To be clear, these are only songs that Lynott wrote or co-wrote. Otherwise, "Rosalie" (Bob Seger cover) and "Whiskey in the Jar" (traditional Irish folk song) would probably be on the list. I'm going to list the songs chronologically, and if there are multiple songs from the same album, I'll put them in the order they appear on the album. Also, I'm only going to say a sentence or two about each, so that you can just listen to the music and enjoy it, without having to worry so damn much about why I love it. But enough gabbing. Here are my ten favorite Thin Lizzy songs written or co-written by Lynott.
1. "The Rocker" (Vagabonds of the Western World, 1973)
Co-written by bandmates Eric Bell and Brian Downey, "The Rocker" was a harbinger of the hard rocking things to come for the band.
2. "Fighting My Way Back" (Fighting, 1975)
With the Fighting album, the band really came together and went in the direction of hard rock. "Fighting My Way" back is a great song about getting your ass up off the ground after it has been kicked.
3. "Jailbreak" (Jailbreak, 1976)
If you've only heard one Thin Lizzy song other than "The Boys Are Back In Town," it's probably "Jailbreak," the first track off of the fantastic 1976 album of the same name. This song just kicks ass. That riff is one of the best ever.
Co-written with Downey, "Cowboy Song" is one of my favorite Thin Lizzy songs, hands down. I don't know why this only hit #77 on the Billboard Hot 100, since it seems like it could have (and should have) been a '70s rock anthem in the States. My favorite aspect of the song is that it has not one, but two, wicked guitar solos. As someone in the YouTube comments said, "The best rock song about the American west ever, written by an Irish black dude."
5. "Don't Believe a Word" (Johnny the Fox, 1976)
This was the song that made me fall in love with Thin Lizzy. I first heard it on Def Leppard's 2006 covers album Yeah!, and I thought it was fantastic, so I checked out the original, and it's even better. It's a short, fast-paced song in which the narrator basically tells a woman not trust a damn thing that comes out of his mouth. Is he a dick or is he just protecting himself from heartbreak if she doesn't return his affection? That's what I love about the song.
6. "Opium Trail" (Bad Reputation, 1977)
Co-written with Downey and guitarist Scott Gorham, this is one of the many songs in the latter half of Lizzy's career that tackles the issue of drug addition, with which both Lynott and Gorham were painfully familiar.
7. "Toughest Street In Town" (Black Rose: A Rock Legend, 1979)
Co-written by Gorham and guitarist Gary Moore, "Toughest Street In Town" tells a gritty tale of life on the street, set to raucous guitars and Lynott's wailing and brooding vocals. (For some more in-depth thoughts I have about the song, click here.)
8. "Róisín Dubh (Black Rose): A Rock Legend" (Black Rose: A Rock Legend, 1979)
Co-written with Moore, this song is an ode to Irish history and mythology, from Cú Chulainn to Oscar Wilde, with snippets of traditional Irish songs thrown in. It's no wonder that this always tops my list of Top Ten St. Patrick's Day Songs (an updated version will be coming soon!).
9. "Hollywood (Down On Your Luck)" (Renegade, 1981)
Co-written with Gorham, this is another gritty song about, as the title implies, being down on your luck in Hollywood. I always took this song and some others on this album to be kind of a veiled cry for help from Lynott.
10. "Cold Sweat" (Thunder and Lightning, 1983)
Co-written with guitarist John Sykes, this "Cold Sweat" is a far cry from the James Brown song of the same name (although both are fantastic). This is a blistering hard rock song on what would be the band's final album -- a glimpse into what the band could have done in the hard-rocking mid '80s had they stayed together.
Honorable mention: "Sha La La" (Nightlife, 1974), "The Boys Are Back In Town" (Jailbreak, 1976), "Emerald" (Jailbreak, 1976), "Johnny" (Johnny The Fox, 1976), "Southbound" (Bad Reputation, 1977), "Do Anything You Want To" (Black Rose: A Rock Legend, 1979), "Get Out of Here" (Black Rose: A Rock Legend, 1979), "We Will Be Strong" (Chinatown, 1980), "Killer On The Loose" (Chinatown, 1980), "No One Told Him" (Renegade, 1981), "Thunder and Lightning" (Thunder and Lightning, 1983)