Phil Lynnot’s Grand Slam Middlesbrough Town Hall 11th July 1984
This gig wasn’t well attended. Grand Slam were a shadow of Thin Lizzy, and sadly Phil Lynott didn’t look well. His face was bloated and his performance lack lustre. The concert was a disappointing, sad affair, particularly in comparison to the power and glory days of Lizzy. They played a few Thin Lizzy songs, I think “Whiskey in the Jar”, “Sarah” and “Cold Sweat” from “Thunder and Lightning”. They also performed Phil’s great solo track “Yellow Pearl” (written with Midge Ure and the theme to Top of the Pops in the early ’80s) and “”Parisienne Walkways”, which Phil wrote with Gary Moore. A live CD suggests that they may also have played covers of “Whiter Shade of Pale” and “Like a Rolling Stone”, but I don’t recall. Support came from Young Blood a NWOBHM band from Darlington.
Grand Slam’s line-up was Lynott (bass, vocals), Laurence Archer (lead guitar; ex-Stampede, Wild Horses, Lautrec), Donal ‘Doish’ Nagle (guitar; ex-The Bogey Boys),[ Robbie Brennan (drums), and Mark Stanway (keyboards; ex-Magnum).
I prefer to remember Phil as the wild rover, the cowboy, the vagabond, the Rocker, “one of the boys” that he wrote and sung about, and to think about the many magnificent Thin Lizzy performances I saw in the north east and at the Reading festival.
Phil Lynott died on 4th January 1986 (aged just 36) from heart failure and pneumonia. He had been admitted to hospital on Christmas Day, after collapsing from a drink and drug binge at his home in Surrey.
RIP Phil Lynott.
“Down from the glen came the marching men
With their shields and their swords
To fight the fight they believed to be right
Overthrow the overlords
…..They had come to claim the Emerald
Without it they could not leave”
(Emerald, Thin Lizzy, 1976)
Another sad note. Yesterday we lost another great musician, bass player and singer, Jack Bruce. I am a big fan of Jack Bruce’s music. His passing is really sad and makes me realise that we are coming to a stage where we are losing more and more of the legends who formed rock as we know it.
RIP Jack Bruce
Thin Lizzy Newcastle City Hall 20th March 1983
The replacement for Snowy White was John Sykes, from Tygers of Pan Tang. Sykes brought a heavier sound and rock axeman guitar style to Lizzy. Very much a showman, he fitted the Lizzy image and signalled a return to form for the band. The new line-up recorded Thunder and Lightning, the band’s twelfth and final studio album. But this was the beginning of the end for Lizzy and the Thunder and Lightning tour, was announced as the final farewell tour. Support for the UK tour was Mama’s Boys, a hard rock group from County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland who featured three brothers Pat, John and Tommy McManus. The tour called at Newcastle City Hall for two nights, and I went the first night.
This was very much Lizzy back on form, with Scott Gorham and John Sykes trading and sparking off each other, and Phil and the guys delivering a performance reminiscent of that great rock band of old. Definitely the best time I had seen them for some years. We all knew that this was going to be the last time we saw the band, and we made the most of it, giving them a rousing reception. Thin Lizzy played their hearts out, drawing from throughout their back catalogue. They even played Whiskey in the Jar. Stunning.
Setlist, something like: Thunder and Lightning; Waiting for an Alibi; Jailbreak; Baby Please Don’t Go; This Is the One; Angel of Death; Are You Ready; The Holy War; The Sun Goes Down; Cold Sweat; Cowboy Song; The Boys Are Back in Town; Sha La La; Emerald; Baby Drives Me Crazy; Still in Love With You
Encore: Rosalie; Whiskey in the Jar; Dancing in the Moonlight
Although I didn’t see Thin Lizzy again, I did see Phil Lynott once more. I’ll close my Lizzy memories by reporting on that concert tomorrow.
Thin Lizzy Newcastle City Hall 1981 & 1982
Thin Lizzy released Renegade, their eleventh studio album in 1981. This was the first album to credit keyboard player Darren Wharton as the fifth member of the band. The Renegade tour was scheduled to call at Newcastle City Hall on 27th October 1981. The concert was postponed and Thin Lizzy actually played the gig on 10th December 1981, supported by Sweet Savage, a metal band from Belfast, who included Dio and Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell. Lizzy went out on tour again in 1982, and were scheduled to play at Newcastle City Hall on 25th March 1982. As with the previous year, this gig was also postponed as Scott Gorham was suffering from exhaustion. Lizzy played the gig on 27th April 1982. This was the last time I saw the band with Snowy White. Snowy: “It wasn’t really my scene, my environment really… socially … we hardly met. If we were on tour I’d be coming down for breakfast and the rest of the boys would probably be coming in .. after their night out, you know. I’d meet them in the lobby, I’d be getting up for breakfast and they’d be coming in for their bed. So after a while I’d had enough. And I think after a while they weren’t too unhappy to see me go either. You know it was time. It’s just a natural thing.”
Both gigs were excellent, but as I said yesterday, I felt that the classic Lizzy years were past. I saw Lizzy once more, on their farewell tour, which I will write about tomorrow to complete my Lizzy memories.
A typical Thin Lizzy setlist during this period: Angel of Death, Renegade, Hollywood (Down on Your Luck), Waiting for an Alibi, Jailbreak, Got To Give It Up, Don’t Believe a Word, Killer on the Loose, Cowboy Song, The Boys Are Back in Town, Suicide, Bad Reputation, Are You Ready
Encore: Baby Drives Me Crazy, Rosalie
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. Support came from The Lookalikes – a power pop band from Dublin. 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: Sugar Blues, Baby Drives Me Crazy, Rosalie, Emerald
Thanks to John for the image of his Chinatown poster.
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 🙂