Riding with our good Irish correspondent Fionnan Sheridan around the city of Dublin—where, as you can imagine, U2 are revered—my brain settled on a perfectly reasonable question. “Do any members of U2,” I asked, “still actually live in Dublin?”
I say “perfectly reasonable” because in 2006, U2 notoriously moved their enormous assets out of Ireland and into a Dutch tax shelter once the famous Irish tax exemption for artists was capped. I’d say that constitutes a pretty big “up yours” to Ireland, especially when just months before, Bono had loudly appealed to Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern to increase Ireland’s overseas aid. Following the money, wouldn’t the band’s members leave Ireland behind and move to France, New York, or—in Bono’s apparent wishes—a mansion in Heaven next door to Jesus?
“Some of them still live here,” said Fionnan. “Right up here a ways is Larry Mullen’s house, actually.” And in minutes, we were driving down a narrow street of large houses with big front yards, stone fences, and locked gates. Fionnan continued: “Phil Lynott’s mother lives somewhere on this road, as well.”
My heart skipped. Really? “Oh, sure,” he replied, like he was talking about the shopkeeper down the way, or the guy who sells newspapers on the corner. He then pointed out the church in Howth that was the site of Lynott’s funeral, and quickly thereafter we were driving by Saint Fintan’s Cemetery, where the great Thin Lizzy frontman is buried.
Anyone who knows me knows that I can’t pass up a celebrity grave—and certainly not the one of Phil Lynott. So we hoofed it across the long, flat cemetery with flashlights, trying in the dark to locate where he’s buried. Like most celebrity graves, it was easy to spot from far away: flowers, guitar parts, leather necklaces, steel bracelets, and handwritten and photocopied tributes piled all around.
I reflexively sang the riff to “The Boys are Back in Town,” which is naturally the first Thin Lizzy song I ever heard. But then I remembered the vast catalog of great Thin Lizzy songs I’d discovered about five years ago, thanks largely to my friend Josh, and so I hummed one of my favorites: “Dancing in the Moonlight.” Sort of apt, actually, under the dwindling Dublin skies.
I talked with Fionnan’s brother a little bit about Phil Lynott, and what it was like growing up in the same neighborhood. “When I was little,” he told me, “you’d see ‘em walking on the beach here together, Phil and his mom. And you’d just think, ‘wow.’”
“He’s got a pretty unmistakable profile,” I offered.
“Oh, yeah. An’ in that time especially, seeing a black person in Dublin was unheard of. It’s still rare now, but back then you really noticed it.”
On this graveyard expedition with us was my 15-year-old niece Qiana, who had never heard of Thin Lizzy at all. So I tried to explain that they were this total kickass rockin’ band that was known for these crazy rockin’ songs, and I air-guitared the solo to “I’m a Rocker” to demonstrate, but that they also had this really tender side, too, with tortured pleas like “I’m Still in Love With You,” and come to think of it, their first album was pretty weird and psychedelic and had this great song called “The Friendly Ranger at Clontarf Castle.”
Qiana just laughed at me. I guess I can’t blame her. She’s into Zac Efron and Kanye West.
When we got back to the house and to a computer, I showed Qiana some Thin Lizzy videos, but I’m pretty sure it only cemented my looniness—especially when I showed her the video for “Sarah,” a.k.a. the most amazingly dorkiest video ever made. Seriously. Watch it, and try to imagine any 15-year-old in the world today thinking that it’s at all cool.