There are bands that soundtrack a moment in time and then fade away ingloriously. Then there are those that, long after their demise, retain a sense of immortality. Thin Lizzy lie firmly in the latter camp.
In fact, twenty one years after they originally imploded, you can still hear, see and feel Thin Lizzy's remarkable influence everywhere. Turn on your TV set and you'll hear 'The Boys Are Back In Town' blaring out of countless adverts.
The same tunes made it on to the sound-tracks of A Knight's Tale and Detroit Rock City
(the former inspired by Chaucer, the latter by, er,
Kiss, and featuring alt. rockers Everclear covering the track). If that isn't enough, then the next time you're in Texas, take a stroll to the Dallas Cowboys ground on match day and watch the impact 'The Boys...' has on a packed stadium. Then, of course, there's the effect that the band's music has had on fellow musicians.
From U2 (firm fans of 1978's scorching double album 'Live And Dangerous') through to The Darkness (whose guitarist Dan Hawkins sports a near omnipresent Lizzy shirt in tribute to his heros), three generations of rock acts have acknowledged their debt to Phil Lynott and his crew. It's easy to hear why: this is hard rock music played with heart and, more importantly, soul.
The Thin Lizzy story is a Boy's Own tale of rock'n'roll excess. The fights, the booze, the women and, more tragically, the drugs are all part of the twisted tale that unfolded as the band graduated from Ireland's clubs and ballrooms in the late '60s through to becoming a household name by the late '70s.
Their most celebrated line-up of bass-playing frontman Lynott, drummer Brian Downey and guitarists Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson planted the Lizzy flag firmly on rock's high ground with the release of four bona fide classic albums within the space of three years. 'Jailbreak', 'Johnny The Fox', 'Bad Reputation' and the all-conquering 'Live And Dangerous' (a rival to The Who's 'Live At Leeds' in the 'greatest live album stakes') emerged between September 1975 and June 1978 and all ram-raided their way into the UK Top 20.
By 1979, to the outside world Lizzy appeared invincible. Internally, however, drug use was beginning to spiral out of control. Nevertheless, the release of 'Black Rose' in April proved to be their most successful album to date marking the return of guitarist Gary Moore (who'd replaced Brian Robertson). The subsequent release of Lynott's first solo album 'Solo In Soho' in April 1980 - from which 'Yellow Pearl' (later the Top Of The Pops theme) and his tribute to Elvis, 'King's Call', are taken - served to underline the Lizzy leader's broad musical palette. While critics have been quick to argue that Lizzy lost focus around the same time as Lynott embarked on recording his own material, tracks from 1980's 'Chinatown' and 1981's 'Renegade' bely that fact.
As 1982 dawned, however, Lizzy had become victims of their own self-abuse. Financially too they were in disarray. As they prepared to release the 'Thunder And Lightning' set, there appeared to be only one way out: to split the band. Following a tear-stained headlining appearance at the Reading Festival on August 28, 1983, Thin Lizzy played their final show on September 4 at the Zeppelinfield in Nuremburg, Germany.
Whether Lynott actually ever truly wanted to split Lizzy remains a moot point. What remains certain is that he never truly recovered from it. Following Lizzy's split, he tried his hand at production before forming the ill-fated Grand Slam. To many the last sighting of Philip Lynott came in May 1985 when he chalked up another hit by collaborating with Gary Moore on the 'Out In The Fields' single which went Top 5 in the UK.
On January 4, 1986, the Lizzy leader drew his last breath, having suffered multiple internal abscesses and blood poisoning leading to heart, kidney and liver failure.
A few months prior to his death, however, Lynott had been in high spirits. A deal had been secured - allegedly with Polydor - and he'd been working hard on new material.
Lizzy, ya know, was my band," he told me at the time. "But you have to move on. At the moment I'm really looking at making music where the heaviest rock meets the heaviest dance beats you can imagine. It's a real hybrid but I reckon that it's about music without barriers."
Some 18 years after Philip's tragic death you realise that Thin Lizzy themselves had already achieved as much: music without barriers, indeed.
Robert Ellis - Official Photographer - www.repfoto.com