Thin Lizzy “Jailbreak” (1976)

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We’d flown all night, the red-eye from New York to our first-ever international boys trip destination in Dublin, and we weren’t going to be denied, or delayed, our first authentic pint of local Guinness. Only McDaids, the pub we’d earmarked to christen the outing, was inexplicably closed; somehow it hadn’t occurred to us that even in Ireland pubs might not be pouring at 8:00am. Disgruntled and disillusioned, the 4 of us – me and my fellow travelers Duck and Cek as well as our one faux-European attendee Kap – drifted onto the cobblestone of Harry Street in Dublin city center, just off more famous Grafton Street, and quickly found two most welcome markers: first, an open pub directly across the street (eternal thanks, Bruxelles, you didn’t let a bunch of early-morning ugly-Americans down); and second, an unexpected statue of a beloved Irish rock musician. Not Bono, as might be your first guess, and not Van Morrison (yes, he’s Irish). Nor Shane MacGowan of The Pogues, Dolores O’Riordan of the Cranberries, blues legend Rory Gallagher, Sinead O’Connor, or even Enya, Ireland’s best-selling solo artist ever (it’s true). None of them. No, the huge bronze sculpture we were suddenly staring up at was that of Phil Lynott, founder, principal songwriter, lead vocalist and bassist for the enduring hard rock powerhouse, Thin Lizzy.

Lynott was actually born in England, but grew up in Dublin with his grandparents to eventually become one of the city’s favorite sons as Thin Lizzy’s unequivocal leader. And before his untimely death in 1986 at just 36 years of age, he had surely led them to greatness. Thin Lizzy was one of those bands blessed and cursed to have had one humungous breakthrough song, ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ – a favorite in the barrooms of Dublin and around the world – so much so that it stole focus away from the deep catalog of tremendous work done over the course of 12 studio albums between 1971 – 1983 and through an insane amount of band turnover around Lynott.¹ Most would remember ‘Whiskey In A Jar,’ Lizzy’s re-working of a traditional Irish ballad that became their first big hit; FM-radio staples ‘Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In It’s Spotlight)’ and ‘Waiting For An Alibi’; and the western stampede of ‘Cowboy Song’ from their career-highlight 1976 album “Jailbreak,” a tune to which my friend Hefferjohnson once brought a to-that-point tame Hamptons party to rapt attention by enthusiastically playing air guitar on a discarded screen door.

The lead and title track to that same ‘Jailbreak’ album is our choice here, though, a ferocious, rough-riffed rocker featuring a touch of the intertwined dual-lead guitar interplay distinctive to the classic Thin Lizzy sound. It’s also, without question, among all rock tunes ever, the absolute likeliest to be named in just one note² – five chilling and anticipatory seconds of ringing guitar-harmony (go ahead, listen, you’ll know…even if you didn’t already know). Like he did in ‘The Boys Are Back In Town,’ Lynott sings over kinetic, crunchy chords of bad times coming to anyone crazy enough to cross paths with him and his boys. “Tonight there’s gonna be trouble,” he warns, “So don’t you be around.” Exactly like me and my rumble-ready brethren initially felt one long-ago Dublin morning, until our nettlesome travails were quickly solved by a perfectly-pulled, rich and creamy pint of unmistakable locally-brewed stout. Thanks again, Bruxelles (and shove it forever, McDaids).

¹Multiple separate times including legendary guitarist Gary Moore, aka “The Lord Of The Strings.”

²On second thought, that’s got to be ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ but they do open quite similarly.

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2 thoughts on “Thin Lizzy “Jailbreak” (1976)

  1. Don’t be hatin’ on McDaids. You got your pint… and hopefully you launched in to a full Irish breakfast at Bruxelles as well.

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