It's St. Patrick's week, which means my favorite bar will be packed with irregulars, green beer will be spilled, and far too many drunken renditions of "Danny Boy" will fill the Guinness-scented air. The holiday is not one of my favorites.
I could learn to love it, though. All I need is more Thin Lizzy. The Dublin band, and its leader, the late Phil Lynott, ranks high on my list of underappreciated rockers. Bono, the Hold Steady's Craig Finn, Mastodon, or Billy Corgan would say the same thing--they've all either covered Thin Lizzy or publicly praised the band, whose combination of hard rock bravado and streetwise soul never quite translated into superstardom during their late '70s heyday.
If there are any pub owners reading this, below is a list of the ten best Thin Lizzy songs. I promise they'll inspire more revelry than the usual flat playlist of Irish drinking tunes.
1. "The Boys Are Back In Town": The band's biggest hit is also its greatest pop confection, an irresistible mix of brash power chords, cocky storytelling, and buoyant melody.
2. "Jailbreak": A meaner, leaner beast than "Boys"--but no less successful at conveying the rowdy vibe of young men looking for trouble. Also, the song has an awesomely redundant chorus: "Tonight there's gonna be a jailbreak," sings Lynott, "somewhere in this town." Um, I'm guessing it happens at the jail.
3. "Black Rose": Prime St. Patrick's Day material. This inspiring seven-minute epic incorporates Irish mythology in the lyrics and traditional Celtic scales in the lengthy solo (played by blues-rock guitar hero Gary Moore).
4. "Emerald": Galloping rhythms, sword-sharp twin guitar leads, and lyrics about rampaging warriors make this Lizzy's heaviest track.
5. "Little Girl In Bloom": Unlike most hard rockers, Phil Lynott saw himself as a storyteller and poet, and this early track about a young girl's surprise pregnancy features some of his most sensitive lyrics. The band delivers a suitably delicate musical backing.
6. "Cowboy Song": Rocker-as-cowboy was a tired trope when Lynott used it on this 1976 rocker, but this song's perfectly executed dynamic shifts and Lynott's joyful delivery transcends any clichés.
7. "Dancing In The Moonlight": Is this song a rip-off of fellow Irishman Van Morrison's "Moondance"? Perhaps. Is it also a slyly funky and funny bit of rock malarkey? Definitely. Try not to smile when Lynott laments, "I always get chocolate stains on my pants."
8. "Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed": There's nothing sly about this funky, hard-grooving number. Somewhere, a hip-hop producer is waiting to get his hands on a drum part as suavely malicious as the one Brian Downey lays down here.
9. "Whiskey In The Jar": Metallica's 1998 version of this traditional Irish number about theft and betrayal took as its template Lizzy's early '70s rendition. But there's a swashbuckling swagger and, crucially, a sense of sadness on the latter's effort that marks it as definitive.
10. "Dear Miss Lonelyhearts": This is a bit of a cheat, as the song was actually recorded for one of Lynott's two solo albums. No matter though, the wry lyrics (written as if they were a letter to a dating columnist) and sharp poppy melody make "Lonelyhearts" perhaps the singer's most instantly appealing song.
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