Friday, December 29, 2006

When the Shillelagh
Meets the Hood

Part Seven:
A Bundle of

I'm a little black boy
and I don't know my
proper place
I'm a little black boy,
get my head in its
I'm a little black boy,
I just play my bass
I'm a little black boy,
it's no disgrace.
-- Thin Lizzy, "Black Boys on the Corner" (1973)

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

I considered presenting a paper at next year's Pop Conference,

but for various reasons, decided against it. See below for my
proposal. Frankly, I don't think it would've made the cut, and Phil
means too much to me to risk it. At some point, I'll write

something up for this site, but I still have a lot of reading to do.

Over the past year, I've acquired Stuart Bailie's The Ballad of the
Thin Man and Mark Putterford's The Rocker, but haven't had any
luck tracking down an affordable copy of Philomena Lynott's out-
of-print My Boy, and it's an important piece of the puzzle that was
Phil Lynott, since his mother cast a big shadow over his brief life.

Thin Lizzy - "Whiskey in the Jar" (1972) [short version]

Vagabond of the Western World:
The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Phil Lynott

Black, white, Irish, Brazilian, bastard, bass player, punk, poet,
ladies man, husband, drug addict, and dad. The late Phillip Par-
is Lynott (1949-1986) was all that and more: A bundle of con-
tradictions. All of which served to shape his music, both solo and
as the leader of Ireland's enduring Thin Lizzy. Nowhere are those
contradictions more apparent than on 1973's Vagabonds of the
Western World, an album that tanked upon release, despite the
fact that it arrived in the wake of one of Lizzy's biggest hits, a
prog-rock version of Irish traditional "Whiskey in the Jar" (now
part of the album, it was originally only available as a single).

The staggeringly diverse recording also features an
ode to Lynott's grandmother Sarah, ballads influenc-
ed by heroes Elvis Presley and Van Morrison, trade-
mark—downright silly—stomper "The Rocker," and
the heaviest funk jam of his entire career, "Black Boys on the
Corner." All of which is to say that Lynott's work was the prod-
uct of a specific time, place, and sensibility, yet continues to gain
resonance with each year, from the inclusion of his songs in lit-
erally hundreds of movies and television shows, and even an
upcoming big screen bio-pic. By taking a song-by-song look
at Vagabonds, I will outline the contradictions that defined
Phil Lynott—and make his music more relevant than ever.

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

I am your main man if you're looking for trouble
I'll take no lip 'cause no ones tougher than me
If I kicked your face you'd soon be seeing double
Hey little girl, keep your hands off me 'cause I'm a rocker.
-- Thin Lizzy, "The Rocker" (1973)

Endnote: Part six in a series. Click here for previous entry. I al-
so have many CDs yet to explore. In the past year, I've picked up
Vagabonds (natch), Jailbreak, and Solo in Soho. And of course, I
own Johnny Thunders' heartbreaking So Alone, on which Mr. Ly-
nott—along with his pals in the Pistols—lends his expertise. Card
image and lyrics from Lynott's official website, The Roisin Dubh
, T-shirt design from DJ Tees, and video from YouTube.

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