Irish hard rockers Thin Lizzy put together 12 studio albums between 1971 and 1983. Their straightforward pounding style of rock influenced a generation of rockers such as Metallica, Alice in Chains, Mastodon, and Testament. They were one of the first bands to enlist 2 lead guitars and used the harmonized guitar style as their signature expression.
Founded by drummer Brian Downey and bass guitarist and singer Phil Lynott, the band set out to conquer the world, (mission accomplished), and are still getting airtime the world over. In this piece we would like to single out some their best guitar solos on a variety of albums, and we hope you’ll like our selection.
Starting with the album that vaulted them starward, Jailbreak, (1976) which gave the world the smash hit The Boys Are Back in Town, (#8 in the U.K., #12 in the U.S.) and is an album that just simply rocks. The song Romeo and the Lonely Girl (track 4) is likely one of their most underrated numbers, but the dextrous guitar work here between Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson is still fresh and tasty; classic Lizzy licks over Downey’s nimble sticks.
The follow up record that same year was Johnny The Fox and houses a couple of beauties you will want to check out: Gorham on Fool’s Gold and Robertson on Don’t Believe a Word. Fool’s Gold is a tale of how the Irish Potato Famine drove legions of people to America for a better life, but some couldn’t make it and “spent their lives on Fool’s Gold”. It has a sense of edgy danger to it, with a throbbing bass beat and drums, then Gorham’s nifty little solo steals the show. Robertson's Gibson Les Paul on Don’t Believe a Word is bad-ass alongside Gorham’s, the only complaint here is that the song is too short, 2:45, but packs a powerful punch.
They released Bad Reputation the following year, and true to their typical lyrics of dead cities and fallen hope, they cut Southbound, “The boom time it is over, a ghost town is all that’s left here, the gold rush it is over and depression days draw near…”. Gorham’s soaring intuitive playing on his solo and solid Lynott arrangement make this number a moving standout on an excellent record.
Black Rose: A Rock Legend (1979) was their 9th studio effort and has been called one of their “greatest, most successful albums”. It hit #2 on the British charts, and the 2 gems we want to highlight are Got to Give It Up and Waiting for an Alibi. Due to the band’s wayward habits of drink and drug, Gorham’s health wasn’t the best (perhaps the inspiration for the title) and Gary Moore, who replaced Robertson, (and had also teamed with Lynott in the late 60s in a band called Skid Row), lets loose on Got To Give It Up with a hard-nosed solo in a hard-driving rock classic.The second gem is a raw kickass piece that has Moore and Gorham riffing harmonies that delight behind a brilliant bassline and rolling drums that show who’s who. Cut to minute 1:50 for what is some of the cleanest, most disciplined, twin-lead harmonised guitar solos you’ll likely ever hear, and it just gets better until the punchy end.
Chinatown, released in 1980, features yet another guitar recruit in the form of Snowy White, who had played with Pink Floyd and Peter Green. His performance on We Will Be Strong, a growling, yet optimistic track, is remarkable, and the twin-lead guitar work over Lynott’s signature voice drives this hopeful number to dizzying Lizzy heights. The record, although not one of their best, is textbook Thin Lizzy; full of the badboy mojo their reputation was built on.
Thunder and Lightning was their final release in 1983. John Sykes replaces Snowy White, giving the band new blood, and perhaps inspiration, because this shitkicker goes toe to toe with any metal release that year. They were accused of ‘going metal’ but if so, that’s where they were heading anyway. They say a “pissed Lizzy is the best Lizzy” (Encyclopaedia Metallum) and guess what? On Holy War, a booming crasher that takes a swing at religious fanaticism and connects, Sykes and Gorham put on a show here that places every guitarist in the world on notice. Sykes was a wizard on a Gibson Les Paul like Gorham, but he also blazed away on an Ibanez JS1200, and a ‘61 Fender Strat.
So there you have just some of the wickedest solos from one of the best rock bands of all time. If you’re new to Thin Lizzy, we hope we converted you! And if you’re not, we hoped you liked the show.