Thin Lizzy are an Irish rock band formed in Dublin in 1969. Two of the founding members, drummer Brian Downey and bass guitarist/vocalist Phil Lynott, met while still in school. Lynott assumed the role of frontman and led them throughout their recording career of twelve studio albums. Thin Lizzy are best known for their songs "Whiskey in the Jar", "Jailbreak" and "The Boys Are Back in Town", all major international hits still played regularly on hard rock and classic rock radio stations. After Lynott's death in 1986, various incarnations of the band have emerged over the years based initially around guitarists Scott Gorham and John Sykes, though Sykes left the band in 2009. Gorham later continued with a new line-up including Downey.
Lynott, Thin Lizzy's de facto leader, was composer or co-composer of almost all of the band's songs, and the first black Irishman to achieve commercial success in the field of rock music. Thin Lizzy boasted some of the most critically acclaimed guitarists throughout their history, with Downey and Lynott as the rhythm section, on the drums and bass guitar. As well as being multiracial, the band drew their members not only from both sides of the Irish border but also from both the Catholic and Protestant communities during The Troubles. Their music reflects a wide range of influences, including blues, soul music, psychedelic rock, and traditional Irish folk music, but is generally classified as hard rock or sometimes heavy metal. Rolling Stone magazine describes the band as distinctly hard rock, "far apart from the braying mid-70s metal pack".
Allmusic critic John Dougan has written that "As the band's creative force, Lynott was a more insightful and intelligent writer than many of his ilk, preferring slice-of-life working-class dramas of love and hate influenced by Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, and virtually all of the Irish literary tradition." Van Morrison, Jeff Beck and Jimi Hendrix were major influences during the early days of the band, and later influences included the pioneering twin lead guitars found in Wishbone Ash and American artists Little Feat and Bob Seger.
In 2012, Gorham and Downey decided against recording new material as Thin Lizzy so a new band, Black Star Riders, was formed to tour and produce new releases such as the All Hell Breaks Loose album. Thin Lizzy plan to reunite for occasional concerts.
Early years (1969–74)
Thin Lizzy were founded one night in late December 1969 in Dublin, Ireland, when Belfast guitarist Eric Bell met up with organist Eric Wrixon in a pub and found that they shared an ambition to form a group. Both musicians had previously played with Them, fronted by Van Morrison. The same night, they went to see the band Orphanage, which featured vocalist Phil Lynott and drummer Brian Downey. Bell and Wrixon introduced themselves after the gig and suggested the four of them form a band together. Lynott and Downey were aware of Bell's good musical reputation, and agreed with the condition that Lynott play bass guitar as well as sing, and that they perform some of his own compositions.
In July 1970, Thin Lizzy released a single, "The Farmer"/"I Need You", on EMI with the B-side written by John D'ardis, who owned Trend Studios where the single was recorded. The single sold just 283 copies and is now a collectors' item. Wrixon left the band before the single's release, meaning there was a greater share of income for the three remaining members. He moved to mainland Europe before returning to Belfast, rejoining his old band, Them. By the end of the year, Thin Lizzy were signed to Decca Records and they travelled to London in January 1971 to record their debut album, Thin Lizzy. The album sold moderately well but did not chart in the UK despite airplay and support from influential DJs John Peel and Kid Jensen.
Around March 1971, the band permanently relocated to London, before the release of the unsuccessful "New Day" EP in August. Despite poor sales, Decca agreed to finance the band's second album Shades of a Blue Orphanage, released in March 1972. Like the previous LP, the songs were filled with Lynott's personal anecdotes and references to his life in Dublin and the people he knew there. Musically the style was Celtic, with little warning of the hard rock direction that the band were to take in the future. Again, the album did not chart in the UK.
In mid-1972, Thin Lizzy were asked to record an album of Deep Purple covers, which was released under the title Funky Junction Play a Tribute to Deep Purple. No mention was made of Thin Lizzy on the record. Vocals and keyboards were handled by members of another band, Elmer Fudd, and a few instrumental tracks composed by the band were also included on the album. The album was released in January 1973.
In late 1972, the band embarked upon a high-profile tour of the UK with Slade, who were enjoying a string of hit singles at the time, and Suzi Quatro. Around the same time, Decca decided to release Thin Lizzy's version of a traditional Irish ballad, "Whiskey in the Jar", as a single. The band was angry at the release, feeling that the song did not represent their sound or their image, but the single topped the Irish chart, and reached no. 6 in the UK in February 1973, resulting in an appearance on Top of the Pops. It also charted in many countries across Europe. However, the follow-up single, "Randolph's Tango", was a return to Lynott's more obscure work, and it did not chart outside Ireland.
The band's next album, Vagabonds of the Western World, was released in September 1973 to positive reviews, but again failed to chart. The accompanying single "The Rocker" also found little success outside Ireland, and the momentum gained from their hit single was lost.
Eric Bell suddenly left the band on New Year's Eve 1973 after a gig at Queen's University Belfast, due to increasing ill-health and disillusionment with the music industry, and young ex-Skid Row guitarist Gary Moore was recruited to help finish the tour. Moore stayed until April 1974, but the band recorded three songs with him in that time, including the version of "Still in Love with You" that was included on the fourth album Nightlife.
With the departure of Moore, Thin Lizzy had to recruit two temporary guitarists to complete a tour of Germany, ex-Atomic Rooster guitarist John Cann, and Berliner Andy Gee, who had played with Peter Bardens and Ellis. Neither were considered as permanent members, and Lynott and Cann did not get on well personally. After the tour, and with the contract with Decca coming to an end, a disillusioned Downey quit the band and had to be begged to return.
Auditions were held for new members, and Lynott and Downey eventually settled on Glaswegian guitarist Brian Robertson who was only 17 years old at the time, and Californian Scott Gorham. The new line-up gelled quickly, dropped most of the old songs when they played live, and secured a new record deal with Phonogram, but the resulting album Nightlife was a disappointment for the band due to its soft production and underdeveloped style. Robertson described Ron Nevison's production as "pretty naff" and Gorham said the record was "ridiculously tame". Like the previous three albums, it failed to chart.
"The Boys Are Back in Town" (1975–77)
In early 1975, Thin Lizzy toured the USA for the first time, in support of Bob Seger and Bachman–Turner Overdrive. When BTO toured Europe later in the year to support their hit single "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet", Thin Lizzy again accompanied them on what was a very high-profile tour. They then recorded the Fighting album, which became the first Thin Lizzy album to chart in the UK, reaching no. 60, although the singles still did not chart. It showed the first real evidence of the twin guitar sound that would lead the band towards their greatest successes, particularly with the dual harmonies of "Wild One" and both guitarists' soloing on "Suicide".
After a successful multi-band tour in support of Status Quo, the band recorded the album Jailbreak, which proved to be their breakthrough record. Released on 26 March 1976, it featured the worldwide hit "The Boys Are Back in Town" which reached no. 8 in the UK, and no. 12 in the US, their first charting record in that country. The twin guitar sound had been fully developed by this time and was in evidence throughout the album, particularly on the hit single, and other tracks such as "Emerald" and "Warriors". The album also charted well on both sides of the Atlantic, and the follow-up single, "Jailbreak", also performed well. Thin Lizzy toured the US in support of various bands such as Aerosmith, Rush and REO Speedwagon, and they planned to tour there again in June 1976, this time with Rainbow. However, Lynott fell ill with hepatitis and the tour was cancelled, which set them back a few months.
While Lynott was ill, he wrote most of the following album, Johnny the Fox. The album was recorded in August 1976 and the sessions began to reveal tensions between Lynott and Robertson; for example, there was disagreement over the composition credits of the hit single "Don't Believe a Word". Lynott was still drawing on Celtic mythology and his own personal experiences for lyric ideas, which dominated Johnny the Fox and the other albums of Thin Lizzy's successful mid-1970s period. The tour to support the album was very successful and there were further high-profile TV appearances, such as the Rod Stewart BBC TV Special.
A further tour of the USA was planned for December 1976, but it had to be cancelled when, on 23 November, Brian Robertson suffered a hand injury when trying to protect fellow Glaswegian, singer and friend Frankie Miller in a fracas at the Speakeasy Club in London. Miller had been jamming onstage with the reggae band Gonzalez, but had been drunk, offending Gonzalez guitarist Gordon Hunte. Hunte attacked Miller with a bottle in the dressing room, and Robertson intervened, suffering artery and nerve damage to his hand. Robertson subsequently broke Hunte's leg, broke the collarbone of another man, and headbutted another, before being hit on the head with a bottle, rendering him unconscious.
Robertson maintains that, contrary to reports at the time, he was not drunk and had only gone to the venue for a meal. Lynott was angry and replaced Robertson with Gary Moore for another tour of the States in January–March 1977, this time supporting Queen. The tour was a success and Lynott asked Moore to stay on, but he returned to his previous band, Colosseum II. Robertson had not been sacked but was unsure of his position and made plans to start another band with Jimmy Bain of Rainbow. Before the American tour, Lynott had also invited Irish guitarist Jimi Slevin to "try out a few things" with Thin Lizzy, prompting speculation that the ex-Skid Row member could replace Robertson.
Thin Lizzy flew to Canada in May 1977 as a trio to record Bad Reputation, with Gorham handling all the guitar parts. A month into the sessions Robertson joined them, in his own words, "as a session player" and in Lynott's words, "as a guest". Robertson added lead guitar tracks to three songs as well as rhythm guitar and keyboards, and was officially reinstated in July. The album was released in September and sold well, reaching no. 4 in the UK, after a successful single, "Dancing in the Moonlight (It's Caught Me in Its Spotlight)". Also in 1977, Thin Lizzy headlined the Reading Festival.
The return of Gary Moore (1978–79)
In 1978, Lizzy released their first live album Live and Dangerous. There is some disagreement over just how much of the album is actually recorded live – producer Tony Visconti claimed that the only parts that weren't overdubbed were the drums and the audience. However Brian Robertson has disputed this, saying that he had refused Lynott's request to re-record a guitar solo, and that the only overdubs were backing vocals and some guitar parts by Gorham. He added, "It's just not true. The only reason we said that it was recorded all over was obviously for tax reasons... so everything that Visconti claims is bollocks." The album was a huge success, reaching no. 2 in the UK, and was ranked as the best live album of all time by Classic Rock Magazine in 2004. But this success was overshadowed by the permanent departure of Robertson some time after a gig in Ibiza on 6 July 1978, the disagreements with Lynott having developed to an impossible level. Robertson soon teamed up with Jimmy Bain to front their new band, Wild Horses.
Lynott replaced Robertson with Gary Moore again, and around this time the band loosely joined forces with Steve Jones and Paul Cook of the Sex Pistols, and also Chris Spedding and Jimmy Bain, to form The Greedy Bastards, who played a small number of gigs playing a varied selection of songs. In this way Lynott was able to align his band with the punk movement and avoid being tagged as a 'dinosaur' as many other 1970s rock bands had been.
In August the band began another tour of the USA, followed by a trip to Australia and New Zealand. Brian Downey did not accompany them, having contracted pneumonia and preferring to spend some time in Ireland. He was replaced for the tour by American drummer Mark Nauseef. On their return, Downey rejoined the band and at the beginning of 1979 they recorded Black Rose: A Rock Legend in Paris. The sessions were marked by the increasing drug habits of Lynott and Gorham, and the general presence of drugs around the band. This also showed in the subject matter on the album, in songs such as "Got to Give It Up". Celtic influences remained, however, particularly in the album closer "Róisín Dubh", a seven-minute medley of traditional Irish songs given a twin guitar rock veneer. Two singles, "Waiting for an Alibi" and "Do Anything You Want To", were successful, and the album reached no. 2 in the UK. A third, moderately successful single, "Sarah" was Lynott's ode to his new-born daughter.
However, on 4 July 1979, Gary Moore abruptly left Thin Lizzy in the middle of another tour of the USA. Years later, Moore said he had no regrets about walking out, "but maybe it was wrong the way I did it. I could've done it differently, I suppose. But I just had to leave." He subsequently pursued his solo career, releasing several successful albums. He had collaborated with Lynott and Downey on his 1978 album Back on the Streets and the hit single "Parisienne Walkways" before leaving Thin Lizzy, and in 1985 he and Lynott teamed up again on the UK no. 5 hit single "Out in the Fields". Gary Moore died of a heart attack in Estepona, Spain on 6 February 2011, aged 58.
After Moore's departure, Thin Lizzy continued the tour for a few nights as a trio before Lynott brought in Midge Ure to replace him on a temporary basis. Ure had prior plans to join Ultravox, but had co-written a song, "Get Out of Here", with Lynott on Black Rose: A Rock Legend, and agreed to help Thin Lizzy complete their touring commitments. He also contributed guitar parts for The Continuing Saga of the Ageing Orphans, a compilation album of remixed and overdubbed versions of Eric Bell-era tracks. The band headlined the Leeds Festival for the second time in 1979.
Before a tour of Japan beginning in September, Lynott decided to bring in another guitarist, Dave Flett, who had played with Manfred Mann's Earth Band, to enable Ure to switch to playing keyboards where necessary. The tour was completed successfully, but the line-up now contained two temporary members, and Lynott was spending a lot of time on projects outside Thin Lizzy, including composing and producing material for other bands, as well as putting together his first solo album, Solo in Soho. Lynott also reactivated The Greedy Bastards, who released a one-off Christmas single, "A Merry Jingle", in December 1979 as simply The Greedies. With the group now composed of Lynott, Gorham and Downey with Sex Pistols Jones and Cook, the single reached no. 28 in the UK.
Later years and break-up (1980–83)
While Lynott searched for a permanent guitarist, he and the other members of Thin Lizzy, past and present, worked on Solo in Soho which was released in April 1980, and the next Thin Lizzy album, Chinatown. Lynott got married on 14 February, and his wife gave birth to a second daughter in July. Dave Flett had hoped to be made a permanent member of Thin Lizzy but Lynott chose Snowy White, who had played with Pink Floyd and Peter Green. Midge Ure was still acting as a temporary keyboard player at gigs during early 1980, but was replaced by Darren Wharton in April, shortly after White joined the band. Wharton was only 17 at the time and was initially hired on a temporary basis. This new line-up completed the Chinatown album between short tours, and two singles were released from it. The first, "Chinatown", reached no. 21 in the UK, but the second, "Killer on the Loose", reached the top 10 amid much adverse publicity due to the ongoing activities of serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, known as "The Yorkshire Ripper".
Chinatown was finally released in October 1980, and reached no. 7 in the UK, but by this time Thin Lizzy albums were not even reaching the top 100 in the USA. After a successful tour of Japan and Australia, the band undertook what was to be their final tour of the USA in late 1980. At the beginning of 1981, Lynott began work on his second solo album, using Thin Lizzy members among a large group of backing musicians. Around the same time, the band were recording material for the next Thin Lizzy album, and as before, the sessions seemed to merge to the extent that musicians were not always sure which album they were working on. Producer for the Thin Lizzy sessions, Chris Tsangarides, stated, "The feeling of confusion was in the air in that sometimes nobody knew if they were working on a Phil solo record or a Lizzy album." Snowy White had previously felt that, as a member of Thin Lizzy, he should have been paid as a session player to appear on Lynott's solo recordings.
In April 1981, the band's first 'greatest hits' album was released, and The Adventures of Thin Lizzy reached no. 6 in the UK, although a stand-alone single, "Trouble Boys", only reached no. 53, the band's worst chart placing since 1975. According to White and Wharton, Lynott was the only person who wanted to release it, and nobody else liked the song. "Trouble Boys" had even been pencilled in as the title for the new album, but the single's chart failure resulted in the song being dropped from the album and the title changed to Renegade. One highlight for the band at this time was headlining the first-ever Slane Castle concert on 16 August, with support from Kirsty McColl, Hazel O'Connor and U2.
Lynott's second solo album, The Philip Lynott Album, was delayed until 1982 while Renegade was completed and released in November 1981. Renegade was not successful, only reaching no. 38 in the UK and no. 157 in the US. A single, "Hollywood (Down on Your Luck)", also flopped, although it did reach no. 24 on the US Mainstream Rock chart. Despite only two songs from the album being written solely by Lynott, and other members of the band contributing more to the compositions, both Gorham and Wharton have since stated their dissatisfaction with some of the songs, such as "Angel of Death", "Fats" and "Mexican Blood". Wharton was omitted from the band photos on the back of the record sleeve, despite the fact that he was by this time a permanent member of the band. "It hurt me a great deal", he said.
The beginning of 1982 was marred by both Downey and Gorham having to take breaks from the European tour to recover from personal problems. Downey was involved in a fight in a nightclub in Denmark in February, and Gorham was suffering from drug-induced exhaustion. Downey missed five concerts, and was replaced by Mark Nauseef again for three of them, and by Mike Mesbur of support band The Lookalikes for the other two. In March, Gorham collapsed and returned home; eight concerts were performed as a quartet and six others were postponed.
Later in the year, Lynott went on a solo tour and released his second solo album, which did not sell particularly well. Snowy White left the band in August 1982, having tired of the disorganised schedules and Lynott's drug problems, although by his own admission he was too restrained and quiet to fit in well with his more raucous bandmates. White went on to achieve top ten chart success in the UK with his single "Bird of Paradise" in 1983. Long-time co-manager Chris O'Donnell also left at this time, later stating, "A once-brilliant band was turning to crap before my very eyes."
Lynott wanted to find a replacement for White before starting to record the next album, which would turn out to be the band's last. By September 1982, he had settled on John Sykes who had been a member of Tygers of Pan Tang, and he co-wrote the first single from the album, "Cold Sweat", although the rest of the album had already been written. Thunder and Lightning was released in March 1983, and was much more successful than its predecessor, reaching no. 4 in the UK. Sykes' presence had rejuvenated the band musically, the composing credits were evenly shared, and the style had grown much heavier, veering towards heavy metal.
The tour to support the album was to be a farewell tour, although Lynott was not convinced that this would be the end of the band. Sykes wanted to continue, although Gorham had had enough. The tour was successful, and some concerts were recorded to compile a live album. Partway into the tour, many of Thin Lizzy's past guitarists were invited onstage to contribute to some of the songs they had originally recorded, the only exception being Snowy White. The album was released in October 1983 as Life, which included an older performance of "Renegade" featuring White, and reached no. 29 in the UK. The tour continued while two more singles were released, the last of them, "The Sun Goes Down", only reaching no. 52 in August. Lynott also undertook another solo tour, accompanied by Downey and Sykes, under the name of The Three Musketeers.
After a difficult leg of the tour in Japan, where some members of the band had difficulty obtaining heroin, Thin Lizzy played their final UK concert before their break-up at the Reading Festival on 28 August 1983, which was eventually released in 1992 as their BBC Radio One Live in Concert album. The last concert came in Nuremberg on 4 September, at the Monsters of Rock festival, after which the band members went their separate ways.
Post-Thin Lizzy projects and tributes (1985–96)
Before the end of 1983, Phil Lynott formed a new band called Grand Slam, but they were never able to secure a contract with a record company and split by the beginning of 1985. Sykes and Downey initially agreed to be a part of the band, but Sykes joined Whitesnake and Downey also changed his mind. Lynott began to focus more on his solo career and enjoyed a no. 5 hit single "Out in the Fields" with Gary Moore in May 1985. The song, composed by Moore, was taken from his solo album Run for Cover featuring various contributions from Lynott. Lynott's solo efforts did not fare so well, and his last single, "Nineteen", only reached no. 76 in the UK.
Before his death, Lynott was planning a third solo album, and had spoken to Downey about a possible reformation of Thin Lizzy around March 1986, with Gorham and Sykes, and had booked studio time for January of that year. However, he died in hospital in Salisbury, Wiltshire, on 4 January 1986, aged 36, having suffered from internal abscesses, pneumonia and septicaemia, brought on by his drug dependency, which led to multiple organ failure.
On 17 May, Thin Lizzy reformed for the Self Aid concert, with a line-up of Gary Moore, Downey, Gorham, Wharton and Bob Daisley on bass. Bob Geldof and Moore handled most lead vocals, though various singers got onstage for "Whiskey in the Jar". A compilation album, Soldier of Fortune, was released in 1987, and also that year, the "Vibe for Philo" tribute concert in Lynott's memory was organised by Dublin DJ and promoter Smiley Bolger, which continues on an annual basis on the anniversary of Lynott's death.
The remaining members of Thin Lizzy did not work together until the recording of the single "Dedication" in October 1990, when a rough demo of Lynott's was worked into a finished song to commemorate the fifth anniversary of his death. The song dated from the Grand Slam days and had been originally written with guitarist Laurence Archer. Modern recording techniques were used to replace the guitar and drum tracks with new work by Downey and Gorham. Gary Moore had agreed to participate as well, but ultimately did not do so. The song charted in the UK at no. 35 during early 1991, and no. 2 in Ireland, and featured on another greatest hits compilation album, Dedication: The Very Best of Thin Lizzy, released in February of that year, which reached no. 8 in the UK album chart. However, a follow-up reissue of "The Boys Are Back in Town" only reached no. 63 in the UK, although it peaked at no. 16 in Ireland.
Following this, numerous small reunion projects began to appear. In 1991, a line-up featuring Robertson and Downey performed with Bobby Tench on lead vocals, ex-Grand Slam member Doish Nagle on guitar and Doug Brockie on bass. They toured Ireland briefly with a series of "An Evening of Thin Lizzy" concerts. In August 1994, Downey, Bell, Robertson and Wharton held a tribute concert in Wolverhampton, together with tribute bands Limehouse Lizzy, Ain't Lizzy and Bad Habitz. Another version of Thin Lizzy was formed later that year by John Sykes (now also performing lead vocals) with Downey, Gorham and Wharton, and with bass parts played by Marco Mendoza, who had played with Sykes in Blue Murder from 1991–93. The tour was advertised as a tribute to Phil Lynott. This line-up also played at the Vibe for Philo gig on 4 January 1996, with a number of other notable musicians including Eric Bell, Midge Ure, Henry Rollins, Therapy? and Joe Elliott and Rick Savage from Def Leppard.
In 1994, a collection of Thin Lizzy tracks from the BBC Radio 1 Peel Sessions was released, and yet another compilation album was brought out in 1996, called Wild One: The Very Best Of Thin Lizzy. This was successful, although strangely it did not feature the title track, "Wild One".
On 20 August 1996, Rude Awakening bassist Robert Ryder held "A Celebration of the Life of Philip Lynott" at the Palace in Hollywood, California at the request of Lynott's mother, Philomena, to commemorate both Phil Lynott's birthday and the tenth year of his passing. Philomena Lynott, her partner Dennis Keeley, and Smiley Bolger (Ireland's Vibe For Philo promoter) were flown to Los Angeles by Ryder to make a personal appearance at the show. It featured concert performances by Rude Awakening, Billy Sheehan, Rudy Sarzo, John Norum, Carmine Appice, Phantom Blue, Soma, producer Roy Z and his band the Tribe of Gypsies, Mark Ferrari, Oslo, Bang Tango, Stash, Iron Cross and Irish singer-songwriter Mark Dignam.
Thin Lizzy without Lynott (1996–present)
In 1996 John Sykes decided to reactivate Thin Lizzy, presenting the band as a tribute to Phil Lynott's life and work. He decided to take on the role of lead vocals himself in the absence of Lynott, and persuaded Scott Gorham, Brian Downey and Darren Wharton to return to the fold. To complete the line-up, Marco Mendoza continued in Lynott's role as bass player. They received criticism for using the Thin Lizzy name without Lynott being present, but the band only played hits from Thin Lizzy's back catalogue, and did not compose any new material.
In 1997, Tommy Aldridge filled in on drums when Brian Downey was unable to, and became a full member when Downey left shortly thereafter. This line-up remained stable through to 2000, when the group recorded a live album, One Night Only. The band went on to tour the US playing clubs in early 2001, but Wharton had already left the band by the time of the tour. From 2000 to 2003, Mendoza toured with Ted Nugent, and with Whitesnake in 2004. Sykes released two solo albums in the gap in between 2002–03, while Gorham worked with his band 21 Guns.
Wharton later stated that Thin Lizzy would have been better suited to playing fewer concerts, in bigger venues. He also felt that after the experience of fronting his own band Dare, it was not satisfying enough to play keyboards behind Gorham and Sykes. Sykes said that all the previous Thin Lizzy members were welcome to play with Thin Lizzy at any time.
In 2004, Thin Lizzy worked together again, with Sykes and Gorham bringing in ex-Angel bassist Randy Gregg, and drummer Michael Lee, who had played with Robert Plant and The Cult among others. They toured in North America in both the winter and then the summer as special guests of Deep Purple. This line-up proved temporary however, with Mendoza returning in 2005, and Aldridge returning in 2007. There were no plans for a new album though Thin Lizzy continued to tour. At the London Hammersmith Apollo concert of 13 December 2007, the line-up was Sykes, Gorham, Aldridge and Francesco DiCosmo on bass.
Sykes stated that Thin Lizzy was now "more of a tribute thing" and that it would be wrong to record new material under that name. He added that while the existing band members might record together, it would not be as Thin Lizzy. In 2007, Gorham said that Lynott still received the biggest cheer of the night at concerts, and that the current Thin Lizzy was not active simply for money. "We'd stop if we thought we were just going through the motions... I think that has a lot to do with the songs – if they were inferior, then maybe we would have got tired of it all. But they're not and we haven't," he said. In January 2011, Gorham maintained that Lynott would have approved of the continuation of the band: "He worked long hours and travelled thousands of miles to get it to a certain level. There's no way he would have said 'No-one should play those songs again.'"
It had been announced that Thin Lizzy, along with The Answer, were to support AC/DC at stadium shows in England, Ireland and Scotland at the end of June 2009, but these appearances were cancelled after drummer Aldridge broke his collarbone in an accident. On 30 June, the band's website announced that Sykes had left Thin Lizzy and all shows for the rest of 2009 were cancelled or postponed. Gorham stated that he would announce Thin Lizzy's future plans shortly. In a statement, he said, "It's been a very tough time of late for myself and the band, firstly with drummer Tommy Aldridge's injury and now the subsequent decision for John and the rest of the group to go their separate ways. I can only apologise to everyone who has supported us over the years, but we will be back up to full speed soon."
In September 2009, Gorham began to assemble a new version of Thin Lizzy, and in May 2010 a new line-up was announced. Joining Gorham was original drummer Brian Downey, long-standing keyboardist Darren Wharton, Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell, and singer Ricky Warwick from The Almighty, while Marco Mendoza returned to fill the bass guitar role. Ex-Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson was asked if he wanted to participate but had previous commitments to his own solo career.
In addition to a full UK and European tour beginning in January 2011, the band initially announced a concert for 4 January at the O2 Arena in Dublin, which was in conflict with the 2011 "Vibe for Philo". The tour itself started on 6 January at the Music Hall Aberdeen in the UK, with the band finishing the tour in The Olympia, Dublin on 17 February 2011, having cancelled the O2 show.
It was announced in April 2011 that Vivian Campbell would have to leave Thin Lizzy to rejoin Def Leppard after one final gig on 28 May. He was replaced by Guns N' Roses guitarist Richard Fortus. On 28 August, it was announced that Damon Johnson of Alice Cooper's band would be replacing Fortus for Thin Lizzy's tour of the US with Judas Priest. Fortus returned to tour with Guns N' Roses for the rest of the year, and Johnson has since replaced Fortus permanently.
In March 2011, Gorham told Billboard.com that Thin Lizzy may record a new album in the future, saying, "That's the No. 1 question we're getting from people – are we gonna record some new material? The fans seem to trust this line-up, and I don't blame them. We've kind of jumped this emotional hurdle together. Ricky's writing some fucking killer lyrics, and with the kind of talent that's in Thin Lizzy now I think we can pull off a really cool set of tunes. At least it's something that we can think about now, where before it wasn't on the table." On 25 June 2012, Thin Lizzy were in the studio recording new material, although it was not clear how many songs would be recorded or released.
On 10 October 2012, Thin Lizzy announced that the new material would not be released under the Thin Lizzy name, but would be released under a different name in due course. According to Gorham, this was "out of respect to Phil Lynott and the legacy he created", though he confirmed that the new material would feature the classic Thin Lizzy sound. Ricky Warwick announced that the group would cease regular touring as Thin Lizzy at the end of 2012, but that this did not necessarily mean they would never play as Thin Lizzy again.
On 20 December 2012, Gorham announced that the new material would be recorded under the name of Black Star Riders, and that Downey and Wharton had chosen not to participate in the new band project. Downey has decided to take a break from touring, and Wharton will be working on his own band Dare, and a film project. It was also announced that in March 2013, the band would tour Australia under the Thin Lizzy name, with Downey and Wharton, as the opening act on a triple bill with Mötley Crüe and Kiss. Gorham stressed that Thin Lizzy would still perform together occasionally: "We'll still go out as Thin Lizzy. There are still certain big festivals that we will do. Thin Lizzy is still on the horizon, we will still go out and do that but in the meantime we have Black Star Riders that we are going to concentrate on also."
Other Thin Lizzy releases and tributes
A boxed set of four CDs of Thin Lizzy material was released in December 2001 as Vagabonds, Kings, Warriors, Angels. It contained all of the band's major hits, and included some rare songs, such as the first single "The Farmer", and single B-sides. In 2004 and 2006, two further greatest hits compilations were released, with 2004's double CD Greatest Hits climbing all the way to No. 3 in the UK album chart.
On 19 August 2005, Gary Moore staged a concert at the Point Theatre, Dublin, promoted as "The Boy Is Back in Town". The concert was staged to mark the unveiling of a bronze statue of Lynott on Dublin's Harry Street in the city centre. The performance also featured Brian Downey, Eric Bell, Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham. A DVD of the concert was released as One Night in Dublin: A Tribute to Phil Lynott.
On 8 September 2008, a 15-track album UK Tour '75 was released featuring the band performing at Derby College on 21 November 1975. The album includes a 20-page booklet of previously-unseen photos, liner notes written by Brian Downey and extra material of the band jamming during their soundcheck.
In March 2009, VH1 Classic Records issued the band-authorised Still Dangerous: Live At The Tower Theatre Philadelphia, 1977, a live CD recorded on the Bad Reputation tour. It was produced by Gorham and Glyn Johns, and Johns also mixed the record. It reached No. 98 in the UK chart. Gorham has suggested there will be further archival releases in the future.
On 24 January 2011, Universal Music issued remastered and expanded editions of Jailbreak, Johnny the Fox and Live and Dangerous. Jailbreak and Johnny the Fox are double CD editions with the second disc containing outtakes, BBC session recordings and newly remixed versions of two of that particular album's tracks. Live and Dangerous also comes as a double CD set, with two bonus tracks which are both unused live recordings. Previous CD editions of Live and Dangerous were single discs.
Universal followed this with remasters of Bad Reputation, Black Rose and Chinatown, and in early 2012, Nightlife and Fighting. Finally, Renegade and Thunder and Lightning were remastered and re-released in 2013.
Origin of the band name
The band's original guitarist Eric Bell, who was a fan of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, bought a copy of The Dandy comic after seeing Eric Clapton depicted reading a copy of its sister publication The Beano on the cover of the 1966 album Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton. He suggested Tin Lizzie, the name of a robot character from the comic, itself named for the common nickname for the iconic Ford Model T car. Bell also suggested they change 'Tin' to 'Thin' to play on the Irish accent's propensity to drop the 'h'. After a while, Lynott and Downey agreed to the idea and the name stuck, as they thought the confusion was amusing and would create a talking point. For some of their early gigs, the band were mistakenly promoted as "Tin Lizzy" or "Tin Lizzie".
Style and legacy
From 1974, Thin Lizzy switched from using one lead guitarist to two. Though others had earlier used similar techniques, Thin Lizzy are widely recognised as one of the first hard rock bands to employ double lead guitar harmony sound – a technique pioneered by Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac and Wishbone Ash in the UK, whilst independently in the USA by Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers Band. This style was later refined and popularised in the mid-1970s by bands like Thin Lizzy and Judas Priest, and later by the emerging New Wave of British Heavy Metal groups such as Iron Maiden and Def Leppard. Iron Maiden covered the song "Massacre" from Thin Lizzy's Johnny the Fox album, and released it on their 1988 single Can I Play with Madness. A cover of "Cowboy Song" appears on "Sound of White Noise" by Anthrax as the bonus track for album's Japanese release.
Thin Lizzy is also the major inspiration for modern heavy metal bands, most notably Metallica and Mastodon. Mastodon covered Thin Lizzy's classic "Emerald", which has been included as a bonus track for their Japanese release of their album Remission. They have played the song live several times, including an acoustic version with Scott Gorham on guitar. Henry Rollins has expressed a fondness for Thin Lizzy, and the Rollins Band covered their song "Are You Ready?" on their album Get Some Go Again (2000). The 2005 release from The Great Divide included a cover of "Cowboy Song" in two parts. Megadeth covered Thin Lizzy's ”Cold Sweat” on their 2013 release, Super Collider.
- Thin Lizzy (1971)
- Shades of a Blue Orphanage (1972)
- Vagabonds of the Western World (1973)
- Nightlife (1974)
- Fighting (1975)
- Jailbreak (1976)
- Johnny the Fox (1976)
- Bad Reputation (1977)
- Black Rose: A Rock Legend (1979)
- Chinatown (1980)
- Renegade (1981)
- Thunder and Lightning (1983)
- Official website tour news
- The Official Thin Lizzy website
- The Roisín Dubh Trust
- 2005 Rolling Stone.com article on Lizzy/Lynott
- Lizzy Days – Album artwork, photos and remembrances by Lizzy/Lynott friend, Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick
- Andy Gee Interview (1974 Lizzy guitarist)
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