July 1977: Thin Lizzy Releases "Dancing in the Moonlight (It's Caught Me in Its Spotlight)"

UNSPECIFIED - FEBRUARY 01: Photo of Phil LYNOTT and THIN LIZZY; Phil Lynott performing live onstage, (Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)
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(Fin Costello/Redferns)

It should come as no surprise that Thin Lizzy frontman, Phil Lynott, loved the music of fellow Irishman, Van Morrison.

RELATED: June 1978: Thin Lizzy Releases "Live and Dangerous"

“Phil was a huge Van Morrison fan. He loved the guy, loved his lyrics, loved his voice and the way he presented things,” longtime Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham said in a 2016 interview. “I think a lot of Van rubbed off on Phil. And although he never sought to overtly copy Van, maybe this was Phil paying homage in some way.”

"Dancing in the Moonlight (It's Caught Me in Its Spotlight)" came together in Toronto, Canada, in the spring of 1977. Thin Lizzy was working with producer Tony Visconti for the first time. Visconti almost abandoned the sessions due to the band's penchant for drinking in the studio. But once they smoothed things over, the song came together. Visconti was even inspired to ring up Supertramp's John Helliwell to provide the track's famous saxophone melody.

The groovy tune was a far cry from the group's usual hard-rocking thunder, and they knew it might not be what their rabid fan base was looking for in a new Thin Lizzy single.

“It seemed like a big gamble, and we did wonder what the fans were going to think, because it was way different from anything else that we’d brought out,” Gorham recalled. “Thankfully they absolutely loved it.”

They did indeed. Released on July 29, 1977, the song crashed the top 20 in the band's native England, peaking at #14 in September of 1977. The album that it came from, Bad Reputation, made it all the way to #4. In America, the LP broke into the top 40 to hit #39.

FUN FACT: the song's long title due to the parenthetical added to it was for a very specific reason: band King Harvest had a big hit that same year with "Dancing in the Moonlight," and the label didn't want prospective buyers to get confused at the record store.


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