I should here state I generally, to my shame, disapprove of the idea of Thin Lizzy, their cocky swagger always offending my carefully nurtured metrosexuality. Yet, dammit, the songs are so catchy and the twin guitars so darn effective, pop it on the playlist and I'm there, singing along and air-guitaring like a good'un. And I hate them for that. And love 'em, all the more with the doomed 'romance' of an early death, that crazy plus factor in the madness of rock and roll.
Wide boys out on the town is a recurring theme in Lynott lyricism, from Jailbreak to simply wild nights out on the lash. What group of drink-fueled youths cannot fail to feel the bigger and better for an anthem celebrating their empty celebrations of optimistic and all too often dashed hopes? When all there is left after the swagger and the bluster is the camaraderie of going home alone.
Phil Lynott seems to me the archetypal "lad," perhaps having to big his way in 60's/70s Dublin, where his background and complexion may have insisted on a rebel stance, otherwise facing an ostracism from the Irish Catholic orthodoxy and conservatism. Maybe he embraced that outlaw chic too hard, but it worked, it worked. Until.
The song was originally on the Jailbreak album in 1976, and was the lead single and opener for side 2 of the LP. Reaching 12 in the US charts and 8 in the UK, it was a resounding 1 at home in Ireland, being named, just, within the original Rolling Stone best 500 songs. (499) Another accolade came later, when British music magazine Q placed it 38 in the 2005 list of best ever guitar tracks, as the song is undoubtedly propelled by its dual riffing, adding verve to its already spunky vocal delivery.
Catnip for any band wanting to show off an edgy gang mentality, even if ironic, there have been a number of covers, notably the Happy Mondays and Bon Jovi . For all that, my favourite version is that by Sofia, on 'Search and Destroy, a Punk Lounge Experience,' in 2008, which transforms the song into the perspective of a maybe wistful witness, perhaps one of the the hideously dated "chicks" in the lyric.
Guilty pleasures abound.