Thin Lizzy is known for their hard rockin’ songs and their trailblazing twin guitar sound, but vocalist/bassist/songwriter Phil Lynott had an ear for melody, a way with words, and could write a damn fine pop song when he wanted.  “Dancing In The Moonlight” has everything you want in a great Thin Lizzy song: fantastic guitar playing, wonderful lyrics, and Lynott’s one-of-a-kind voice—he could sound tough as nails, but sensitive & vulnerable, too.  Let’s give this one a spin.

“Dancing In The Moonlight” (Philip Parris Lynott) Copyright 1977 Pippin-The-Friendly-Ranger Music Co Ltd. All rights Controlled and Administered by Universal – Polygram International Publishing, Inc.

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Welcome, all you erstwhile geologists and petrologists, this is the show dedicated to the study of a different kind of rock– the Rock that also Rolls.

This is the “I’m In Love With That Song” podcast, and I’m your host, Brad Page. Thanks for joining us on the Pantheon Podcast Network for another edition of the show where we do some intensive listening to a favorite song to see what it takes to make a song great.

This episode, we’re revisiting one of my favorite bands from the 1970’s, Thin Lizzy and a fantastic, fun song called “Dancing In The Moonlight”.


There have been quite a few successful bands to come out of Ireland, but with the exception of US, Thin Lizzy may be the biggest band with the longest lasting impact. The fact that they were a hard rock and band led by a black man, born from a single white mother in a very Catholic country, makes their success even less likely.

In the wake of World War II, Philomena Lynott left Dublin Ireland to find work in Birmingham England. She was still a teenager when she met Cecil Paris from British Guiana. They weren’t together long– just long enough for her to get pregnant. She gave birth to her son. Philip Paris Lynott, on August 20, 1949. When he was four years old, he was sent back to Dublin to live with his grandparents while his mom stayed in England to work. Phil was a teenager when he met a fellow student, a drummer named Brian Downey. The two of them played in bands together and separately, eventually connecting with a guitar player named Eric Bell, and the first version of Thin Lizzy was born in December 1969. The band as a three-piece released three albums, and other than some success with the single “Whiskey In The Jar”, none of the records really sold that well. It was a tough time, and eventually Eric Bell quit the band.

After a few trial runs with other guitarists filling in, including fellow Irishman Gary Moore, the band eventually settled on a four-piece lineup with two lead guitarists. Essentially, they reinvented the whole band. The new lineup included a Scottish teenager named Brian Robertson, and a transplanted Californian named Scott Gorham. And they became a twin guitar powerhouse, both with different but very complementary styles. And their fiery melodic solos and harmony guitar parts would become, along with Phil Lynott’s vocals, the trademark sound of Thin Lizzy.

A couple of albums followed, and though they didn’t stir up much attention, they steadily got better. As the band jelled and the songwriting improved, by the time they released “Jailbreak” in 1976, the band was firing on all cylinders and reached their biggest success yet. That album includes a handful of classic tracks, including the song Thin Lizzy’s best known for– “The Boys Are Back in Town”.


But there was trouble brewing.. more drinking, more drugs, and heroin entered the picture. On the eve of a US tour, Phil Lynott was hospitalized with hepatitis, the result of sharing a needle, and the tour had to be canceled. When Lynott was healthy enough, they recorded their next album, called “Johnny The Fox”, and the band lined up another U.S tour. But the self-inflicted damage continued– this time, it was Brian Robertson’s turn to do something stupid. He got involved in a bar fight and ended up on the wrong end of a broken bottle. The jagged glass caused serious lacerations to his hand, and Robertson ended up with nerve and artery damage. The tour had to be canceled again– the second time in two years.

Lynott was angry. He and Robertson always got on each other’s nerves anyway, so Lynott fired Robertson. The band did end up doing a short US tour, opening for Queen, with a temporary guitarist– a familiar name, Gary Moore, filling in. Then the band went back into the studio, this time as a three-piece with all the guitar parts left to Scott Gorham.

Gorham, however, intentionally left some guitar parts unrecorded, so that when Robertson’s hand healed enough for him to play, Gorham convinced Lyontt to bring Roberson back. Lynott agreed, but under one condition: that Robertson would not be a full-time member of the band; instead, he would be a hired gun. And so the album was completed.

Called “Bad Reputation”, the album’s a bit of an odd duck; Robertson is credited on the album, but his picture is not on the cover. However, on the back of the album, there’s a picture of the band with Robertson. Musically, the album is all over the place… it includes some of their heaviest tunes and most complex arrangements, but it also has some of their best softer numbers, and some really catchy tunes. Despite the awkward way that the album came together– or maybe because of it– this is probably my favorite Thin Lizzy studio album.

“Dancing In The Moonlight” is the first song on side two of the original vinyl album. It was written by Phil Lynott; he came up with a bass riff and showed it to Scott Gorham and drummer Brian Downey, and they worked up the arrangement together. The track, and the whole album, was produced by Tony Visconti, who produced a bunch of legendary albums by David Bowie and T-Rex, to name a few. The song begins with Phil Lynott’s bass guitar right up front:


The bass has a phasing effect on it, which gives it that swirling sound. It’s not often that you hear any effects on the bass, particularly a phaser, so that makes this unique. Phil is also playing the bass with a pick, and you can hear the sound of each pluck on this part.

Drummer Brian Downey is playing a nice loose swinging beat and they’ve also overdubbed some snapping fingers, just to add to that swingin’ feel.

Let’s listen to it from the beginning again:


There’s a nice little break here before the verse:


It’s played on a snare drum, the bass, and there’s a guitar chucking away with probably a wah-wah pedal on it. Let’s hear how that leads into the first verse:


Scott Gorham plays all of the guitar parts on this track. He’s laid down a couple of guitar tracks here in stereo, a really tasteful part that leaves room for the bass and the vocals to shine through.


Let’s talk about the lyrics for a minute.

Phil Lynott was as much of a writer or a poet as he was a hard rocker. He wasn’t above writing a typical rock song, but many of his lyrics are a notch or two above other bands. Here, he’s writing in the character of a teenager; those awkward experiences of teenage romance, and that overwhelming feeling of young love.

Look at the picture that he’s painted here; he meets a girl and they go to the dance, they start dating, he takes her to the movies and tries to look cool, but he’s still a clumsy teenager… that line about getting chocolate stains on his pants, it’s so specific– it’s maybe even a little weird at first– but it is such an image of teenage dorkiness, you can totally picture that kid. I love this whole verse.


Here is the chorus, and there’s a new instrument added– a saxophone. Guest-starring on this track is John Helliwell, from the band Supertramp, who adds a great sax part to this song. It really contributes to the jazzy feel of the track.


Here comes the second verse, and if you listen closely, you can hear Phil take a deep breath in, before launching into the vocal.


Now here’s the bridge section. Our teenage protagonist stayed out too late, he missed the last bus, so he’s stuck walking all the way back home.


Our boy knows he’s in trouble when he gets home, so he’s kind of dreading it. And you can feel that in the music– let’s focus on that saxophone part:


Listen to the little drum part that Brian Downey plays on the snare rim


I love that transition. You can feel the kid shedding his mopiness, saying “the hell with it, it was worth it” and the whole song bursts back with a joyous guitar solo.


That is Scott Gorham on lead guitar, and in my opinion, it’s maybe his finest moment on record. I think it’s one of the greatest guitar solos, period. Gorham played it on a Gibson Les Paul; it was either a Les Paul Deluxe or a Les Paul Standard. He initially played a Deluxe, but switched to a Standard around 1978, so I think this was when he was still playing the old Les Paul Deluxe. But this solo is just brilliant. It flows from one part to the next, it builds, and like all my favorite guitar solos, it’s highly melodic, not just a bunch of licks. It’s perfect.


Phil starts to cut loose a little bit on the bass here


“Dancing In The Moonlight” by Thin Lizzy.

Following the release of the “Bad Reputation” album, the band would hit the road again with Brian Robertson and release a live album called “Live And Dangerous”, which is one of the best live records you’re ever gonna hear.

That would be it for Brian Robertson, though. He left the band for good. His replacement was– you guessed it– Gary Moore. Gary would join the band full-time and contribute significantly to the next album, but then Gary would be gone, too. The band would release a few more albums which are pretty good… I like them, but they don’t capture the full magic of when Brian Robertson or Gary Moore were in the band.

Thin Lizzy called it quits in 1983, and in 1986, Phil Lynott died at the age of 36 from multiple organ failure, as a result of years of drug and alcohol abuse. I remember the day that he died; Gary Moore had released an album a few months before, and Phil sang a couple of tracks on it. That album was on steady rotation on my turntable. I was hoping for so much more from Gary and Phil, but it was not to be. Shame, but we will be talking about Gary Moore on this show very soon…

Thanks for listening and for being part of the show. We’ll be back in two weeks with another new episode. Until then, stop by and visit us on Facebook or on Podchaser, where you can leave a review, a comment, or some feedback. And of course, if you enjoy the podcast, follow the show so that you never miss an episode.

We are proud to be part of the Pantheon Podcast Network, where you’ll find a ton of excellent music podcasts; no matter what kind of music you’re into, you’re guaranteed to find a show on Pantheon that you’ll love.

Now find a date and put on a movie– watch out for those chocolate stains, though– and go “Dancing In The Moonlight” with Thin Lizzy.


Welcome to the 25th episode of the “I’m In Love With That Song” Podcast!  I thought we’d do something a little different for this episode: I’ve picked a handful of my favorite guitar solos and we’ll take a listen to what I think makes a solo great.  In my book, it doesn’t have to be flashy or technically brilliant (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but it does have to be memorable, it has to fit the song, and it should take the song to another level. 

I’m not saying these are the greatest solos of all time, they’re just a few that I think are pretty special.  So turn it up to 11 and put your guitar face on!

Why this song?  Simple: because Thin Lizzy was as good as a 4-piece rock band could be and this song has everything you want in a rockin’ song– a killer guitar riff, a singable chorus, a great hook for the lyrics, and a perfect performance.  Written by Bob Seger, Thin Lizzy took it to another level and added some of their special sauce to make this song their own.  I truly love this song!  Let me know your thoughts — write a review, leave a comment, share with your friends.

“Rosalie” (Bob Seger) Copyright 1972 Gear Publishing Co.