PHILIP LYNOTT - VOCALS & BASS 1970 - 83
would be true, but the real man was so much more than the sum of these parts. The legacy that Philip Lynott has left behind him has captured the hearts and minds of many and I’m sure will continue to do so well into the future, but the truth is that to fully appreciate his unique talent you have to look harder at the man that was behind the legend.
Parris Lynott was born in West Bromwich, near Birmingham, England on August the 20th 1949,
the son of Philomena Lynott, (Phyllis to her friends) a white Irish Catholic
mother and Cecil Parris, a black Guyanian father. Philip would have a
very close relationship with his mother throughout his life but would
barely become acquainted with his father. This unorthodox beginning may
be the source of the many contradictions that seemed to run all the way
through his tragically short, but eventful life.
his infinite wisdom at this time Brush Sheils decided that Skid Row were
best suited as a 3 piece and that Philip's services were no longer needed.
Philip took this rejection in the best possible way, he formed his own
band: Orphanage. Conceived as a pick-up band, members would come and go
as they pleased and gigs were played more as jams than structured sets.
This set up did little to further Philips desire to have a solid band
that he could be proud of and it wasn’t until a chance meeting with Belfast
born guitarist Eric Bell that the idea of the 3 piece that would become
known as Thin Lizzy was born. Eric was an experienced musician fresh off
the show-band circuit, with a burning desire to produce original and innovative
music. Soon after, Thin Lizzy was born.
Two further albums (Nightlife and Fighting) and 1976 saw the band at a watershed moment in their career, it was make or break time. The band was 6 years old and with 5 albums behind them they had only scraped the surface of success with 'Whiskey in the Jar'. They desperately needed a break, and with the release of 'The Boys Are Back in Town' single and the 'Jailbreak album that’s exactly what they got. In the best tradition of all 'rags to riches' stories the band were shot from obscurity to be hailed as all conquering heroes almost overnight. While this event belied the many years hard work, determination and commitment that they had put behind the Lizzy name, they definitely revelled in their time, and quickly became as notorious for their hard-partying offstage demeanour as the electric, storming performances that encapsulated their stage show. This time saw Philip perfect the 'Johnny Cool' stage persona that fit so perfectly with the times. He was a happy man both on and off stage and things seemed as if they couldn’t get any better.
the first in a series bad luck incidents the band were forced to curtail
their US tour due to Philip catching Hepatitis, yet he used this enforced
lay off productively to write their follow up: 'Johnny the Fox'. Quickly
becoming another success the band followed this with extensive touring
and intensive partying.
Lizzy had reached their zenith, with Live and Dangerous they had effectively described themselves in the best way they possibly could: an explosive live band with the musicianship and song writing ability to back up their showmanship. Philip’s song writing had evolved into something that could be eloquent, beautiful and romantic (Still in Love with You, Romeo and The Lonely Girl) and an emotive and heartfelt call to arms (Warriors, Massacre, Soldier of Fortune).
They had effectively survived the purging of the music scene that punk had brought about (due in no small part to Philip's astute involvement in the punk-ish side project that was The Greedies and his offstage affability with journalists), but were about to face the same challenge that most successful bands face at some point in their career, how to top a very successful album, in retrospect, no one felt the pressure of this challenge more than Philip. They set about this task in 1979 with Gary Moore yet again taking the vacant guitar post and produced the excellent, yet openly more commercial 'Black Rose' album. Hit singles and sell out tours followed, and Lizzy and Philip remained kings of the late seventies music scene.
was at this point that most people who were close to him at the time acknowledge
that Philip began to feel the pressures of success for the first time.
As a musician in the 1970's Philip was more than aware of all the excesses
available to a man in his position but as the decade drew to a close whatever
excesses had preceded were replaced by a more dangerous acquaintance with
hard drugs like heroin.
Moore has since gone on record to say that Philip had a darker side to
him that leaned towards a reluctance to acknowledge the need to grow any
older and a distance that separated him from his friends, family and colleagues,
the further he went down his chosen road. It is certain that in the later
stages of his life that he felt increasingly alone in the burden of retaining
his success and standing.
In contrast with the perceived stagnation of Lizzy at this point, Philip had released two excellent solo albums during this time: 'Solo in Soho' in '80 and 'The Philip Lynott Album' in '82. Both showcased an artist with a diverse ability in song writing and a more sensitive and experimental side that was obviously confined within the guitar driven, rock format of Thin Lizzy. Yet within these songs, some of the most personal and telling that he would ever write are tragic signposts to his future. The melancholy and haunting, yet somehow starkly beautiful sentiments of songs like Fatalistic Attitude, Somebody Else’s Dream and Solo in Soho showed a man at a crossroads, doubting his faith in the future and wondering what it was all about.
Ironically, the farewell album and tour of '83 was hailed as one of Thin Lizzy’s greatest moments, harking back to the glory days of '76-'78 and Lizzy bowed out in late '83 after sell out shows and the excellent 'Life' double live album. Philip Lynott's band was described by many as being his life and at the beginning of 1984 he found himself without that band and many of the friends that had surrounded him in that enterprise. Undeterred and unbowed, he set about creating a new band to take him forward. He hoped that this was a chance for a new beginning and that what he perceived as being the negative aspects of Lizzy, such as having to play much of the Live and Dangerous set every night, could be set aside.
began as a year of promise; with Philip recording what would become the
smash hit single ‘Out in the Fields’ with Gary Moore. The two had long
since buried their differences and had created a Lizzy-esque slice of
rock/pop that perfectly fitted the period. This renewed vigour and success
led to Philip securing a solo recording deal with Polydor and begin recording
what would have been his third solo album. The first single from this,
‘Nineteen’ showed an artist with a renewed hope and aggression, eager
to recapture his former position. As 1985 drew to a close things looked
better for Philip Lynott than they had for some time and no one expected
what was to follow.
Philip was taken to Salisbury Infirmary, where doctors did their best to save him. In the following days he bravely fought for his life but by the 4th of January 1986 Philip Lynott was dead at the age of 36. The official cause of death was recorded as multiple internal abscesses causing blood poisoning leading to kidney, liver and heart failure.