2023 sees the 50th anniversary of what is widely regarded as Thin Lizzy’s breakthrough album ‘Vagabonds Of The Western World’ featuring their first UK top ten single ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ and ‘The Rocker’ which would go on to be one of the band’s signature tunes, so much so that it was the last song they ever performed at their final show in 1983.
To celebrate the album’s golden anniversary, deluxe CD and LP sets featuring rarities, radio sessions, unreleased music, rare photos, extensive sleeve notes by Mark Blake, and memorabilia will be released on 17th November. The reissue suite also includes the album remixed in Dolby Atmos, a first for any Thin Lizzy record.
‘Vagabonds Of The Western World’ was Thin Lizzy’s third studio album and was initially released on the 21st of September 1973. It was the first to feature artwork by Jim Fitzpatrick, the creator of the famous red and black portrait of Che Guevara, who would go on to work with the band on classic albums such as Nightlife, Jailbreak, Johnny The Fox, Black Rose and Chinatown.
The album was the band’s last roll of the dice, as they had been working for two years with limited success. After the band moved to London from Dublin, they played every gig they could to keep themselves afloat. While messing around in their rehearsal studio, Phil Lynott started busking the old Irish folk song ‘Whiskey In The Jar’, which dates back to the 1700s. Their then manager remarked upon it and insisted that the band recorded, against their gut instincts. The single was released in November 1972 and rose to number 6 on the UK singles chart. However, the song didn’t sit well with the band, and despite its success, they left it off their forthcoming album.
Since then, the song, in arrangements influenced by The Lizzy version, has gone on to be covered by artists such as U2, Metallica, Belle & Sebastian, The Pogues, Pulp, Bryan Adams, Gary Moore and Simple Minds.
After a two-year struggle for recognition, Thin Lizzy had finally scored a breakthrough hit. It paved the way for the ‘Vagabonds Of The Western World’ album, but it would be their last with original guitarist Eric Bell. After an unsuccessful New Year’s Eve show in Belfast, Bell was no longer in the band, which paved the way for Lynott’s idea about having twin lead guitarists. After a short spell with very young Gary Moore filling in, Phil & Brian recruited American Scott Gorham and 18-year-old Glaswegian Brian Robertson, and a new adventure started.
The 50th anniversary of ‘Vagabonds Of The Western World’ is the sound of nascent Lizzy finally finding their feet and starting on their journey to be one of the greatest rock bands of the 70s and for Philip to be recognised as one of the best songwriters of his generation.