Remembering the Rocker

Mad Mark After Dark, the man who hates everything except the real thing.

In 1948, Philomena Lynott moved to England to find a job. She fell in love and got pregnant by a black man named Cecil Paris. The couple did not wed. So Philomenda decided to go back to her home in Dublin, Ireland to have her baby.

Philip Paris Lynott was born on August 20, 1949. Due to financial problems and a failing economy in Ireland at the time, Philomena wasn't able to care for her child. She gave her baby to her mother to raise so that she could find a job to support her family. Philomena moved back to England because it was easier to get work there.

Phil was raised in a small suburban town called Cromlin, part of Dublin, Ireland. Growing up as the only black child in his whole town and in his all-boys Catholic school wasn't particularly easy on him. Between all of his fighting for his rights, Phil made a friend who would help him through most of his personal and professional life. His name was Brian Downey.

While in school, Phil developed three deep passions that would totally shape and mold his extrememly short but meaningful life. His first passion was a strong interest in Irish folklore, especially in the legendary Irish warrior, Cuchulainn. This hero's story was that he did not have a true father. It was foretold that his life would be short, but his deeds would live on forever. Phil saw himself in this Irish legend. and would place himself in Cuchulainn's positiion throughout his entire life.

His next passion was a strong connection to the American Indian. He felt their despair and heard their cries in his nightmares. In his later life, he became friends with many Native Americans and took part in their cause. He was a true believer in Native American Rights.

Phil's life's work was carving out his path to greatness, and and that was his third passion. He had a true emotional and spiritual love for Rock-n-Roll music. Phil idolized rock legends Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Presley, but felt a huge bond with American blues performers like Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. These legends inspired him to play the music he played.

Phil joined his first band, called The Black Eagles, with his childhood friend and drummer Brian Downey in 1967. They played all throughtout Dublin, but the band was short lived. The next band that he joined was with his other friend, guitarist Gary Moore in 1968. That band was called Skid Row and he lasted an even shorter time with them .

In 1969, Phil decided to play bass guitar and form his own band with Brian Downey on drums. They ended up getting guitarist Eric Bell to join them, calling the band, Thin Lizzy. The band's name was based on an old Irish comic book called Tin Lizzie. The music was a mix of American Blues, and Rock-n-Roll crossed with traditional Irish folk music.

Phil decided to move the band to London to become more successful. He suffered from a terrible case of home sickness. Thin Lizzy played all over England and the reputation of this band grew, which got them signed to the London/ Decca label in 1970. They released their first album entitled Thin Lizzy in 1971. But it wasn't the record that sold well; it was the "B" side of their single Black Boy on the Corner, that gave them their first hit. The song was something they didn't even want to release in the first place, an old Irish folk song done as a hard drivin' rock version. The song was called Whiskey in the Jar, and it reached number six on the UK charts, and stayed in the charts for eight weeks during 1972.

The band played their hit single on all the popular European television programs like The Beat Club and The Old Gray Whistle Test. Phil savored his first taste of major success by purchasing a new Fender Precision Bass guitar, which became his signature instrument.

But unfortunately, their next three singles didn't have that same spark as Whiskey in the Jar did. This line recorded two more albums for London/Decca - Shades of a Blue Orphanage, in mid-1972 and Vagabonds of the Western World in early 1973. Eric Bell left the band mid-way through their '73 tour of Belfast. He had developed a drug and alcohol problem during the past few years and it finally got the better of him. He was briefly repaced by old friend and and former bandmate Gary Moore to complete the rest of the tour.

In 1974, Phil decided that he never wanted to be in the position of not having a guitar player, so instead of getting just one, he got two lead guitarists. The first player to join the band was California-born Scott Gorham. The second Guitartist was Glascow, Scottland native Brian Robertson.

The new and improved Thin Lizzy signed a major record deal with Mercury/ Vertigo and released their new album in 1974, called Nightlife. The record didn't do as well as they hoped. But their live shows were explosive - they were what legends are made of and that was what they became.

Their next album, in my opinion their masterpeice. It was the first Thin Lizzy record that I ever bought. If I had to describe Thin Lizzy, I would say go out and get the Fighting album, which came out in 1975, and listen to it good. You'll get an idea of what a true Hard Rock band should sound like. The album was a mix of heavy tunes like Suicide, Fighting My Way Back to You and Ballad of a Hard Man to sweet songs like Wild One, Spirit Slips Away and Freedom Song.

Fighting did nothing for them on the American or British charts, but their next album was their hit. It was released in 1976. It was Jailbreak. Their first single off the record was The Boys are Back in Town and it peaked on the U.S. charts at number twelve. Thin Lizzy finally toured America, opening for Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow in 1976. The album hit the top ten on both sides of the Atlantic and stayed there for over ten weeks. Success was sweet for Phil. He truly loved America, but unfortunately success in the U.S. was short.

During Thin Lizzy's biggest tour ever, their luck started to sour when Phil came down with a deadly case of hepatitis. Their '76 tour came to a complete stop.

The next few years in Thin Lizzy were not happy ones. Their next two records, Johnny the Fox (1977) and Bad Reputation (1978) didn't capture the American public like Jailbreak had, even though they opened for Rock-n-Roll's royalty, Queen on their 1977 tour all over the U.S.. America's interests were more in stupiduty than in real Rock-N-Roll. All their winter shows were postponed due to a fist fight. Brian Robertson injured his hand during a drunken brawl on their '78 tour. Brian was fired and replaced by old bandmate Gary Moore to complete the rest of the tour.
In my opinion Scott Gorham/ Brian Robertson were the best Thin Lizzy lineup that Phil put together. It was the perfect twin lead guitar sound ever played to this day. This feat has been attempted by many, many bands unsuccessfully.

Drinking and drugs became more heavily used on their '78 tour. Phil started a deadly addiction to Heroin.

With Gary adding more Irish blood into the mix, the band released Black Rose. Phil wrote a song for the new love in his life, his daughter Sarah. He also wrote a song about his current demons called, Got to Give It Up. Along the lines of their first hit, Whisky in the Jar came the song RÓisin Dubh (Black Rose), A Rock Legend about his Irish folk hero Cuchulainn

During the next few years, Phil released a few more Thin Lizzy albums, Chinatown (1980) and Renegade (1981) with new guitarist Snowy White and keyboardist Darren Wheaton. He also released his first solo album, called Solo in Soho. Phil got married on February 14, 1980 to Caroline and they had one more child, a daughter named Cathleen.

Thunder and Lightening was their thirteenth and final album. Together with former Tygers of Pan Tang guitarist John Sykes.They played their last shows at the Reading Festival in August of 1983. He put together a new band with drummer Brian Downey, called Grand Slam, but nobody cared. Thin Lizzy was Phil's band and that's all that mattered.

On Decmeber 25, 1985 Phil became extremely ill and was taken to a hospital for drug and alcohol rehabilitation by mother Philomena and ex-wife Caroline, but it was too late. Philip Paris Lynott passed away on January 4, 1986. It was a sad day for Rock-n-Roll.

My opionon on Phil's death is that when the band broke up, his marriage was breaking up at the same time. I think that he died of a broken heart, not just from his years of drug abuse. He was a true Rock-n-Roller who wrote music from his heart and soul. His voice could make you laugh and the same time. Unfortunately when Phil died, Rock-n-Roll died with him. He was one of the few innovators in rock music. He took the music past where he found it, and created something new and different, which inspired the early eighties New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Iron Maiden was especially influenced by Thin Lizzy with its twin lead guitar sound of Adrian Smith and Dave Murray. I think that they were the only band that truly did the twin lead guitar sound justice. No other band has been able to cover the innovative sound that was masterminded by Phil. Other bands influenced by Thin Lizzy's sound from the early eighties were the Tygers of Pan Tang and the ever so popular Def Leppard. These bands were never able to take their music and performance to that level. The problem is that today's Underground so-called Hard Rock scene, which claim to be inspired by Thin Lizzy and their double lead guitar sound are just poor copies of this great band. None of these bands could possibly write with the same soul and passion that Phil had. I could never describe their music and style to anyone who asked what they sounded like. Isn't that what Rock-n-Roll is supposed to be about, or have we forgotten what originallity is supposed to be?

I will never forget Philip Lynott for his effect on my life. He made me realize that any kind of music can be soulful, and without soul. there is no music, no matter what. The man wrote music and lyrics like they were epic poems. There's lots of examples. Give a listen to songs like Emerald, off of Jailbreak, Genocide: Killing of the Buffalo, from Chinatown and the sweet, sorrowful, Spirit Slips Away, from Fighting. Those are some of my personal favorites. I have a hell of a lot more songs that come to mind, but this article is already long enough. The best tribute to Phil is to listen to his work yourself.

So I write these words to Phil which come straight from my heart on the anniversary of his death.

I will always remember your flame
As your spirit slipped away
I felt your tears and pain through your song
My old friend the Rocker, the Vagabond
The Warrior,and the Renegade
As the sun goes down
We'll keep your memory alive and the flame burning bright
For you my old friend -the Rocker.

Back to Mark After Dark