In the memorable year of 1976 for Thin Lizzy, one of the many highlights was their American chart debut. In May of that year, they embarked on a US tour supporting Bachman-Turner Overdrive that, by all accounts, wowed audiences everywhere. With the Jailbreak album already climbing the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, the 15 May edition of Billboard had more good news, as ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ entered the Hot 100.
The vivid story song thus made the American bestsellers two weeks before it even hit the UK charts, on its way to becoming one of the most-loved rock hits of the year. Its American breakout started on KSAN in San Francisco, after which airplay spread coast to coast. But Lizzy’s opportunity to maximise their impact there was scuppered when Phil Lynott contracted hepatitis. That forced the cancellation of another crucial tour supporting Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.
“To tell you the truth, we weren’t initially going to put ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ on the Jailbreak album at all,” guitarist Scott Gorham later confessed. “Back then you picked ten songs and went with those, because of the time restrictions of vinyl.
The hit they nearly missed
“We recorded 15 songs, and of the ten we picked, that wasn’t one of them,” Gorham went on. “But then the management heard it and said, ‘No, there’s something really good about this song.’ Although back then, it didn’t yet have the twin guitar parts on it.”
‘The Boys’ reached No. 8 in Britain in early July. In the US, where the Hot 100 traditionally moved more slowly, the track eventually landed at No. 12 later that month. It was Thin Lizzy’s first US singles chart appearance and their only major single there. ‘Cowboy Song,’ which reached No. 77 a few months later, would be their only other showing.
Nevertheless, ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ helped ‘Jailbreak’ to become a substantial American success in its own right. It reached No. 18 in a 28-week run and was certified gold, their only RIAA recognition in the US. Back in the UK, the album was on the chart for almost a year.