Thin Lizzy Newcastle City Hall 1st May 1980
Gary Moore had no sooner joined Thin Lizzy than he decided to leave. The switching guitarists wasn’t the only problem for the band at the time; Phil and Scott were increasingly using hard drugs. Scott Gorham speaking to the Daily Mail “as to why we did it, I can’t give you a simple answer….Some bands take drugs to get high. Others do it to beat the boredom….. people soon became concerned, especially about Phil. Our management would sneak into our hotel rooms and flush the drugs down the toilet.’
Moore’s replacement was Snowy White, a fine bluesy guitarist who had played with Peter Green and Pink Floyd. Snowy: “…. I bumped into Scott….. he remembered me because he’d come to see the Animal’s tour in Madison Square Garden a few months previously… he…said, “Wow man, we’re looking for a guitar player… can you come up and play with us and see how it works out?”
This was, for me, the beginning of the end of Thin Lizzy. Snowy was an excellent guitarist, but it just didn’t seem to work. His blues style, his quiet manner and his on stage persona just didn’t fit with the wild rock image of the rest of the band, or his predecessors. Don’t get me wrong, Snowy White, was, and is, an excellent guitarist, but he wasn’t right for Lizzy.
The new line-up recorded Chinatown, Lizzy’s tenth studio album, which was good, but not one of their best records. The release of the new album was preceded by the hit single “Killer on the Loose”. Thin Lizzy went out in tour in the UK, calling at Newcastle City Hall for two nights on 1st and 2nd May 1980. I went to the first night’s concert. It was another enjoyable show, but it seemed slicker and less wild than previous Lizzy concerts. Sadly the classic years had passed. According to the Lizzy tour site support came from The Wild Angels. Now I have to admit that I have no recollection of this at all. Is this the same Wild Angels, the rock’n’roll / rockabilly band fronted by Mal Gray who I saw in the early 70s?
The highlight of the concert was when former Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson joined the band for the encore, playing on Emerald and Rosalie. Apparently Robbo’s new band Wild Horses had a gig at Newcastle Poly the following night. The appearance of Robbo was reciprocated the next night at the Poly gig when Phil and Scott joined Wild Horses on stage (now why wasn’t I at that gig?)
Setlist something like: Are You Ready; Chinatown; Waiting for an Alibi; Jailbreak; Dear Miss Lonely Hearts; Do Anything You Want To; Don’t Believe a Word; Got To Give It Up; Still in Love With You; Sweetheart; Cowboy Song; The Boys Are Back in Town; Suicide; Sha La La
Encore: Emerald, Rosalie
Thanks to John for the image of his Chinatown poster.
Thin Lizzy Newcastle City Hall 1st May 1980
Thin Lizzy Newcastle City Hall 11th April 1979
There had been some to-ing and fro-ing between Gary Moore and Brian Robertson for some time, with Gary replacing Brian for a few spells. This time however, the disagreements between Phil Lynott and Brian Roberston had got to a point where the two could no longer work together. Brian left, and Gary Moore joined as his permanent replacement. Thin Lizzy was now Philip Lynott, Brian Downey, Scott Gorham, and Gary Moore. This line-up recorded “Black Rose”, the ninth Thin Lizzy ninth studio album, which is generally recognised as one of the band’s greatest and most successful recordings, and features “Do Anything You Want To”, “Waiting for an Alibi” and “Sarah” as stand-out tracks.
Lizzy went out on a UK tour during March and April 1979, to promote “Black Rose”, supported by Irish punk pop band The Vipers. The tour included two nights at Newcastle City hall.
I nearly didn’t make it to this gig. Marie and I had tickets to see Thin Lizzy at Newcastle City Hall on their second night at the venue; Thursday 12th April 1978. Then Kate Bush announced her first tour which included a concert at Sunderland Empire on the very same night. Dilemma. What do I do? We decided that we had to forego the Lizzy concert (I can’t remember what I did with the tickets, I may have sold them or given them away….) so that we could go and see Kate Bush. However, the pull of Thin Lizzy soon got the better of me, and I somehow managed to get a ticket for the first Lizzy concert on Wednesday 11th April 1978. Not sure how I managed this as the show was sold out; I may have gone through on spec on the night and scored a ticket outside the venue. Anyway; Result! I saw Lizzy one night, and Kate Bush the next, and it didn’t get much better than that in 1979.
Lizzy were, as always excellent. Gary Moore fitted in seamlessly; he came from the same musical and cultural background, was an old mate, and had played with the band before on many occasions. However, his stay with the band was short-lived; he walked out on them a few months later, during a tour of the USA.
Setlist: Are You Ready, Bad Reputation, Get Out of Here, Do Anything You Want To, Don’t Believe a Word, Waiting for an Alibi, Jailbreak, Got To Give It Up, Still in Love With You, Warriors, Roisin Dubh (Black Rose): A RockLegend, Cowboy Song, The Boys Are Back in Town, Suicide, Me and the Boys, Rosalie, Emerald, Baby Drives Me Crazy, The Rocker
PS Note the misspelling of “Thin Lizzie” on the ticket :)
Thin Lizzy Reading triumph 1977 and Newcastle City Hall 1977 & 1978
1977 was the year of punk, but it was also another very successful year for Thin Lizzy. Lizzy’s attitude transcended the barriers between heavy rock and punk. Phil Lynott speaking at the time: “I could feel it, at the time there was three bands: Dr Feelgood, The Heavy Metal Kids (Gary Holton had that real front y’know) and there was ourselves y’know? And all them bands were quite aware that the kids wanted something different, wanted to be attacked again, wanted aggression and stuff like that. And like within that period we were away, it really got its image with the ‘New Wave’ and the papers really gave it its image. Now I knew the punk thing was going on before I went away, but it really took off.” Phil fitted the image of the street punk, and even played with Jones and Cook of the Sex Pistols in an occasional band “The Greedy Bastards”. So they sort of fitted with the mood of the time. Phil again: “I just like blood and guts….I’ve seen every Clint Eastwood movie goin’. I get off on aggression. One of the main reasons I get up on a stage is to let the aggression out, to put the aggression to a good purpose like rock and roll. I’m sure I’d be f**kin’ locked up now if I didn’t play in a group. I’d be in this jail I’m always singin’ about.”
Thin Lizzy returned to the Reading festival for a triumphant headlining Saturday night performance. This was the year when the festival site became a mud bowl, with a lake of mud in front of the stage. “1977 The festival officially became ‘Reading Rock ‘77’ this year and an almighty downpour turned the event into a sea of mud. 1977 also saw the first appearance of punk at the festival in the form of The Electric chairs, who were pelted with mud and bottles.” (gigwise). We needed a great band and a great performance to cheer us all up, and Thin Lizzy gave us that. They played a classic set including: Jailbreak; Dancing in the Moonlight; Still in Love With You; Cowboy Song; The Boys Are Back in Town; Don’t Believe a Word; Emerald closing with The Rocker as encore. This was Thin Lizzy at the very best, the classic line-up of Lynott, Gorham. Robertson and Downey couldn’t be beaten.
I saw Thin Lizzy again later in the year, touring in support of the “Bad Reputation” album. They played at Newcastle City Hall on 11 November 1977, supported by Irish punks Radiators from Space. They were back again on 20th June 1978 at the time of their classic “Live and Dangerous” lp. Both shows were excellent. The set that these guys had at the time was simply amazing, including straight-on rockers Jailbreak and The Rocker; the hits Dancing in the Moonlight, The Boys Are Back in Town and Don’t Believe a Word; ballads like Still In Love With You, mysterious celtic tales like Emerald and my favourite at the time Cowboy Song. Great stuff.
Phil would say: “Are there any cowboys out there?” [massive roar from the crowd]…”this is for all the cowboys…”
[cue the quiet guitar intro]
“I am just a cowboy, lonesome on the trail.
The starry night, the campfire light.
The coyote call, and the howlin’ winds wail. [wah wah]
So I ride out to the old sundown.”
[...and the full band comes in, the familiar twin guitar riff starts and away we go.....]
“Roll me over and turn me around, let me keep spinning till I hit the ground
Roll me over and let me go, riding in the rodeo
Roll me over and set me free, the cowboy’s life is the life for me”
You just couldn’t beat it. Pure class. 1000%.
(Thin Lizzy, 1976)
Thin Lizzy Newcastle City Hall 1st November 1976
1976 was Thin Lizzy’s year. The album “Jailbreak” gave them the breakthrough that they had been working so had for. Released in March 1976, it featured the worldwide hit “The Boys Are Back in Town” which broke the band and reached no. 8 in the UK. “Jailbreak” had all the right elements; the wonderful twin guitar sound of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson, great rock tunes which were heavy yet not metal, fascinating stories of the street (bet Phil listened to Springsteen), great use of Celtic mythology drawn from Phil’s Irish heritage, and an attitude and vibe that shone through in the sleeve and Phil’s image, and which completely captured the mood of the time. The album features some of Lizzy’s best compositions such as as “Emerald”, the single “Boys are Back”, and the title track “Jailbreak” which all quickly became concert favourites and would remain in their live set throughout their career. Suddenly Lizzy went from being the club band you could see all the time, to rock heroes who were selling out concert halls and theatres up and down the country.
Phil Lynott fell ill with hepatitis during a US tour; the tour was cancelled, during which time he wrote the follow up album “Johnny the Fox”. The album was recorded in August 1976, but there were tensions between Lynott and Robertson; including disagreements over the credits for their next hit single “Don’t Believe a Word”. “Johnny the Fox” is a good album, but falls short in comparison to the “Jailbreak”. The band went out on tour in the UK to promote the new album, supported by Clover, featuring Huey Lewis. They performed 25 concerts during the UK tour, all of which were completely sold out. I saw the Newcastle gig which was powerful, energetic and a celebration of Lizzy’s recent success. The crowd welcomed the band back as conquering heroes and Phil was becoming the ultimate rock frontman, who could command a crowd like no-one else at the time. A simple thing, like reflecting light off his mirrored bass front plate so that it cut across the concert hall and dazzled us all, seemed fantastic at the time.
Phil told us stories, got us to sing along with him, and led his two fantastic guitar compatriots Scott and Brian, and drummer Brian, in some perfect rock music. “Emerald” and “The Rocker” were my favourites, and when they played “The Boys Are Back in Town” we just knew that the song was about Phil and the guys, but we also felt that it was about us; and that we were all “boys” together. A wonderful, uplifting performance. We were so proud that this band, who we had followed through the clubs, ballrooms, and festivals was taking on the world, and was doing it with rock songs which we could relate to.
“Lizzy have walked away with the cup this year” and “….. there is no better bona fide rock band in England, maybe the world, at this moment than Thin Lizzy.” (David Housham reviewing the Bristol gig in the music press at the time).
A bootleg of the Newcastle show exists which includes the following songs: Jailbreak; Massacre; Emerald; Johnny; It’s Only Money; Still in Love With You; The Boys Are Back in Town; Rosalie; Suicide; Warriors. Encore: Baby Drives Me Crazy. I suspect that they may also have played “Sha la la ” and “The Rocker”.
Thanks to Mitch for his photo which was taken at this gig.
Oh, and I forgot to mention the length of Scott’s hair, which I was so jealous of. I never quite figured out why mine stopped growing at a certain length, and never quite reached my waist :)
Thin Lizzy live 1972 – 1975
Apologies if you have read some of this story before. I’ll be spending the next few days with my memories of Thin Lizzy in concert, and I though I’d start by recalling when I first saw the band in 1972, which I have written about before, as part of a post about a concert by the recent Thin Lizzy line-up.
Anyway back to 1972. It’s a Friday night and I’m in the upstairs bar of Sunderland Locarno (“the Mecca”). There’s a tall black guy standing next to me. He’s chatting away to everyone in a strong but soft Irish accent. He seems a friendly guy; looks like he could be in a band. An hour or so later the night’s group take to the stage. They are called Thin Lizzy, and the guy from the bar is the front man. None of us have heard of them; someone tells me that John Peel plays them quite a bit and that they have an album out called “Shades of a Blue Orphanage”. They play pretty well; the front man has great presence, the guitarist is pretty good and the drummer’s impressive. I find out later that the tall guy is called Phil Lynott and the other members are Eric Bell on guitar, and Brian Downey on drums. Roll on a year. I’m watching Top of the Pops and Thin Lizzy are on my TV playing an Irish-folk sounding tune “Whiskey in the Jar” which has a great guitar riff. Next day I go out and buy the record. My journey with Lizzy was beginning. Over the next few years Thin Lizzy play Sunderland a few more times, hitting the stages of the Mecca and the Rink. They appear down the bill at the Reading festival a couple of times. Each time I see them they get stronger and tighter, but they also seem to miss out on that “big break”. I must have seen them 5 or 6 times during the period 1972 to 1975.
The next time I saw Thin Lizzy will have been on 22nd June 1973, again at Sunderland Mecca. By now they had released “Vagabonds of the Western World” which featured live favourite “The Rocker”. Support came from local band Beckett: “Thin Lizzy and their cover of Rosalie. Back in early ‘73, my band Beckett…..most of us hadn’t heard any Bob Seger, so his album [Back in '72] was played incessantly…..On June 22nd..we were booked to play our local Mecca in support of Thin Lizzy who were riding the success of Whiskey in the Jar. While our crew were loading our gear into the lift under the venue, Lizzy turned up and we all stood around in the sunshine chewing the fat … while playing in the background was our tape of Back in ‘72. Phil was much taken with Rosalie and they decided, there-and-then, that they would cover it in their live show. Bob Seger and Thin Lizzy: two of the most heart-poundingly exciting live rock shows I ever saw.” (Keith Fisher of Beckett, http://www.thinlizzyguide.com/tours/ ).
I next saw Lizzy at the 1974 Reading Festival, half-way down a varied bill which featured Georgie Fame, Procol Harum, Trapeze, and Greenslade, and was headlined by Traffic. By 1974 the classic twin guitar line-up was in place: Philip Lynott, Brian Downey, Scott Gorham, and Brian Robertson, and they had released “Nightlife”. The classic band was now together and was starting to form that classic sound. The attitude and presence were there; some of the songs and the success took a little longer. I saw them back at the Mecca on 25th October 1974 with support from Quicksand.
In 1975 Thin Lizzy released “Fighting” which features “Rosalie”, as mentioned above. I was back at Reading, and so were Lizzy, this time a little further up a bill headlined by Yes, Wishbone Ash, and Hawkwind. They played: Fighting My Way Back; It’s Only Money; King’s Vengeance; Still in Love With You; Showdown; Suicide; Rosalie; The Rocker; Sha La La. Encore: Baby Drives Me Crazy.
I may have seen them once or twice more. I have vague memories of a gig at Sunderland Top Rank (the “Rink”), perhaps with Status Quo. Or maybe I remember Quo playing the Mecca, while Thin Lizzy played the Rink on the same night (or vice versa)…who knows….the gigs all sort of blend into one now. I know that Lizzy toured in ’73 supporting Slade and played Sunderland Rink, but I missed that gig as I was seeing Santana at the City Hall on the same night. What I also know is that Lizzy were gigging constantly throughout those years and played in the North East many times. There were a great live band and I guess I took them for granted. I was lucky enough to be able to see the band honing their craft and developing into the class rock act that we all know and love.
In 1976 everything changed for Thin Lizzy. They released “Jailbreak”, the single “Boys are back in town” was played everywhere and massive success followed. For some crazy reason I missed them on the Jailbreak tour (I still regret such things today), and remember kicking myself for doing so at the time. I made up for it by catching most of their tours from then on, which I’ll write about this week, starting tomorrow with Autumn 1976 and the “Johnny the Fox” tour.
Many thanks to Mitch for his action shot of Phil Lynott which he took at Newcastle City Hall on 1st Nov 1976 (I’ll write about that gig tomorrow) and to the great site http://www.thinlizzyguide.com/tours/ which catalogues Lizzy tour dates.
Traffic Newcastle City Hall 24th April 1974
Concert going was a much less expensive hobby in the 70s. I saw lots of great bands, and it didn’t cost me the fortune it does these days. For £2 I had my train fare, a good seat, a pint or two and a programme. John and I went to see Traffic at Newcastle City Hall on 24th April 1974, and the tickets cost £1 each, and well worth it too :) Traffic were just about to release their ninth, and final (for then, anyway) album “When the Eagle Flies”, and the line-up of the band was Steve Winwood (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Chris Wood (flute, sax), Jim Capaldi (drums, percussion), Rosko Gee (bass) and Rebop (percussion and crazy bongos). Support came from husband and wife duo Richard and Linda Thompson. My enduring memory is of a long-haired Stevie Winwood singing “John Barleycorn”, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. It remains one of my favourite songs. My other memory is of an incredible performance by Rebop, as he hopped from bongo to bongo, beating out crazy rhythms, dazzling us with lightning-fast percussion work. John’s comments on the gig: “I only saw Traffic once and it was towards the end of the bands career when the band when they were struggling to keep it all together and perhaps were not at there very best. That said, I have great and very happy memories of the show. The tour was to promote the album “When the Eagle Flies” and I believe the support was Richard and Linda Thompson (who closed their set with I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, which was the title track of their current, and best, album). The City Hall was not full and we had great seats pretty near the front and to one side of the stage. A set list is shown from the Rainbow show and I can recall a number of the songs – John Barleycorn was just great, followed by 40,000 Headman, Empty Pages, Pearly Queen and the outstanding Dear Mr Fantasy, which is one of the best extended jams of the period and a favorite of mine to this day. They played a number of tracks from the new album, as was the standard practice for the time, but I can only recall the title track. While the setlist from the Rainbow differs, I thought they closed with Low Spark of High Heeled Boys but I may be getting this mixed up. [My memory is of an encore of Feelin' Alright?, but that could be my imagination]. A great band whose contribution to 70’s music is often overlooked and I am grateful to have caught them (almost) at their prime.”
Traffic setlist from London Rainbow May 1974: Heaven Is in Your Mind; John Barleycorn; Forty Thousand Headmen; Graveyard People; Empty Pages; Pearly Queen; Vulcan ?; Dear Mr. Fantasy; When the Eagle Flies; Walking in the Wind; Dream Gerrard; Memories of a Rock ‘n’ Rolla.
I saw Traffic once more, when they headlined the Reading festival a few months later in August 1974. It was another great set with some lengthy but nver boring jams (thanks in great part to Rebop’s antics), and exactly the right sort of music for a dark summer evening at a rock festival, the music drifting across the riverside fields, as the cool breeze made us all shiver a little.
Reading setlist: Empty Pages; Graveyard People; Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring; John Barleycorn; Forty Thousand Headmen; Love
When the Eagle Flies; Walking in the Wind; Dream Gerrard
Thanks to John for the image of his poster.
Ten Years After Newcastle Mayfair 5th Oct 1973 & Newcastle City Hall 21st April 1974
Friday night at the Mayfair, 1973, and Ten Years After were playing! There was a special buzz about this gig. It wasn’t that often that we got the chance to see Alvin Lee and Co. in a ballroom setting. We went through early and joined the queue which curled right down the length of Newgate Street. Once inside we wandered around the balcony, visited the many bars and then tried to get a good spot on the dance floor, ready for when TYA came on stage. To say the place was packed was an understatement. You could hardly move. The band rocked that night, and the Mayfair crowd gave them a hero’s welcome. A great gig. Support came from a band called Ruby (?) We emerged hot and sweaty into the cold night air sometime after midnight and walked the 15 miles home. We got home in the early hours, exhausted. Well worth it; those were the days.
Come 1974 and TYA released their eighth album Positive Vibrations. It wasn’t their best and reviews weren’t very positive. Rolling Stone said of the lp: “TYA have changed musical directions so often in the past that they’ve never been able to develop a comfortable sound within any field, so now they sound as though they’re merely dabbling in various styles. …. Alvin Lee & Co. have stuck their fingers into so many musical pies that they’re now as confused as anyone attempting to follow their music. “
Things weren’t so good in the TYA camp. Alvin was launching a solo career, and live reviews of TYA were not so hot. Reviewing a London Rainbow gig in the NME, Tony Stewart wrote: : “Competent musicians TYA may be, entertainers they certainly are not. Their stage presence was as flat as a Woolworth’s portrait reproduction. Alvin Lee’s delivery of notes at an immense speed resembled a production line worker knocking rivets into a car body: precise motions, but without any other purpose than holding something together until it’s time to go home (I’m Going Home that is). Sorry, but it was a relief when it was.”
I think Alvin was just tired of playing Going Home and of an audience who just wanted to relive Woodstock. “The stopping point came when I felt I’d written every song I could think of with Ten Years After and played every solo…all I was doing was pinching bits from this and that and putting them together differently and it was starting to get repetitive….Ten Years After aren’t functioning at the moment.” (Alvin Lee speaking to Lorna Read, Beat Instrumental Magazine, 1974).
I saw Ten Years After once more at the City Hall in April 1974. In my eyes they were still great. But it was almost over. The following night, Ten Years After played their last UK gig in Manchester. Officially the band was resting, mothballed, but there were no more TYA appearances for 10 years or so when the band reunited for some shows. Alvin focused on his solo career from then on.
Ten Years After setlist at the time was something like: Rock & Roll Music To The World, Nowhere To Run, Good Morning Little School Girl, It’s Getting Harder, Hobbit, Love Like A Man, Slow Blues In C, Look Me Straight Into The Eyes, Classical Thing, Scat Thing, I Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes, I’m Going Home, Sweet Little Sixteen, Choo Choo Mama
Thanks to John for the poster image.
I saw Alvin Lee several times over the years. He remained an amazing guitarist, powerful performer, and I always enjoyed seeing him play. But there was a magic about Ten Years After in the early 70s that could never be recreated. Never the most fashionable band, and often the victim of some unfair press, on a good night (and they mostly were good nights) Alvin Lee was incredible, and Ten Years After were one of the best rock’n’roll and blues bands in the world.
RIP Alvin Lee.