MUSiC/MEDiA: Phil Lynott, Song For While I’m Away, 2021

This is great! A decent documentary about the late great Phil Lynott. I’m always flabbergasted when I’m reminded that he died aged just 36. A truly tragic waste.

But let’s not dwell on the morbid darker side. Even more stunning is the fact that in such a relatively short life he and his musical partners in crime left us such a rich legacy.

From the eponymous debut of 1971, through to swan song Thunder and Lightning, 1983, Thin Lizzy’s discography is littered with fantastic music. And Lynott’s solo albums are worth having as well.

As a child my first musical ‘crush’ was for Status Quo. But the first band I got properly into, such that I started buying their albums, was Thin Lizzy.

Lynott and Downey, a dream team.

Rather ironically, but entirely predictably, it was hearing Whiskey In The Jar, on a cassette compilation loaned me by a friend / thanks Heidi – that started the lifelong love affair.

The irony being, as conveyed in this doc’ (and elsewhere), that Whisky was an accidental and unintentional hit. A bit of a joke in the studio – rockin’ up a trad’ ‘Oirish’ folk song, for a laugh – that wound up catapulting the band into the spotlight.

The next phase en route to stardom didn’t come easily. Eric Bell, one of the original core trio, left, disillusioned with the miming pop culture and struggling with his own daemons.

Lizzy then reinvented themselves, adding their famed twin guitars to the permanent duo of Lynott on bass, vocals and chief songwriting duties, and superb drummer Brian Downey. Lynott and Downey had met at school, and played together in several bands prior to the advent of Lizzy.

Probably my favourite Lizzy album?
Ah… those were the daze!

For me this next era, Lynott, Downey and guitarists Scott Gotham and Brian Robertson, is the ‘golden age’ of the band. Between 1974-1977 they released five albums, all of which – Nightlife, Fighting, Jailbreak, Johnny The Fox and Bad Reputation are solid gold classics, in my view.

But as alluded to above, after the flash in the pan ‘one-hit wonder’ aberrant success of Whiskey In The Jar, they were in danger of sinking without trace. But luckily for them, and all of us, The Boys Are Back In Town, and the album that spawned that second hit, Jailbreak, cemented their success.

Robertson left (can’t recall if quit or was fired?) during the Bad Reputation period. And from that point on their was a continuing cast of changing characters on second guitar, from former occasional band mate Gary Moore, via Snowy White, to bouffant haired shredder, John Sykes.

Lizzy’s 71 debut. What a cool cover!
I really love their early Eric Bell era stuff.

Some post classic quartet albums, like Black Rose and Chinatown, are still great, featuring some sublime tracks, such as Sarah (#2!), Dancing In The Moonlight and (?). But Renegade and Thunder And Lightning, which might for other lesser bands be high water marks, aren’t Lizzy’s greatest.

So, this post has morphed from a review of the biopic into a brief overview of Lizzy, from one fan’s perspective! It also makes me realise I’d like to re-listen to the whole Lizzy/Lynott catalogue, and post reviews of all the albums. Like I’ve already done with Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits, and one or two others.

But to return to the core subject… it’s nice to see and hear Phil Lynott being so fondly remembered, and recognised for the great musical talent he had. As music biopics go, this is good. Very good.

I especially liked that they aimed more at his ‘sensitive side’, and not the dumb rocker thing, which has occasionally blighted other Lizzy/Lynott related media. Emer Reynolds, the lady who made this film, has said herself: ‘I was interested in something a bit more nuanced, that would focus on the poet, the songwriter, the man behind the image.’ *

Oi troid really hard to foind da photo on the left of this image, as a stand-alone…

To conclude: Phil, not believing in a spirit world, I realise you can’t hear this, but no matter… I’m Still In Love With You!

* I forget now where I found this quote; some online Irish newspaper article, Oi t’ink?

Here’s another fab pic of Lynott from the very early days. Love it! Just wish I could locate a better quality version.

2 Replies to “MUSiC/MEDiA: Phil Lynott, Song For While I’m Away, 2021”

  1. The first album I ever bought out of wages I earned myself (a Christmas job in Threshers) was Johnny the Fox (on cassette), but I was already a fan.. saw them on the Jailbreak/Johnny the Fox/Bad Reputation and Black Rose tours… the guy was an outlaw romantic warrior poet.. what a waste to go so early…

    1. Steve, I envy you, you lucky devil! Lynott died just before my 14th birthday. So I missed out on ever seeing them live.

      Like you my first independent music purchase was a Lizzy album. But mine was an LP.

      I can’t recall exactly which album my Lizzy collection started with, alas. Might’ve been Johnny The Fox, or Jailbreak? But it might’ve been Black Rose!? I just can’t remember!

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