All of my Thin Lizzy listening experiences happened well into the 90’s, when the second hand vinyl market was cheap and rocking, with most of it priced less than $5.
And I was snapping it up.
“Johnny the Fox” came out in 1976 and the last Thin Lizzy album to have guitarist Brian Robertson featured as a full member of the band. Clashes over songs and personalities led to Robertson being sacked, reinstated, and later sacked again.
It was an album of convenience as “Jailbreak” came out at the start of the year and due to Phil Lynott’s illness with hepatitis, they couldn’t really tour behind it, so “Johnny The Fox” was created.
Thin Lizzy was Phil Lynott on bass guitar and vocals, Scott Gorham on lead and rhythm guitar, Brian Robertson on lead and rhythm guitar and Brian Downey on drums.
The intro is just so simple and groovy, how can you not like it. I swear it gave birth to the New Wave bands that came out in the 80’s.
And the iconic phrasing and voice of Phil Lynott is unique, it makes you pay attention to the story he’s trying to tell.
The lead breaks are excellent.
And the drumming is so underrated. Its powerful and make sure you check out the fills.
“He’s got all the tricks to pull the chicks”, is Lynott at his best.
The harmony solos are nice and delicate before the angry and sleazy pentatonic licks start to wail away.
It’s like a bluesy country rock song. Check out the bass lines on this.
Don’t Believe A Word
I was hooked from the opening riff which Robertson re-interpreted after Lynott presented the song in a slow 12 bar blues format.
The faster upbeat, was based on a Downey shuffle. If you want to hear Lynott’s original bluesy version, it’s on Gary Moore’s “Back On The Streets”, released in 1978.
The actual lead break with the wah wah sounds like it’s getting strangled out of the guitar.
Robertson wasn’t happy when the song was only credited to Lynott.
The major key vibe is something that Thin Lizzy used a lot and man, they made it rock hard.
Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed
Seriously what a great title for a funk blues rock tune. Phil Lynott was a fan of “The O’Jays” and their song “For the Love of Money.
It’s like a love rock song with a lot of harmony guitars.
The best track on the album.
This could appear on an Iron Maiden album and not be out of place. It’s basically a metal cut.
The whole band is on fire. The drums are fast, jazz like, while the guitars and bass syncopate, to play some fast palm muted pentatonic grooves.
After the madness of “Massacre”, “Sweet Marie” is like “Love Boat” music, as you’re lying on a beach drinking Pina Colada’s. Vocally, John Sykes borrowed heaps from this song. In some sections, I believed I was listening to Sykes.
Boogie Woogie Dance
It’s got a musical feel similar to “Massacre” but with a stupid title. Then again, it goes with “Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed”.
But it wasn’t strong enough to be on the album.
It didn’t get any certifications in the North American markets. But what it did do was put the band on the road. And as long as they could stay healthy, they would make coin.
But they didn’t.
Robertson was fired during the tour, replaced by Gary Moore and back in the studio they went.
Finally, drummer Brian Downey is the unsung hero on this album, delivering so many different rhythms and feels.
P.S. For their second album in the year it’s still solid and some stellar cuts like “Massacre” and “Johnny”.