Thin Lizzy, 1978, Brian Robertson, Phil Lynott, Scott Gorham, Brian Downey, drums

Nashville talents takes on Thin Lizzy once again when Jimmy The Weed rocks tomorrow night, June 30th at Mercy Lounge down on Cannery Row.

Black Rose at The 5 Spot, Photo- Steve Cross

This will be the third incarnation of a Thin Lizzy tribute in Nashville over the last few years. The first was a group put together from some local talent called Black Rose, who did a great set at The 5 Spot in 2010, with bass player, Justin Taylor, a dead-on, unimaginable representation with the look, voice and style of Phil Lynott, in the same way as some of the best Jim Morrison acts like Wild Child that used to do his thing out in L.A.

The next Thin Lizzy throw down was at Mercy Lounge on Saint Patty’s Day in 2011. This turned into a little bit of a “well-intentioned” mess. It was suppose to be two bands and only one showed and they only knew a few Thin Lizzy songs, just enough to satisfy a real Irish night of rock. The best song they did was “Johnny” off of Johnny The Fox, which I had never actually seen Thin Lizzy perform.

Jimmy The Weed, was an actual British Gangster, who has written an autobiography that was the inspiration behind the Thin Lizzy song, “Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed.” The album was somewhat of a rock opera with some songs about “Johnny” weaved throughout the record.

I saw Thin Lizzy, or rather met Thin Lizzy, on the Johnny The Fox Tour. They were out on the road opening for Queen, who had a big radio hit, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” from their current album, A Night At The Opera.

I was really looking forward to the show as Thin Lizzy and Queen were two of my favorite bands at the time. The day before the show, it was announced that Queen would not be at the Selland Arena show in Fresno, California in 1977. Freddie Mercury had some health problems.

I was afraid Thin Lizzy was going to cancel, but, the promoter made a radio announcement that Thin Lizzy would go on with Sammy Hagar (a perennial Fresno favorite) opening. One could either go to the show or get their money back. The arena was about 85% full instead of a sell-out with then openers, Thin Lizzy headlining.

My friend Bob Martin had managed to get a photo with Ritchie Blackmore when his new band, Rainbow had come to town, by going down to the Fresno Hilton after school to see if the band would check in and sure enough they did.

Brad talking with Scott Gorham, Thin Lizzy, 1976, Selland Arena, Fresno, CA

Bob was sure we could do the same thing and so there we were, High School Sophomores, hanging out at The Fresno Hilton when the members of Thin Lizzy checked in. We recognized Phil Lynott and Scott Gorham right away, but no sign of Brian “Robbo” Robertson. It turned out the other guitarist for that tour was Gary Moore, who we had never heard of. If only we had known. I have a photo at the hotel where Gary Moore is standing behind Phil.

Well, Thin Lizzy invited us to show up for sound check in a half hour and we did. I got a few shots with my Kodak Instamatic Camera at sound check.

Backstage at Selland Arena, Fresno, CA, with Sammy Hagar

We also met Sammy Hagar and he invited us in for 15 minutes or so to hang with his band that at the time featured Denny Carmassi, drums, Bill “The Electric” Church, bass, who both played with Sammy Hagar in Montrose and a lead guitarist named Gary Pihl, who looked just like Tom Scholz in Boston and in fact ended up playing in Boston after Sammy Hagar joined Van Halen.

Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore years, Scott, Gary Moore, Not Brian Downey, probably in Australia, and Phil Lynott

What do I remember about talking to Thin Lizzy? Well, we went to talk to Phil who had camped out in one of the arena seats to get an idea of what the stage looked like from the audience. My friend, Bob, wasn’t sure how to be polite so he said, “Sir?” and Phil said, “Don’t call me fu**ing sir!” Then he grinned, we chuckled and just let him know how much we liked the song structures and the sound of the band.

I ended up hanging out with Scott Gorham for a short time and we talked about Ritchie Blackmore and how much Scott made playing in Thin Lizzy. I was expecting an accent, but, it turned out he was from L.A.

It was a great show, starting out with “Jailbreak” with police lights and police radio calls filling up the arena as the band walked on and started kicking out the jams. “The Boys Are Back In Town” actually became a radio hit when the Johnny The Fox album was out. It was from the previous album “Jailbreak” but for whatever reason it became a big radio hit during that tour.

It is interesting how some bands as they become ancient history age like a vintage Harley Davidson. Thin Lizzy just seems to get more respect as time rolls on.  They really were the root band of the twin metal guitar attack with twin leads whether you think of Iron Maiden, Queensryche, Megadeath, Metallica (who did “Whiskey In The Jar” on their Garage Days Revisited album), Def Leppard, Judas Priest all the way through what is now high bred twin lead death metal.

Thin Lizzy is like the Hank Williams of all that. Phil was a great storyteller (“Johnny The Fox”), hopeless romantic ( “Sweet Marie”), weaving Irish folklore (“Black Rose”) with ruthless tales of the rougher side of town (“Chinatown”) and at the same time remained true to his feelings (“Dedication”) and even personal prayers of faith (“Dear Lord”)became a part of his song cycle.

He wanted to imagine Thin Lizzy as a band remembered for their guitar players like The Yardbirds, which it did accomplish, but the songwriting depth and honest gut feel that Phil put into his music and lyrics gained even the respect of punk rock England who sided with the band and Phil when they threw their wrath at Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. They considered Thin Lizzy to be one of them also.

The Greedy Bastards: Thin Lizzy Meets The Sex Pistols, Paul Cook and Steve Jones down front and become a band

Phil became fast friends with Steve Jones and Paul Cook of The Sex Pistols and even played on Johnny Thunders (New York Dolls) solo album, So Alone on “Daddy Rollin’ Stone “ which also featured Steve Marriott (Small Faces, Humble Pie).

Featuring: Phil Lynott

You can find almost every Thin Lizzy album at Grimeys, just like a classic indie Red Hot Chili Peppers or Janes Addiction record. There is nothing like hearing twin lead guitar harmonies being played by two guitar players and not a harmonization digital stompbox.  Thin Lizzy is meant to be heard Live and so it is.

Opening for Jimmy The Weed will be Blockhead and The East Side Gamblers.

- Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

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