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Thin Lizzy Feature (1970-1983)

Photo Gallery - Band Lineups - Discography - Audio samples - Where Are They Now?

The Story

Obviously, much has been written about the legendary history of Thin Lizzy, who, along with U2, Van Morrison and Rory Gallagher are among the most successful Irish rock acts ever. A complete history of the band is well beyond the scope of the site and its main objective of covering bands that played the Irish ballroom circuit, but as Lizzy did get their start in the clubs, ballrooms and schools of Ireland, we feel we should cover the band, especially the early years.

Thin Lizzy's lead vocalist, songwriter, and bassist Phil Lynott started singing  with the group The Black Eagles in Dublin around 1965 when he was just 16. However, his career started in earnest as lead singer with Brush Shiels' group Skid Row in 1968. Brush had been with the Up Town Band and broke away to form his own group. Brush has often suggested that it was during this period that he taught Phil how to play bass.  During his stint with Skid Row, Phil was purely the lead vocalist and front man and was one of the biggest stars on the local Dublin beat group scene in the late sixties.

In mid 1969, Phil left the Skid Row and formed Orphanage which included Brian Downey (drums), Joe Alexander (guitar), Pat Quigley and a guest member at times, Terry Woods. 

Orphanage was a short lived band as they were approached by Eric Bell at the end of 1969. In an interview in the May 24, 1973 issue of Spotlight, Eric recounted how the band got started. "One night I went down to Belfast with Eric Wrixon (one time keyboard player with Van Morrison). After a half hour I really got into listening to the band who were playing - Orphanage." At the time Eric was looking for a bass player and drummer to form his own group after leaving the Dreams. After the gig, he approached Phil Lynott, whom he had known previously.

"I kept asking them if they knew any good drummers, but they were just shaking their heads. There were only four of us there-Phil Lynott, Brian Downey, Eric Wrixon and myself. So anyway, I said goodnight and started to walk out but Phil called me back, just turned to Brian and asked him if he fancied quitting Orphanage and getting something together with me. It was as sudden as that," he recalled. "Eric was there so he just assumed he was in it too." The name "Thin Lizzy" came about when Eric was reading a Beano or Dandy kid's comic book. "There was a robot bird in the comic named Tin Lizzy. So we just added a "h" to mess people about. So that was that," he remembered.     

Pat Egan's "Beat" column in Spotlight of February 20, 1970 described Thin Lizzy as "Eric Bell's band" as Eric, who had been lead guitarist with showband The Dreams, left them to start a new group and drafted Lynott and Downey from Orphanage and previously Sugar Shack, along with former member of Them, Eric Wrixon on keyboards (Eric had also been with Them prior to joining the Dreams). The band played their first gigs in late February, 1970, but were not immediately seen as the powerhouse they would become.

In fact, early reports were that the band was rather loose and would have to work hard to make it on the Dublin scene. Slowly, their reputation grew and at one point, Pat Egan wondered whether they might be the next "Skid Row." In fact, at the time, Skid Row (Brush Shiels, Noel Bridegman, and Gary Moore) were far and away the biggest group based in Ireland as Rory Gallagher's Taste had settled in England sometime earlier. The band toiled away on the local Dublin scene, refining their sound and were on their way to establishing themselves as the top group in Ireland when Eric Wrixon left the band in August to go to Sweden reportedly over a "dispute over music policy." In a 1974 Spotlight interview, Eric Bell said, "he went off with some Swedish chick and we were three."

The band decided not to replace their keyboard player and continued on as a power trio. The band released its first single in August, 1970, shortly after Eric's departure. The Farmer (written by Phil Lynott) was released by Parlophone records in Ireland only and is reported to have only sold a few hundred copies (which was not unusual for Irish rock group records at that time). The song was recorded in Trend Studios and sounded more like The Band than what Lizzy would eventually become.

Shortly after it's release, an article by Donall Corvin in Spotlight, lamented that, "it has no chance of getting airplays and a snowball's chance in hell of making the charts. But so what?"  Despite their lack of recording success, the band's live show went from strength to strength as Phil continued to develop his "rocker" image which was to carry the group in the future. They started to travel further a field and regularly made trips to the four corners of the country to play at teen dances, student hops and other small gigs (usually for very little money). 

In October, 1970, a report in Spotlight magazine said the band was changing management. Terry O'Neill, a seventeen year old who had been the road manager for Skid Row, had been managing the band and sold his interest to Peter Bardon and Brian Tuite. In an August 1974 Spotlight interview Phil said, "I organised the first group transfer fee in history of Irish groups. Our manager then was Terry O'Neill and Brian Tuite wanted to manage us. I arranged for Terry to get 200." Bardon and Tuite had also managed the fortunes of Skid Row before the relocated to London under manager Clifford Davis. Probably the most interesting article I have come across was one in Spotlight magazine dated January 30, 1971 in which is was reported that Decca Record Manager, Frank Rodgers, announced the band would be changing its name to Tin Lizzy, dropping the "h." The move lead to a series of advertisements and publicity sporting the name Tin Lizzy, but of course, the name did not stick.

Eric picks up the story, "We fixed a gig in Zhivago and he came in, real cool, and looking as if he was saying: Okay impress me! So we weren't really into what we were doing. Then Ditch Cassidy got up with us to jam and we began to enjoy ourselves and forget about this cat from London. Next thing we knew, he'd arranged for us to go to London the following week to record an album." Once in London, the band was earning 8 a week plus rent paid. Their operating expenses ran at below 100 a week. Phil maintained that even on those meager wages they were better off than they were in Ireland.

Now signed to Decca Records, the band released an E.P. (four track) single, New Day, and set about recording their first album. The single did little in terns of sales or publicity for the band. Their live show was still where it was all happening for Lizzy. A short time later, they released the album, Thin Lizzy, which was picked up by Radio Luxemburg's Kid Jensen, who played it in its entirety over a handful of nights and that started the ball rolling in England. The album did not originally contain the four tracks on the New Day E.P., but they were added on subsequent re-releases. The band was constantly gigging and started to build a reputation as a live act, but it was slow going, with the band learning as they went. They returned to Ireland support to Rory Gallagher in the Stadium and then to support Slade on their Irish tour.

Explained Eric, "The Slade tour helped us a lot. Chas Chandler came up and told us he dug the band but that our clothes weren't colourful enough, so we started to get into that end of things. After a while the shape throwing became automatic and the music was all we worried about."

It was late 1972 and the band were still growing their reputation when they released their second album, Shades of A Blue Orphanage, which was rushed. Said Eric, "we really weren't that happy with it. Then at a rehearsal one day we were having a break for a cuppa tea and Phil started to play Whiskey In The Jar on a Stratocaster and singing into the mic. Brian and I were just sitting there bored. Ten minutes later Phil was still going on with this thing, so we joined in." Although it started out as a joke and a bit of a laugh, the band's version of the Irish ballad stuck and they released it as a single, and the rest, as they say, is history. Whiskey in the Jar became a multi national hit for the band and put them on the musical map. At the time, they were still playing Irish ballrooms and hotels.

In 1973, the band completed their album, Vagabonds of the Western World, on which they included Jan Schelhaus on keyboards for several of the tracks, as well as using Radio Luxembourg's Kid Jensen for narration on Hero and the Madman.

An article in the January 17th, 1974 issue of Spotlight reported that Gary Moore was standing in for Eric Bell, who had "collapsed in Belfast on New Year's Eve." Chris Morrison, Lizzy's co-Manager said, "We don't expect to have Eric back on his feet for at least another fortnight." However, Eric would not return and had actually quit the band. It was announced on February 14th that Gary Moore would be his replacement. The truth of the story came out later that Eric had become uninterested in the band's new "hit single" image. He had gotten drunk earlier in the day and in the middle of the show, he recounted, "I threw my guitar in the air, kicked over my amps and walked off the stage and never came back."    

In July, 1974, Desmond Ilford interviewed Phil Lynott for Spotlight. Eric Bell had left the band at the beginning of 1974 and had been temporarily replaced by Gary Moore for the band's first tour in 1974. However, they decided to part company in May as Gary didn't seem too "into" Lizzy at the time. They hired two guitarists to replace Gary, but in Phil's words, they were "really crap." Finally after further auditions, the band added two new guitarists. Said Phil, "We've picked an 18-year-old Scottish bloke named Brian Robertson and an American guy called Scott...I can't remember his last name." The band played its first gig in Wolverhampton in July. Of course than lineup would go on to conquer the world and Phil Lynott, Brian Downey, Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham would become true superstars.          

At that point, we feel Thin Lizzy was really no longer an "Irish" band as they were headquartered in London and featured two non-Irish guitarists. Although their world wide fame took off in the mid 1970's with the release of The Boys Are Back In Town in 1975, it is really beyond the scope of our website to do justice to the band's history after they broke in the United States and across the rest of the world. Needless to say, Thin Lizzy's history as part of the Irish ballroom scene led the way for more Irish acts to come in the years that followed.

Photo Gallery

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Black Eagles (RF) Thin Lizzy - 1970

Thin Lizzy -1970

Thin Lizzy - 1970

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Thin Lizzy - 1971 (DL)

Thin Lizzy -1971

Thin Lizzy -1971

Thin Lizzy -1971

Thin Lizzy - 1971 Thin Lizzy Phil Lynott

Phil Lynott - 1971

Phil Lynott - 1971

Phil Lynott - 1971

Phil Lynott - 1972

Phil Lynott - 1972

Thin Lizzy -1972

Thin Lizzy - 1972

Phil Lynott - 1972

Phil Lynott - 1972

Thin Lizzy -1972

Thin Lizzy -1972

Thin Lizzy -1972

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Thin Lizzy - 1973

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Thin Lizzy -1973

Thin Lizzy -1973

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Thin Lizzy -1973

Thin Lizzy -1973

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Phil Lynott - 1973

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Lizzy/Skid Row - 1974

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Phil Lynott - 1975

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Thin Lizzy (LR)

Thin Lizzy - 1982

Thin Lizzy (RF) Thin Lizzy (RF) Thin Lizzy (RF) Thin Lizzy (RF) Thin Lizzy (RF)
   
Thin Lizzy (RF) Thin Lizzy (RF)

Thin Lizzy -1972

Coming Soon

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Coming Soon

Coming Soon

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Lineup Changes (more to come)
 

Years Bass / Vocals Guitar Drums Guitar Keyboards
1970 Phil
Lynott
Eric
Bell
Brian
Downey
  Eric
Wrixon
1970 Phil
Lynott
Eric
Bell
Brian
Downey
   
1974 Phil
Lynott
Gary
Moore
Brian
Downey
   
1974 Phil
Lynott
Scott
Gorham
Brian
Downey
Brian
Robertson
 
1978 Phil
Lynott
Scott
Gorham
Brian
Downey
Gary
Moore
 
1979 Phil
Lynott
Scott
Gorham
Brian
Downey
Dave
Flett
Midge
Ure
1980 Phil
Lynott
Scott
Gorham
Brian
Downey
Snowy
White
Darren
Wharton
1982 Phil
Lynott
Scott
Gorham
Brian
Downey
John
Sykes
Darren
Wharton

Discography (From the band's inception through 1976 only)

Singles:

The Farmer / I Need You
Parlophone Records - DIP.513 - August, 1970
New Day / Dublin / Down On The Farm / Old Moon Madness
Decca Records - F.13208 - August, 1971
Whiskey In The Jar / Black Boys On The Corner - #1 Irish Charts / #6 UK Charts
Decca Records - F.13355 - November, 1972
Randolph's Tango / Broken Dreams - #14 Irish Charts
Decca Records - F.13402 - April, 1973
The Rocker / Here I Go Again - #11 Irish Charts
Decca Records - F.13467 - November, 1973
Little Darling / Buffalo Gal
Decca Records - F.13507 - April, 1974
Philomena / Sha La La
Vertigo Records - 6059 111 - October, 1974
It's Only Money / Nightlife
Vertigo Records - 6059 122 - December, 1974
Rosalie / Halfcaste
Vertigo Records - 6059 124 - June, 1975
Wild One / For Those Who Love To Live
Vertigo Records - 6059 129 - November, 1975
The Boys Are Back In Town / Emerald - #1 Irish Charts / #8 UK Charts
Vertigo Records - 6059 139 - April, 1976

Albums:

Thin Lizzy
Decca Records - SKL 5082 - 1971
Shades of A Blue Orphanage
Decca Records - TXS 108 - 1972
Vagabonds of the Western World
Decca Records - SKL 5170 - 1973
Nightlife
Vertigo Records - 6360 116 - 1974
Fighting
Vertigo Records - 6360 121 - 1975
Johnny The Fox
Vertigo Records - 9102 012 - 1976

 
Audio Clips (Purposely selected from Lizzy's early recordings)

The Farmer Whiskey In The Jar The Rocker Hero & the Madman Randolph's Tango

Where Are They Now?  

Phillip Lynott - RIP: Of course, Phil continued to be one of Ireland's foremost figures in rock music internationally, mostly playing with Thin Lizzy, but also as a solo artist. He featured in Jeff Wayne's historic War of the Worlds album and also fronted rock band Grand Slam as well as several reincarnations of Lizzy. He collaborated with many musicians including Gary Moore, who had and would again play with Lizzy during their history. Phil also wrote several books of poetry and was active until his untimely death on the 4th of January 1986 at the young age of 36. He remains, along with Rory Gallagher, one of the most revered names in the history of Irish rock music.  
Eric Bell: After leaving Lizzy, Eric went through several bands including his own Eric Bell Band and with Skid Row bass player Brush Shiels in the Bell-Brush Band. In 1974 he joined with ex-Jimi Hendrix bassist Noel Redding in the Noel Redding Band which lasted through 1976, recording a couple of albums. During the last 30 years, Eric has continued to gig and record with his own Eric Bell Band, playing to large crowds across the continent and around the world. He appeared with Gary Moore in 2005 performing Whiskey in the Jar to an extremely appreciative crowd (a great DVD if you're interested).  
Brian Downey: An original member of Lizzy, Brian stayed with Phil through thick and thin for the next 13 years, playing with all the various Lizzy lineups as well as with Phil on his solo efforts. After Phil's death, he played in the tribute Thin Lizzy line-up with John Sykes, Scott Gorham, Darren Wharton and Marco Mendoza, but had been absent from subsequent Thin Lizzy touring bands. In May, 2010, Brian rejoined the Lizzy lineup and is currently touring with the band (late 2011) commemorating 25 years since Phil Lynott's death.
Eric Wrixon: Although a founder member of the band, he left before they achieved fame and success. In the years since then, Eric has toured and is often associated with reunited versions of Them, with Jim Armstrong, John Wilson, and others. In 2011, he was living in Italy and touring with a line-up including himself (vocals and keyboards), Billy McCoy (guitars), Luca Nardi (bass) and Tom Wagener (drums).
Gary Moore - RIP: After leaving Lizzy, Gary went solo, forming his own Gary Moore Band. He would later (1977) reunite with Phil and Lizzy for a short time. He continued to collaborate with Phil during the 70s and 80s with their greatest success being the single Parisienne Walkways which hit the British Top Ten in 1979. Through the next 30 years, Gary continued to tour and became one of the premiere blues guitarists in the world. Sadly he passed away, suffering a heart attack, on the 6th of February, 2011 at 58 years of age.  
Brian Robertson: Brian stayed with Lizzy until 1978 when he left and was replaced by Gary Moore (coincidentally, Brian and Scott had replaced Gary Moore after the departure of Eric Bell. He formed the group, Wild Horses which lasted a short while and then joined Motorhead for a short stint. He continues to record and tour today, mostly in Europe but was not part of the Thin Lizzy lineup which was touring in late 2011.  
Scott Gorham: Joining the band after the departure of Eric Bell, Scott stayed with the band until it's break up around 1983. He was the longest serving member of the band other than Brian and Phil. After Lizzy broke up, Scott joined Phenomena II, where he met Leif Johansen with whom he formed 21 Guns, which has released three albums. He also played spells with Asia, the Rollins Band, and Supertramp. In 1996, Scott reformed Thin Lizzy with former band members, playing various tours in tribute to Phil. After John Sykes' departure in 2009, Scott set to work on creating the greatest lineup of Thin Lizzy since Phil's passing. Rejoining him are old band mates Brian Downey and Darren Wharton.
  Many other band members came and went in the late 70's and 1980's including Darren Wharton, Snowy White, John Sykes, Midge Ure, etc. but as none of them were involved with the band which toured Ireland so extensively, we have omitted them from the site.  

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In Loving Memory of Grant Gallagher: Sept. 21, 1990 - Nov. 18, 2006