Hopefully you’ll have checked out the new Phil Lynott shirt that we’ve just put up on Saltyrockz by now. Lynott died 23 years ago, on January 4, 1986, so it seems an appropriate time to pay tribute to the Dublin Cowboy.
I never got to interview Lynott during my time writing for Kerrang!, so I didn’t know the fella at all. But his death from drug and alcohol addiction hit me hard. Lynott was 36, I was 21, and there was a whole world between us. Lynott had a mansion in Kew. I was living in a bedsit in Birmingham. He had the cash to indulge all his vices. I didn’t have a pot to piss in. Given the way things worked out maybe I was the lucky one…
Whatever his failings as a man, though, I unequivocally loved Phil Lynott as an artist. His group Thin Lizzy were everything I was looking for in a rock band and Phil was their undisputed leader. With Lynott grinning and gurning at the front of the stage and flashing his chrome scratch plate at all and sundry, Lizzy were incredibly raw and exciting, yet sensitive and melodic at one and the same time. Plus guitarist Scott Gorham had the longest hair I’d ever seen in rock, which counted for a lot at a time when the hair wars were still being fought on a daily basis. How the man could ever sit down on the crapper without his hair getting either tangled up in his arse or doing an impromptu floor-sweeping job I’ll never know. It must have been a devil of a job keeping all that straightness under control. I was in awe of Gorham’s dedication to the cause, while wondering how on earth he ever found the time to practise his playing with all that thatch to cope with!
People talk about Lynott’s pivotal role in breaking down barriers. He was, after all, a black man playing what is essentially a music practised in the main by white folk. I never saw it that way, though. Lynott’s colour was never a topic of conversation – at least not amongst the crowd I hung with. His ridiculously tight leather trousers. His Clark Gable ‘cad’ moustache. His chocolate-smooth singing voice that could deliver a rock ballad like no-one else. We’d gob on about that all night long. But the fact that he was black never seemed important. Who gave a shit? The man could rock.
I got myself caught up in a wee bit of controversy not long after Phil died. I was interviewing Motor City Madman Ted Nugent on the phone from the London headquarters of Kerrang! late one night and we got onto the subject of Lizzy and Lynott. Ted – a notoriously clean-living rock star and a man who was as hygienic in his outlook as Phil was hedonistic – really went off on one. After praising Lynott’s artistry he then pilloried his lifestyle remorselessly. The quote which caused all the kerfuffle was when Ted called Lynott a junkie and said something which I now can’t print, being more au fait with the laws of libel these days and clearly no longer in possession of a tape that was recorded over 20 years ago! Outrage ensued as irate Lizzy fans swamped the mag with letters and Ted quickly backtracked by calling me a dirty rotten liar, saying he’d never said any such thing. Naughty old Ted. I don’t hold it against Detroit’s finest son, of course. How can you not love a lunatic who has a hydraulic lift in his garden the better to shoot wildlife with? But no-one will ever convince me that Phil Lynott was ever anything less than a golden gift to rock music and someone for whom there will always be a special place in my heart.
HoJo rocked as a top journalist on legendary UK metal magazine
Kerrang! and now runs a way-cool rock T-shirt site at www.saltyrockz.com.