35 Years Ago: Thin Lizzy’s ‘Live and Dangerous’ Album Released
One of the ’70s’ most energetic and enduring double live albums was released 35 years ago, and from the start, fans knew what they were in store for: The cover photo pulls them out of their seats, over the barricades and face to face with the leather-covered crotch of an instrument-wielding rock star.
Thin Lizzy’s celebrated ‘Live and Dangerous’ vaulted the hard-working, and even harder partying, quartet as close as they’d ever come to mainstream success in their U.K. homeland, making it to No. 2 on the chart.
But the Irish group, which was founded in Dublin back in 1969 by singer and bassist Philip Lynott, drummer Brian Downey and original guitarist Eric Bell, struggled to make themselves heard among the era’s other more popular hard-rock power trios. Their souped-up cover of the traditional Celtic folk song ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ got them noticed, but they were written off as a novelty and had to start at square one again, gradually building a loyal following with Bell’s twin-harmonizing replacements, Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson.
Even with occasional hit singles like ‘Jailbreak’ and ‘The Boys Are Back in Town,’ Thin Lizzy had trouble capturing their dynamic onstage presence in the studio. They even hired producer Tony Visconti, best known for his work with David Bowie and T.Rex, to take 1977’s ‘Bad Reputation’ to the next level. But it was the following year’s concert document, also produced by Visconti, that got them there.
Like Kiss, who faced similar difficulties until ‘Alive!’ turned their fortunes around, Thin Lizzy excelled onstage. So stellar but under-served favorites like ‘Emerald,’ ‘Suicide,’ ‘Johnny the Fox’ and ‘The Rocker’ burst out of ‘Live and Dangerous,’ drawing listeners into the band’s take-no-prisoners stage show, with a friendly shove from frontman Lynott.
All in all, fans were given 17 of Thin Lizzy’s best songs in what basically amounted to a greatest-hits set — from the melancholy beauty of ‘Southbound’ and the bloodthirsty battle lust of ‘Massacre’ to the uplifting, saxophone-assisted R&B of ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ and the heart-tearing despair of their signature ballad ‘Still in Love with You.’
Like many concert albums from the era, ‘Live and Dangerous’ received some after-the-fact overdubbing in the studio. But it doesn’t take away any of the record’s power. This is Thin Lizzy at their peak.