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In his late teens Phil joined a band called The Black Eagles with school-mate Brian Downey. After this Phil was invited by Brush Sheils into his band Skid Row. At the time Brush didn't think all that much of Phil's talents as a vocalist but he reckoned that his unique looks would add to the band's appeal. Since Brush didn't think Phil was going to cut it as a vocalist he taught him how to play bass guitar. Eventually Sheils decided that Skid Row didn't need Phil so Phil left and joined his old mate Brian Downey who was playing in a band called Sugar Shack. Sugar Shack broke up and Phil and Brian formed a band called Orphanage. After guitarist Eric Bell was introduced to Orphanage, Phil, Brian and Eric formed a new trio which they called Thin Lizzy after a comic strip character named 'Tin Lizzie' just making a slight adjustment to the spelling.
Thin Lizzy relased their first single, 'The Farmer', in Ireland in 1970. They secured a record deal with Decca and moved to England. They released their first album 'Thin Lizzy' in 1971 but it didn't achieve much success and Thin Lizzy were very much a struggling band and even had to return to Ireland for a while where they had more of a following in order to make some money. They released a second album 'Shades of a Blue Orphanage' in 1972 which also was a commercial flop. However they were soon to make a breakthrough in the form of a single 'Whiskey In The Jar'. The band had originally done it just for fun and were planning to use it as a B-side but their manager convinced them that it should be the A-side and it turned out to be a huge hit in Britain and Ireland. Their third album 'Vagabonds of the Western World' met with more success than their first two. Guitarist Eric Bell became increasingly disillusioned with the consequences of their success and left the band. He was replaced by Gary Moore in 1974 who Phil had known since Skid Row. Gary stayed with Thin Lizzy for a short stint and then left. Drummer Brian Downey was growing restless and quit the band to return to Ireland. But Phil and his manager found 2 new guitarists, Scott Gorham from California and Brian Robertson from Scotland and convinced Downey to give it another chance. The revamped Lizzy with their new twin lead guitar sound switched record labels to Phonogram and released the album Nightlife in 1974. This was followed up in 1975 by the album 'Fighting'. But it wasn't until their 6th album 'Jailbreak' in 1976 and the single 'The Boys Are Back In Town' that Thin Lizzy really broke through internationally. Their next album 'Johnny The Fox' followed in 1977.
Guitarist Brian Robertson injured his hand in a drunken brawl and the band had to cancel a U.S. tour. Gary Moore was brought back into the band to resume touring in a support slot for Queen. For the new album they were recording, 'Bad Reputation', they couldn't use Gary Moore due to red tape surrounding contract agreements so Scott Gorham played most of the guitar parts and towards the end of recording the recovered Brian Robertson came back in to make some contributions. After follow up tours and the release of the live album 'Live And Dangerous' in 1978, Robertson eventually left and Gary Moore was back in yet again.
Gary recorded his first album with Lizzy, the 1979 classic 'The Black Rose'. Eventually the excessive partying got to Moore and he left. A series of replacements followed including Midge Ure of Ultravox fame. Eventually they settled down for a while with Snowy White in the second lead guitar slot and recorded the albums Chinatown and Renegade in '80 and '81. A keyboard player, Darren Wharton was also introduced into the band. White left and was replaced by John Sykes. During the recording of their next album 'Thunder And Lightning', Scott Gorham announced he was quitting. At this time the band was almost bankrupt due to their excesses and the lack of major commercial success of the Renegade album. So a decision was made to do a final farewell tour to improve their economic situation. In 1983 Thin Lizzy set about their farewell tour which was hugely successful and following the tour they called it a day. Their final live album 'Life' was released in 1984. Phil went on to do some solo stuff and some work with Gary Moore and he started and eventually folded a new band called Grand Slam. Unfortunately towards the end of 1985 Phil Lynotts's wild lifestyle caught up. During the Christmas holidays Phil collapsed at his home in London. A bad case of the flu was suspected and he was admitted to hospital. But it turned out that Phil was seriously ill from years of abusing hard drugs including heroine. Phil died in hospital on January 4th 1986 at the age of 36. The official cause of death was recorded as multiple internal abscesses causing blood poisoning leading to kidney, liver and heart failure.
But Phil Lynott and his band Thin Lizzy will always be remembered for the great music they have left us. Phil was a great song writer with poetic leanings and had a unique voice overflowing with character. That combined with the twin lead guitar attack Thin Lizzy created thoughtful hard driving melodic rock that has stood the test of time and influenced many hard rockers as diverse as Metallica and The Smashing Pumpkins.
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