“I took my life in my own hands and I abused it.”


Those are the sad, almost tormented words from a poem/song entitled ‘Honesty Is No Excuse’ penned by Philip Lynott. He wrote them more than ten years before his death on January 4th, 1986. Today they have a ring of an epitaph. But there was much more to Phil Lynott’s life than sadness and despair. He was a man who took pride and pleasure in the musical vehicle of his own creation that became one of the most successful Irish bands of the seventies

The continuing success of compilation and  “new” live albums, plus the high attendances at the annual vibe ‘shows not only the continuing appeal of Philip Lynott and his timeless songs, but the sense of loss that still afflicts rock at the passing of the band and its charismatic leader . Ironically,  Philip and Thin Lizzy are now perhaps better appreciated than it was during the turbulent years of change, when good bands were plentiful and many were taken for granted.

The kind of commitment to feeling and emotion that the music of Phil and his Lizzy cohorts represented has become more of a rarity in an increasingly brutalised and mechanical rock genre.

‘Whiskey In The Jar,’ ‘The Rocker,’ ‘The Boys Are Back In Town: ‘Rosalie Cowgirl Song’ and ‘Killer On The Loose’ are just some examples of the kind of restless, tough, street-wise but romantic music Lizzy played on a succession of fine albums and hit singles during a career which lasted from 1971 to 1983.

There was a yearning, searching flavour to Lizzy’s songs and Lynott’s lyrics that reflected his traumatic childhood and up bringing in Dublin, and as a frontman for a hard hitting bunch of rockers, he both charm and a sense of danger that was hard to resist. As a young, Black Irish poet he stood out as a uniquely sensitive and talented artist. He was softly spoken, warm and friendly, but he could show an aggressive side and was no push over.

In the early days of Lizzy’s climb to the top he seemed eager, friendly and keen to establish a relationship and explain his thoughts and ideas. One morning recently, while thinking about the Thin Lizzy saga, I took a book at random from a shelf. It was a half forgotten slim volume, bound in black with gold block lettering. On the cover was the title and author – ‘Songs For While I’m Away’ by Phil Lynott. Inside on the flyleaf was a a hand-written dedication. ‘Best wishes! Phil. 1975.’ Suddenly 1 remembered the night in a Dublin night club where Phil stumbled down the stairs heading for fresh air, the street and another pub. There he was again, popping up on a transatlantic airliner. Except Phil was heading for the toilet, and a brief liaison with one of the stewardesses. How did he get away with it? – marvelled a fellow passenger. But Phil had the luck and the charm of the Irish. There were concerts, rehearsals, tours, where night after night Thin Lizzy blasted out shows, always aiming for bigger success, while Phil exerted all his patience and energy trying to hold the temperamental team together.

Gradually in the later years of the Seventies a change was noticed coming over the leader He became increasingly withdrawn, less keen to talk and chat and share a pint. He was under pressure even in the supposedly enlightened music industry. One afternoon, queuing for a drink in a marquee at the Crystal Palace Garden Party in South London. A couple of Jack the Lad style security men started hassling Phi, going on about “Your colour” Phil looked bemused. Of course he was coloured’. So f***ing what. Did these berks get hassled because they were ‘discoloured?’ . Phil just mumbled and looked hurt and surprised. Maybe he had to put up with this kind of crap when he was a kid in the Fifties but you didn’t expect it from adults backstage at a rock concert. Even fame and hit records wasn’t always a guarantee that he would get the kind of respect and recognition he deserved.

Phil Lynott was born in Birmingham, England on August 20, 1949 the son of a Brazilian father and an Irish mother. The black South American, named Parris and nicknamed The Duke left Phil’s mother Phyllis, just three weeks after the baby was born and headed back to Brazil. He left Phyllis with the task of bringing up a black baby in Catholic Ireland in the Fifties. In the event she went to live in Manchester while the baby was brought up by his grandmother Sarah. Both mother and grandmother were to be celebrated in the songs ‘Sarah’ and ‘Philomena.’ His grandmother had a hard job keeping him under control but at school he quickly became the centre of attention, and even toyed with the idea becoming a draughtsman. But most of his time was spent learning self defence in the playground! It was music that really caught his imagination, and a career in bands would provide just the right escape route for a working class lad with ideas and an urge to write

Right from the start he proved a good mixer, enjoying the company of the lads, and a string of girlfriends. As he said later: “I tasted freedom and 1 really liked it. “.

Freeing himself from his grandmother’s control to working in bands completed the escape route. He started playing in groups in the Crumlin area. Soon he joined his first regular band The Black Eagles. They all wore black polo neck jumpers, but Phil was determined to stand out from the crowd, and as the front man he posed with one black glove, standing in the middle of the stage while staring at the spotlight as he sang.

site_history-brian-dIt was an impressive display of cool, and it impressed a young drummer, Brian Downey, then playing with the Liffey Beats.

They had already met at school and were friends. Phil offered Brian the job of drummer with The Black Eagles, when a vacancy came up. The band, along with most musicians was then heavily under the influence of the British blues scene and American bands like the Mothers Of Invention, led by Frank Zappa. It was the age of experimentation, with music as well as drugs like LSD, when everyone wanted to expand their minds, find new sounds and be free!

Phil began to develop has a writer and he claimed: “When 1 first go into rock music, it was basically to pull and make money. Being in a rock group is the working class kids way of expressing themselves As 1 became more experiences 1 learned more about what wanted to do.”

After singing soul on the Dublin bingo hall circuit for a few week,,, with the Black Eagles the band broke up and Phil and Brian parted company for a while Lynott became the singer with another Dublin band called Kama Sutra. During his time with this short lived outfit Phil made an important discovery. “I remember thinking that 1 could now control an audience.’ The next step for Phil was to join Skid Row, the FIRST Skid Row who featured the 16 year old, guitar wonder from Belfast. Gary Moore. The band also include Brush Shiels on bass and Noel Bridgeman on drums. They recorded a couple of albums for CBS and started to attract an interest in England. Skid Row was an important building block in the creation of Thin Lizzy.

Skid Row was actually led by Brush Shiels who taught Phil how to play bass guitar. The singer had tried to get his old friend Brian in on drums, but the later refused to come even when offered the job because he didn’t fancy some of the West Coast inspired music Skid Row were playing. Instead he went off to play with Sugar Shack who were more into his own favourite kind of Eric Clapton /John Mayall blues. In turn Phil also left Skid Row to go onto the folk club scene playing acoustic guitar and singing his own songs. Curiously enough it was Phil who had encouraged Gary Moore to join Skid Row which gave him his first taste of fame but the early partnership did not last. It was to prove as prone to abrupt splits as their later liaisons. Phil himself felt restless in Skid Row and thought it would prove to be a dead end situation. Although they were enjoying more success than most other local bands, and there was a bright future for them, he sensed there was something wrong. He was unhappy and wanted a chance to be a singer-songwriter, and not just the band vocalist.

Out on his own once again he teamed up with Brian Downey in Sugar Shack whose version of ‘Morning Dew’ was a hit in Ireland. The much vaunted blues band broke up! Phil and Brian went on to form Orphanage.

The nucleus was Lynott, Downey, guitarist John Stanton and bassist Pat Quigley. Extra members were added along the way when needed. During this period Phil took over from Quigley as bass guitarist. The whole concept was similar to a fun band he formed some years later, during Thin Lizzy’s successful period, called The Greedy Bastards which featured members of Boomtown Rats and the Sex Pistols. The name was shortened to The Greedies and they had a minor hit in Ireland and the UK (#28) with ‘A Merry Jingle’

site_history-eric-eraA new guitarist joined the band, Eric Bell, who had previously played a few gigs with Van Morrison in Them. Soon it was decided that the three main men, Phil, Brian and Eric would form their own band, to be called Thin Lizzy. Orphanage had run out of steam, and in fact most of the members were too stoned to get it together properly during the hippie heyday of LSD and cannabis.

Recalls Brian Downey: “Everybody was stoned. I’m not clear on that period at all, except that there was a lot of acid and smoke. wed’ go to places smashed out of our brains, Music was constantly in our heads and nothing else mattered.”

Eric Bell had been playing guitar with the Dreams Show Band, a cabaret outfit who played covers of Top Forty hits. He really wanted to get back to the kind of rock music he’d been able to blow with Van Morrison and with Shades Of Blue in his native Belfast. He used to go off to explore the club scene in Dublin, looking enviously at the bands. “I’d be standing in these clubs, looking at these groups, and thinking ‘What am I doing with myself? ‘lf I’m into music I have to get something like this together’ It’s then he checked out Orphanage and really liked the front man Phil and his drummer Brian. Lynott soon heard the rumour that Bell wanted to form his own band and investigated his musical credentials. “Gary Moore rated him and 1 had time for anybody Gary was rating as a guitarist.” Once again it seemed Lynott was restless and dissatisfied with his musical setting. Orphanage was stuck in a time warp and Lynott was ready to move on. He agreed to join Eric Bell in the guitarist’s new venture, as bass player and singer Naturally Brian Downey came too. They also had a keyboard player called Eric Wrixon who swiftly fell by the wayside. Eric remembers their first gig together.

“For the first blow, Phil didn’t know what key he was in. He was just learning bass at the time. 1 sort of knew what 1 was up to and Brian Downey knew what he was doing. The first thing we blew on was a 12 bar blues. 1 knew immediately there was something there. 1 don’t know what it was, but the band seemed to have great jamming potential. It wouldn’t be just a loud jam. It would take direction all the time.” The next problem was finding a name. They tried seeking inspiration from lists of songs and album titles. They even considered calling themselves Gulliver’s Travels, but mercifully this ideas was swiftly dropped! Next they started looking through comics like Dandy and Beano. Eric Bell rather liked the sound of a comic hero called Tin Lizzie. But his idea was dismissed as too silly.

Things were getting desperate. Ten minutes later Tin Lizzie didn’t sound so bad – after all. Then they changed it to THIN Lizzy, just to confuse the good folks of Dublin who would call them T’in Lizzy in their Irish brogue. This little twist would get them some publicity in the local paper. Thin Lizzy was born destined to be misspelt and mispronounced for years to come.Now the serious work began. Work could begin on putting the band together and Lynott could bring out songs he had been putting on hold for years. Everyone realise he was a songwriter of great potential. Remembers Eric Bell: “My guitar work and his songs completely gelled. 1 just seemed to have an affinity for them. He was a natural when it came to writing. He was always fussy about his lyrics.”

The band needed money to survive until they could get a record deal and Bell and Lynott performed as a duo in the Dublin folk clubs earning six pounds a night. Once they had raised enough cash they could afford to go on the road and very quickly Thin Lizzy became recognised as one of the top Irish bands along with Rory Gallagher’s Taste, and Skid Row.
“Our ambition was to get a reputation as a really good musical band,” says Eric. “it was basically a little band and that was that. Suddenly we got rated as one of the brightest hopes – anywhere. Places would be jammed with fans wanting to see just three guys on a stage. Then we realised, something was happening.”

The band now had a hard core following at home and their sights were now set on the U.K. They needed a record deal and achieved one by pure chance. Frank Rogers of Decca, London, was in Dublin to see a singer called Ditch Cassidy, who had Thin Lizzy backing him. Rogers was most impressed by the band and signed them instead of Cassidy. Decca signed Thin Lizzy in November, 1970. The were on the right road to fame at last. But their first London gig at the Speakeasy club, then the famed haunt of the music business in Margaret Street, near Oxford Circus. was a disaster in terms of turn out and reception. Indeed their first tour. with two bands called Arrival and Worth. wasn’t much better. But they were given the chance to record their first album. It was to be done at Decca Studios in West Hampstead, where many R&B bands had recorded often using the pub next door for live sessions. However Lizzy were allocated only a week to record with American producer Scott English. The record company didn’t like Scott’s work, and without consulting either band or producer, they sent their house producer, Nick Tauber to, re-mix the album, and it was his version that appeared as their debut LP, called simply ‘Thin Lizzy,’ released in April 1971. The band were unaware that the album had been doctored, but they were pleased with the results and said Eric: “There was an amazing feel on that album. It was very melodic, a very warm, original album The band now acquired a manager, the legendary Ted Carroll, who had previously handled Skid Row. He took over Lizzy’s management together with Brian Tuite. Said Ted: “Phil always had star quality and always wanted to become a staff. But he was in no hurry. He knew he had to take his time and learn everything carefully. He would just get the feel of everything as he went along and so he took some time to develop.”

The publicity machine began roll and the band were he helped by Kid Jenson of Radio Luxembourg. The DJ featured the band’s music heavily on his late night rock show, Jensen’s Dimensions. Sadly the album sold a mere 2,000 copies but refusing to give in the band recorded a four track EP called ‘New Day.’ Phil explained this later ….”‘New Day” was like a farewell to Ireland. we were heading for a new day in England’. It didn’t really stand much chance of becoming a hit. Since its release it has become something of a collector’s item. In fact Lizzy had to go back to Ireland to tour to earn some money. Their fame was growing too slowly in England to give them a viable business base. At least back home they had the satisfaction of playing sold-out concerts to eager crowds of fans.

They released a second Decca album ‘Shades Of A Blue Orphanage’ in March 1972, which most critics felt was too erratic and seemed rushed, although it had a few highlights. By now, despite the Irish gigs, the band were broke. Brian Tuite bowed out and agent Chris Morrison took over, funding the band out of his own savings. Recalls Chris: “Basically Thin Lizzy were bankrupt. They shouldn’t have been in existence at all. The band literally no money.”
To salvage the situation it was decided the band should get a support slot on a major tour, and they should go for a hit single. This upset Eric Bell who felt that it would compromise what Thin Lizzy stood for. He just didn’t like the idea of getting into the charts, anymore than Eric Clapton didn’t fancy it much when he was in the Yardbirds. Led Zeppelin too had loudly proclaimed their antithesis to hits, and even banned their own single version of ‘Whole Lotta Love.’ in later years rock musicians learned to live with charts when they realised what other opportunities a hit opened up. But young Eric Bell was very bitter about Phil’s urging to go for hit status.

Phil felt convinced he already had a hit up his sleeve with a song called ‘Black Boys On The Corner.’ What they needed was a B – side, and during a rehearsal session they thought they had found one. Phil started strumming a traditional Irish tune called ‘Whiskey In The Jar.’ Eric picked up his guitar and jammed and along and soon Brian Downey joined in on drums. The whole piece started steaming away when Ted Carroll walked in and immediately proclaimed he was hearing a hit single. He begged them to put it on the A side – and that’s the way it came out in November 1972, with ‘Black Boys On The Corner’ on the B- side.

Said Phil: “We just wanted to put it out for a laugh, for the kids at home. Plus, I personally thought it was a nice idea. On the other side, 1 was making a statement about being black” They had got the single and now a tour was lined up. They would support Slade. After a rough start, when they nearly got thrown off the tour, they settled down and Phil learnt a lot more about showmanship. Slade’s manager was Chas Chandler who had previously handled Jimi Hendrix. He saw obvious parallels with Phil and gave him lots of advice about wearing the right sort of attention grabbing clothes. Phil was only too keen to learn and always paid more attention to his image than Brian and Eric whose dress sense he regarded as ‘awful.’ Slade gave other kinds of advice to their fledgling support artists. Remembered Phil in later years. “I learned a lot from them. Those guys taught me the basics of how to be nice to your support band and nice to other musicians, but still carry on professional fouls. Status Quo were another band who helped us. But Slade helped Thin Lizzy break at that point in our career.”

With the band having been ‘broken in’ on the road, all they needed was a hit, and the great British pop hungry public woke up to hear the airwaves resonating with the gravely vocals and impish Irish humour of ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ – a smash hit by any standards. It got to its highest point, number six in the U.K. singles’ chart in February 1973. Sadly tension had reached a crisis point in the band and Eric Bell and Phil Lynott no longer saw eye to eye on anything. Their manager recalls: ‘As soon as we had that hit single a reaction seemed to set in. Eric didn’t want to accept that they were successful.” The small town boys didn’t think that having a pop hit with a revamped Irish folk song was the right way for dedicated musos to carry on. They could see themselves ending up in Slade’s position, always hunting for another hit to survive. The sudden rush of activity was also hard for them to swallow. Eric in particular didn’t enjoy having to fly to France to mime a TV show, then dash to Germany for one gig, with only a ten minute sound check. Phil mused: “We could understand the importance of it but not the wisdom. It seemed we were doing everything for success and this was freaking Eric completely. It was freaking all of us” The result was the playing began to suffer as Eric Bell admitted in later years. “Once upon a time it would worry us because we were a musical band. Now we had a hit on our hands and we were a lot more in the public eye and w could get away with a lot more. We were supposed to be in it for the music, and it was suffering while we went to parties.”

All this upset Eric who took his music more seriously “I thought our art was suffering.1 found the band seemed to be working much more on their image than their music. it didn’t matter what we were playing on stage. People aren’t listening until we played ‘Whiskey in The Jar: and then they were jumping up and down.. Then they went home. They just came to hear the number one. Said Brian : “Eric was always under the impression that some of the bands that were making it were no good. And he might have been right, he got depressed when we had to play theses crummy clubs. He was older than me and Phil. The impression he gave me was that if he didn’t make it in two years, he was going to give it all up.”

The bands next single was ‘Randolph’s Tango’, long since forgotten as it wasn’t a hit. But instead of cheering Eric up as a signal they might return to happy obscurity, he only got more depressed.
But they went on to record a fine album ‘Vagabonds Of The Western World’ released in September 1973. It sold a much better- 25,000 copies but the single ‘The Rocker’ failed to get into the chart. Meanwhile the band went to Ireland for Christmas that year and played at the Queen’s University, Belfast at their New Years Eve Ball.

Unfortunately Eric got very drunk – before they went on Then they went t stage. He admitted that he was so out of it, he couldn’t feel the guitar strings, let alone play them. “1 was just a drunken idiot trying to play the guitar.. Then I started hallucinating. I saw a crowd of people. When I looked again they had gone.”

In his stupor Eric took off his guitar and threw it in air. It crashed to the ground as he kicked over all his amplifiers. Eric staggered off stage and collapsed onto a mattress. Some young fans came over and said ‘Great, amazing’ They thought it was part of the act, but in fact the band had only played about four numbers and they were patiently awaiting the return of their lead guitarist. Eric snatched the lemonade bottle the fans had and as he was thirsty he took a long swig. It turned out to be neat whiskey and it was as if he had taken poison . ” That finished me off. I just collapsed. They tried to get me back on stage and I can remember saying I wasn’t playing until they got me three bottles of Guinness.”

Then he flaked out. He was carried off stage and Lynott and Downey had to finish the set by them selves. Bell was in a coma and had to be taken home by a roadie. It seemed to Phil and Brian in the dressing room afterwards that Thin Lizzy was finished. and they were right back where they had begun – in Ireland.

Eric Bell left the band, stating that touring was ‘damaging his health.’ He went on to play with the Noel Redding Band remember Noel, Eric and myself in Noel’s cottage in Ireland once, laughing at the Bay City Rollers on Top Of The Pops. The consensus then was that the Rollers didn’t know what was coming to them. He also played with Skid Row and formed his own Eric Bell Band. His place in the reformed Lizzy would be taken over by the dazzling guitar virtuoso, Gary Moore. Gary joined in January 1974. But just before that, at 4.30 am on the morning of January 1st, manager Chris Morrisson received a call from Belfast. It was Phil, recounting the disaster at the New Years Eve gig. He was ready to pack in the band but Chris talked him out of his mood of defeatism. He also explained that as Thin Lizzy were in a serious financial situation, they had to keep working to pay off their debts. Philip agreed . He had begun to think about his favourite guitar player again. Gary Moore had left Skid Row to form his own band but it wasn’t working out . He thought he might agree to join Thin Lizzy. Gary readily agreed to pick up the pieces of the Lizzy tour and flew to Ireland the next day. He was given plenty of solo space as well as being expected to back up the established Lizzy material. The formula worked well and Gary became a permanent member. He was promised Lizzy would get down to serious rehearsals to come up with new material.

The arguments began but eventually they went into the studio and came up with one high powered rocker called ‘Little Darlin’ but then Gary had had enough of the band and quit.

After a dodgy German tour, Brian Downey now threw in the towel and left Phil completely devastated. Guitarists had come and gone but Phil had always relied on Downey to see him through. But for whatever reason Brian Downey wanted to go home to Ireland..


By June 1974 Phil and his manager had managed to recruit two promising young guitarists and at the same time convinced Brian to give it one more try. There was the charming , good looking and laid back Scott Gorham from California and the wild fiery but good humoured Scot, Brian Robertsonsite_history-robbo

Robertson was just 18, brash, impatient and without much respect for authority. But he was a brilliant guitarist and somehow the two disparate players became a perfect team for the revamped Lizzy.

The chemistry somehow worked, even though it would give Phil many headaches in the years to come. Just a week after the new guitar team being put into place they were booked into playing a showcase gig at London’s Marquee for the record industry. But first they did some warm up dates and then played the Marquee which was a great success and resulted in their being signed up to Phonogram. The next step was to produce their first album for the new label, which was called ‘Nightlife’, produced by Ron Nevison, and released in November 1974. There were three tracks left over from Gary Moore, including his epic blues ‘Still In Love With You,’ and so it was hard for the newcomers to establish their identity. It was their first stab at recording and felt the producer could have been more sympathetic. Said Scott Gorham some years later: “Nevison wasn ‘t sympathetic to us at all. It was the first album for Brian and me, and he didn’t bother finding out what we were all about.” The producer was more used to dealing with artists he could dominate and got vexed at the new band’s inexperience. However Phil could see the potential and felt Brian and promised Lizzy would get down guitarists, Andy Gee and John Scott were breathing new life into the Lizzy concept.

The first official gig was at the Aberystwyth University on October 4th 1974 and the band played a lot more UK gigs to promote the new album. ‘Nightlife’ wasn’t a huge hit but it showed the way and band and management could concentrate on building up their image. They could also work on their next album which proved to be their best so far, ‘Fighting’ released in August 1975. It’s standout track, ‘Rosalie’ wasn’t a hit until it was released until it was released as a live version in 1978.

During the year they did a June tour which culminated with a headlining gig at the Chalk Farm Roundhouse and a show at the New Victoria, London. Said Phil: “Within six months of being formed, we knew exactly where we wanted to go. We toured a lot and that really sorted us out.” They impressed on Robbo the need to wear good stage gear and to pose for pictures and gradually the facts of rock life began to sink in. But this was not without a rear guard action from Robbo. He turned up with a five day growth of beard for the photo session for the ‘Fighting’ album cover. Phil insisted that the beard be shaved off, despite Brian’s protests that it made him ‘look older.’
The new album defined the Lizzy sound and image, as it featured hard rock with good, melodic tunes, delivered by street wise guys led by Mr. Johnny Cool himself – Phil Lynott. Now the public began to really take notice and forget the shambolic ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ era. They could relate to the dual guitars, a sound that had previously been the forte of Wishbone Ash, and going back in time, the Yardbirds with Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. But with Thin Lizzy, the twin guitars meshed into an irresistible harmonic chorus. The combination of all these influences and forces would reach their apogee in the album ‘Jailbreak’


site_history-classic_bandTheir sixth album included the song that became an instant classic and summed up the whole image and appeal of mid-Seventies Thin Lizzy -‘The Boys Are Back In Town.’ It was so simple, but it was so right, with its cascading, urgent, instantly hummable guitar chorus and the insistent, lyrics warning of mayhem to come! Another classic on this was ‘Emerald.’ The album burst upon the world in March 1976 and made the band international rock stars at last.

It seemed like all their dreams had come true, as rock historian Pete Frame has noted: “Brian Robertson began the most extraordinary hide and seek relationship with the group. This strange behaviour was apparently precipitated by a brawl at the Speakeasy during the course of which Brian severed an artery in his hand.” Indeed young Brian had become so emotionally out of hand he had been sent back home to Scotland for a while to recover. However Brian and Scott excelled themselves on ‘Jailbreak’, produced by John Alcock.

Phil song’s too were brilliant, an evocation of boys heading for a night on the town and searching for romance in a tough world. These particularly appealed to American audiences who warmed to the band as they started touring the States. The first tour was not without its problems however. While the band were on a roll, playing wise, they were also living it up and Phil became ill suffering from a bout of hepatitis in Omaha, Nebraska which meant he had to fly back to Manchester and go into hospital. It meant they had to miss out playing New York, a serious blow. His illness also seemed to affect their next album ‘Johnny the Fox,’ which lacked the inspiration of ‘Jailbreak.’

‘Don’t Believe A Word’ from the new album was a hit (January 1977), and got to number 12 in the charts. But Phil’s illness and the continued misbehavior of Robbo was cause for concern. Said Phil: “I contracted a disease 1 knew could put you of of business completely. It scared me because 1 had never been ill before, suddenly 1 was catching every bug going. When 1 got hepatitis I became a half strength person. The doctor told me to give up drugs, sex and alcohol. Give up all that. No way! So I gave up half of them. 1 won’t tell you which half. The illness made me very sensible.”

Unfortunately Robbo wasn’t being very sensible and the night before they were due to fly to America for a tour, he suffered his injury at the Speakeasy when somebody went for him with a bottle. The U.S. tour was cancelled and it hurt the band’s credibility in the States to such an extent the management had to fly over on a damage limitation exercise. They set up a support slot for Lizzy on a forthcoming Queen tour of the States. This was due in January 1977 but although Brian’s hand had healed, Phil did not want to take him on the tour. He was out of the band, and Philip planned to replace him with his old partner Gary Moore

Gary had been playing with Jon Hiseman’s powerful jazz-rock combo Colosseum, where his musical skills had been pleasantly stretched. But despite his loyalty to Jon he could not resist the idea of getting back into the rock’n’roll limelight and readily agreed to Phil’s suggestion that he rejoin Lizzy for the second time, and to come on the U.S. tour. Phil just felt that “Gary Moore is the best rock and roll guitarist in the world today” and after two days rehearsal, Gary and Lizzy were back on the road together for a ten week tour lasting from January to March. Both Queen and Lizzy played a storm on the tour, and Scott Gorham found that he could easily get along with Gary as main lead player. The plan now was to record a new album in Toronto with producer Tony Visconti. Unfortunately it was found difficult to resolve problems with management and record companies in getting Gary back into Lizzy on a permanent basis. “Things got messy before me and Phil had a chance to sort things out.”

The band did one more farewell tour and recorded a live album ‘Life’ (1984) their last effort, which was largely overlooked. Showing there were no hard feelings, Phil invited Gary Moore to play at the Hammersmith Odeon as a special guest. He also collaborated on a single with Phil, ‘Out In The Fields,’ which was a Top Five hit, after Phil’s death. The tour was actually a big success but it seemed all too late. Then… after a farewell gig at Reading Festival in 1983, Thin Lizzy bit the dust. Scott went back to California to recover from years on the road, while Brian Downey went back to Dublin with the same thing in mind.

Lynott was always dubious about breaking up the band, but was persuaded it would help sell tickets for the tour if they called it a ‘farewell.’ For ever after he regretted this decision.

Phil recorded another solo album, ‘Philip Lynott’, (the full first name was how his friends liked to call him). Alas it wasn’t not hugely successful although his previous effort, ‘Solo In Soho’ (1980) got to 28 in the charts. Phil was devastated by this failure. The only way ahead seemed to be to form a new group, hence Grand Slam, five piece with Brian Downey on drums it seemed like a watered down Thin Lizzy. The effects of all this downward spiral was to lead Phil onto drug usage, although his friends tried to help him revive his musical career. He recorded a solo single ’19’ * and also recorded some tracks with Huey Lewis.

(* The producer of ’19’, Paul Hardcastle had a Number One UK single of his own also called ’19’, a completely different song.)
Finally it seemed that Thin Lizzy could be revived. Scott Gorham agreed to return, after regaining his health, and both Brian Downey and John Sykes would join the new band. There were plans for a festival gig but it was all too late.

By now Phil was hitting the national headlines with his drink, drugs and family problems and getting more publicity for that than Grand Slam. Eventually it all caught up with him and the wild eyed boy from Dublin succumbed and died on January 4th 1986.
The CD issued by Vertigo in 1991 to commemorate the band included the title track ‘Dedication,’ which was also released as a single on January 14. It was actually an old demo by Phil that was given a brand new backing track by Brian Downey, Scott Gorham and Gary Moore. The compilation was a fitting tribute to the memory of a vital chapter the history of rock.

Thin Lizzy were a crazy, erratic band at times, but they not only gave an army of fans around the world huge amounts of pleasure, they also left behind a legacy of great songs and were a tremendous influence on many of today’s bands, Def Leppard, who often encored with such numbers as ‘The Boys Are Back In Town,’, ‘Jailbreak,’ and ‘Emerald.’ Phil’s death saddened and shocked many. It seemed such a shame after all his hard work and high hopes it should all pass away. But somehow there is always the feeling that Phil is with us still – if only in spirit and in the music that can never fade.

‘And the far away hills look greener still but soon they’ll all slip away It’s then I’ll be returning and I’ll be coming home to stay”

Philip Lynott – ‘A Song For While I’m Away’


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