This installment of Deep Bands will be different. I will go more into the line-ups and music rather than what went on in the line-ups. I’ve tried my best to make it good.
Thin Lizzy are one of the most influential hard rock bands of all time. However, they weren’t very popular. Still, their fans are some of the most loyal out there and people still remember the band’s leader Phil Lynott.
Phil Lynott was born on August 20, 1949 in Dublin, Ireland. His mother, Philomena, was only seventeen years old. His father was unknown. All that is known of Lynott’s father is that he was Brazilian. Therefore, Lynott’s skin color was black. At a young age, Lynott listened to rock n roll. He liked the blues as well and looked up to other black musicians. Lynott learned to play guitar and later joined a few bands. One of them was Skid Row (who have no relation to the American band of the same name). When Lynott was fired from Skid Row, one of the members taught Lynott how to play bass. It was one night in December 1969 when Thin Lizzy came together. Lynott would be the singer and bassist, childhood friend Brian Downey was the drummer, Eric Bell was the guitarist, and Eric Wrixon was the keyboardist. The band got their name from the comic book character, Tin Lizzie. Wrixon dropped out of the band quickly after the release of a single, leaving the band a trio in 1970. The band focused on rock and folk music. By the end of the year, Thin Lizzy were signed to Decca Records. Their self-titled debut album was released in 1971. Radio DJs such as John Peel were fond of the album but other than that, it didn’t chart in the UK. Thin Lizzy were thrown back in the studio to record their second album. The resulting album, Shades of a Blue Orphanage, didn’t sell. However the band would get luck after Decca released a single of the band covering the traditional Irish folk song, “Whiskey in the Jar” in 1972. The band weren’t happy about the release as they thought it didn’t represent them correctly. The single, however, became a hit back home and landed the band on Top of the Pops.
Vagabonds of the Western World was released in 1973 to positive reviews. Like other Thin Lizzy albums, it didn’t chart. Suddenly at the end of the year, Eric Bell left the band during the tour. Lynott quickly replaced him with former Skid Row bandmate Gary Moore. Moore finished up the tour for the band and even recorded a little with them. By 1974, Thin Lizzy were left down to two members. An eighteen year-old Scottish guitarist named Brian “Robbo” Robertson got the job as the new guitarist. However, Lynott wanted another lead guitarist. Of those who auditioned, American guitarist Scott Gorham was hired. The band then went to work on their fourth album Nightlife, which was released in 1974 on Vertigo Records. The band had a hard time recording the album as the producer, Ron Nevison, was difficult to work with.
In 1975, Thin Lizzy toured the US for the first time. That same year, the band released the self-produced Fighting. The album included a cover of the Bob Seger song “Rosalie”. 1976 turned out to be the year for Thin Lizzy when they released Jailbreak. The album actually became a hit and even had a hit single in the US (and other places in the world) with “The Boys Are Back in Town”. The album also featured the self-titled track and “Cowboy Song”. The band toured with bands such as Aerosmith, Rush, and REO Speedwagon. The band planned to tour again in the summer but when Lynott fell ill with hepatitis, the tour was canceled. When sick, Lynott wrote most of the band’s next album, Johnny the Fox. The album was released in 1976 and featured the hit single, “Don’t Believe a Word”. The band went on a successful tour afterwards.
Late in 1976, the band ran into a problem with Robertson. Robertson had suffered a hand injury when trying to protect a friend. Lynott was fed up and replaced him with Gary Moore for a tour of the US. When the band went to Canada to record their next album, the band was left as a three-piece band. With T.Rex and David Bowie producer Tony Visconti, the band made Bad Reputation which was released in 1977. Although Lynott, Gorham, and Downey were the members on the cover, Brian Robertson returned to add some guitar for two songs. Bad Repuatation went to #4 in the UK and earned the band a hit single with “Dancing in the Moonlight”. For the last two tours, Thin Lizzy had their shows recorded. In 1978, Visconti produced the band’s first live album Live and Dangerous. There is speculation into how much of the album was overdubbed. Visconti stated once that the album was 75% recorded in the studio. Members of the band disagree and say the album was live, with the exception of a few guitar overdubs. Nevertheless, the album is considered a classic live album and probably one of the greatest ever made. After the album’s release, Robertson offically left the band.
Gary Moore returned to Thin Lizzy once again in 1979, this time as a full member. With Moore, the band made Black Rose: A Rock Legend. The album went to #2 in the UK and had the hit singles “Do Anything You Want To Do” and “Waiting for an Alibi”. The tour followed but Moore decided he wanted out in the middle of the US tour. With this, Lynott brough in Midge Ure to replace Moore for the tour, along with Dave Flett on other tour dates. In 1980, Snowy White joined the band replacing Moore. Lynott also added seventeen year-old keyboardist Darren Wharton. This line-up made Chinatown, which had the hit “Killer on the Loose”. Lynott also released an album of his own called Solo In Soho. In 1981, the band released Renegade. The album only reached #38 in the UK and did even worse in the US at #157. The single, “Hollywood (Down On Your Luck)”, was a failure. After Lynott’s solo tour for his second album (The Phillip Lynott Album), White left the band as he was more of a blues guitarist (which is also why Gary Moore left in 1979). White was replaced by guitarist John Sykes. Sykes heavy playing influenced the band’s last studio album, Thunder and Lightning. However, the band weren’t as popular anymore. In 1983, the tour for Thunder and Lightning was decided to be the band’s farewell tour. The end of the shows on this tour had the band playing one more time with Brian Robertson, Gary Moore, and Eric Bell. The shows were recored live for the live album, Life Live. In September 1983, Thin Lizzy was over.
In 1983, Phil Lynott formed a new band calle Grand Slam. The band fialed to get signed to any label and broke up by 1985. Lynott was very ill in 1985 and was suffering from a number of illnesses. On Christmas of 1985 when his mother found him lying on the floor in his home, Lynott was taken to the hospital. On January 4, 1986, Lynott died from what was said to be a heart attack. Lynott’s addiction to heroin was what really killed him. In the early 1990’s, Thin Lizzy reformed with Scott Gorham and John Sykes leading. The band reformed as a tribute to the music of Phil Lynott. Lynott was given a bronze satue in 2005 in Dublin and his grave is still visited by many. His memory lives on with his mother and his two daughters.
Recommended albums: Jailbreak, Johnny the Fox, Bad Reputation, Live and Dangerous, Black Rose
Personal thoughs on albums: That may sound like a lot but I think those five albums are when Thin Lizzy were at their peak. Thunder and Lightning and Fighting are also worth a listen or two.
Recommened songs: Whiskey in the Jar, The Rocker, Still in Love with You, Rosalie, Wild One The Boys Are Back In Town, Jailbreak, Cowboy Song, Don’t Believe a Word, Bad Reputation, Dancing in the Moonlight, Do Anything You Want To Do, Waiting For An Alibi, Killer on the Loose, Renegade, Cold Sweat
Recommened compilations: Dedication has a great song selection but if you’re in a store, the best you’ll probably find is The Definative Collection which has a great song selection as well.