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Confessions Of A Rock'n'Roll Manager
Former Thin Lizzy manager Chris O’Donnell talks about the band’s early struggles, their major successes – and Philip Lynott’s tragic decline.
Colm O Hare, 08 Mar 2011
O’Donnell clearly recalls the moment Lynott found the inspiration for ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’.
“We were doing a gig in Manchester and Phil was slow plugging the lead into his bass. He said to the audience, ‘are you out there?’ and there was a huge roar back. I said to him it would be great if he could encapsulate that roar in a song, which is what he did with, ‘The Boys Are Back…’. Initially, it wasn’t as strident as it would become. It was Scott and Brian who came up with the riff.”
O’Donnell says that when he took Jailbreak to Phonogram they weren’t impressed.
“They said ‘it’s a shame there’s no hit single’. But then we went to America and KSAN in San Francisco started playing ‘Boys…’and the phones lit up. There was no going back.”
Thin Lizzy had now arrived, in style. For the next four years, the band worked non-stop, touring and recording.
“Once you become successful no-one wants the gravy train to stop,” O’Donnell reflects. “The demands are incredible. It’s all about the album, the tour, the merchandise, promoters, venues and road crew. An awful lot of people become dependent on the success of the band. Hindsight is a great thing – Phil could have taken five years off and he could be touring right now. The energy and drive that got him to the top was the cause of his demise. All he knew was if he kept driving himself he’d get somewhere.”
Arguably the band’s greatest triumph, Live And Dangerous, was O’Donnell’s idea. He insists that it was never meant to be a “live” album.
“I had read an article that said, ‘great live bands don’t make great studio albums’. I didn’t want a live album per se. I wanted to imagine what a Lizzy show would be like on record so I rang Tony Visconti and asked him to do a studio album. He said he didn’t want to do that so we captured five or six live shows on tape, then went back into the studio and cleaned it up. That audience sound is from the BBC sound library, mixed in with the original audience. That was always the idea. People keep saying it was never live, it was overdubbed etc. It was never meant to be. It was meant to be an approximation of a live album.”