When I think of Phil Lynott, I think of Thin Lizzy’s swaggering frontman, powering through “The Boys Are Back In Town”.
But there was a lot more to Phil Lynott than swagger. He also wrote the very tender “Old Town”, with Jimmy Bain. That song is a million miles away from what you might immediately think of as Thin Lizzy material.
In fact it was so far away from their usual fare, that “Old Town” was never a Thin Lizzy track. It was always a purely solo project. But what a beautiful solo project it was.
“Old Town” is the story of the aftermath of a breakup. Specifically a breakup where Phil Lynott is the one who’s been left behind. This is hardly the sort of material swaggering rock stars write about normally…and that’s one of the things that makes the song so touching…
The girl’s a fool
She broke the rule
She hurt him hard
For a time Thin Lizzy were one of the biggest acts on the planet, with hits like “The Boys Are Back In Town”, “Jailbreak”. “Whiskey In The Jar”, “Waiting For An Alibi” and “Sarah”.
Perhaps “Sarah” was the song that lifted the lid a little on the Thin Lizzy frontman. Named after his daughter, lyrics include…
When you came in my life you changed the world
Everything seemed so right, my baby girl
That’s another subject you wouldn’t find many rock stars exploring in their songs.
Sadly, as rock stars often do, Phil Lynott got hooked on things that were not in the best interests of his own long-term health and well-being. That led to a number of difficulties in his personal relationships which, at one of his lower ebbs, perhaps sparked the idea of “Old Town” in his mind.
And it’s an interesting perspective on life post-breakup. Many songs about breakups are pleas to get back together again, or mournful catastrophising about never being able to love anyone again.
“Old Town” is a more thoughtful take on the subject, and concentrates on what it feels like to go to places you used to go with your now former partner, and the way it triggers fond memories of the happy times you had together in the past.
I’ve been spending my money in the old town
It’s not the…