Scott Gorham  

 

 

SCOTT GORHAM - GUITAR 1974 - 83

Ask your average man on the street what they remember about Thin Lizzy and you'll likely get a variety of answers. The top answer will undoubtedly be the charismatic black-Irish frontman Philip Lynott. But somewhere near the top of the list will be the "guitarist with the really long hair". That guitarist is Scott Gorham. William Scott Gorham was born in California on St. Patrick's Day in 1951 - a little ironic considering how his life would end up being twisted up into an epic Irish rock legend. He grew up in Glendale, on the rich side of town, but despite the privileges of his upbringing, he still managed to spend much of his teenage years dabbling in drugs and having brushes with the law.

Scott got into the playing music at the age of 13 when he took up bass guitar duties in a local surf band. When this band split up, following a motorcycle accident which killed the guitarist, the young Gorham drifted between several bands on bass until he eventually decided to take up the guitar himself. He was 19 years old when he played his first gig as a guitarist. One of his close friends was a drummer called Bob Siebenberg (Bob C. Benberg) who eventually married Scott's sister and moved to London, eventually joining Supertramp. Bob persuaded Scott to follow in 1974, on what turned out to be a false hope of also joining Supertramp. Now stranded in London several thousand miles from home, Scott made the best of a bad situation by forming a band called Fastbuck. They played local pubs and, although they struggled to make ends meet, the independence and responsibility of his new way of life turned out to be very positive for the young Californian. Nevertheless, Fastbuck were going nowhere and it didn't take too much motivation for Scott to make the effort to go for an audition with Thin Lizzy, even though he'd never actually heard of them.

 

Thin Lizzy weren't exactly a household name at the time. Despite having three albums under their belt, they were basically a one hit wonder following the single Whiskey in the Jar. Following the departure of Eric Bell at the start of 1974, the three piece format continued for several months with replacement Gary Moore before shifting to a four piece for a German tour with Andy Gee and John Cann temporarily filling in on guitar duties. However, the band were in crisis and, at the time Scott appeared for his audition in 1974, Lynott was attempting to relaunch the band with dual lead guitars. And, hopefully, a new record contract! They had already found guitarist number one in the precocious talent of a 17 year old Glaswegian called Brian Robertson. They now needed someone who was able to play off him. So on a rainy day, Scott Gorham arrived at his audition at the Country Club in London armed with his Japanese Les Paul copy. He remembers the rest of the band as being pretty unfriendly - not too surprising as they'd spent the whole day listening to a hoard of dismal hopefuls. Scott learned a few songs and played with the band. By the end of the session he wasn't too hopeful that this aloof bunch were interested but, despite his reservations, Scott later got the call and was asked to join. When Robbo was recently asked whether the decision to choose Scott was unanimous, he replied "Absolutely. He had great hair".

 

Gorham's guitar style is drenched in that 1970's classic rock tone so typical of a Les Paul guitar through a Marshall valve amp. He typically played a 1969 sunburst Les Paul Deluxe - this is the guiatr you see him play on the Live and dangerous video. Later, he mainly played a darker sunburst Les Paul Standard (1958 or 1959 depending on what you read). It was probably originally a Gold Top that was later re-finished in "darkburst" since the maple top is not book-matched and does not have a centre line join. His allegiance to Marshall amps only took a slight detour in around 1980 when he temporarily switched to Burman. In the later days of Lizzy, Gorham started to play faster but basically his playing isn't "flash" but rather it's seething with melodic feel and a smooth tone. Listen to the solo on the single Bad Reputation or Dancing in the Moonlight to capture that trademark Gorham lead sound. Despite his talent, Gorham was always very self-depreciating and was always quick to praise the talents of his guitarist partners. Nevertheless, the post-Bell sound of Thin Lizzy owes a huge debt to the laid-back Californian.

 

Despite the comings and goings of four guitarist partners, Scott Gorham remained with Lizzy until the end in 1983. He was close with Lynott, filling the role of Best Man at his wedding. Unfortunately, he also shared a heroine habit with his friend, something that crept into the band during the recording of Black Rose in Paris. While it eventually killed Lynott in 1986, Gorham managed to get out of the music scene in 1983 and thus save himself from a similar fate. In recent times he has admitted that he felt badly about the way Lizzy were playing at the end - a reference to effects of the heroin abuse on himself and Lynott - and said it was "a terrible way to end my time with the band".

The post Lizzy Scott Gorham disappeared from the music scene while he cleaned up. There was soon talk of a new band - Kerrang in December 1984 reported: "Former Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham has formed a new band under the moniker of "The Western Front". 

 

The line-up also features fellow Americans Marty Walsh (guitar), Moon Calquhoun

(vocals), Del Vertusco (drums) and Dick Bergman (synthesisers). As yet no bassist has been chosen. Based in Los Angeles and managed by Elliot Abbott (who also handles affairs for Randy Newman, The Kinks and Laurie Anderson), the band have been recording demos at a 24-track studio in Woodland Hills (California) under the production guidance of Gorham. They hope to secure a major recording deal in the near future and will then begin work immediately on an album. However an outside producer will be brought in for the project because the ex-Lizzy mainman intends to concentrate on writing material and playing guitar. The music is, according to Gorham, "Mainstream rock'n'roll".

This materialised briefly under the name Head's Up, with a line-up including Bob Siebenberg, Dennis O'Donnel, Reno Wilde, Marty Walsh, Brad Cole, Mark Siebert and Gorham himself.

It is also interesting to note that Gorham appeared on the Phenomena "Dream Runner" album in 1987 on the track "Did It All For Love". On the album Michael Sturgis and Leif Johansen were also featured among others and in fact in 1990 they announced the formation of a new band first called "The End" and later "21 Guns", releasing their debut album Salute in 1992.

 

It was during his work on the Phenomena project that Scott met John Wetton (the frontman of Asia, who contributed vocals to the track "Did It All For Love"), Wetton had always been impressed by Gorham's Lizzy heritage and was determined to get his playing on some forthcoming sessions for a proposed new Asia album. To this end Scott was asked to help them cut some demos in 1987. Despite Asia being one of the biggest selling bands of the early 80's and being offered a dealt for Japan, a Worldwide contract failed to materialise and the project was aborted. Scott later confirmed that he was never a full time member of the band and that he was only helping them out. This temporary line-up consisted of John Wetton, Geoff Downes, Michael Sturgis and Scott Gorham. Two songs from this era have since been released: "Summer (Can't Last Too Long)" made it onto "Then & Now" (1990), and "Kari-Anne" appeared as a bonus track on "Live In Moscow" (1991). Also some years later Asia released a couple of CDs, Archiva 1 & 2, that featured some demos they recorded through the years. A track from the period with Gorham in the band made it onto Archiva 1, "Boys From Diamond City".

 

Between the release of Salute and the follow up Nothings Real in 1997, John Sykes managed to persuade Gorham to reform the remnants of the 1983 line-up of Thin Lizzy. This wasn't the first time Scott had revisited the music of his former band - in October 1989 he appeared at a gig with Darren Wharton's Dare at the Astoria in London, where he jammed a few Lizzy numbers with his old band mate. But the reformation of Lizzy and the resultant small Japanese tour in 1994 started a new phase of Gorham's relationship with the Thin Lizzy brand name. The 1994 tour was followed by 10 European shows in '96, as well as the 10th Vibe for Philo, 10 US shows in '97 and the final handful of dates with Downey in 1998 in the UK and Scandinavia. The Sykes/Gorham/Wharton line-up of Lizzy continue to tour between their own solo project commitments, controversially now without Downey, and have even released a live CD "One Night Only" from the 2000 tour. Scott's playing a custom Fender Stratocaster these days and the long hair has gone but that trademark tone is still there - a little more mature and refined - but definitely still "Gorham".

 

Dan Donnelly