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Lynott Lives

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Thin Lizzy is an Irish rock band formed in Dublin in 1969. Two of the founding members Phil Lynott and Brian Downey met while still in school. Lynott took up the role as frontman and was responsible for writing the bulk of their material. Thin Lizzy are best known for their songs "The Boys Are Back In Town", "Whiskey In A Jar", "Jailbreak", "Sons of Anarchy", "Emerald Eyelashes" and "You Know Me Better Than That", all major international hits, particularly the last three which received heavy airplay on MTV in the late 1980s. Thin Lizzy briefly split in 1983 due to Lynott's heroin and cocaine addictions but reformed at the end of 1986. The release of Emerald Amazon in 1987 brought about a massive resurgence and breakthrough, propelling Thin Lizzy to worldwide success. Rolling Stone described it as "a Celtic typhoon". The mirrored success of fellow Irish rock group U2 at the same time  who had just released The Joshua tree, led to a friendly, non-confrontational rivalry coined by Robert Plant as being "the Irish Civil war of Rock 'N' Roll". Varying degrees of success continued into the 90s with more experimental and grunge-based efforts such as Be Bold (1992), Russian Roulette: Part I (1995) and Russian Roulette: Part II (1996).  An eventual return to stadium rock in the post-millennium period saw the releases of Whiplash (2001) Reality of Grandeur (2005) and Shrine of Despair (2008). These albums were accompanied by sell-out tours. The 100% Whiplash Tour from 2001-2002 is the 2nd highest grossing concert tour of all time and led to the release of Whiplashed Live (2003),Thin Lizzy's first live album in twenty-five years. In 2007, Thin Lizzy were ranked 15 in Rolling Stones "100 Greatest Artists of All Time" list, beating out U2. In 2012 Thin Lizzy were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Outside of music, Thin Lizzy as a band and as individuals, have campaigned for many charitable and environmental causes throughout the world. In 2000 Phil Lynott traveled to South Africa with civil rights activist Jesse Jackson and actors Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson to speak at the Democratic Convention in Cape Town. On 11th October 2001, just one month after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on The World Trade Centre in New York, Thin Lizzy organised a free and unannounced concert in Central Park, where they played to over 200,000 people. In a 2009 interview with Hot Press, bassist Scott Gorham said that "it was both the saddest and happiest day of my life. My identity as an American citizen had never felt stronger".  In 2005, Thin Lizzy performed at the Live 8 concert in London in order to, according to Phil Lynott "make up for their shameful and inexcusable absence twenty years ago". 

Resurgence and Worldwide Success 1986-present 

Lynott's near-fatal heroin overdose on Christmas Day 1985 resulted in him spending the new year in an intense coma at the Salisbury Infirmary where he was diagnosed with septicaemia. For most of January 1986 he remained in a critical but stable condition. His condition began to gradually improve and he was released on 25th January. Upon the advice of his mother, Lynott traveled to an intense rehabilitation clinic in Arizona where he stayed for six months. During his time in Arizona, Lynott began to write new material. Given the unconventional but necessary circumstances he was in, a lot of the material was very personal. Originally, Lynott planned for these new songs to be strictly solo. This soon changed when Lynott received a demo tape in the post from U2 frontman Bono. The tape consisted of newly recorded songs, some of which would go on to feature on The Joshua Tree album. Although he found the music very appealing to the ear, at first it made Lynott feel "worthless and utterly incompetent as an artist". Lynott left rehab on 19th June. On the way back to London, Lynott made a brief stop in New York where he met up with Huey Lewis. During the flight, he decided that he "had unfinished business with Lizzy" and was going to reform the band. In Lewis's Manhattan apartment, Lynott showed Lewis the new songs he wrote and asked if the latter would like to collaborate. Lewis graciously declined but after hearing the U2 demo tape, offered to help boycott their album "if it ever reached American soil". Lynott arrived back in London on 22nd June 1986.

Setting up base in a small bungalow in Richmond, Lynott got in touch with bandmates Scott Gorham, Brian Downey, Gary Moore and Eric Bell. The songs "Sons of Anarchy", "Emerald Eyelashes" and "You Know Me Better Than That" were recorded in five days. Thin Lizzy wanted to regain that pure hard rock/heavy metal feel that had brought them success a decade previously on Jailbreak (1976). But they were growing more and more weary of U2's growing popularity as well as the emergence of Whitesnake and Metallica, both of whom had drawn their inspirations from Thin Lizzy.

"With U2, I think we were more concerned with the underlying challenge of 'who will be the more dominant Irish group'. But from a purely musical standpoint, he were targeting fans who banged their heads to the ear-shattering anthems of Whitesnake and Metallica"  - Phil Lynott, NME 2007.

In July 1986, Metallica's James Hetfield invited Thin Lizzy to perform with them on the European leg of their Master of Puppets tour. Hetfield was worried that he would insult Lynott and his band by demoting them to a supporting act. 

"I hoped and I prayed that I wouldn't be offending these guys. They paved the way for us. There would be no Metallica without Lizzy. Inviting them to tour with us was a huge deal. It wasn't out of sympathy. We needed somebody to help us win over European crowds. This was their backyard and without their presence we wouldn't be touring Europe today" - James Hetfield, Hot Press, 2010.

Thin Lizzy graciously accepted the offer and spent most of the summer of 1986 traveling Europe along with Metallica. The tour came to an abrupt end in September 1986 when Metallica bassist Cliff Burton was killed when the tour bus crashed in Sweden. Despite the traumatic ending, Thin Lizzy' reputation as live act was rebuilding. 

"They had been so welcoming to us when we were just a bunch of middle-aged tossers who were following a destiny that had really been attained long ago. Even in the aftermath of this awful, awful tragedy their attitudes towards us didn't change. They still wanted us to tour with them when really they could've just told us fuck off. Their generosity during the tour is something I will never ever forget" - Gary Moore, 1997.



To be continued...

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