he legendary act Thin Lizzy was founded in Dublin, Ireland in 1969 by Phil Lynott (ex-Skid Row (Ireland)/ex-Orphanage; vocals/bass), and Brian Downey (ex-Orphanage; drums) who knew each other from many ears earlier as school mates. They would be joined by Eric Bell (ex-Dreams; guitar/vocals) and Eric Wrixon (keyboards; who left after the first 45 single). After the first single on 'Parlophone', the group relocated to London in late 1970 at the behest of their managers with a fresh 'Decca' issued contract in their hands.
Their debut albums Thin Lizzy (1971) and Shades Of A Blue Orphanage (1972) came and went without much notice, even though they managed a one-off hit for Whiskey In The Jar making a UK 6; most likely this feat was pulled off by merging modern hard rocking guitar with the traditional Irish folk lyrics (it was an Irish folk song). The Rocker was another track of note for the more hard-edged follow-up album Vegabonds Of The Western World (1973), an album that still failed to capture the song's success. At this time Bell chose to leave to be replaced by ex-Skid Row (USA) axe man Gary Moore. But Moore would leave shortly later before the subsequent tour and later joined Colosseum II, to be replaced with John Cann (ex-Atomic Rooster/ex-Bullitt; guitar) and Andy Gee (ex-Ellis; guitar), giving the act a twin guitar sound. But after the tour, they too would soon be replaced by the more permanent arrangement of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson respectively.
With all these changes it still didn't spell success for after singing a new deal with 'Virtigo' and releasing Nightlife (1974) and Fighting (1975) they were still struggling on the charts with the latter giving them only a UK 60. But 1976's Jailbreak was another matter, their live shows, along with the massive success of Boys Are Back In Town, coupled with the album being the most consistent of their career, it managed to become a transatlantic smash hit getting a 10 UK and their first US listing at 18, the hit track alone making 18 in the UK.
Several other tracks managed to muscle their way into the charts as well until Johnny The Fox was released later that same year. This album lacked the continuity with its predecessor but was nonetheless a hit at 11 UK/52 US and boasted the visceral hard rock track Don't Believe A Word. This was the album that set Thin Lizzy above the pack as something more than a basic proto-Metal act. This is also where Lynott took on some extra curricular activities in the form of The Damned's Rat Scabies, as well as ex-Sex Pistols', Paul Cook and Steve Jones (as The Greedies on the 1980 Christmas single A Merry Jingle). To cash in on the success and introduce the new fans to the old content, the 1976 "Best of..." compilation Remembering - Part 1 would be released.
Except for the 1977 Reading Festival where he was back in full form, Moore temporarily replaced Robertson when Robertson injured his hand in a fight. Bad Reputation was released the following month furnished with the hit track Dancing In The Moonlight making a 14 UK on its own while the album managed 4 UK/39 US Thin Lizzy had made their name through live shows and in 1978 they finally recorded that experience on Live And Dangerous, a record that many critics claim as one of the best live albums in rock history. The subsequent tour saw Robertson leave to form Wild Horses with Moore now holding down both spots, while Mark Nauseef took over for the absent Downey.
The 1979 set Black Rose: A rock Legend was just that, the last legendary album for Thin Lizzy. It mixed all-out Rockers alongside more traditional material and managed two more UK hit tracks-gone-single, Do Anything You Want To Do, and the tribute to Lynott's baby daughter Sarah. Moore, on the other hand, was enjoying solo success as guest vocalist on Parisienne Walkways. But within the year Moore would be out of Thin Lizzy with Lynott replacing him, with another Scotsman by the name of Midge Ure to fulfill touring obligations, but when he departed to front Ultravocals, Lynott replaced him with ex-Pink Floyd man Snowy White. During this time a "best of..." compilation, The Continuing Saga Of The Aging Orphans,was completed in 1979.
1980 saw Lynott marrying Caroline Crowther (daughter of Leslie) and releasing his own solo set Solo In Soho. The album made U.K top 30 but it failed to sell well over-all. One track contained within, Yellow Pearl, would become the theme for the TV show Top Of The Pops. But later that year Thin Lizzy would release Chinatown, the title track granting them another hit at UK 21 with the album as a whole making 7, and a follow-up album, Renegade, following in 1981 making only 38 on the same charts. It was clear their popularity was starting to wane and after a line-up shift seeing John Skyes (ex-Tygers Of Pan Tang; guitar) replace Gorham, and Darren Wharton replace Snowy White on keyboards so he could rejoin Pink Floyd, they released the slight comeback release Thunder And Lightening (1983) making them a UK 4. It was too little too late, however, as it proved to be their swansong; the band splitting shortly before the release of the 29 UK charting live album titled simply Live in 1983.
Downey and Lynott moved on to form the short-lived Grand Slam before Lynott resumed his solo career in 1985 after settling personal differences with Moore. His second album, the 1982 The Phil Lynott Album was already released, and with the help of Moore he would release the top 5 UK hit album Out In The Fields. Although that album was not a part of his official discography (being a collaboration and not a solo), the single 19 was, as was King's Call, released posthumously after his death in January of 1986 from a drug overdose.
In 1996 Sykes decided to reactivate the band, advertising the act as a tribute to Lynott's life and work. He asumed the role of lead vocals himself, and persuaded Gorham, Downey and Wharton to return. Marco Mendoza assumed Lynott's role as bass player. The act, however, would received criticism for using the Thin Lizzy name without Lynott, but the band only performed hits from Thin Lizzy's back catalogue, and did not compose any new material.
In 1997, Tommy Aldridge filled in on drums when Brian Downey was unable, and eventually became a full member when Downey decided to leave soon after. This line-up remained stable through to 2000, when the group recorded the live album, One Night Only.
In 2004, Thin Lizzy were at it again, with Sykes and Gorham recruiting ex-Angel bassist Randy Gregg, and Michael Lee (drums) with tours to follow most notable with Deep Purple. This line-up proved temporary however, with Mendoza returning in 2005, and Aldridge in 2007. By late 2007, Francesco DiCosmo has assumed bass. No matter, for in the end it didn't last and the band suffered a split in 2010 despite another attempt at a membership shift featuring Gorham with original drummer Brian Downey, Darren Wharton (keyboards), Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell, and singer Ricky Warwick of The Almighty, with Mendoza on bass guitar.
In April 2011 Campbell left amicably to rejoin Def Leppard after one final gig on May 28th. He would be replaced by Guns N' Roses guitarist Richard Fortus. Later that year, (28th of August) Damon Johnson of Alice Cooper's band would be replacing Fortus for the tour with Judas Priest; Fortus returned to tour with Guns N' Roses for the rest of the year when Johnson returned.
Full reformations would occur again in 2016 and 2019 respectively with the 2019 line-up consisting of Scott Gorham (guitars/backing vocals), Darren Wharton (keyboards/co-lead and backing vocals), Ricky Warwick (lead vocals/occasional guitars), Damon Johnson (guitars/backing vocals), Troy Sanders (bass) and Scott Travis (drums).
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Thin Lizzy at Manchester Apollo (1983). From left to right: John Sykes, Phil Lynott, Scott Gorham.
Photo by: Chris Hakkens.
CC BY-SA 2.0
|Active Years||1969-1983, 1994, 1996-2009, 2010-2013, 2016-2017, 2019|
|RRCA File Code||UC000272|