The Irish Rover: The best of Phil Lynott, 1971-74

10 tracks from The Rocker’s early years.

The Friendly Ranger At Clontarf Castle

The opening track on Lizzy’s eponymous debut album. While it’s not what we now consider ‘classic’ Thin Lizzy, it’s still full of everything that made them great: poetic lyrics, a Celtic gait to the rhythm, rich, blues-rock guitar and Lynott’s husky, storytelling vocals.

Honesty Is No Excuse

Also from the debut, this is the Moody Blues-meets-Van Morrison, Lynott in soulful, yearning mode, with Eric Bell’s guitar sounding gorgeous and spine-tingling. Metallica’s Cliff Burton loved this, and stole the line ‘Honesty is my only excuse’ for the his band’s track Damage Inc.

Return Of The Farmer’s Son

All the hallmarks of the Lizzy’s epics to come: a commanding riff, marching drums, Lynott imperious. The lyrics came straight from the pages of Lynott’s painstakingly kept journals, mixed with a typically Irish bit of ‘licence’.

The Rise And Dear Demise Of The Funky Nomadic Tribes

Forget the blurry lyrics, this standout from second album Shades Of A Blue Orphanage is a great early example of just how funky Thin Lizzy were: a big plus and mark of distinction from other twin-guitar bands of the same rock tribe.

Black Boys On The Corner

A 1972 B-side and the start of Thin Lizzy as we would come to adore them. Rocky (dig Bell’s razor-edged guitar), sassy (Lynott sneering, ‘I need none of your pity’) and as addictive as Class A drugs.

Whiskey In The Jar

Thin Lizzy squirmed when Decca chose this as their first UK single, yet it gave them their biggest hit, selling even more than The Boys Are Back In Town. Best version ever, by the way.

Vagabond Of The Western World

A standout, self-consciously epic track from their third and final album for Decca, Vagabonds Of The Western World. The band are so in control of their destiny, Lynott so obviously reaching a new peak in his powers. What could possibly go wrong?

The Rocker

The hit that never was: anthemic, full-on, barrelhouse Lizzy that would survive in their live set until their dying days, yet no one outside Ireland bought it as a single.

A Song For While I’m Away

Lynott would write better versions of this in years to come, but this was the template for the romantic, misunderstood, ultimately doomed hero that dominated his later work – and life.

Little Darlin’

Charming pop-rock, featuring 21-year-old Gary Moore as Bell’s replacement. A 1974 single, had it been released three years later it would have been Top 10. Instead, it flopped and Moore walked. The future would have to wait.

Mick Wall

Mick Wall is the UK's best-known rock writer, author and TV and radio programme maker, and is the author of numerous critically-acclaimed books, including definitive, bestselling titles on Led Zeppelin (When Giants Walked the Earth), Metallica (Enter Night), AC/DC (Hell Ain't a Bad Place To Be), Black Sabbath (Symptom of the Universe), Lou Reed, The Doors (Love Becomes a Funeral Pyre), Guns N' Roses and Lemmy. He lives in England.