Living and dying
Yes they’re living and dying down in old Chinatown
In Chinatown, you better look around
Man, you don’t stand a chance if you go down in Chinatown
Chinatown is Thin Lizzie’s 1980 triumphant offering to the altar of music. While not as strong as their opus Jailbreak, it is uniquely thin Lizzie and stands out among their albums as one of the most colourful musically and visually. I was first introduced to Thin Lizzie by my father, of course, who pointed out Phil Lynot, their lead singer, played the part of the Parson in Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, which I had the distinct pleasure of seeing live at the Resorts World Arena in 2018 for Pater’s birthday.
Phil Lynott – bass guitar, lead vocals, guitar
Scott Gorham – guitar, backing vocals
Snowy White – guitar, backing vocals
Brian Downey – drums, percussion
Darren Wharton – keyboards, backing vocals
I shall focus on a few highlights within this album. The most notable track is probably the title track. Chinatown itself is a remarkable work. From the opening chords to the drumming and Lynott’s unmistakable voice. This is a rip roaring rock tune for the ages. The beautiful guitar in the opening and the bridge are indicative of the skill and musicianship of Gorham and White. Note the precise and delightful supporting drum from Wharton throughout. This is just fab!
Other new songs on Chinatown ranged from the rousing, mid-paced determination of opener “We Will Be Strong,” the more carefree, acoustic-backed rocker “Having a Good Time” (another descendant of “The Boys are Back in Town”), the conversely dramatic “Genocide (The Killing of the Buffalo)” (featuring a particularly impassioned Lynott vocal), the heartbreakingly tender and regretful “Didn’t I” and, finally, the rather iffy, half-reggae, half-forgettable amalgam of “Hey You.”
But the album’s piece de resistance was its menacing and sinister single, “Killer on the Loose,” which caused quite a bit of controversy when certain media associated it to the ongoing furor across the British Isles over a serial killer known as the “Yorkshire Ripper,” but nevertheless reached No. 10 in Britain and No. 5 in Ireland. Chinatown, meanwhile, performed well enough in the U.K. but not as well as recent efforts; it barely registered in the U.S. and didn’t show much life even when the band descended there for a short tour, after wildly acclaimed passages through Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Ultimate Classic Rock
Sweetheart is a great passionate track with some top shelf vocals. I think however that I agree with UCR in saying that the moribund hit of the album has to be Killer On the Loose. In spite of its morbid subject matter it is the one I find myself muttering many weeks after listening to the album. The baseline, the recurring motifs, the fantastic breathless vocals just add up to make a superb hit. Try and get the chorus out of your head!
My final highlight has to be Genocide (Killing of a Buffalo) which features some impassioned vocals and a sort of vegetarian utopian vision where buffala mozzarella is a thing of the past. Some stunning guitar work throughout and once again the drumming is so impressive.
Overall, this 1980 offering is an absolute gem and worth a place in anyone’s vinyl collection. It is constant high powered fun with some top notch musicianship thrown in for good measure. Enjoy it, perhaps after watching the film Chinatown!