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Why Phil Lynott's 'Old Town' Music Video Is An Iconic Love Letter To Dublin

Why Phil Lynott's 'Old Town' Music Video Is An Iconic Love Letter To Dublin
Eoin Harrington
By Eoin Harrington
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The great Phil Lynott was taken from us this day 37 years ago.

The Thin Lizzy frontman died on January 4 1986, after a short battle with septicaemia led to pneumonia and heart failure. He was just 36.

Born in West Bromwich in the UK, Lynott grew up in Dublin, and spent most of his life in Ireland's capital city. His mother Philomena - herself a national treasure - sent Phil to live with his grandparents in Dublin when he was just 8, and it would be there that he would find his musical voice as the frontman of Thin Lizzy.

Dublin was central to all that Lynott did, and his iconic Late Late Show interview with Gay Byrne showcased how special his hometown was to him.

Nowhere is that love for Dublin more evident than in the now iconic music video for 'Old Town' from Lynott's solo career. On the anniversary of his death, we've taken a look back at the three-and-a-half minute 80s masterpiece - a true time capsule into the era, and the city that was Dublin.

'Old Town' by Phil Lynott: The ultimate music video breakdown

Before we get into breaking down the masterpiece that is 'Old Town' by Phil Lynott, have a watch for yourself.


It's wonderful, in every way.

Lynott, an icon not only of Irish music, but of Dublin culture at large, showcases several iconic locations - as well as a few hidden gems off the beaten track - in the 3 minutes and 24 seconds of runtime.

The song itself tells the story of a bitter breakup - "The girl's a fool, she broke the rules, she's hurt him hard" - and the video opens as such, on the easily identifiable Ha'penny Bridge. It's here we get our first taste of the wonderfully 80s energy to the video, with Lynott staring and pointing into a riverside camera as he contemplates throwing the ring on his finger into the Liffey.


Everything about Lynott's look is magnificent. The aggressively collared shirt, the tie in Dublin colours, the beautiful jacket, the earrings, the legendary afro - it's perfect, in a perfectly 80s way.

We then see the woman in her office job - it appears to be in Liberty Hall, judging by the height she is at. That would explain why the following shot of Lynott on a boat in the Liffey's docks is framed with Liberty Hall clearly visible in the background.

Phil Lynott Old Town

There are two highlights of this video for us, and the first is next up. Lynott, obviously adored by the people of his home city, can't avoid the notice of passersby on what appears to be Westmoreland St (a Balls source tells us the Aer Lingus shop visible on the street was located on Westmoreland St in the 80s).


He dances with one woman he walks by, waves to plenty more, and gives a few cheeky nods to the camera across the street. The excitement of everyone he passes is palpable, and it's an endearing display of the fact that the city Lynott loved loved him right back.

Phil Lynott Dublin

Lynott then drops by a well-loved Dublin drinking spot, The Long Hall on George's Street, for a solemn pint.

The lyrics of the song take a sad turn, after the energy of the dancing sequence - "I've been spending my money in the old town, sure miss you honey, when you're not around." The emptiness of the Long Hall will be unfamiliar to those who frequent the popular pub, with a saddened Lynott left alone with his drink at the bar.


The Long Hall themselves shared a screencap of the scene from the video on Wednesday morning, with lyrics of the song included.

In replies to the tweet, they revealed that many visitors to the bar come specifically because of Phil Lynott's iconic music video.

They said:


There isn’t a week goes by here that we don’t have some of his fans, new and old, in to sit in that seat and have a drink in his memory. Never ceases to amaze that all these years later he still commands such love, respect and admiration.

41 years since the release of 'Old Town', and 37 years since his death, Phil Lynott's solemn drink in the Long Hall still has people calling all these years later.

The final scene in this beautiful love letter to Dublin finds Lynott in the bandstand at Herbert Park, near the RDS on Dublin's southside. Seemingly reunited with his girl - or reliving a bittersweet memory, we'll leave that up to you - Lynott takes us away on the triumphant trumpet solo that closes out the song. And, of course, the immortal "OH LA!"

'Old Town' feels almost like a time capsule. It feels like it captures Dublin in a transitional period, with the docklands unrecognisable from the ultra-modern business district of the 21st century, the streets of town packed with unfamiliar shops, and the outfits, decor, and general cityscape a world apart from the Dublin of today.

And yet, no matter how long we go away from its release, you'd put your money on 'Old Town' being an anthem of the capital city for years to come.

When Capital Radio 104.4 (now FM104) launched in 1989, 'Old Town' was the first song played. The music video was shown by RTÉ on the day of Phil Lynott's death. Years later, fans still visit the Long Hall to drink a pint in Lynott's honour.

One of Dublin's most beloved sons was taken from us far too early, but the 'Old Town' music video is just one of countless examples of how his legacy endures to this day still.

SEE ALSO: Quiz: Can You Name These 15 Henchmen From The Sopranos?

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