"The Boys Are Back in Town" 45 RPM single with sleeve
Today’s review covers the Irish hard rock band Thin Lizzy. Not only were they a great band, but Lynott was not your typical arena rock band front man; his songwriting drew upon rather eclectic influences, including the entire Irish literary tradition, as well as contemporary artists such as Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and Bruce Springsteen. Formed in Dublin, Ireland in late 1969, the band originally consisted of Phil Lynott (vocals, bass guitar), Eric Bell (guitar), Eric Wrixon (electric organ), and Brian Downey (drums). Eric Wrixon, of course, was also a founding member of Them (the one whose parents wouldn’t sign the recording contract and who was replaced). Wrixon was gone by early 1970, and the group relocated to London in 1971. Thin Lizzy signed a recording contract with Decca Records, and in 1973, they had their first major hit, “Whiskey in the Jar”. The band initially had problems matching the success of “Whiskey in the Jar”, and Bell left the group in 1974.Gary Moore briefly replaced Bell while the rest of the group auditioned replacements; eventually they recruited a pair of guitarists, Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson. Their 1975 album “Fighting” contained some memorable songs, such as “Wild One” and a cover version of Bob Seger’s “Rosalie”. But their real breakthorugh would come in 1976 with the release of “Jailbreak”, and that happens to be the LP that produced today’s featured single: “The Boys Are Back in Town” b/w “Jailbreak”.
“The Boys Are Back in Town” supposedly began life as “G.I. Joe Is Back in Town”, as Phil Lynott originally intended to write a song about a soldier returning to the U.S. after the Vietnam War. The main melodic riff was apparently based on the early Bruce Springsteen song “Kitty’s Back” (from “The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle”). Eventually, the song was transformed into a song about a bunch of rowdy friends going out and having a good time. The song opens with three chords strummed on a guitar (Lynott’s bass guitar is interspersed between the first and second chords). About 1 minute into the song, we get the first appearance of the second lead guitar; the twin lead guitar attack of Gorham and Robertson was a key element of the Thin Lizzy sound starting with the “Fighting” LP. But arguably it is on “The Boys Are Back in Town” that they really made the interplay between their guitars work in a big way. And what can be said of Phil Lynott’s lyrics? Once again, he shows a knack for making the common man seem sublime: they’re not just local toughs hanging out, they’re hanging out at Dino’s Bar and Grill, picking up chicks and driving the old men crazy, “[a]nd if the boys want to fight, you’d better let them.” Lynott’s voice is part of the appeal of the track, his light touch is a perfect counterpoint for the brutality of the take-no-prisoners twin lead guitar attack, and Lynott could croon with the best of them. “The Boys Are Back in Town” was destined to become one of Thin Lizzy’s signature tunes and a major international hit, reaching number 1 in Ireland, number 8 in the U.K., and number 12 in the U.S.
"The Boys Are Back in Town" single with alternate blue label
“Jailbreak” is such a good album that virtually any song off the album that had been selected as a B-side would have been a great choice, but as it turns out, the B-side is the title track itself. “Jailbreak” also happens to be another of the band’s signature tunes. It starts off with a single chord, followed by what one critic referred to as a “wonderfully sparse three chord riff”. Once again, Gorham and Robertson build a twin lead guitar attack that conveys the drama of the jailbreak referenced in the song title. They use this to build tension in the music, dancing on the edge of losing restraint, but pulling back, until the final jailbreak signaled by the “Breakout!” cry of Lynott and the subsequent siren-filled middle section, which gives way to the song’s ending, in which the song pulls back from the fury of the midsection. Downey’s drumming deserves some acclaim here, as it really fills out the sound and gives the rhythm section some muscle. “Jailbreak” was not the hit that “The Boys Are Back in Town” had been: released as the second single a few months later, it only reached number 31 on the U.K. charts and did not chart in the U.S., but it’s still a great song and arguably one that is more representative of the classic, hard-driving Thin Lizzy sound than “Boys” is. It was also a great vehicle for the band in live performances, and the band rarely held this one back for encores: rather, they would use it early on in the show to get the crowd going.
This single (catalog #: 73786) was not issued with a picture sleeve, but it did come with a company sleeve for Philips/Mercury/Vertigo Records. The label is the typical Mercury Records label from this period, with the Mercury logo across the top, the song title across the bottom, superimposed over a background of the Chicago skyline.