Tag Archives: Jailbreak

Rocks In The Attic #569: Thin Lizzy – ‘Thin Lizzy’ (1971)

rita569From small acorns…

All throughout my 20s, I used to see a small non-descript advert every week in the classified section of the NME: ‘GUITAR LESSONS – ERIC BELL, ORIGINAL GUITARIST OF THIN LIZZY’ and a London-area telephone number. It’d be in there without fail every week, alongside the usual ads for recording studios and CD mastering services.

Every week I’d see it and toy with the idea of catching a train down to London one day to take him up on the offer. A guitar lesson from the man behind the riffs to Whiskey In The Jar and, more importantly, The Rocker – what could be better? I’m not sure why he would be advertising his services in such a place – perhaps he had fallen on hard times and simply needed the cash.

I never got around to phoning him and booking that lesson though. I really regret it now of course. Just to ask him about that awesome riff from The Rocker, and to see his fingers blast that out, would have been a dream come true. He’s still around – a sprightly 69 years of age – although in 2010 he moved from London to West Cork in Ireland. One day maybe…

This debut from Thin Lizzy makes for interesting listening. Recorded as a trio – Phil Lynott, Eric Bell and Brian Downey, it’s a far cry from the later twin-guitar duelling histrionics of records like Jailbreak and Johnny The Fox. Half of it is in a folk vein, similar to something you might hear on an early Van Morrison album; very mellow and not what you’d expect from the band that brought us some of the best rock riffs of the 1970s.

The remaining half is a bit more guitar-heavy; a bit more in the direction of where the band was ultimately heading towards. Look What The Wind Blew In is built around a repetitive Eric Bell lick, and gives an indication of the riff-based material Phil Lynott would later hang his lyrics on. Remembering, the final song on the record, plays with light and shade as successfully as early Led Zeppelin. Thin Lizzy would be pigeon-holed in the same genre as Zeppelin later in the decade, although Lizzy would sadly never see the same levels of international success.

Hit: Look What The Wind Blew In

Hidden Gem: Saga Of The Ageing Orphan

Rocks In The Attic #252: AC/DC – ‘’74 Jailbreak’ (1984)

RITA#252When I was greedily consuming AC/DC’s back catalogue at the tender age of 14, this was always the album I could never bring myself to buy. It’s not even an album – it’s an EP of five songs previously released on the band’s Australian albums (but missing from the international releases), to celebrate the band’s 10th anniversary – which all sounds fine until you consider that it was priced the same as all their other albums. It was either this or a full album for the same price; so it remained an aspirational purchase, always slightly out of my reach.

A matured appreciation of the band’s back catalogue now makes this an essential purchase – the title track is worth the price alone. Originally released on the Australian version of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Jailbreak saw the light of day in the UK in 1976. It was released as a single on the same day as the Thin Lizzy song of the same name. That must have been a confusing day for denim-clad rockers in record shops.

It’s odd that the song was never used on any of the international releases until this EP came out, despite the band releasing it as a single and going to the trouble of shooting a great music video to promote it. The song was later to feature on the double-disc version of AC/DC Live in 1992, although this 14-minute version, split with a lengthy instrumental break to soundtrack Angus’ striptease, isn’t the best version. It’s a great pop song, but remains a largely ignored slice of their canon (no pun intended).

The rest of the EP’s tracks are taken from the original Aussie release of the band’s debut – High Voltage – and were probably overlooked by Atlantic Records in favour of the heavier songs on their second album. I guess when you take two albums and split them into one, you’re always going to have to leave something by the side of the road.

I can do without the cover of Baby, Please Don’t Go – it isn’t a patch on the seminal version by Van Morrison and Them – but Soul Stripper is fantastic. It’s a groove-based slow-burner, probably excluded from the international releases because of its length (6:25) and its lyrics which paint Bon Scott as a weak virgin – ‘then she made me say things I didn’t want to say / then she made me play games I didn’t want to play’.

Instrumentation other than guitar, bass and drums are usually very rare on an AC/DC track – unless you’re talking about bagpipes, cannons or (hells) bells – but Soul Stripper has a great cowbell-like percussive touch that sets it apart from the other songs cut from High Voltage. The effect makes the song sounds ominous – a true hidden gem.

Hit: Jailbreak

Hidden Gem: Soul Stripper

Rocks In The Attic #99: Thin Lizzy – ‘Johnny The Fox’ (1976)

It took me quite a while to track this album down on vinyl. When I eventually found it, in Manchester’s vinyl exchange, I realised why. Most record shops over a decent size won’t store this album in the Rock & Pop section, as you might expect – instead it gets lumped into the Breaks & Beats section, all because of the very cool drum intro that opens Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed on the second side of the record.

Although it’s not as popular as the Jailbreak album, I think I prefer this album. There’s only so many times you can listen to The Boys Are Back In Town and Jailbreak – and although this album doesn’t really have as big a hit as those two songs, the biggest hit on the album – Don’t Believe A Word – is a really nice, short sharp slice of Phil Lynott’s poetic lyrics.

I came across an amusing comment on this album on Wikipedia:

The album also includes two tracks with the name “Johnny” in their titles as well as the album title itself, a character by that name having already appeared in earlier songs such as Showdown and The Boys Are Back in Town. Guitarist Scott Gorham noted the name’s proliferation: “Phil should’ve been this guy’s publicity agent, as he was cropping up everywhere!”

There’s a story that my Dad always tells that happened to him in the early 90s. At somebody’s wedding reception or 50th birthday party, in a function room of a grim working man’s club somewhere in Oldham, a lady walked over to my Dad and said “Pete – I think the lead singer of Thin Lizzy is sat in the next room. He’s sat having a beer.” “You mean Phil Lynott?” asks my Dad. “Yes,” she says. So my Dad rolls his eyes, and goes and takes a look. On his return, he says to the lady “Well, I don’t think it’s Phil Lynott.” The lady looks disappointed. “Why not?” she asks. “Because,” he replies, “Phil Lynott’s black, and that guy’s white. And Phil Lynott’s been dead for five years!” It was later established that the honky at the bar was Oldham resident, and latter-day Thin Lizzy keyboard player Darren Wharton.

Hit: Don’t Believe A Word

Hidden Gem: Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed