I have yet to infect anyone with my enthusiasm for Thin Lizzy. I suppose this affinity is like my passion for barley, something that happens spontaneously and cannot be taught. I had heard “Jailbreak” many times while growing up and found it merely tolerable. It was one of those songs that would not compel me to change the radio station to avoid it. Sometime around the two hundredth time I heard it, it suddenly captured my attention as if I were hearing it for the first time, and I was impressed enough to check out the band’s back catalog. Soon their songs became a regular sonic thunder that helped propel me through my awkward spell in retail after dropping out of college back in the 90’s.
My fascination with Thin Lizzy was no exception to my tendency to ask myself oddball questions. How many other people read the Bible story about Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana and wonder whose wedding it was? With Thin Lizzy, I speculated whether “Jailbreak” and “The Boys Are Back in Town” referred to the same people but from different points of view. Was the jailbreak successful and the second song the celebration of it?
“Cowboy Song” made me wonder how many Irish artists explored themes of the American West. Both Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott and Irish author Flann O’Brien imagined life in the Wild West in some of their work. This inquiry is one of many unanswered questions from my youth. Why would an Irish artist feel drawn to those themes? Did they find a small of measure of release from their postcolonial tensions in recreating the American frontier?
“Southbound” is the Thin Lizzy song that I enjoy most. Outside the realm of alternative music, their are few songs that embrace failure and depression that don’t mention romantic loss. In the song, the lyrics tell of a man who cuts his proverbial losses and disappears, “taking only what I need before my head explodes.” Having quit and departed many circumstances in my past, I know exactly what that feels like, and I listened to this song many, many times in my younger days because it was a relief to hear that someone else had felt that way, too. I feel that I have grown past my tendency to escape, except when I feel trapped if I spend more than an hour at time shopping. When I hear this song now, I do not feel tempted to bail out of situations, but it does inspire compassion for the quitter I once was.