Greedy Bastards

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By 1977, Thin Lizzy were on a roll. Johnny the Fox, their last album, had consolidated their emergence from the cult confines in which they had hitherto spent their time; work on their next record, set…
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By 1977, Thin Lizzy were on a roll. Johnny the Fox, their last album, had consolidated their emergence from the cult confines in which they had hitherto spent their time; work on their next record, set to emerge as Bad Reputation, was already underway; and the band's last British tour had thrust them into venues they had once merely driven past. The idea that anything could deflect them after so many years of struggle didn't even occur to them; if anything, the rising tide of punk only added further fuel to Phil Lynott's own vision and, in mid-1978, Lynott placed Lizzy on temporary hold while he took the stage instead with a punk supergroup whose name punctured every one of the cynics who questioned their motivation in the first place: the Greedy Bastards.

The group's roots lay in the sessions for Johnny Thunders' So Alone album, where Lynott first worked alongside Sex Pistols Paul Cook and Steve Jones. Over the next few months, the unholy quartet of Lynott, Thunders, Jones, and Cook was frequently sighted around London. The Greedy Bastards themselves debuted at London's Electric Ballroom on July 29, 1978, with Lynott, Cook, and Jones joined by Lizzy cohorts Scott Gorham and Brian Downey, Rainbow's Jimmy Bain, and guitarists Chris Spedding and Gary Moore.

"That night was insane," Lynott later shuddered. "We had a set list, which everybody threw something into, and it didn't really matter whether anyone knew the words, or even the song. It was like 'here we are, this is what we want to play, and if you think we f*ck up, you can f*ck off.'" And so the show opened with a thunderous "Jailbreak," the four-guitar front line screaming out the signature riff; and blared through a clutch of other Lizzy standbys as well -- a playful "Cowboy Song," a defiant "Don't Believe a Word," and a positively ruthless "Boys Are Back in Town."

Jones took the lead for his own "Black Leather" and pulled off a passable impression of Ronnie Biggs across "No-One Is Innocent," while Spedding shone on "Motorbiking." But Lynott certainly seemed less than word-perfect when they launched into Mink DeVille's "Spanish Stroll," and the old surf instrumental "Pipeline" (the opening cut on the Thunders album) was all but unrecognizable behind the wall of guitars. All's well, however, that ends well -- the night ended with a riotous rendition of the Pistols' "Pretty Vacant," retitled for the occasion "Pretty Greedy," and the Greedy Bastards had pulled off their debut with remarkable aplomb.

The full Lizzy lineup reconvened the following day, to set out on its next U.S. tour; no sooner was the group back in London, however, than Lynott, Cook, and Jones were scheming a second Greedy Bastards show. Downey, Gorham, and Moore all returned, together with the Boomtown Rats' Bob Geldof and Johnnie Fingers, although Geldof's contributions were largely confined to a clattering version of his own "Looking After Number One," itself part of a closing salvo that breezed on through "Pretty Vacant," a maniacal Christmas jingle, and finally, the R&B stormer "Hard Driving Man."

Elsewhere, the set was again dominated by Lizzy material, while Jones threw in his own peculiar rendering of "My Way" modeled on bandmate Sid Vicious' earlier reading. But it was definitely a less enthralling show than the last one ("we maybe told the joke once too often," Lynott later conceded), and although Lynott, Cook, and Jones would cut a single of the festive "Merry Jingles" the following Christmas, the Greedy Bastards never played together again. "Turned out we weren't as greedy as people thought," Lynott laughed. "Or maybe we were now so greedy that the Bastards didn't do it for us anymore."