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New Thin Lizzy book puts band’s fans in the spotlight

Gig-goers recall group’s legendary performances for ‘people’s history’


Phil Lynott. Credit: Fin Costello

Phil Lynott. Credit: Fin Costello

Phil Lynott. Credit: Fin Costello

A new book telling the story of Irish rock legends Thin Lizzy through the words of fans recalls their memorable exploits in Northern Ireland.

Thin Lizzy: A People’s History comprises over 400 previously untold eyewitness accounts and photos of the band in action, from their Dublin and Belfast roots to their 1983 break-up.

Led by iconic frontman Phil Lynott, its original line-up included east Belfast-born Eric Bell, who was replaced by another Belfast man, Gary Moore.

Music historian Richard Houghton, who compiled the book, said: “Thin Lizzy are remembered for hits such as Whiskey in the Jar, Jailbreak, The Boys are Back in Town, Dancing in the Moonlight and Waiting for an Alibi. But they are also remembered for exhilarating live performances — the twin guitars, the explosive drumming, the dry ice, the police sirens and flash bombs, all orchestrated by Phil.”


Eric Bell. Credit: Paul McErlane

Eric Bell. Credit: Paul McErlane

Eric Bell. Credit: Paul McErlane

Contributors include Bill Hindmarsh, who recalls the events leading to Moore’s call-up.

“Lizzy were concluding their Irish tour at the end of 1973 and had added an extra date in Portrush. On New Year’s Eve 1973, Gary Moore received a visit from Thin Lizzy’s manager asking him if he could ‘step in and close the Irish tour as Eric had left Lizzy or been sacked,” he says.

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“Gary agreed this without going through his manager, who had evaporated. Gary was barely existing on the money he was earning from gigs.”

Moore, who died in 2011, initially left Lizzy — he would return four years later — and they switched from a three to a four-piece band with twin guitars. They had their breakthrough hit with The Boys are Back in Town in 1976, going on to regularly tour North America and Europe.

A then 19-year-old Stephen Barry saw them play the Ulster Hall in June 1978.


Gary Moore. Credit: Ian West

Gary Moore. Credit: Ian West

Gary Moore. Credit: Ian West

He tells the book: “I bought Jailbreak shortly after leaving school in 1976, and it was awesome hearing Phil and the boys blasting it out. I went to see Lizzy a couple of times. The first time was in the Ulster Hall in Belfast, and the gig featured a lot of the songs that ended up on the album Live and Dangerous.

“I went with my then girlfriend Maddie (now my wife). The Ulster Hall is such an amazing, intimate hall that served Belfast well through the worst of the Troubles in the Seventies, although plenty of bands gave Belfast a swerve.

“We were on the ground floor where there were seats, not that we sat for any part of the gig. We were quite close to the front, so had a great view of the show. It was my favourite Lizzy line up, with Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham on lead guitars.”

Mr Barry also saw Thin Lizzy two years later in April 1980 at the Antrim Forum. “After seeing them at the Ulster Hall, we then saw them for a second and final time in the unusual setting of a leisure centre in the town of Antrim,” he says.

“It was a Saturday night. I recall that mine and Phil’s team, Man United, had beaten Liverpool that afternoon, so that set me up well for a good evening.

“Once again, Phil and the boys didn’t disappoint. There were no seats. Maddie and me were joined by my good mate Davie, who happened to be suffering from an ingrown toenail and was in some considerable pain, not helped by revellers landing on it a few times.”

Thin Lizzy split in 1983 but went on an extended tour to promote their final album Thunder and Lightning. They were supported on their UK dates by Mama’s Boys from Co Fermanagh, featuring the McManus brothers, Pat, John and Tommy.

Robert Burns caught the King’s Hall show in 1983 when he was 16. He recalls: “It was their last show in Belfast, with Mama’s Boys supporting. I still have the ticket stub and programme.”

Mr Houghton said: “I’ve talked to people who saw Lizzy at the very start of their career and people who saw them at the very end. Lots of fans remember Lizzy as the best band they ever saw.

“Shining through the book is Lizzy’s rapport with audiences. They remained grounded and determined to stay connected to their fanbase, even at the height of their fame. The shows they played [here] typify that.”

Did you see Thin Lizzy? Contact Richard at iwasatthatgig@gmail.com

Thin Lizzy — A People’s History is published by Spenwood Books on July 8 and available to order now via bookshops or direct from spenwoodbooks.com.

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