St Patrick's Day part 2 - Phil Lynott

March 17, 2018

People often say they remember exactly where they  were when they heard Kennedy had been shot or when Elvis died. I can certainly do the latter, as I can the deaths of AC/DC's Bon Scott and Ozzy's brilliant guitarist Randy Rhodes.

But the news that upset me most of all was when I heard that Thin Lizzy's charismatic frontman Phil Lynott had been rushed to hospital in a coma after a heroin overdose. And that's because as the story unfolded it became clear that just two weeks earlier he had charmed the pants off me, lived up to everything I  wanted  a rock idol to be - and had   told me a total pack of lies.

Phil Lynott was Ireland's and heavy rock's answer to Elvis Presley - only altogether more salacious and dangerous. Not only was he black and Irish, he was an iconic frontman, part gypsy and part pirate. His bass guitar had a mirror scratch board so that the stage lights flicked off him. Thin Lizzy's shows were as heavy and wild as any band on the circuit back then, but on tracks such as Dancing In The Moonlight and Still In Love With You Lynott conveyed true soul.

It wasn't destined to last. Thin Lizzy was a far too combustible band. It included tempestuous personnel such as Gary Moore and Brian Robertson, and drugs and alcohol were a major issue. By the early 80s it all fell apart. Lynott made solo records and worked with Gary Moore on gems such as Parisienne Walkways and Out In The Fields. He formed a new band called Grand Slam, but while they were impressive live, they struggled commercially, and Lynott's star started to fade.

Then in December 1985  I received a phone call from a public relations officer. Lynott had some big news and had agreed to do three phone interviews in the middle of the month. Was I interested?

And so it was that I spoke to a lucid and charming Phil Lynott for about half an hour. You're never quite sure about talking to your idols just in case they let you down. Phil Lynott didn't.

He had given up heroin and had been clean for six months, he said, he had been writing and recording demos for a new album that was up with the very best he had ever done, and he reeled off a list of top class rock musicians who would be playing on the album. A world tour was planned for 1986, and all was rosy in the Dublin man's world. More than rosy. 

Eleven days later, I think on Christmas Day, Lynott's estranged wife, the daughter of entertainer Leslie Crowther, who had brought his young daughters Sarah and Cathleen over to see him, rushed him to hospital, where he died 10 days later of pneumonia and organ failure. He was 36.

During those 10 days it became clear that his entire interview with me, which appeared as a major feature in The Sheffield Star, was fiction. He died in squalor. His house was dirty and full of empty takeaway boxes. He was drinking heavily and taking heroin. There were no new demos, no new album, no tour, not even a record contract. 

It still saddens me to think about it. But I still listen to Black Rose, Rosalie, Dancing In The Moonlight, The Cowboy Song, The Boys Are Back In Town, Don't Believe A Word and Bad Reputation and consider them evergreen classics. And you can make a strong argument for Live and Dangerous being the greatest heavy rock live album of all time.

That's what I'll be listening to later. And of course, they will be whiskey in the jar.  

Slainte Phil - I'm still in love with you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Email: d.roskrow@aol.co.uk

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