You already know where this is going... you’ve all seen the posters, listings etc... - every so often we pass by some mention of a band, only to discover the small print that says “the Australian” or “the ultimate (band name of your choice) experience”..... and I’m kinda numb to this... I can’t bring myself to actually say anything negative about it because it has very little to do with my life. The primordial ooze is prone to lots of stuff I find derisory, but it’s a waste of fuel challenging the logic of it all.
There are however, certain instances which are just too bizarre to ignore and one of them is the fact that Thin Lizzy are touring. Thin Lizzy to the best of my knowledge was a great blues based rock band that formed in Dublin in ‘69/’70 band with a line up of Brian Downey, Eric Wrickson (for about 4 minutes), Eric Bell and Philip Lynott. And like all popular soap operas none of these people are in the current cast. This band made 3 albums and a handful of eps - some of them stunning and some of them mediocre (in a cheesy but loveable sort of way) - but it was THEIR music. Eric Bell, the finest axemonger the band would ever have, got a bit fried by the old drink/drugs thing and opted out after “Vagabonds of The Western World”. The remaining core of Downey and Philo eventually found 2 other guitarists.... and the rest is common knowledge - cowboys, knife fights, great tunes, shit lyrics, injecting heroin into your foot so yer ma won’t find out...
.....THIS BAND IS NOT THIN LIZZY......
This overhaul tactic is done all the time to varying degrees of success. When Faith No More announced that Chuck Mosley had been booted out, I remember thinking “there goes another great band down the tubes”... nobody reading this needs to be told that the exact opposite was the case. Some bands thrive on a core member (often the singer) and a revolving door membership. This applies to everyone from Social Distortion to Bad Manners to the UK Subs to Van Morrison to Poison Idea and is not necessarily criminal..... I’m sure it’s detriment to survival in many cases.
We all know the phrase “If it ain’t broke , don’t fix it” .... and recently added to the world of lexical witticisms is “If it ain’t broke, get a screwdriver and make pock marks in it, shit on it from a height and generally beat out any life that may remain”. I can see where this all came about though.... It’s a formula that was applied to scriptwriting to get a second hour for Terminator 2 and Rocky’s 2 thru 5 - human nature to surf the crest of an accepted formula, but just like remaking THE ITALIAN JOB serves no mortal purpose, then it stands to reason that Scott Gorham’s Thin Lizzy serves even less purpose (except maybe if you’re one of those banker bikers with a red shouldered leather jacket, Mick Wall style long hair and Gary Moore records who doesn’t really count for anything either).
How a line-up of John Sykes and Scott “The horse” Gorham and two gimps I don’t know the names of has anything to do with the people I mentioned earlier, I’ll never know. By this logic I may as well get out bed in a creative mood tomorrow morning and decide to reform Jimi Hendrix with a few people who I know can play those songs. We’ll spend a month jamming and then do Midnite At The Olympia to a couple of thousand sad suburban drunks who don’t know any better but have money that they’re desperate to spend.
There’s no doubting the roll Scott Gorham played in the band but the reality of the matter still speaks for itself - If this was Thin Lizzy, they’d be playing Slane Castle with the Chilli Peppers and the Hives supporting, not in an old Cinema like the Ambassador to 1500 people with no life.
While drinking in a field when I was about 15 (as you’re generally prone to doing at that age under the influence of the devil’s music), a friend of mine informed me that his aunt had cleared out her attic and given him 2 records. One was Pink Floyd (Meddle or Dark Side ... can’t remember which exactly) and the other was what he described as a crap Thin Lizzy record which didn’t have Jailbreak or Waiting For An Alibi or any of their hits on it. He couldn’t remember the name of it but explained that there was a broken down car on the cover, that it just said THIN LIZZY and nothing else, and that I could have it for the price of a 2 Litre, but that he was keeping the Pink Floyd record. At this point, I had never seen the first album (pre CD reissues) but knew exactly what it was and took advantage of his ignorance. When you’re that age it’s easy to be put off by the naff poetics of “The Friendly Ranger At Clontarf castle”, but this album becomes one that many lifelong lizzy fans cherish and Eric Bell’s guitar work in particular simmers throughout, surfacing for the odd onslaught, but remaining refined. Of course anyone familiar with the Bell will be well aware that when he rocked out, all the subsequent Lizzy guitarists together couldn’t match him. Had he remained with the band it would have been interesting to have him paired up with either Snowy White or Robbo...
.....THIS MAN IS NOT THIN LIZZY......
By the time NITELIFE came trundling along with the new Duo of Gorham and Robbo, the dip in quality was glaringly obvious.... It took them two albums to get back up to standard, and even then, the classic Irish bluesy Lizzy was replaced with a heavier American influence. People talk about Lizzy being quintessentially Irish, but it seems like a pointless exercise if you’re an Irish band copying a US style - Gorham, a yank came straight out of the Allman brothers school of axe. This isn’t to say that Thin Lizzy made bad records from here on - Far from it, but Scott Gorham, Snowy White, John Sykes, Brian Robertson, Darren Wharton, Gary Moore and Midge Ure were essentially very privileged passengers. They all did a good job... sometimes a marvellous job... but with someone like Philo at the helm, you let the natural leaders take their place and do what you’re there to do.
Imagine how laughable it would have been if Blondie had given in to pressure from Gary Valentine and let him share lead vocal duties!! Recently, Dave Lee Roth said that when Van Halen get inducted into the Rock’n’Roll hall of fame, he’ll be able to turn to Alex and Eddie Van Halen and Michael Anthony and say of the classic Van Halen for which they’re being recognised - “We were there and it was great” before turning to Sammy Hagar and saying “You weren’t there!”.
Maybe my point is that Scott Gorham was there for a substantial time but was only a small part of the equation that made Lizzy a great band. Look at what currently tours as the Misfits... I have heard them humourously referred to as the Only Jerry band and RaMisFlag. It’s not only insulting to anyone who ever bought the records, but it’s spitting in the face of the band themselves as they existed in their original state and unravelling years of creativity with soiled grubby fingers.
We all have our opinions on bands who reform because their solo careers flop. But having seen various examples of this over the years, I know not to generalise - one instance that stands out is seeing the Undertones with the singer they currently have... Who needs that other amphibian fuckwit anyway... if you’ve ever seen footage of the Undertones playing circa ‘81, you’ll understand that Fergal Sharkey has not only been replaced well, but surpassed in many ways. It was an inspired move for Black Sabbath to get Faith No More’s drummer in the absence of Bill Ward. It was equally thoughtful for the Stooges to bring Mike Watt on board. In the case of the Sex Pistols, much as they all hate Glen Matlock, they’re aware that he’s necessary in order for it to actually be the Pistols. This at least shows that the band has a bit of respect for the package they’re reselling to the public whether it be for nostalgia, money, drugs or to prove a point to themselves.
.....THIS IS THIN LIZZY......(!!!)
Scott Gorham will of course claim that he means no disrespect - we’ll get the line that the people want the music and the music is bigger than anything and I’m sure he doesn’t really care who he’s offending as he sells out medium sized venues worldwide...
....But the fact remains that this is NOT Thin Lizzy.... and having Philo’s Ma on stage to wave at the audience and thank them doesn’t count. It’s not even a half arsed attempt... let it go...... We’ve heard the records... you can obviously play ..... go write your own fucking songs.