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Time Tunnel: Thin Lizzy – Manchester 1979

Thin Lizzy, Manchester Apollo, 2nd May 1979

You never forget your first.

Having just passed the fortieth anniversary of my first ever gig (!!) a time to look back at the moment when gigging became a lifelong passion.” writes ATB’s Mike Ainscoe.

thin lizzy 1979 stub

You never forget your first. Having just passed the fortieth anniversary of my first ever gig (!!) a time to look back at the moment when gigging became a lifelong passion.

To set the scene, attending a boys grammar school, there was already a culture of lads carrying albums under their arms, weird and wonderful band logos drawn on bags and notebooks. Seeing my classmate, Ste Owen wearing a Rick Wakeman badge (I think he’d been to a gig, possibly at the Free Trade Hall circa No Earthly Connection era – it was that NEC rounded artwork on his badge) had alerted me to the fact that there was another world beyond Top Of The Pops.

I’d already nailed my own colours to the Prog Rock mast by sixth form and starting to become a regular at the record emporium named Vibes in Bury town centre, it was only a matter of time before the live bug bit.

Several pals were already well-established gig-goers. Jez Levene, a mate from the English Lit class had been to see Rainbow and Wishbone Ash of late and I was desperate to worm my way into some sort of gig circuit. It was Pete ‘Dennis’ Maden who made the suggestion. Happy to say yes, hand over my four quid and let him make the arrangements, I was on my way to breaking the duck and catching Thin Lizzy (yes, they’d been on Top Of The Pops) was a no-brainer. There was also the Live And Dangerous set that had been duly purchased and pored over; the live shot son the inner sleeves duly memorised as well as Lynott’s between-song banter and the ever so slightly risqué “has anybody got any Irish in them?   Would any of the girls like a little more Irish in them?” chat-up line – not worth trying down the local disco without suffering some excruciatingly embarrassing backlash.

The live video for Rosalie had also been doing the rounds so you could say that when Dennis turned up with the tickets and I handed over the four quid I’d managed to acquire – row D wasn’t a bad effort I have to now admit – I was pretty well close to wetting my pants.

And there was a new album to promote. We’d already had a tease with the Waiting For An Alibi single duly bought and played to death. Typical Lizzy fare of course, but the title track of the album itself, Black Rose, would certainly make an immediate impact and even after all these years, must rank up in the top slots for their best ever song. Its Celtic folk tinge could still be heard years later ringing in Gary Moore’s solo work and in the Black Star Riders sound. There was the bonus of having Gary Moore back in the band, albeit briefly which we were unaware of at the time but the excitement paled compared with getting on the bus that ran from Whitefield straight to Ardwick (get off at the door) to the gig.

The camaraderie stretched to seeing a mate from Sunday football on the top deck of the bus going to the gig – “I didn’t know you were a fan!” – and some school pals who were on a roll having seen Rush the same week, later admitting that the Lizzy gig had trumped the Rush tour although if I had a time machine I’d be spoilt for choice whether to rewatch my first encounter with Lizzy or opt for seeing Rush doing Hemispheres at the Apollo.

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Entering the Apollo for the first time. The unforgettable air (some may call it smell) that I still get a whiff of even today and at the time, the commonplace display of album covers that were immediately decimated by the crowds like locusts. I was to get one a cover of Steve Hackett’s Defector a year later, all signed by the band and complete with staple holes that still sits proudly on the wall (but that’s another story). I don’t recall the merch area although I bagged a programme for the princely sum of 60p and with tons of bio stuff to read – not just the usual collection of cheaply produced promo shots with minimal text.

And then the gig itself – the loudness, the sights and the flashing Thin Lizzy backdrop all as I’d pictured but playing out four rows in front of me in gloriously unbelievable real life. They’d played the Apollo the night before too so were in pretty good shape and these were the days when you memorised every nuance of the setlist and yes I do recall the excitement of the ‘Manchester are you ready!!?” opening, recalled years later for the ‘return’ of the Ricky Warwick led Thin Lizzy also at the Apollo. Stacking up the hits and crowd-pleasers against the new songs and the classics, you could call it a setlist to die for. Maybe minus Got To Give It Up paired with Moore’s solo spotlight in Parisienne Walkways (how long did he hold ‘that’ note?) which gave Phil a bit of a breather midway through.

Live And Dangerous it was and more. A permanent marker for a young fella. The first of many that ranged from colossal to the vaguely nonplussed, but you simply never forget your first.

Bagged from SetlistFM:

Are You Ready – Bad Reputation – Get Out Of Here – Do Anything You Want To Do – Don’t Believe A Word – Waiting For An Alibi – Jailbreak – Got To Give It Up – Parisienne Walkways – Still In Love With You – Warrior – Black Rose – Cowboy Song – The Boys Are Back In Town – Suicide – Me And The Boys

encore: Rosalie – Emerald – Baby Drives Me Crazy

And a bit of private fan footage from Youtube:

Check out the 1979 Thin Lizzy tour guide here

Thin Lizzy online: website / Facebook / Twitter

2 replies »

  1. Love it Mike! Your recollections of your first gig are so similar to my own. Perhaps it was an initiation ritual we all had to go through… Coincidentally, Thin Lizzy we’re also one of the first bands that I saw too – in 1972 at Rivington Barn – they were supporting Brewer’s Droop! I had my Physics O Level exam the next day and my ears were still fungus’s I sat down to take it.

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