Thin Lizzy

Bad Reputation

Song Review by

"Bad Reputation" is quite simply one of Thin Lizzy's nastiest songs. Unlike many of his other compositions, into which the singer always managed to sneak at least a hint of his tender-hearted persona, "Bad Reputation" displayed Philip Lynott's rock & roll outlaw persona at its darkest and bleakest. The title track from Lizzy's eighth studio album, the song reflected many of the demons consuming the band at the time, most notably its increasing drug abuse and guitarist Brian Robertson's on-again, off-again love-hate relationship with Lynott. These complications had long been eroding Lizzy's chances of achieving rock stardom, even as it was dangled, taunting the band, just beyond its reach; so it was no surprise that these feelings of unrest should begin permeating its music. "Bad Reputation"'s lyrics find Lynott in an accusatory tone ("You've had bad breaks, well tough luck...you play too hard, too much rough stuff"), and though one's immediate reaction might be to assume he was targeting Robertson, hindsight also suggests that he was also referring to his own wayward ways, admitting that this bad reputation "Can only bring you down," the chorus pleading in vain, over and over again, for him to "Turn yourself around." A gripping inner struggle to be sure, but in terms of the music, for once, it wasn't Lynott who was the star in the spotlight. Instead, "Bad Reputation" serves as a stellar showcase for drummer Brian Downey (certainly one of the most underrated of his generation), who foregoes his regular supporting status and is finally unleashed here in an astonishingly explosive performance. Along with guitarist Scott Gorham, he was also credited as a co-writer on the track -- a rare occurrence given Lynott's dominance within Thin Lizzy's power structure.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Bad Reputation 1977 Mercury 3:09
No Image 1983 Contour
Dedication: The Very Best of Thin Lizzy 1991 Mercury 3:10
Peel Sessions 1995 Dutch East India Trading
Wild One: The Very Best of Thin Lizzy 1996 Polygram / Vertigo 3:07
Vagabonds Kings Warriors Angels 2002 Universal International 3:10
Dogtown and Z-Boys 2002
Original Soundtrack
Universal Distribution 3:07
Greatest Hits 2004 Universal International 3:10
The Definitive Collection 2006 Mercury 3:09
Waiting for an Alibi: The Collection 2011 Spectrum Music 3:08
Icon 2011 Mercury 3:09