Sunday Old School: Paying Tribute To Phil Lynott And Thin Lizzy
Band Photo: Thin Lizzy (?)
On January 4th 1986, the world of hard rock lost one of it's greatest figures and heavy metal lost one of it's biggest influences in the form of Phillip Parris Lynott, the lead vocalist and bass player of Thin Lizzy, when he passed away from multiple organ failure at the age of thirty six. Lynott has since been remembered for being one of, if not the best, lyricist in heavy music, drawing much inspiration from poetry and Irish folklore and is constantly mentioned as one of the best frontmen of all time, easily contending for the title along with Bon Scott, Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger. You only have to listen to "Live And Dangerous", a classic in the field of live albums, to hear how well Lynott could work the audience. The line "Is there anybody here with a bit of Irish in them? ... Is there any girls out there who'd like a bit more Irish in them?" from this record has gone down as one of the most memorable quotes in music history. He was well known for living the rock and roll lifestyle which included drink, drugs and sex as main ingredients, so much so that after he passed away, a doctor reportedly said "He died from a lifestyle." Sex and Drugs and Rock & Roll may have been a song by Ian Dury, but no-one personified it quite like Phil Lynott.
Phil Lynott joined Thin Lizzy in December 1969, along with his friend Brian Downey. The two performed together as part of the band Orphanage and were spotted by organ player Eric Wrixon and guitarist Eric Bell, who were previously members of the famous band Them, fronted by the legendary Van Morrison. Bell and Wrixon approached Lynott and Downey after Orphanage finished playing their set and suggested they form a band together, which was agreed on the condition that Lynott also play bass guitar and that they would perform some of his own compositions. This lineup would release only one record, a single entitled "The Farmer" through EMI. The single only sold 283 copies and has since become a rare collectors item. Following from this commercial failure, Wrixon left Thin lizzy to return to Them, leaving the band as a three piece. Thin Lizzy soldiered on and signed to Decca Records in 1970, releasing their self-titled debut album the next year. The album sold fairly well and the band followed with the much more Celtic orientated album, "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage" in March of 1972. Neither of the bands first two albums found a place in the charts but they received a high profile support slot when they were invited to tour with the hugely popular Slade and Suzi Quatro later that year.
The band tasted their first chart success soon afterwards when Decca Records, against the band's wishes, released their cover of the Irish ballad "Whiskey In The Jar." The single topped the Irish charts and entered the U.K. charts at number six, leading to their first appearance on the revered show, Top Of The Pops. The band were not quite as succesful with their next singles which only entered the Irish charts.
The band then went through a revolving door of guitar players after Eric Bell left the band, including Gary Moore and former Atomic Rooster guitar player John Cann. Thin Lizzy settled on two guitarists in the end, Scotsman Brian Robertson and American Scott Gorham. Though their next album, "Nightlife" failed to chart, they increased their fan base in America by touring with Bob Seger and Bachman Turner Overdrive. The album "Fighting" followed soon after and the band began to show off a new twin lead guitar sound, which would become a huge influence on the likes of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and the thrash metal movement. This was followed with a tour supporting English household favourites Status Quo and a new album entitled "Jailbreak" in 1976. The album broke Thin Lizzy into the mainstream, containing the well received title track and the hit single "The Boys Are Back In Town" which cracked the top ten in the U.K. and number twelve in the United States. The success of the album led to more support slots for big names such as Rush, REO Speedwagon and Aerosmith.
The good times continued with the bands next album, "Johnny The Fox" which featured a high profile headlining tour and many television appearances. Not long after the album's release however, Robertson was involved in a fight in a London club, suffering a hand injury trying to protect a friend, he was fired from the band and replaced by former guitarist Gary Moore, who performed with Thin Lizzy when they supported Queen in the U.K. Moore didn't stay with the band however and the group began recording their next album, "Bad Reputation" as a three piece. Though they were later joined in these sessions by Brian Robertson, Lynott maintained that he was not a permanent member of the band and was basically given the role of a session musician, although he once again became an official member of the band soon after. "Bad Reputation" reached the number four spot in the U.K. albums chart and spawned a successful single, "Dancing In The Moonlight."
Following the album, the band released "Live And Dangerous" which entered the U.K. album charts at number two and has since been voted as the greatest live album of all time on several occasions by numerous publications and polls. However, the success was spoiled somewhat by the permanent split with Robertson following a concert in Ibiza, leading Gary Moore to join the band for a third time. The band once again entered the album charts at number two with "Black Rose: A Rock Legend" which featured the singles, "Do Anything You Want To," "Sarah" and "Waiting For An Alibi." Moore would quit the band again while they were in the middle of a tour of the United States and was briefly replaced by Midge Ure, who would go on to join Ultravox and co-write the Christmas classic, "Feed The World" with Bob Geldof. After the next album, "Chinatown," the band settled on former Pink Floyd member Snowy White as the new guitarist. The album peaked at number seven in the British charts and contained the top ten single "Killer On The Loose," which was met with much outcry due to the murders carried out by The Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe at the time. After this, Lynott wrote and recorded a solo album with the help of the members of Thin Lizzy and the band headlined a concert at Slane Castle along with Kirsty McColl and a little known band called U2. Thin Lizzy released a new album entitled, "Renegade" in late 1981, but it was considerably less successful than previous albums, reaching number thirty eight in the British charts and the much lower place of one hundred and fifty seven in the United States.
The band went through a series of personal problems at this time and White left the band, being replaced by Tygers Of Pan Tang guitarist John Sykes. Thin Lizzy released "Thunder And Lightning" in March of 1983 and showcased much heavier material, more in the vein of heavy metal. The album returned the band to the spotlight, entering the U.K. charts at number four and being accompanied by a successful tour. However, despite the success, the group announced that the tour would be their last as Gorham decided that he had enough, although Lynott had stated a few times that the band would return at some point in the future. The band completed a difficult tour of Japan before performing their last concert at the Monsters Of Rock festival in Nuremburg, Germany.
Today, Thin Lizzy are remembered as one of the most influential bands in the rock genre, leaving a huge impression on bands such as Metallica, Testament and even young bands of the present such as The Answer. Thin Lizzy returned in 1996, as a tribute to Phil Lynott, with vocal duties being handled by guitarist John Sykes. Many other tributes are held all over the world to celebrate the life and music of Lynott and he received perhaps the greatest tribute in 2005, when a life-size bronze statue of himself was erected in Dublin. There have been numerous compilation and live albums released since Lynott's death and Scott Gorham has stated that more live albums will be released in the future. These records help ensure that the Thin Lizzy name will continue to be heard for a long time to come and prove that while a man can die, his music never will.
Thin Lizzy - Cold Sweat
Thin Lizzy - The Rocker
Thin Lizzy - Jailbreak
Thin Lizzy - Rosalie
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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