“Phil Lynott could sing you into bed”: Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie on his love of Thin Lizzy

Thin Lizzy in 1978, Bobby Gillespie in 2015
(Image credit: Thin Lizzy: Fin Costello/Redferns, Bobby Gillespie: Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images)

Primal Scream have spent their whole career shimmying their way out of being pigeon-holed. They’ve gone from twee, C86 indie-poppers to riffed-up hard-rockers to a psychedelically-inclined acid-house collective – and that was just their first three albums. But, as you can tell from their snarling licks that fuelled their classic hit Rocks, rock’n’roll has always been at the heart of the band and frontman and leader Bobby Gillespie once told Classic Rock how Thin Lizzy are one of his all-time favourites.

“Phil Lynott was a hard rock singer who could sing you into bed,” Gillespie enthused, talking to Classic Rock in 2021. Listing his other favourite singers as Paul Rodgers, Ian Gillan, Peter Tosh and Bobby Blue Bland, he described them as “male voices, men who’ve lived, suffered, been wronged; hard lives, real blues.”

But it was Lizzy he honed in on, stating that, in his opinion, the band’s classic 1976 album Jailbreak was the greatest album of all time. “It’s half hard rock (Jailbreak, Warriors, Emerald) and half ballads (Running Back, Fight Or Fall, Romeo And The Lonely Girl). Then you’ve got The Cowboy Song which is half ballad, half rocker. It’s a great mix of stuff,” he said. “Phil Lynott tried to replicate that on every Lizzy album after and it was really hard, because it’d come so naturally. Phil brought a poetic, romantic sensibility to rock. That’s why people loved and still love him. That record hit me at just the right time. I was 15 and The Boys Are Back In Town was fucking everywhere.”

The attitude of pinballing between poetic contemplations and barbed antagonism is one that's streaked right across Primal Scream’s career - now you know where Gillespie and his gang got their inspiration from. The Scottish rockers haven’t released a record under the Primal Scream banner since 2016, so we’re due another anytime now.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer for The Guardian, Variety and Classic Rock, and co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former editors of Q magazine Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. Niall has written for NME, X-Ray Magazine and XFM Online and interviewed some of music’s biggest stars, including Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, St Vincent, The 1975, Depeche Mode, Radiohead and many more.