Major Influences Part 1 – Phil Lynott

One of the things I am asked more than any other is who have been my major influences when it comes to songwriting, so I thought it would be nice to write a series of blog posts addressing this subject. The question is where to start? So I think I should start with the first time I consciously became aware of the skill of the songwriter. For that I need to go back a number of years…

When I was 12 I asked my parents to buy me the latest album by David Bowie. I remember putting Heroes on my simple record player and listening to the opening music. I liked it, but it didn’t move me. I had loved his earlier album, Diamond Dogs, but there was a quality to his voice on Heroes that I just couldn’t get on with. I loved the songs, but wasn’t keen on the direction of the delivery. At the same time my friend had bought the new album by a band called Thin Lizzy called Fighting. He brought the album around and we played that, and Heroes over and over again (as children are apt to do with new favourite records). I still had trouble accessing Bowie’s new album, but when I heard the opening notes of Fighting I was immediately hooked.

When the first notes of Rosalie played I guess that was probably my first conscious encounter with a real guitar ‘riff’. There had been others – Blockbuster by The Sweet, Rebel Rebel by David Bowie, but there was something that shifted within me when that Lizzy guitar lick flew from my speakers. And then there were the lyrics. Within Phil Lynott’s music the lyrics and music are formed together in a vital marriage where the music holds the song, and the lyrics tell the story, but the music also acts as a kind of film score, changing here and there to emphasise and add accents where needed, but not overtly so anyone would really notice how their relationship with the song had been influenced.

My friend preferred the Bowie album, I preferred the Lizzy, so we swapped. I must have played that album to death – I still have it. Phil Lynott was a writer of real quality, his music had meaning and depth, but it also made you want to bang that head! This wasn’t something that was usual at the time. Even Ronnie Dio’s Sword and Sorcery lyrics were often confusing to me – they promised a lot, but actually when I listened hard I was often left not really understanding what he was singing about. Phil Lynott left no such grey areas, he delivered great words, and blended them with melodies that just didn’t leave you alone. My love of Thin Lizzy continued and they were the first rock band I ever saw live in 1979 on the Black Rose tour. I saw them many more times, and each time was a treat. Phil Lynott was not only a great lyricist, but also a brilliant bassist, singer, and an incredible front man and entertainer. I’m sure he also inadvertently taught me how to interact with an audience too.

I was at a rock club in Sussex the night I heard about his death, and it was on that night I realised that the golden age of rock, at least as I had known it, had died with him. After that the sounds of LA Hair Metal, Thrash and Death Metal became the major trend. But years later in my mind it is the music of Thin Lizzy that has proved its longevity. I listen to Boys are Back in Town, Waiting for an Alibi, Suicide, Black Rose – the list is endless, and they sound as fresh to my ears as they did when I was 12 years old.

So a big HENGWAH to Phil, now rockin’ out in the Otherworld with Gary Moore, and what a party I’m sure they are having!

7 responses to “Major Influences Part 1 – Phil Lynott”

  1. Down from The Glen Came the Marching Men, with their Sheilds and their Swords, to fight the fights they beleaved to be right. To overthrow the Overlords.
    Dave, ever thought Lizzy could have been your first step to wards bardship?,,,a lot of their songs were based around celtic ledgend after all.
    Alas I only got to see them compleat once,the fairwell gig at Reading, but i have since seen them at Brixton acadamy for a st paddy’s night spectial
    Phil & Gary Rest in Peace , they never did ‘Give it up’
    Be Blessed

  2. Best Phil Lynott story I heard was well before Thin Lizzy days. He approached Robin Williamson in Dublin and asked if he would like to try out some of his songs with the Incredible String Band.

    Robin told me that one …

  3. I watched the BBC4 special the other week – what a beautiful soul- kind of hard to explain why – whatever it is – he was it .
    Charisma personified and amazing songs and lyrics .

  4. I think that Thin Lizzy is one of the most underrated rock bands of that time. “Emerald” and “That Stuff”–love it; and I really am not much of a rocker.

  5. I saw Lizzy live in 73 – my 3rd gig after Uriah Heep and Pink Floyd. They were brilliant – this was around the time of Whiskey In The Jar. The opening line to Jailbreak always amused me ‘Tonight theres gonna be a jailbreak somewhere in this town’ – er… the jail perhaps???

  6. Thin lizzy’s music is still cool I first saw them on vh1 behind the Music 2002 since then I have been a huge Thin lizzy fan!
    I have live concert dvd’s and 6 Thin Lizzy’s cd’s.
    Phil Lynott is a genius, brillant frontman, Bass Player and song writer.
    Thin Lizzy’s song’s rock the Boy’s Are Back in town, Jail Break, Emerald, Massacre, Still In Love With You, Black Rose, Waiting For An Alibi, Don’t Believe a word, Holy war, Baby Please don’t go, Heart Attack, We Will be strong,, Dancing in the moonlight are some of my favourite songs.
    Thin Lizzy are a superb hard rock band they will be always Ireland’s finest band!
    Thin lizzy truely one of a kind a band’ who’s music will last for generations!

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