Thin Lizzy Biography

Formed in Dublin, Eire, in 1969, this fondly remembered hard-rocking outfit originally comprised Phil Lynott (Philip Parris Lynott, 20 August 1949, West Bromwich, Staffordshire, England, d. 4 January 1986, Salisbury, Wiltshire, England; vocals/bass), Eric Bell (b. 3 September 1947, Belfast, Northern Ireland; guitar), Brian Downey (b. 27 January 1951, Dublin, Eire; drums), and Eric Wrixon (b. 1947, Belfast, Northern Ireland; keyboards, ex-Them), although the latter was swiftly discarded. The remaining trio made their recorded debut on Parlophone Records in July 1970 with the ultra rare single ‘The Farmer’. After signing to Deram Records, they issued three eclectic but promising albums, none of which charted. A change of fortune occurred after the trio recorded a novelty rock version of the traditional ‘Whiskey In The Jar’. The single reached the UK Top 10 in 1973 and popularized the band’s blend of Irish folk and strident rock guitar, which had largely been buried in the progressive rock leanings of their early albums.

Thin Lizzy underwent a series of line-up changes during early 1974. Bell was temporarily replaced by Gary Moore (b. Robert William Gary Moore, 4 April 1952, Belfast, Northern Ireland), after which two more short-term guitarists were recruited, Andy Gee and John Du Cann (b. John Cann, England). The arrival of lead guitarists Brian Robertson (b. 12 February 1956, Clarkston, Scotland) and Scott Gorham (b. William Scott Gorham, 17 March 1951, Glendale, California, USA) stabilized the line-up as the band entered their most productive phase. A series of UK concerts throughout 1975 saw them make considerable headway with a more commercial hard rock sound and with Lynott reining in the poetical flourishes of his earlier lyrics. 1976 was the breakthrough year with the acclaimed Jailbreak hitting the charts. The driving macho celebration of ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ reached the UK Top 10 and US Top 20 and was voted single of the year by the influential New Musical Express.

In early 1977 Robertson was forced to leave the band owing to a hand injury following a fight and was replaced by the returning Moore. Another UK Top 20 hit followed with the scathing ‘Don’t Believe A Word’, drawn from the previous year’s Johnny The Fox. Moore then returned to Colosseum and the recovered Robertson took his place. Both ‘Dancin’ In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In The Spotlight)’ and Bad Reputation (on which Robertson only contributed to two tracks) were UK Top 10 hits and were soon followed by the excellent double album, Live And Dangerous (1978). The torturous line-up changes continued apace. Robertson left in August 1978 and joined Wild Horses. Moore returned and helped record Black Rose: A Rock Legend, but within a year was replaced by Midge Ure (b. James Ure, 10 October 1953, Cambuslang, Lanarkshire, Scotland, formerly of Slik and the Rich Kids). The following year saw the band scaling new commercial heights with the UK Top 20 singles ‘Waiting For An Alibi’ and ‘Do Anything You Want To’, both taken from Black Rose: A Rock Legend.

By late 1979, the peripatetic Ure had moved on to Ultravox and was replaced by Snowy White (b. Terence Charles White, 3 March 1948, Barnstaple, Devon, England). In early 1980, Lynott married Caroline Crowther, daughter of the television personality Leslie Crowther. After recording some solo work, Lynott reunited with Thin Lizzy for Chinatown, which included the controversial Top 10 single, ‘Killer On The Loose’. The heavily promoted compilation Adventures Of Thin Lizzy maintained the band’s standing, before White bowed out on 1981’s Renegade. He was replaced by John Sykes (b. 29 July 1959, Reading, Berkshire, England, ex-Tygers Of Pan Tang), and keyboardist Darren Wharton (b. 25 December 1962, England) also joined the line-up (he had played on the preceding Chinatown as a session musician). One more album, Thunder And Lightning, and a live document of the 1983 farewell tour followed before Lynott split up the band in the summer of 1984.

Two years later, Lynott died of heart failure and pneumonia after a drugs overdose. In May 1986, Thin Lizzy re-formed for the Self Aid concert organized in Eire by Bob Geldof, who replaced Lynott on vocals for the day. The 90s found Brian Robertson touring with tribute band, Ain’t Lizzy, while John Sykes teamed up with Gorham and Downey in 1996 to resume live work under the Thin Lizzy banner. Sykes and Gorham have continued to lead this second generation line-up, while the original band’s name remains on the lips of many young groups as a primary influence.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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