Jeff Dunbarton

I used to take life for granted. Like a lot of people, I was so wrapped up in my own petty, everyday problems that I ignored the beauty all around me. Thankfully, I’ve changed my ways, though it took a traumatic event to transform my outlook on life. A brush with death a couple years back really put things into perspective for me, and now I truly appreciate what a gift I’m given every time the “The Boys Are Back In Town” plays.

Sometimes it takes almost losing everything to realize what matters most.

Before my life-altering experience, I would just go through the motions of each day, running on autopilot and barely registering the chorus of the classic 1976 single emanating from the speakers of a car, jukebox, or karaoke machine. It’s as if I thought I would live forever and there was no need to savor the swaggering yet earnest vocals of Phil Lynott this time around, because there would always be a classic rock block the next day, or a Thin Lizzy double shot during the all-request electric lunch the day after that.

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That all changed on March 3, 2015, when I suffered a massive heart attack. As I lay in the back of that ambulance with the EMTs working to revive me, all I could think was, what if I never again get to listen to that mid-tempo anthem celebrating them wild-eyed boys that’ve been away? What if my life ends without once more hearing about that chick who used to dance a lot—who, every night, would be on the floor shakin’ what she’s got? Right then and there I swore that if I lived, I would stop sleepwalking through life and take time to enjoy its many wonders.

Well, I survived, and to this day I’ve kept my promise, cherishing every single measure of Thin Lizzy’s no-frills, guitar-driven hard rock standard.

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A near-death experience is an incredible wake-up call. Even if the radio signal is going in and out, or a D.J. talks over the half minute of repeating guitar chords that opens the song, I make sure to treasure every cymbal crash and hi-hat fill I’m lucky enough to still be around for. Since my heart attack, I’ve learned to stop sweating the small stuff. Now I just take a deep breath, start drumming on the steering wheel, and smile when the blazing twin guitars of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson kick in after the chorus.

It’s not always easy. There can be dark times, too, like when Bon Jovi’s overproduced 1989 cover of the song comes on. But even in such low moments, I remind myself that I still get to hear the same lyrics and melodies that make “The Boys Are Back In Town” so great to begin with. It may not be an ideal situation, but at least I can let myself get lost in the story of Johnny and the rest of the crew carousing around town and getting into mischief down at Dino’s Bar and Grill.

We like to think we guide our own destiny—making plans, setting expectations for ourselves, calling into our classic rock station’s morning show to request a song—but what comes next isn’t always up to us. That’s why we must delight in those good moments that do come our way by cranking the volume all the way up and shouting at the top of our lungs: “The boys are back in town! The boys are back in town! I said, the boys are back in town! The boys are back in town! The boys are back in town! The boys are back in town! The boys are back in town! The boys are back in town!”

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That is what makes life worth living.

So savor it, because you never know, as you listen to the last of those soaring guitar harmonies fading away at the end of the track, whether you’ll ever hear them again.