Thin Lizzy: Thin Ice
Originally published in Guitar World, July 2009
With Still Dangerous, Thin Lizzy unearth a long-lost gem
recorded on the eve of their legendary 1977 tour. Guitarist Scott Gorham provides a revealing look into the classic era of the real Irish rebels.
"We were warmed up, ready to go and ready to hit the road, and this was the concert from the tour that we were convinced would finally break us in America.”
Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham is discussing Still Dangerous: Live at the Tower Theater Philadelphia 1977 (VH1 Classic Records), the newly released live document of one of the greatest bands in rock history. Still Dangerous captures Thin Lizzy at the start of their very first tour following completion of the Bad Reputation album, and it features the classic lineup of guitarists Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson, drummer Brian Downey and the incomparable Phil Lynott on bass and vocals.
Combining Lizzy favorites such as “The Boys Are Back in Town,” “Jailbreak” and “Cowboy Song” with then brand-new songs like “Soldier of Fortune,” “Dancing in the Moonlight” and “Opium Trail,” Still Dangerous is a testament to the incredible chemistry of this Thin Lizzy lineup at its best, and it makes a welcome companion to the band’s long-revered live opus, 1978’s Live and Dangerous. Working in conjunction with Gorham, legendary rock producer/engineer Glyn Johns oversaw the production of Still Dangerous—from the handling of the original multitrack tapes to the mixing and final mastering of the tracks—and the results are spectacular. As Still Dangerous clearly demonstrates, Thin Lizzy were at the time performing with razor-sharp precision and undeniable power. “We were like streetpunk guys,” says Gorham, “and while we never caught the art of the recording studio as well as we’d have liked to, we caught the live art very well.”
Thin Lizzy formed in Dublin, Ireland, in 1969 and, led by the principal songwriter/bassist/vocalist Phil Lynott, were one of the very first multiracial rock bands. The most successful incarnation of the band featured Lynott alongside guitarists Gorham (a Californian who had emigrated to the U.K.) and Robertson and drummer Downey. Their 1975 breakthrough album, Jailbreak, with its hit single “The Boys Are Back in Town,” carried the band to the top of the charts internationally. The music of Thin Lizzy combines elements of hard rock and protometal with the influence of Irish and Celtic music, and is fueled by dueling, harmonized guitar lines, first explored by Gorham along with Robertson and later elaborated on with such formidable axmen as Gary Moore, Snowy White and John Sykes, the latter of whom is a current member of the band.
Scott Gorham recently visited the Guitar World video studios to offer this in-depth look at Still Dangerous and, on the accompanying CD-ROM, demonstrate how to play a handful of Thin Lizzy classics.
GUITAR WORLD Thin Lizzy’s 1978 release, Live and Dangerous, is widely considered one of the greatest live rock albums ever. What led to the decision to release Still Dangerous: Live at the Tower Theater Philadelphia 1977, 32 years after it was recorded?
SCOTT GORHAM It all began with finding the tapes from this show, which, in and of itself, was pretty much an accident. We had no idea those tapes were even there, though I suppose somebody knew they were there. In our accounting statements, we kept getting charged for these two “lock-ups” [a record company fee for keeping tapes in storage]. We’d been blindly paying these charges month by month, year by year, for over 30 years, and we really had no idea what was in there. So we finally said let’s find out what the hell is in these lock-ups!
We sent someone down there, and what he found was two rooms filled with boxes of two-inch multitrack recording tape. One of the boxes we came upon was labeled “Philadelphia 2,” which was intriguing. I remembered doing a show at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia for the King Biscuit Flower Hour [live radio] show, but I couldn’t remember doing two nights. I called up our old manager and asked, “What’s the story here?”
He reminded me that, at the time, we’d just finished the Bad Reputation album in Toronto, and we’d been offered a three-month U.S. arena tour. We thought that this would be the perfect opportunity for us to go back to America and show what we could do—that this could actually be the tour that would allow us to crack America. Instead of being the band that’s only known for that one song, “The Boys Are Back in Town,” or that one album, Jailbreak, we were finally going to take America by storm.