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Thin Lizzy Biography

Home > Music > T > Thin Lizzy > Biography

Birth Place: Dublin, Ireland
Years Active: 1969–1984, 1996–2001, 2004–present
Genres: Rock, Hard Rock, Heavy Metal

Thin Lizzy is an Irish hard rock band formed in Dublin in 1969. The two founding members, drummer Brian Downey and bass guitarist/vocalist Phil Lynott met while still in school. Lynott assumed the role of frontman and led them throughout their recording career which included many lineup changes. Thin Lizzy are best known for their songs “Whiskey in the Jar,” “Jailbreak” and “The Boys Are Back in Town,” all major international hits still played regularly on hard rock and classic rock radio stations. After Lynott's death in 1986, various incarnations of the band have emerged over the years based around guitarists Scott Gorham and John Sykes, though Sykes left the band in 2009.

Thin Lizzy were signed to Decca Records, and they travelled to London in January 1971 to record their debut album, “Thin Lizzy.” The album sold moderately well but did not chart in the U.K. The band's second album “Shades of a Blue Orphanage,” was released in March 1972. Like the previous LP, the songs were filled with Lynott's personal anecdotes and references to his life in Dublin and the people he knew there. Musically the style was Celtic, with little warning of the hard rock direction that the band was to take in the future.

In late 1972, Decca decided to release Thin Lizzy's version of a traditional Irish ballad, “Whiskey in the Jar,” as a single. The band was angry at the release, feeling that the song did not represent their sound or their image, but the single topped the Irish chart, and reached #6 in the U.K. in February 1973. It also charted in many countries across Europe. The band's next album, “Vagabonds of the Western World” was released in September 1973 to positive reviews, but again failed to chart. The accompanying single “The Rocker” again only charted in Ireland, and the momentum gained from their hit single was lost.

In early 1975, Thin Lizzy toured the USA for the first time, in support of Bob Seger and Bachman–Turner Overdrive. They then recorded the “Fighting” album, which became the first Thin Lizzy album to chart in the U.K., reaching #60, although the singles still did not chart.

Released in March 1976, “Jailbreak,” proved to be their breakthrough record. It featured the worldwide hit “The Boys Are Back in Town” which reached #8 in the U.K., and #12 in the U.S. The album also charted well on both sides of the Atlantic, and the follow-up single, “Jailbreak,” also performed well. their first charting record in that country.

Their 1976 album, “Johnny the Fox” was written and recorded while Lynott was recovering from a bout of hepatitis that put him off the road halfway through the previous “Jailbreak” tour. “Don't Believe a Word” was a hit single in the U.K. “Bad Reputation” followed in 1977 and reached #4 on the U.K. Albums hart. “Dancing in the Moonlight (It's Caught Me in Its Spotlight)” was a hit U.K. single reaching #14 on the Singles chart in September 1977. Although it wasn't released as a single, the title track “Bad Reputation” would prove to be one of the band's most popular songs, becoming a staple of classic rock and hard rock radio.

In 1978, Lizzy released their first live album “Live and Dangerous” which reached #2 in the U.K. At the beginning of 1979 they recorded “Black Rose: A Rock Legend” in Paris, featuring two successful singles, “Waiting for an Alibi” and "Do Anything You Want To” and the album reached #2 in the U.K.

1980 saw the release of “Chinatown” featuring the U.K. #21 title track and “Killer on the Loose,” reached the Top 10 amid much adverse publicity due to the ongoing activities of serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, known as “The Yorkshire Ripper.” The album reached #7 on the U.K. Albums chart.

In April 1981, the band's first 'greatest hits' album was released, and “The Adventures of Thin Lizzy” reached #6 in the U.K. Later that year, “Renegade” was released but was not successful, only reaching #38 in the U.K. The single “Hollywood (Down on Your Luck)” also flopped.

Their 12th, and final studio album, “Thunder and Lightning” was released in 1983 and was much more successful than its predecessor, reaching #4 in the U.K. Thin Lizzy played their final U.K. concert before their break-up at the Reading Festival in August 1983.