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They say everyone has a book in them, if that’s the case surely there’s a couple of songs in there too. To help you find them we look at the inspiration behind some of Thin Lizzy’s greatest hits.

Phil LynottIn My Boy – The Philip Lynott Story, Philomema Lynott reveals some of the personal experiences that inspired her son’s lyrics. “Philip loved writing songs about real people, particularly people who were important in his life” she says. The ladies in his life, his two daughters Sarah and Cathleen, his grandmother Sarah and Philomena herself were all gifted with a song. She says the song “Philomena” which Phil recorded for the Nightlife album on his birthday in 1974 “is a monument not just to Philip’s poetic talent and his creativity but also to his ability to love”.

His Irish heritage also held a special place in Phil’s heart which he showed in many songs including “Dublin”, “The Friendly Ranger at Clontarf Castle”, “Eire” and “Fool’s Gold”. He lovingly portrays Dublin in “Shades Of A Blue Orphanage”.

When Thin Lizzy were starting out Philomena owned and managed the Clifton Grange Hotel in Manchester. Phil often stayed there among many colorful characters including cabaret singers, dancers,magicians,strippers, verntriloquists, comedians and even a drag artist. Percy Gibbons, from the successful Canadian cabaret act The Other Brothers also stayed there at the time. Late night jam sessions in his room sparked the origin of many ideas that later turned up in Thin Lizzy songs such as “Clifton Grange Hotel” from Thin Lizzy’s debut album released in 1971 was inspired by the hotel and is referred to as “a refuge of mercy”.

The origin of the classic “Dancing in the Moonlight” goes back even further. It may not be surprising to hear it had its roots in teenage rebellion. Philip was 17 and living with his grandmother when she became worried about the company he was keeping and his late night escapades. He arrived home one night without one of his expensive new shoes! Even his uncle Peter, only a year older, was becoming frustrated with his behaviour and on one occasion when he failed to return at the agreed time, locked him out of the house. Phil tells this story in the lyric “It’s three o’clock in the morning / And I’m on the streets again / I disobeyed another warning / I should have been in by ten.”.

He delved into the darker side of life in many songs - “This kid is going to wreck or ruin / I’m not quite sure of what I’m doing, you see / It all happened a little too soon.. / I’m a little sick,unsure and unstable / But I’m fighting my way back.”  -  “Fight My Way Back” from the 1975 album Fighting. Philip spoke of how  “Warriors” on the 1976 Jailbreak album was about heavy drug users. Other songs like “Opium Trail” and “Sugar Blues” on the Bad Reputation album (1977) have obvious drug inferences as does “Got to Give it up” on Black Rose (1979).

Phil’s song repertoir reads like a musical autobiography as he willingly exposes layers of himself in his music. He fearlessly strips any superficiality from his songs. This authenticity comes across in Thin Lizzy’s music and is among the reasons it is still reaching new fans today. If there is one songwriting tip to take from Phil Lynott - it is put yourself in the music. Among today’s sea of contrived, manufactured artists; genuity and a willingness to show raw vulnerability stands out now more than ever.

DM

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