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‘Chinatown’: Thin Lizzy Hit The 1980s With Tenth Studio Album

It was the LP featuring the U.K. Top 10 hit ‘Killer On The Loose,’ and the first with guitarist Snowy White.

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Thin Lizzy 'Chinatown' artwork - Courtesy: UMG
Thin Lizzy 'Chinatown' artwork - Courtesy: UMG

By the turn of the 1980s, Thin Lizzy‘s bad reputation wasn’t just the one they sang about on the title song from an earlier hit album. But if the band were becoming more and more noted for their wild rock’n’roll lifestyle, it didn’t stop them from continuing to delight their fans with a brand of rock that, to quote another of their album titles, was always live and dangerous.

Lizzy were coming off two consecutive No.2 albums in the U.K. when, on October 18, 1980, their tenth studio LP Chinatown made its chart debut. After Gary Moore’s return to the fold for the previous year’s Black Rose: A Rock Legend, the band’s latest work marked the arrival as an official member of guitarist Snowy White. He was already something of a pop-rock veteran with a resumé broad enough to include work with both Cliff Richard and Pink Floyd.

The set was recorded at Tony Visconti’s studio Good Earth, but this time with Lizzy themselves co-producing with Visconti’s engineer Kit Woolven. While some critics found Chinatown something of a disappointment by comparison to the peaks achieved by the band in the second half of the 1970s, the album nevertheless contained some notable material. “Killer On The Loose” was a notable example, as was a title track credited not just to Phil Lynott, but the entire band, of White, Scott Gorham, and Brian Downey.

Listen to the Rock This Way playlist.

Killer On The Loose

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“Killer On The Loose” had peaked on the U.K. singles chart at No.10 the week before Chinatown made its first appearance on the album countdown at No.7. It was the week’s highest new entry, as the Police spent a second week at the top with Zenyatta Mondatta. That turned out to be the peak position for the Lizzy set, and the record managed only a seven-week run compared to 21 for Black Rose and a mighty 63 for Live and Dangerous.

In a 1979 interview with Melody Maker, Lynott touched on Moore’s return and the difference it was already making. “We’re gonna move away from that era with Brian [Robertson] and into another one with Gary, dependin’ on how long we stay together,” he said. “The pressure broke up the band before. It could easily break this one. I don’t think that we’re one of these bands that are gonna last for ever and ever. We could break up at any time…but don’t be writing our epitaphs yet because, as far as I’m concerned, we’re just starting now.”

Buy or stream Chinatown.

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