“The Boys Are Back in Town” by Thin Lizzy

As described, Thin Lizzy were actually a group of hard guys themselves, perhaps even being akin to modern-day rappers in terms of how they rolled, though being Irish and this being some time back. 

In fact lead singer Phil Lynott even grew up in part in a rough, gang-infested neighborhood (aka Manchester, England) and through his mother’s profession came into regular contact with some of the premiere bad boys in the vicinity. 

In fact it has been hypothesized that “The Boys Are Back in Town” is actually based on the lifestyles of said individuals, who were referred to as the Quality Street Gang, which may well be true, all things considered. For instance, the featured narrative is in actuality presented in third person. This implies that the vocalist himself is not one of the ‘crazy cats’ upon whom the song is based.

Lyrics of “The Boys Are Back in Town”

And as the beginning of the song illustrates, it is these “wild-eyed boys” who would be the ones that ‘just got back in town’. And again, the narrator is not part of their group. Rather, he is apparently someone whom they are cool with. And the reason we can come to that conclusion is because upon arrival, the boys are searching for a particular lady who, by the looks of things, is very attractive/seductive. 

And in terms of ascertaining her whereabouts, they ask the narrator of her location. In fact it is she whom he is addressing in the first verse. In other words, she’s the one whom he’s initially telling “the boys are back in town”.

The Attractive Lady

Then in the second verse he is addressing an associate, whom we can say is also the listener. Or explained differently, he puts you and I in the role of said acquaintance, speaking as if we too live in the ‘hood. And what he is doing is extolling the sexiness of the aforementioned lady. 

But on top of being outrageously hot, she’s also presented as a fierce woman, one who is like the female equivalent of the bad boys herself. Meanwhile, the last couple of lines of the passage are not that easy to decipher. But it appears as if Phil may be saying something like if she doesn’t want to be found, then they should just “forget” about her.

The Boys are Back!!!

The bridge that falls between the second and third verses is based on the same fundamental emotion as the chorus itself. And that is the vocalist expressing exuberance over the re-arrival of the boys. In fact he deems them coming back to town as such exciting news that it should be “spread… around”.

The Boys are Members of a Gang?

It is in the third verse it becomes more obvious – for the first time really – that the vocalist may well be referring to a crew akin to a street gang. As presented, on the weekend, they prefer to hangout at a place called Dino’s Bar and Grill. And by all means, on top of getting boozed they’re also going to engage in some ‘blood spilling’ at the venue also.

And the conclusion of the third verse insinuates that the boys are migratory. It would appear that they depart town regularly, annually even, only to return once the weather starts “getting warmer”, as in when the “summer comes” back around. 

And maybe, based on their Wikipedia page, the Quality Street Gang did engage in such a manner. That is to say that they allegedly committed robberies in Holland, which is a considerable distance away from Manchester. And if they did so regularly as implied on Wikipedia, then it may also be that they spent significant amounts of time traveling between the two countries (i.e. the UK and Holland).

Narrator is a Fan of The Boys?

Outside of labeling them “crazy” or what have you, Phil Lynott doesn’t actually put forth any opinion of “the boys”. However, it is pretty obvious by the tone of his expressions, i.e. the chorus, that he idealizes them. And now that they are “back in town” he knows that Dino’s, their hangout spot, is the place to be. 

And you see that as the song progresses, this lady that they were looking for at the beginning disappears from the picture. So this is very much about the gang, if you will. And it is also quite revealing of the character of the vocalist, as he is someone who is actually excited that they are “back in town”.

Thin Lizzy, "The Boys Are Back in Town" Lyrics

Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy

Although the lead singer of this group, the late Phil Lynott (1949-1986), was a Black (or more specifically mixed) musician, Thin Lizzy were actually a group from Ireland (1949-1986), although altogether the quartet actually came from three different countries. 

And in addition to Lynott, at the time the band was rounded out by the following:

  • fellow co-founder Brian Downey, who also acted as the group’s drummer
  • Scott Gorham
  • Brian Robertson

Thin Lizzy, which was extant most notably from the late 1960s to early 1980s, scored a number of hits throughout their tenure. These hits were primarily in Ireland and the neighboring UK. 

Achievements of “The Boys Are Back in Town”

Out of all the band’s hits, “The Boys Are Back in Town” can be considered their signature song. In fact even if you never heard of this group, chances are that you may be familiar with the tune due to regular usage in pop media, etc. 

For instance, one notable utilization of the tune, which Thin Lizzy did not approve of, was in 2012. This was when US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running-mate, Paul Ryan, used it during the Republic National Convention of 2012.

This track made Rolling Stone’s 2004 ranking of “the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”, even if placing nearer to the bottom of the list. 

It also topped the Irish Singles Chart and made it within the top 10 of the UK Singles Chart and top 12 of the Billboard Hot 100. This is in addition to going gold in the UK.  Indeed this was the band’s first true international hit (i.e. having an impressive showing in North America as well as in Europe) and saved Thin Lizzy from being cast into professional music limbo.

Moreover during its year of release, “The Boys Are Back in Town” picked up an NME Award in the category of Best Single. And all of this for a song which, according to Scott Gorham, Thin Lizzy didn’t even favor.

Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town"

When did Thin Lizzy release “The Boys Are Back in Town”?

As originally featured, this tune can be found on Thin Lizzy’s sixth album, 1976’s Jailbreak, with the song having an issuance date of 17 April 1976.  And its issuance was handled by Vertigo Records in the UK and Mercury Records in the US. 

Thin Lizzy's Scott Graham discusses "The Boys Are Back in Town"

Credits

Phil Lynott is credited as the sole composer of “The Boys Are Back in Town”. Additionally, the producer of the track is John Alcock.

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