the land of his mother's birth.

I always heard a tremendous amount of pain and despair in his voice. I can't imagine being a black rocker in what was essentially an all-white Catholic theocracy was easy on the man. But all great artists are outcasts- that is the wellspring of their genius. As a result, Lizzy was always respected by the 70s punks, who seemed hellbent on discarding all of the heroes they grew up with.

I chose this song because it shows that the punks' admiration of Lynott and Lizzy was a two-way street. This is not Lynott at the peak of his performing powers, but the band (at this point including future Whitesnake axeman John Sykes) more than make up for it.

I was at a skinhead party in Boston in the early 80s and put this record on. I was immediately shouted down by the crowd for daring to make them listen to a bunch of old longhairs from the 70s. Later that night a group of them were clustered around the stereo, getting all misty-eyed listening to a recording of old SS marching songs.

Note: We'll be listening to some tracks by my favorite Irish bands on selected Wednesdays in the coming weeks.

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