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(Credit: Harry Potts)

Music

The song that saved Thin Lizzy from being fired

@TomTaylorFO

In 1972 ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ landed Thin Lizzy a monumental hit in their native Ireland, and whilst it travelled just fine, it was rubbing shoulders with strong international competition. Whilst the Watergate Scandal may have been stealing all the headlines and terrorism tragically crept into sport at the Munich Olympics, the musical world was entering its most diverse chapter.

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In fact, music spun out in such a kaleidoscopic blur of colour and quality, like a light show scattered in a spectrum from a disco ball, that monolithic albums such as The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars peaked at a mere 75 in the US charts. Now, that might seem so incredulous that it could cause the nervous minded to fart, but when you consider that the Rolling Stones released Exile on Main St., Neil Young dropped Harvest, Curtis Mayfield laid down the groove on Super Fly, Bill Withers put out arguably his best with Still Bill and Aretha Franklin unleashed one of the greatest live albums ever with Amazing Grace, people were hardly pining for, well, anything at all.

Thus, Thin Lizzy joined other greats like David Bowie in the doldrums and were swamped under the melee of 1970s rock greatness. They were in debt to their label and on the brink of being dropped from their label. An ultimatum was given to the band if the record Jailbreak flopped, then, as they say in America “they were out on their ass!” After ongoing roster changes, disputes over “naff” production and various other ailments, the bands failure to chart was a lingering concern. Jailbreak was a make-or-break moment. 

‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ was the first single, and the rest, as they say, is history. The band were so used to chart failure that the success of such an eponymous rock hit took the band by surprise. As guitarist Scott Gorham told Classic Rock, “We were playing in some club in the US when our manager came in and said, ‘Well, looks like we’ve got a hit.’ We were like, ‘Which song?’ Seriously, we didn’t have any idea at all which song it was that had taken off for us.” 

Before adding, “To tell you the truth, we weren’t initially going to put ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ on the Jailbreak album at all. Back then, you picked ten songs and went with those because of the time restrictions of vinyl.”

“We recorded 15 songs, and of the 10 we picked, that wasn’t one of them,” Gorham added. “But then the management heard it and said, ‘No, there’s something really good about this song.’ Although back then, it didn’t yet have the twin guitar parts on it.”

It seems unthinkable now to perceive the song as anything other than a sure-fire hit. It is a track full of more testosterone than a bodybuilding contest and more leather-clad ego than a field of the most arrogant cows in Aberdeenshire. It is a track that makes subtlety seem senseless and celebrates cliches, and with it, they hit the nail so firmly on the head that it is still lodged in the legend of weekend rock history to this day.