We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to bring you a reminder of just how great Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott was and just how sorely missed he is. We’re revisiting his iconic bassline for ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’.
For a while, there wasn’t a school disco or wedding dancefloor that wasn’t blessed by the powerful bass of Phil Lynott and his band Thin Lizzy. However cursed the dancing to such a song may be, after all, seeing middle-aged balding men not only pretending their boys again but that they’re in some sort of rock ‘n’ roll gang can be a little nauseating, the song is a bonafide banger.
To compound that point we’re taking a closer look at the one thing that underpins the entire track, Lynott’s impeccable bass, through this isolated track.
Of course, the song is more than just a bassline. The lyrics are imbued with the theatricality of a West End musical production and almost every one of the aforementioned manchildren who perform the song sliding on their knees in expensive suits will be playing the air guitar—but without Lynott’s bass, the song is nothing.
It’s a notion that only really comes to the fore when you isolate the bass track. Naturally, a bassline is always extremely valuable to a song’s composition but here it takes on a new role and almost leads the entire band through ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’, which may have something to do with Lynott being the band’s leader himself. However it happened, the song acts as one of the biggest rock songs of all time.
It almost didn’t work out that way though. The song was originally cast aside as a bit of fluff, until one day, things popped. Thin Lizzy guitarist explains of the song, “It was 1976 and we were touring America”, recalled Scott Gorham.
“Jailbreak, [the band’s sixth record] wasn’t shifting and we weren’t selling any tickets – but there we were, gigging around… The manager came in and told us, ‘Well guys, it looks like you have a hit record’… Our response was, ‘Wow! Which song are you talking about?’ When he replied, ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’, it was a case of ‘Really?’
“We’d demoed maybe 15 songs and ‘The Boys Are Back in Town’ wasn’t among the ten that we chose for the album, which in some ways made it a double surprise. We owe it all to two DJs in Louisville, Kentucky. They fell in love with the fucking song and played it incessantly until other stations in the surrounding area picked up on it… Had that song not kickstarted the sales of the album, then the band was over.”
Since then the song has found itself falling in and out of fashion, sometimes being regarded as one of the best rock songs in the world and sometimes being maligned as dad rock fodder. We’d argue it’s probably a bit of both.
Nothing can quite match the intensity and pomp that Phil Lynott brings to the song with his bass. It’s the reason the song has stood the test of time and likely the reason we’ll remember Thin Lizzy forevermore.