A Rockapaedia Obituary
Band: Thin Lizzy
Phil Lynott died aged thirty-six on 4th January 1986 in a hospital's intensive care unit. The cause was pneumonia and heart failure due to septicaemia
and his funeral was held at St Elizabeth's Church, Richmond, Surrey, UK on 9th January 1986, with most of Thin Lizzy's ex-members in attendance, followed by a second service at Howth Parish Church on 11th January. He was buried in St Fintan's Cemetery, Sutton, Dublin.
Phil had collapsed on 25th December 1985, at his home in Kew, London, UK. where he was discovered by his mother, who was not aware of his dependence on heroin. She contacted Phil's wife Caroline, who knew about it and immediately identified the problem as serious. After Caroline drove him to a drug clinic at Clouds House in East Knoyle, near Warminster,Wiltshire, he was taken to Salisbury Infirmary where he was diagnosed as suffering from septicaemia. Although he regained consciousness enough to speak to his mother, his condition had worsened by the start of the new year.
Phil Lynott's funeral was held at St Elizabeth's Church, Richmond on 9th January 1986, with most of Thin Lizzy's ex-members in attendance, followed by a second service at Howth Parish Church on 11th January. He was buried in St Fintan's Cemetery, Sutton, Dublin, Republic of Ireland.
Born in England and raised in Ireland, Phil Lynott always considered himself to be Irish. His friend and Thin Lizzy bandmate Scott Gorham said in 2013 that Phil was so proud of being Irish and that no matter where he went in the world, if we were talking to a journalist and they got something wrong about Ireland, he'd give the guy a history lesson because it meant a lot to him. In the early 1980s, Phil purchased several properties in Howth, County Dublin, one of which, White Horses, was a 50th birthday present for his mother.
On 14th February 1980, Phil Lynott married Caroline Crowther, a daughter of British comedian Leslie Crowther. He met her when she was working for Tony Brainsby in the late 1970s. They had two children: Sarah, born 19th December 1978 and Cathleen born 29th July 1980. The marriage fell apart during 1984 after Phil Lynott's drug use escalated. Phil Lynott also had a son, born in 1968, who had been put up for adoption.
Phil Lynott was a passionate football fan, and a keen Manchester United supporter. He was good friends with United and Northern Ireland star George Best, and the pair regularly socialised at the Clifton Grange Hotel. Phil Lynott later became a shareholder of the club.
Phil Lynott was introduced to music through his uncle Timothy's record collection, and became influenced by Tamla Motown and The Mamas & the Papas. He joined his first band, the Black Eagles in 1965 as a lead singer, playing popular covers in local clubs around Dublin. He attended the Christian Brothers School in Crumlin, where he became friends with Brian Downey.
Phil Lynott then left the family home and moved into a flat in Clontarf, where he briefly joined the group Kama Sutra. It was in this band that he learned his frontman skills, and worked out how to interact with an audience. In early 1968, he teamed up with bassist Brendan 'Brush' Shiels to form Skid Row. Downey was not interested in Shiels' request to be the drummer, so the job went to Noel Bridgeman. The band signed a deal with Ted Carroll, who would later go on to manage Thin Lizzy, and played a variety of covers including "Eight Miles High", "Hey Jude" and several numbers by Jimi Hendrix. Because Phil Lynott did not play an instrument at this point in his career, he instead manipulated his voice through an echo box during instrumental sections. He also took to smearing boot polish under his eyes on stage to draw attention to himself, which he would continue to do throughout Lizzy's career later on, and regularly performed a mock fight with Shiels onstage to attract the crowd. In mid 1968, guitarist Bernard Cheevers quit to work full-time at the Guinness factory in Dublin, and was replaced by Belfast-born guitarist Gary Moore.
Phil Lynott and Downey quickly put together a new band called 'Orphanage', with guitarist Joe Staunton and bassist Pat Quigley, playing a mixture of original material alongside covers of Bob Dylan, Free and Jeff Beck. Still learning the bass, Phil Lynott restricted himself to occasional rhythm guitar alongside singing lead.
At the end of 2006 a number of Skid Row and Orphanage demo tapes featuring Phil Lynott were discovered. These were his earliest recordings and had been presumed lost for decades.
Towards the end of 1969, Phil Lynott and Brian Downey were introduced to guitarist Eric Bell via founding member of Them. Deciding that Bell was a better guitarist, and with Phil Lynott now confident enough to play bass himself, the four formed Thin Lizzy. The name came from the character "Tin Lizzie" in the comic The Dandy, which in turn came from the nickname for the Ford Model T car. The "h" was deliberately added to mimic the way the word "thin" is pronounced in a Dublin accent. Phil Lynott later discovered Henry Ford's slogan for the Model T, "Any colour you like as long as it's black", which he felt was appropriate for him. Wrixon was felt by the others to be superfluous to requirements and left after the release of the band's first single, "The Farmer" in July 1970.
During the band's early years, despite being the singer, bassist and chief songwriter, Phil Lynott was still fairly reserved and introverted on stage, and would stand to one side while the spotlight concentrated on Bell, who was initially regarded as the group's leader. During the recording of the band's second album, Shades of a Blue Orphanage in 1972, Phil Lynott very nearly left Thin Lizzy to form a new band with Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Paice, called Baby Face. It lasted a week, then Phil came back as if nothing had happened. He wanted to be the leader of his own band, not the singer in someone else's. Due to being in dire financial straits, Lizzy did, however, soon record an album of Deep Purple covers under the name Funky Junction. Phil Lynott did not sing on the album as he felt his voice was not in the same style as Ian Gillan.
Towards the end of 1972, Thin Lizzy got their first major break in the UK by supporting Slade, then nearing the height of their commercial success. Inspired by Noddy Holder's top hat with mirrors, Phil Lynott decided to attach a mirror to his bass, which he carried over to subsequent tours. On the opening night of the tour, an altercation broke out between Phil Lynott and Slade's manager Chas Chandler, who chastised his lack of stage presence and interaction with the audience, and threatened to throw Lizzy off the tour unless things improved immediately. Phil Lynott subsequently developed the onstage rapport and stage presence that would become familiar over the remainder of the decade.
Thin Lizzy's first top ten hit was in 1973, with a rock version of the traditional Irish song "Whiskey in the Jar". However, follow up singles failed to chart, and after the departure of Eric Bell, quickly followed by Moore replacing him, and briefly Downey, led Thin Lizzy to near collapse in mid 1974. It was not until the recruitment of guitarists Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson, and the release of Jailbreak in 1976, that Thin Lizzy became international superstars on the strength of the album's biggest hit, "The Boys Are Back in Town". The song reached the top 10 in the UK, No. 1 in Ireland and was a hit in the US and Canada. However, while touring with Rainbow, Phil Lynott contracted hepatitis and the band had to cancel touring.
Phil Lynott befriended Huey Lewis while his band, Clover, was supporting them on tour. Lewis was impressed with Phil Lynott's frontman abilities, and was inspired to perform better, eventually achieving commercial success in the 1980s. Phil Lynott's writing was influenced by the band's US touring, including "Cowboy Song" and "Massacre", and he had a particular affinity for Los Angeles.
Having finally achieved mainstream success, Thin Lizzy embarked on several consecutive world tours. The band continued on Jailbreak's success with the release of a string of hit albums, including Johnny the Fox in 1976, Bad Reputation in 1977, Black Rose: A Rock Legend in1979, and the live album 'Live and Dangerous' in 1978. However, the band was suffering from personnel changes, with Brian Robertson being replaced temporarily by Gary Moore in 1976, and then permanently the following year.
By the early 1980s, Thin Lizzy were starting to struggle commercially, and Phil Lynott started showing symptoms of drug abuse, including regular asthma attacks. After the resignation of longtime manager Chris O'Donnell, and Scott Gorham wanting to quit, Phil Lynott decided to disband Thin Lizzy in 1983. He had started to use heroin by this stage in his career, and it affected the band's shows in Japan when he was unable to obtain any. He managed to pick himself up for the band's show at the Reading Festival and their last ever gig, with Phil Lynott as frontman, in Nuremberg that September.
In 1978, Phil Lynott had began to work on projects outside of Thin Lizzy. He was featured in Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, singing and speaking the role of Parson Nathaniel on "The Spirit of Man". He performed sessions for a number of artists, including singing backing vocals with Bob Geldof.
Phil Lynott took a keen interest in the emergence of punk rock in the late 1970s, and subsequently became friends with various members of the Sex Pistols, The Damned and Geldof's band The Boomtown Rats. This led to him forming an ad-hoc band known as "The Greedies". The band started playing shows in London during Lizzy's downtime in 1978, playing a mixture of popular Lizzy tracks and Pistols songs recorded after John Lydon's departure. In 1979, The Greedies recorded a Christmas single, "A Merry Jingle", featuring other members of Thin Lizzy as well as the Pistols' Steve Jones and Paul Cook.
In 1980, though Thin Lizzy were still enjoying considerable success, Phil Lynott launched a solo career with the album, Solo in Soho which was a Top 30 UK album and yielded two hit singles that year; these were: "Dear Miss Lonelyhearts" and "King's Call". The latter was a tribute to Elvis Presley, and featured Mark Knopfler on guitar. His second solo venture, The Philip Lynott Album in 1982 was a chart flop, despite the presence of the single "Old Town". The song "Yellow Pearl" in 1982 was a Nunber 14 hit in the UK and became the theme tune to the BBC's Top of the Pops show.
In 1983, following the disbanding of Thin Lizzy, Phil Lynott recorded a rock'n'roll medley single, "We Are the Boys (Who Make All the Noise)" with Roy Wood, Chas Hodges and John Coghlan. Phil regularly collaborated with former bandmate Moore on tracks including the singles "Parisienne Walkways", a Number eight UK hit in 1979 and "Out in the Fields", a number five UK hit in 1985, his highest-charting single). In 1984, Phil formed a new band, Grand Slam, with Doish Nagle, Laurence Archer, Robbie Brennan and Mark Stanway. This band toured The Marquee and other clubs, but suffered from being labelled a poor version of Thin Lizzy and split up at the end of the year due to a lack of money and Phil Lynott's increasing addiction to heroin.
During 1983–85, Phil Lynott co-wrote songs with British R&B artist Junior Giscombe, although nothing was officially released and most remain as demos. However, one song, "The Lady Loves to Dance", was mastered with producer Tony Visconti and nearly released before being pulled by the record company, Phonogram. Phil Lynott was particularly upset about not being asked to participate in Live Aid, which had been organised by his two friends, Geldof and Ure, the latter of whom had briefly stood in as a guitarist for Thin Lizzy. Geldof later said this was because the Band Aid Trust could only accommodate time for commercially successful artists selling millions of albums.
Phil Lynott's last single, "Nineteen", co-written by Laurence Archer and Mark Stanway and produced by Paul Hardcastle, was released a few weeks before his death. It bore no relation to the producer's chart-topping single of the same title some months earlier. Throughout December 1985, Phil Lynott promoted "Nineteen", performing live on various television shows. The same month, he gave his final interview in which he promulgated his possible plans for the near future; these included more work with Gary Moore and even the possibility of reforming Thin Lizzy.