Fighting My Way Back: Thin Lizzy 69-76

January 01, 1970

(Power
Chord Press)

 

www.martinpopoff.com

 

BY REV.
KEITH A. GORDON

 

Canadian
music journalist Martin Popoff has been writing about hard rock and heavy metal
music for almost as long as the Reverend has been listening to the stuff, which
is to say a long, loooong time. Popoff shows a commitment to the genre that’s
impressive even to a confirmed lifer such as yours truly, co-founding the
respected metal magazine Brave Words
& Bloody Knuckles
in 1994 and penning nearly 8,000 album reviews, most
of which have been compiled into four volumes of Popoff’s The Collectors Guide to Heavy Metal series of books.

 

Often
overlooked are Popoff’s contributions in documenting rock ‘n’ roll history,
which he has achieved with the five books in his Ye Olde Metal series as well as around two-dozen band biographies
covering everybody from Black Sabbath and Deep Purple to Rush and Blue Oyster
Cult, among others. Admittedly, few of these tomes published by Popoff’s Power
Chord Press sell on the level of, say, some sordid celebrity sleaze tell-all or
that new Steve Jobs bio that lucked its way onto the top of the best-seller
list when, by happenstance and circumstance, the author benefited from the
Apple CEO’s untimely death. No, Popoff writes these things ’cause he wants to, not because he thinks he’s going
to find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. 

 

Popoff’s
latest labor of love is his in-depth
biography of classic rock titans Thin Lizzy, titled Fighting My Way Back: Thin Lizzy 69-76 (Power Chord Press; www.martinpopoff.com). The first of a
pair of books covering every aspect of the band’s too-brief, albeit influential
lifespan, it has been compiled from numerous interviews Popoff conducted with
former Lizzy guitarists Scott Gorham, Eric Bell, Gary Moore, and Brian
Robertson, as well as drummer and original member Brian Downey. Interviews with
associates like artist Jim Fitzpatrick, who created a number of the band’s
memorable album covers, or Brendan “Brush” Shiels, who played with Lizzy’s
Phil Lynott in the band Skid Row, bring additional perspective to the band’s
history. Since he never had the opportunity to speak with Lynott, the late,
great creative force behind Thin Lizzy, here Popoff draws upon
previously-published articles and interviews to flesh out the story…

 

And what a
story it is, a trio of young Irish lads making a name for themselves
(originally as “Tin Lizzy”) in the band’s hometown of Dublin, the
band formed by Lynott and Downey with guitarist Eric Bell and keyboardist Erix
Wrixon, who would leave after recording the band’s first single. Actually,
Popoff delves deeper than that, coaxing memories from Brush Shiels about
Lynott’s time in Skid Row with him and guitarist Gary Moore, setting the stage
and defining the important relationships that would be threaded throughout
Lizzy’s timeline. The band’s signing with Decca Records, its re-location to
London, the recording of their self-titled 1971 debut album, and Lizzy’s
subsequent struggles, both artistically and commercially, are all covered in depth.

 

Popoff
follows the band through the making of its sophomore effort, 1972’s Shades of a Blue Orphanage and even
delves into the story behind the long-lost album of Deep Purple cover songs
recorded by Lynott and crew for quick cash that year. He outlines the band’s
reaction to their unexpected hit single “Whiskey In The Jar” and the
subsequent fall-out when their third album, 1973’s Vagabonds of the Western World failed to chart, or even produce a
minor hit. When Bell left the band in 1973, to be temporarily replaced by Gary
Moore, Lynott chose to reboot the band’s sound with the addition of twin lead
guitarists. After a failed experiment with guitarists Andy Gee and former
Atomic Rooster member John Cann, what is now known as the classic Thin Lizzy
line-up formed with guitarists Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham joining Lynott
and Downey.

 

A new
label deal with Phonogram was nearly scuttled by the lackluster performance of
Lizzy’s first albums for the label, 1974’s Nightlife and the following year’s Fighting failing to produce much in the way of sales, although the latter album’s
development of the twin-guitar sound would set the stage for Thin Lizzy’s
breakthrough album, 1976’s Jailbreak and the monster hit “The Boys Are Back In Town.” Success breeds its
own problems, and Popoff’s chapter
on the album looks deep inside the band’s ups-and-downs in the wake of their
sudden worldwide fame. It’s here that Popoff ends the first part of the story,
setting up the reader for the forthcoming second book.

 

While Popoff’s
engaging manner of storytelling should appeal to both Thin Lizzy fanatics as
well as classic rock fans, Fighting My
Way Back
is also profusely illustrated with B&W artwork, from band
photos and miscellaneous memorabilia to album covers, photos of rare singles,
gig flyers, and much more. The resulting effort provides a solid literary and
visual document of the band’s early career, as important a slice of rock ‘n’
roll history as exists and a tale well-told by Popoff.

 

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