For Phil the disintegration of Thin Lizzy and the sudden separation of his wife and kids was the beginning of the end. Not that Phil was 100% faithful to Caroline anyways, like most rock stars he had trouble keeping his dick in his pants when not at home. Without his family or his band Phil sank deep into depression, took his heroin intake to new levels and grew apart from everyone. He refused help and didn’t believe his drug abuse that was that much of a big deal. Although at the time Phil never truly believed that Thin Lizzy’s last stand would be that gig in Nuremberg, secretly it was killing him to accept that Lizzy had been a failure. Thin Lizzy held a much deeper meaning to Phil than to every other musician that came through its ranks and he had spent more time with his musical brethren (Thin Lizzy) then with his actual real family. He was the wild rover, vagabond, and Irish trailblazer that he sung and wrote about but as 1984 dragged on, Phil found himself alone, strung out and isolated for the first time in his life. The walks along Burrow beach with Jim Fitzpatrick no longer contained enthusiastic chatter and the days of playing soccer amongst the Irish sands with the boys had long ceased to exist. Instead of seeking help and resting Phil put together another band and hit the Showband circuit in a failed attempt at recapturing his youth.
Grand Slam was put together post-Lizzy and was pretty much doomed from the start. It took ages for Phil to even come up with a name for the band and soon after it formed, drummer Brian Downey quit the project claiming that he didn’t see the point in making a half-ass version of Thin Lizzy and guitarist John Sykes walked out on Phil after accepting an offer from David Coverdale to join Whitesnake. An old friend from his Dublin Skid Row days, Robbie Brennan replaced Brian on Drums and Laurence Archer took over on lead guitar. The group consisted a second guitarist and also a keyboard player similar to the set up of the late Lizzy. When Slam toured throughout the rest of 1984 critics and fans responded negatively to this perceived low-grade version of Thin Lizzy. Their reputation improved slightly thanks to the premiering of some new original Phil compositions as Slam stayed far away from covering Lizzy songs, except for the obligatory “Whiskey in the Jar” and the touching “Sarah” and some cuts off the Thunder and Lightning album.
Some decent songs arose from the demo sessions that were primarily recorded in Lynott’s Richmond home recording studio and a week-long session at Lombard’s in Dublin. Despite the media backlash Phil was committed to Grand Slam and rehearsed vigorously before an important gig at the London Marquee.
Prior to the show he told a reporter from Kerrang!: I’m really fighting for Grand Slam at the moment. I mean, we’re here rehearsing 6 days a week, from two in the afternoon until ten at night. I’m really pushing a heavy emphasis on my playing and it’s standing me in good stead because it has really improved. When it comes down to it though I do feel that the future of the band lies in America. If we head over there and work on it for a time then we can come back to England and not have to face the usual crap that gets flung in my direction I’m not fashionable here anymore so once we complete this tour that should be our next move.
But record labels weren't lining up to sign a known drug addict destroying his legacy during a mid-life crisis. Ultimately Grand Slam like its inventor was doomed but listening to the remastered demos released in 2002, there’s a fair share of quality material composed by them. Although the songs were definitely more New Wave than Rock n’ roll, Phil’s songwriting capabilities were still prevalent despite being weighed down by an unwavering heroin addiction.
The remaining Grand Slam recordings are more musical than lyrical but the sessions did provide Phil with some last minute songwriting glory in the form of a Gary Moore single and B-side. For Phil the end of the Grand Slam experiment occurred during the summer of 1985 when he ventured to California to shoot a music video. When he returned he learnt that the members of Slam had abandoned the group to pursue other musical paths. Phil was essentially dumped but almost immediately after his fortunes improved with the offer of another solo album deal and a possible publication of his short stories.
Phil’s reputation had suffered greatly within the higher echelon of music circles and his Manager Chris Morrison quit producing Grand Slam after sinking 100,000 dollars of his own money on the ill-fated experiment. With no money to support the band Grand Slam finally ended in 1985 and Phil’s bloated and heavy appearance began to send shockwaves throughout the industry. Tony Clayton-Lea interviewed Phil for Hot Press on May 4th, 1984:
Tony Clayton-Lea: I know it's been recounted before, Philip, but what thoughts do you have now on the demise of Thin Lizzy?
Philip Lynott: I was sorry to see it go... everybody thought it was a scam, that we'd be back together again in six months. Maybe it's because I'm such a proficient liar... but there was no way around it, it was definitely goin' to end. And now it's gone, it's never goin' to come back. It's like your virginity... that's the way I feel. It was a good band, I was very pleased to be in it…I thought 18 months ago I'd learnt lessons in humility... I mean, you do get used to people runnin' around after you, carryin' your guitar case, doin' this, that, and the other. When it's done constantly, you start to take it for granted. You start expecting the amps to be ready when you walk in to play, the equipment to be set up. Obviously, I'll still expect that in certain situations. For rehearsals, I don't mind settin' everythin' up. I do mind if I'm payin' somebody to do it, like in the Lizzy situation. Because people treat you as important, you begin to think that maybe you're a little bit more important than you are. You always have to look in the mirror, though. It never got out of hand. Tony Clayton-Lea: From the death of Thin Lizzy to the birth of Grand Slam - what differences will there be, musically?
Philip Lynott: It's a different mixture... there's old guys like meself, and there's young guys like Laurence Archer. Now, he's very talented musically, but he's not very experienced in goin' on the road or tourin'. It's also different from the personality aspect.The other thing musically is that we're gonna feature one lead guitar as opposed to two. Also, it's a lot looser. There's no pressure for us to be like anybody else.Initially, we'll do a few Lizzy songs, but that is just to let us get on our feet. I mean, when Lizzy started, we used to play other people's material, so...We're goin' to have a much broader outlook in contemporary music, and in music of the past. For instance, we've been dabblin' with 'Like A Rollin' Stone' and 'Whiter Shade Of Pale' and we're stickin' them together. Years ago, they called that a medley. But we're puttin' them together and calling' it a concept.The contemporary stuff... it's amazin' what you can do with all this technology. That sounds really corn, doesn't it? No, but we'll be usin' Simmonds drums and keyboards. Another thing about Grand Slam, which I think is good, is that rather than just make good demos, and then get a deal, we thought we'd go on the road, warm up, and become a 'live' entity before we signed a deal. And therefore, be able to get more money; there is a business side to it too.I do think that there's so many bands gettin' deals because of the make-up they use, and how good a demo they make, instead of being a good live act. Look, I hate those guys in interviews that say 'Come and see the band, and buy all the records.' They always sound so insincere. So I'd like to say, really sincerely, Come and see the band and buy all the records. Tony Clayton-Lea: Is Philip Lynott a religious person?
Philip Lynott: As I get older I get more religious... because I'm goin' to die fookin' soon. The odds are more in God's favour. I'd say it's almost like bein' Irish and Catholic. Once you're Irish and Catholic, you're always Irish and Catholic. I think it's in you. You can never disassociate yourself from it. You can acquire another accent, but it'll always be there in your head. The rules that were beaten into me at school are ingrained. I still know when I commit a mortal or a venial sin, y'know? Tony Clayton-Lea: Were you ever verbally or physically abused because of your colour?
Philip Lynott: Er... you mean attacked? A couple of times people have said something, but we buried them shortly afterwards. Tony Clayton-Lea: What's your favourite drug?
Philip Lynott: Sugar... I'm off the ciggies... Alcohol, it must be. I'm not a lush, but I do like a drink sometimes…I think drugs are there to be used. If you're goin' to ask me about drugs in general, as opposed to 'drug' drugs... that's the reason why I mentioned sugar and alcohol; to show that there are a lot of drugs about that you aren't even aware of. I found out that tomato ketchup has 23% sugar in it. I've got this big thing against sugar at the moment, 'cos I'm the father of kids... all those Easter eggs...'Drug' drugs are really bad for you. They can cause you an awful lot of misery. Initially, you get some great kicks, and it does give you different perspectives, and you can find all the reasons in the world for taking them, but there's juts as many reasons for not taking them. In fact, more. The reasons for not taking them obviously include addiction, they can change your personality without you knowin', so you lose control of your mind and body, and therefore you lose your dignity. And the stigma attached to taking drugs socially is bad news. A lot of people look to Keith Richards, and hold him in reverence, like a hero, but I know if Keith had his life again - he said to me - he wouldn't do them again. Sid Vicious is also held in reverence. He was just a guy fucked up on dope. It sounds like you're preachin' or condescendin', like (adopts admonitory accent) 'Don't take drugs, I've been there'. So I'm not even goin' to try. Just don't. If anybody really wants to find out about drugs, they should go to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. Tony Clayton-Lea: What do you think of the present heroin situation in Dublin?
Philip Lynott: It's bad, it really is…I'd like to know more about the situation before I could give you a positive reply. At the moment, I can't see a solution to it. For the past 15 years you've been living a lifestyle that condones - sometimes encourages - the easy availability of drugs and sex. I don't agree with that. I think the media picked up on those aspects, and blew them up out of proportion. I remember there was a film out, called 'The Stud', starring Oliver Tobias. Me and Oliver were knockin' about at the time, and he was stuck in one room, and I was in another doin' an interview with the Daily Mirror and I had a studded leather bracelet on. Anyway next day, I buy the paper, and it's like 'The Black Stud'. I do things that are wrong. I make mistakes like everybody else as far as society is concerned. I don't try and promote that. If you listen carefully to all those songs, 'Got To Give It Up' or 'The Opium Trail', which is actually - jokin' aside - an anti-drug song. The message is fairly serious. Now, to speak about such things, you have to be experienced - Have you ever been experienced? Well, I have.' Some of the things I'm proud of. Some of the things I'm not. I'd hate to think that I encouraged people to go over the rails, y'know what I mean? I always thought that I was sharin', laughin' with the people. I'd hate to think I was corruptin' them.”
Long time Phil Lynott supporter, Irish musical hero and former Thin Lizzy road manager Frank Murray reflected on Phil’s last days to Hot Press in 2011: Phil was a very complex man, again because of his generation. We used to go watch Elvis in his early movies and the characters he played were kind of tough no-nonsense people. Phil often used to quote that thing from Kid Creole, ‘I ain’t no grease monkey. I ain’t gonna slide for you’. Skid Row toured America twice and Gary Moore was this great guitar player and Brush was a great bass player and Noel Bridgman was an incredible drummer, but the one thing that Philip had over any of those people was that he was a star…The attitude to drugs in the early days was far more lax than it is now. Back then it was regarded as a bit of a weird thing to do, but you were less likely to be hassled about it by the cops or customs staff. For example, I remember a bunch of us smoking joints on a plane and the stewardess just laughed at us. Then the big stuff came in and Ireland was flooded with cocaine and heroin and gradually it became harder and harder to be seen to use any kind of drugs at all. When the criminal gangs got involved something had to be done about it. When Phil came back to Dublin, the doors had just opened on the heroin rush. Heroin was available to every single body. And when Lizzy finished and he tried to put together Grand Slam he was too far gone to create it. I think his creative muse was hibernating somewhere. Put it this way, had he given up Thin Lizzy earlier, and had he been confident about recording a solo album, staying at home, kicking back for a year, playing around in the home studio, doing the things that you’re supposed to do, that are kind of normal, I think his songwriting would have developed in a different way. He would have really delivered. He still had so much to give when he died.
Alan Byrne described the uneventful year Phil had prior to recapturing a little bit of his former glory: 1984 had been a somewhat lackluster year for Lynott. His drug habit had finally begun to overrun him, his marriage for all intents and purposes was over, and due to his hectic lifestyle, access to his two daughters Sarah and Cathleen was limited. Many people within the band and those on the perimeter tried to speak with him, but unfortunately he was simply unable to acknowledge his predicament. Grand Slam had been a failure and many people were only more to remind him of this fact.
Phil did still have some fight left in him and it only took the resolve of long time friend and ex-Lizzy member Gary Moore to bring it stunningly back out of him. In 1985 Moore rescued his old buddy and placed him back in the top ten on the charts for the last time.
Phil was already in good songwriting form having spent the first half of 1985 working with Huey Lewis and the U.K. R and B sensation Junior. These tracks have been leaked in various bootleg editions and despite the jagged sound quality they remain interesting anecdotes to Phil’s unique musical catalogue. Phil’s duet with Junior “The Lady loves to Dance” is an excellent song that could have been a hit single in the vein of 80’s style R and B like you would hear from Billy Ocean. The song was even submitted as a single by Junior but Phil’s record company blocked its release and to this day Phil’s versatility in being able to work with R and B star Junior outside the rock element has never had a proper release.
Another lost song from 1985 was “Freedom Song” a track that gets back to rocking but it’s the fantastic bass work and social commentary found in “Hard Times” that proved Phil had plenty of street poet left inside him. Phil’s last great ballad “Samantha” an excellent collaboration with John Sykes was recorded at his home studio during the early months of 1985 but it was his reteaming with Gary Moore that gave Phil his last shot at the big time. Gary had a new album slated for release and needed a single to promote it. He had arranged the anti-war track “Out on the fields” and sought Phil’s lyrical prowess to make the track work. Phil quickly obliged and keeping the anti-war theme going decided to rework a Grand Slam cut “Military Man” with Gary as the singles b-side. It was a masterstroke of luminosity and shocked everyone when the record shot to #5 on the singles charts. “Military Man” is a great tale about the horrors of war that Phil turns into a personal plea to his mother and daughters…
The video showing Gary and Phil dressed in Military uniforms intercut with shots of violence on the streets of Belfast had a huge impact on the songs relevance. Its stunning social commentary and unexpected chart bombing became a staple of discussion amongst early morning British television and the hard core video a fixture of late night music video programs. Phil and Gary were back on prime time getting excellent exposure with awesome performances on the Old Grey Whistle test, The Saturday Picture Show, and Razzamatazz. But it was their botched performance on ECT that has remained a low point in television broadcast history. The ECT cut off Phil and Gary during the introduction of “Still in love with you” thus robbing the television audience of witnessing one of Gary Moore’s greatest solos. When Gary discovered this travesty he became sick as hell and hunted down the terrified producers of the show threatening to kick all of their asses.
Phil was back on the charts and Polydor offered him a deal for his third solo album to be released in 1986. The success of “Out in the Fields” also shot Gary Moore into the mainstream and his album Run for Cover, which featured the hit single, became the first of four consecutive gold albums for Moore. Gary would pen an epic tribute song “Blood of Emeralds” in honor of Phil a few years after his Irish homeboy's untimely death.
By the summer of 1985 things had picked up for Phil and with the talk of the upcoming Live Aid charity concert rumors began swirling that Thin Lizzy were getting back together again to perform at the epic event. Organized by Midge Ure and Bob Geldof, two of Phil’s friends and people that he helped put on the map musically, the event was staged as a massive one-off globally broadcast concert to help out the famine situation in Ethiopia. The concert has since become iconic and was responsible for launching the career of U2, another band that benefitted greatly from the bridge across Ireland Phil helped to establish. Queen gave one of the all time great performances at Live Aid and it’s sad to say that Thin Lizzy was never even asked to perform. Geldof nor Ure even bothered to ask Phil if he wanted to rock Live Aid and although rumors had buzzed for weeks at a possible Thin Lizzy reunion none of the boys were asked to perform. Geldof at first said that Phil wasn’t that big anymore and then backtracked years later to wondering why they never asked Thin Lizzy to perform at Live Aid to even going as far as claiming that he wished Phil was still alive because he would be a king. It’s been speculated that Phil’s declining health and continual drug use made him unreliable, but he was fit enough to jam with Gary Moore and had he been asked, like a true friend would have, there’s no doubt that Phil could have cleaned up and put the proper focus into reuniting Thin Lizzy for a one-ff performance that would have knocked their socks off.
Phil was sick at not being invited to perform at Live Aid and no doubt must have been severely depressed after watching Freddy Mercury completely own 72,000 screaming fans at Wembley stadium knowing that he was never given the same chance. Live Aid was a massive success and one of the largest satellite and television broadcasts of all time, spanning over 150 countries and being seen by an estimated two billion people. It also made Ure and Gledof extremely rich as Live Aid grossed more than 283 million dollars. It’s never been clear just how much money actually went to Ethiopia but rest assured it wasn’t 200 million dollars. Geldof was now a media mogul and obtained an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth and was even awarded a Nobel Peace prize. But to Thin Lizzy fans he remains an asshole of the highest order. He’s also considered an asshole to the fans of INXS, who claim that Geldof killed lead singer Michael Hutchence after the INXS hunk stole Bob’s wife Paula Yates in 1995. According to Paula’s police statement given on the day of Hutchence’s death, Geldof believed he was, “Above the law” thanks to all his riches and the higher occult circles of the British elite that he moved in after the success of Live Aid. However not everyone was fooled by Geldof and Ure’s scheme, iconic American rocker and the eternally cool Frank Zappa claimed to Howard Stern in 1985 that, “Live Aid was the biggest cocaine money laundering scheme of all time.”
For Phil not being invited to play Live Aid and essentially getting dissed by two guys that he helped put on the musical map drove the final stake through his already fragile heart. Darren Wharton recalled Phil’s and ultimately Thin lizzy’s exclusion from Live Aid as:
A tragic, tragic decision. This could've been a turning point for Phil, who at the time had some substance problems. It could've been and it should've been the turning point for Phil. And I think that really did Phil in quite a lot, that we were never asked to play. I mean Phil, had a few problems at the time, but at the end of the day, if he would've been asked to play Live Aid, that would've been a goal for him to clean himself up to do that gig. We were all very upset of the fact that we weren't asked to do it. Because as you say, it was Geldof and Midge who Phil knew very well. I was surprised that we weren't asked to do that. That would've been the turning point, you know, definitely. I don't think Phil ever forgave Bob and Midge for that really.
Scott Gorham also noted on how crushed Phil was at not being invited to perform at Live Aid. Despite the bad shape he was in, Midge and Geldof practically owed him at least an invitation considering how much Phil had not only done for them but all other Irish musicians. A bloated and sweaty Phil dropped by Ireland’s RTE studios during the broadcast and dipped out an hour later disgusted at being rejected. That evening he disappeared into some black tar heroin and days later a disenfranchised Lynott talked with Jim Fitzpatrick about the heartache that being left out of Live Aid had caused him. Fitzpatrick recalled:
That was a cruel day. I believe Live Aid destroyed him because he was Ireland's biggest rock star and he was excluded. Maybe he couldn't do it. Maybe he was so far gone. I'm condemning no one. But the fact he didn't appear on Live Aid had a huge amount to do with him going downhill. I know that because he told me.
As the summer of 1985 progressed Phil attended Gary Moore’s wedding in Lincolnshire and booked time to record at Polydor’s London studio. Phil began working on his much hyped third solo album but couldn’t kick the drug habit, and everyone from Robbo to Jerome Rimson begged him to clean up his act if he valued his music and his family. Their pleas fell on deaf ears and even Phil’s planned family vacation to Marbella, Spain resulted in more boozing and junking. Phil flew a few members of Grand Slam to Spain to help him with a solo show, but the gig was a disaster and after a botched 4 a.m. performance of the “Boys are back” the concert was over and the band went back to boozing it up. Phil returned alone to his Glenn Cor estate in Ireland and feeling tapped out creatively holed himself up avoiding any contact with the outside world. One person that was able to gain access was Phil’s long time friend Smiley Bolger, but Smiley soon found himself literally thrown out the front door landing on his ass after he confronted Phil about his crippling drug habit.
By September Phil had returned to London and acquired the red-hot producer Paul Hardcastle to help produce what ultimately became Phil’s last official single “Nineteen”. Recorded over a period of days at Roundhouse studios, the song a leftover from the Grand Slam sessions took on a completely different tone and sound. Hardcastle was one of the pioneers of electronic music and already had a #1 hit ironically titled “19” when he and Phil joined forces. Phil was eager to take chances and loved the idea of expanding his sound into dance music territory knowing that Hardcastle was one of the genre’s trailblazers. Phil even managed to borrow a motorcycle and brought it inside the studio for Hardcastle to record the revving of the pipes. Phil spent about ten minutes smoking out the studio and had a good laugh at the chaos the stunt caused. Phil was more driven than ever and pushed Hardcastle for a rock disco sound that throbbed on the dance floor but still fucking rocked. When Phil couldn’t figure out a decent bassline he walked off for a smoke, leaving his bass on the studio floor. Hardcastle picked up Phil’s bass and began experimenting with some riffs; he eventually recorded a few of them and nervously played them to Phil upon his arrival back at the studio. Phil was impressed and Hardcastle’s basslines were used in the final mix of the song. They spent an additional two weeks mastering the track and once it was decided that “Nineteen” would be the lead single off Phil’s third solo album they met at Phil’s Kew Road home for a photo shoot. Hardcastle was impressed by Phil’s jukebox and a charitable Phil gave it to Hardcastle a few weeks later as a late wedding gift. Phil even sent letters to Paul’s new wife with a note apologizing for keeping her husband out working so late. In October Phil flew to California to record the video for “Nineteen” a song that was inspired by a Biker Phil met at a bar in Texas. The biker had a bunch of tattoos and belonged to the 19th chapter of the Hells Angels. While in California Phil shot the video on Halloween night and hired a bunch of real Hells Angels bikers to appear in the video. While Phil wasn’t physically in the best mood for the video shoot, thanks to partying in Hollywood the previous evening with actors Richard Gere and Matt Dillon, the assembled mix of bikers and the bass player from Twisted Sister all made up for a rousing music video that stretched from the California deserts to the astonished gazes of the passer-by’s found on Hollywood Blvd, as a truck with enormous speakers blasted the song while shinning a spotlight on the noisy bikers that howled across the wicked streets of Hollywood. In late November, and only a month away from meeting the reaper Phil began working with members of Huey Lewis and his band The News in a studio in foggy San Francisco. The tracks Phil recorded with Huey Lewis while hanging out in Frisco are more great examples of just how good Phil could be when branching out. He didn’t need to always be the rocker, he could just about pull off any other style that he wanted to with ease. The only thing that really stood in his way was the heroin monster. The three tracks Phil composed with Huey Lewis in San Francisco “Can’t get Away” “Still Alive” and “One Wish” are stunning pop songs that have that perfect 80’s musical vibe to them. It’s no doubt they would have been featured on Phil’s third solo album and released around the same time that Huey Lewis began to blow up in America.
Phil sadly died right before Huey’s fame exploded with the release of the #1 song “Power of Love” featured in the blockbuster film Back to the Future. Huey skyrocketed to fame and fortune becoming an iconic pop figure in the annals of American rock history and there’s no doubt that the man that taught Huey everything he knew would have been right there enjoying the ride. Huey Lewis band member Johnny Colla has since confirmed that “One Wish” was indeed not one of the songs that Phil and Huey had worked on during those late ’85 California sessions. Colla and Huey remastered a version of “Still Alive” for a 2012 release on the internet: Hey folks, Johnny Colla here …Way, way back in November of 1985 we cut a couple tracks with Philip Lynott of Thin Lizzy fame, shortly before Phil’s death. With my recent discovery of an old work tape from the sessions it seemed like a favorable time to try and piece the chronology together. Huey, Bill and I sat down recently to do just that, and it turns out none of us can remember anything! Just kidding, but not much…those were heady times for all of us. Lynott and Huey first met back in the seventies when Clover was the opening act on a Thin Lizzy tour. Fast-forward nine years to ’85 and Phil was planning a third solo release, working with a myriad of players and producers at the time. Lynott’s management contacted Huey about producing and cutting a few tunes with us out here in California and the game was on. Our normal protocol was to try and pick off three songs at a time in a short recording period, say a week or so. Philip ran into some visa issues trying to get in the country, so knowing his stay would be cut short we made the decision to cut just two tracks. Before Phil’s arrival we went into Sausalito’s Record Plant and laid down 'Can’t Get Away' and the Alex Call/Huey Lewis-penned 'Still Alive' (we were not involved with a third song, “One Wish”.) I was busy at another studio in Marin producing a local band (I rarely played on 'News' basics) so I wasn’t around for the tracking. By the time Phil and guitarist Laurence Archer arrived the tracks were ready for overdubs, replete with Huey’s guide vocals. Contrary to rumors, Mutt Lange was present one night while Laurence laid down some guitar parts – just hanging about with Huey & Philip – but he didn’t produce the sessions. A day or so later I came in to arrange and cut vocals for both songs. I’m fairly certain the following evening Huey and Phil were finishing up some painstaking lead vocals, and in the wee hours of the morning we made rough mixes and went home. The sessions were over. At one time these sessions were thought to be Philip’s last recordings, but through the years it has come to light he did some recording with guitarist Steve Johnson in mid-December 1985, just days before he collapsed. No matter, our moment with Philip Lynott was a great page out of HLN history, and it was a moment in time we’re proud to have been a part of. Back to my work tape . . . Besides instrumentals and Phil’s vocal versions, my twenty-three-year-old cassette had a version of 'Still Alive' with Huey’s scratch vocal. I did my best to remaster it somewhat, and the end result is quite impressive! We hope you enjoy this rocker as much as we did rediscovering it, along with all the memories it conjured up.
Phil’s final recordings were done in December. “Do you want to Rock?” was done three weeks before his death with Colbert Hamilton. Phil played bass and sung back up vocals on a track that sat underneath Hamilton’s bed for nearly twenty-five years. Phil’s last known recordings were the crunching anti-government songs “No More” and “Revolution” done with guitarist Steve Johnson, tracks that even in their rough demo states proved that Phil still had plenty of music left in the tank. However the fates had other plans and when Phil’s single “Nineteen” was released it hit the pop charts with little fanfare reaching no higher than #76 and soon dropped out of sight completely. Phil made his last appearance on television with a cracking live performance complete with motorcycles on the Razzamatazz Christmas special.
But despite the push to get Lynott’s solo career reignited the bad rep he earned as a member of Thin Lizzy and the anti-drug mood that all of England was wrapped up in ultimately sealed the singles fate. The failure of “Nineteen” finally did him in and as Christmas approached Phil was visited by many friends that tried to help Phil get out of the rut that he was sunk so deep in. Holed up on his Kew Road home in Richmond, Brian joined Phil to discuss the possibility of putting Thin Lizzy back together but refused to do anything until Phil kicked his drug habit. Brian left back to Ireland the next morning and the drum n’ bass partners since fourteen years old would never speak to each other again. A clean and sober Scott showed up and couldn’t believe how bad a shape Phil was in. Scott recalled his heartbreaking final visit with his best friend: I knew when he answered the door he was still in a bad way. He had put on weight, his breathing was heavy, and though he spoke positively about the future I just thought it would take a little time before he got back on form again. So we kicked around a few ideas, had a chat basically and wished each other a good Christmas and said that we’d meet up soon.
Like Brian, Scott’s final encounter with Phil was at the doomed rockers Kew Road estate. After Phil assured him that he would be “going on the big clean and cutting the shit out” Scott would never again have the chance of seeing Phil alive. In the end Phil’s undoing was ultimately his own. As Christmas approached Santa Claus wasn’t the only one hovering above Phil’s home. The black cloud of death was nearby and the grim reaper revved up his Harley while getting ready to descend below and claim one of his own.
Christmas for the Lynott family was just like Christmas for all other families. With the only exception being a little holiday smack to compliment your rum soaked eggnog. Phil had tried to score prior to Christmas Eve but his plans were thwarted by the appearance of roadie Charlie McClellan. Charlie laid it straight to Phil’s mother after seeing the devastating state that Phil was in. Up until this moment Philomena never knew the full extent to just how bad Phil’s heroin addiction had been. He always lied to her when she asked him if he was taking hard drugs. Hard drugs of course weren’t pot or blow – hard drugs are and will always remain of the opiate variety. Hard drugs have flooded society now more than ever, and were still easily available to Phil during the holidays of 1985. That is until Charlie showed up and slammed Phil up against the wall of his own house. Phil denied the accusations that Charlie hurled at Philomena and after twenty minutes of screaming and name-calling he left the house mad as hell. But Philomena took another good look at Phil and for the first time began to see him in an un-angelic light. She noticed the bloated features, and the puffiness’ of Phil’s face, sort of like how her teenage screen idol Errol Flynn’s looked during his last days. She knew at that moment that Phil was sick and time slowed down to her as she looked for solace in the kitchen.
The hours after Charlie left were relatively quiet until Phil’s pusher tried to leave something for him in the mailbox. Philomena just happened to catch him and ran after the bloke kicking and punching and screaming at the smack dealer. She was furious as Phil stepped outside and watched his dealer scramble off into the distance. She now had the proof in her hands and a teary eyed Phil could no longer lie to his mum.
Without the aid of smack in his system Phil’s ravished body began to go into withdrawals. He fought it long enough to open some Christmas presents with his two daughters. They were happy and all smiles for a brief moment before Phil suddenly collapsed. Philomena went hysterical and put Phil in a cold bath to help him recover. It worked just long enough to get him conscious and by the time Phil’s estranged wife Caroline showed up, it was decided that she would drive him to the nearest rehab center. But the only place open on Christmas day was two hours away in Salisbury. Caroline drove Phil to the center and lord knows what was going on in her mind, the father of her two girls was knocking on heavens gate, spread out in the backseat behind her. After the doctors at the rehab center saw the dire situation that Phil was in they quickly sent him to the hospital’s infirmary in downtown Salisbury.
Phil languished between sleeping and being conscious long enough to have brief conversations with his mother. Philomena stayed by her son’s side the whole time, as Phil’s body slowly broke down. His liver, kidneys and heart were failing due to the years of hard living and the alcohol, cigarettes and junk destroyed whatever was left of his inner organs. Rock n’ roll excess was about to kill Phil and his last wish was to call in a priest for a private conversation concerning god and the next realm. Naturally Philomena was the last to speak to Phil and she cries every time she recalls his last words. With tears in his eyes Phil apologized to his mother and said with his dying breath “Merciful Jesus what have I done to you.” After Phil passed on due to sepsis and heart failure from pneumonia, Philomena gasped as she got a good look at the tracks in Phil’s feet and ankles. That’s were he shot up and how he was able to deceive everyone. Here’s a man that survived and rose from crippling poverty and was able to buy houses for not only his mother but also himself and his wife, but couldn’t kick the one habit that can instantly make all your material possessions, riches and talent null and void. His body deteriorating to the point of comatose Phil lingered unresponsive for eleven days before his spirit slipped away.
It was a devastating blow to Philomena and Phil’s family. He had been sick before and had an amazing resolve so the thought that Phil, an Irish superhero could actually die was unheard of. When Brian and Scott found out that he was in the hospital they didn’t bother going because they figured he would get well soon like he always had done. But not this time, Phil the rocker had finally joined his leather-clad heroes in the afterlife and the sudden announcement of his death sent shockwaves throughout the music industry and the world at large. Brian heard the news on the radio and Scott received a phone call that crushingly sent him to weep alone on the edge of the stairs.
Jim Fitzpatrick wrote about the day Phil died on his website: Philip was too smart to die. Philip always liked to live close to the edge. Philip had it sussed. Philip had everything sussed. For some reason I always thought that Philip was immortal. If we got drenched in the same rain storm, he'd sit there in his wet clothes, smoking a joint, while I would have my clothes out on the rads and my hair under a dryer. Still, I'd end up sniffling for a week while he'd be out partying every night. And so I reacted with complete and utter incredulity to the news of his death. Ironically it was in the Bailey, his favourite haunt, that I first heard of his death. I had been out all day and missed the phonecalls and I was having a lunch hour drink with my ex-wife and two old friends of Philips, Tony Higgins and Tom Collins, when a guy opposite lifted up his early edition evening newspaper and we read the headline 'PHILIP LYNOTT DEAD'. Frank Murray recalled the chilling effects of having to fly his friend’s body back to Dublin: That was one of the saddest moments of my life. Making his last journey, I remember realising that his coffin was in the hold and I kind of froze in the plane. It was very sad, bringing your buddy home, and normally it would be your guitars and your cases in there. We’d flown around the world together and we’d come back to Ireland lots of times together from tours. Normally there was a sense of joy and celebration and mischief on the plane, we were gonna go to Neary’s for a pint. All of a sudden to have the tables turned this way, it was such a sad occasion. Murray last saw Phil in August and remembered him to be in good form: He seemed to see some light at the end of the tunnel. What he did afterwards between then and Christmas, I do not know. It seems like he got an infection and I imagine this would all have been as a result of physical abuse over the years. His immune system was shot to pieces. He couldn’t fight what was going on in his body. It’s a terribly, terribly sad story for me because it was my friend. The whole nation loved him. Phil’s childhood friend and the only drummer Thin Lizzy ever had Brian Downey has stated clearly that Phil’s and eventually Lizzy’s demise could be summed up with one word – heroin: Well I think it did destroyed the band. There’s no doubt about it. Destroyed the band completely when heroin gets in that affects your ability to play rather than anything else. I personally, physically after I tried it couldn’t play. I learned that after four or five weeks of being on it that this wasn’t for me and I stopped and never taken it since.
Scott claims that golf saved his life and helped him fill the massive hole that his heroin addiction had carved out for him. He recalls one of the pivotal moments that shook him out of his addicted slumber and how Thin Lizzy meant something more to Phil than just another band: Crunch time for me came, we were playing some massive festival and I remember not wanting to go on the stage. I was absolutely out of my box. I started to think about that. My whole life you work yourself to get in these positions where you have always wanted to be in, and now you want to do it because you’re not stoned enough. And I thought this just ain’t right and I remember looking over at Phil and he just had this horribly depressed look on his face and you know he was sweating anyway but it actually looked like tears were coming down because the pain was so bad and I thought oh man this is wrong we gotta fix this…I do know that band was his whole life. He invested a lot of his life into that band. As we all did, but for Phil it was something way deeper. He just loved that band he just loved Thin Lizzy.
Despite snubbing them for Live Aid Bob Geldof said about Thin Lizzy, “It’s not just me imagining they were superb they were.” And Midge Ure respectfully makes clear that “Lizzy built a bridge from Ireland into the U.K. and then onto the rest of the world and that bridge has been used by many, many Irish bands. There’s no doubt U2 owe them a huge debt of gratitude. They paved the way.”
From the January 13th, 1986 edition of the Irish Times:
“THE CHURCH of the Assumption in Howth, Co Dublin, was packed to overflowing for the funeral Mass for the man described as the father of Irish rock, Phil Lynott, who died in an English hospital a week earlier aged 35.The mourners were led by his wife, Caroline, his two daughters, Sarah and Cathleen, and his mother, Mrs Phyllis Lynott. There was a large gathering of musicians, business acquaintances, friends and fans, all of who braved a bitter wind to pay tribute to the man who helped put Ireland on the rock-and-roll map…In his homily the Rev Brian D’Arcy said that Lynott’s death would not destroy the memories of him or his music. Father D’Arcy recalled how the Crumlin-born star had paved the way for the success of other Irish acts like U2 and the Boomtown Rats. Bono and Bob Geldof – both of whom were present – would acknowledge the help received from Lynott. The lessons were read by the musician’s uncle, Mr Peter Lynott, and his father-in-law, Mr Leslie Crowther, the TV presenter. Mr Crowther’s reading from Romans included an obvious reference to some of the more odious publicity over the last week: “You should never pass judgement on a brother or treat him with contempt, as some of you have done.” A local traditional group, Clann Eadair, whom Phil Lynott had helped, played throughout the Mass. Their piper, Leo Rickard, played a final lament at the graveside in St Fintan’s Cemetery. The large attendance included Phil Lynott’s long-time friend and colleague, Brian Downey, and the former Thin Lizzy guitarists, Scott Gorham and John Sykes. Former manager, Mr Ted Carroll, and former road manager, Mr Frank Murray, were also there, as were other members of Thin Lizzy’s management team in the past, Chris Morrison, Chris O’Donnell and John Salter. The artist, Jim Fitzpatrick, who designed many of the band’s record covers, was also among the mourners.”
Phil’s epitaph written by Bill Graham in Hot Press on January 30, 1986:
“His last date was standing room only. As three priests celebrated Philip Lynott's funeral Mass, Howth's Church of the Assumption, where he regularly brought his daughters Sara and Cathleen for Sunday Mass…And later, when he was buried in St.Fintan's cemetery, close to the Sutton shoreline, on this bright but bitingly blustery day, as many as 300 cars parked along the sides of the road slanting up to the Hill of Howth. The stars were there, of course: Bob Geldof and Bono and Larry Mullen, whose groups had supported Thin Lizzy at Irish festivals and benefited from Philip Lynott's canny advice and ever-available encouragement. Yet perhaps Charles Mallen in the Sunday Independent had the best line when he wrote of 'the famous, the fans and the fishermen', for the tributes of those others - the vast majority in the church, the unmentioned non-celebrities, the quietly grieving fans and those who'd known him, around Howth - should not be forgotten either. It is not a time to pry into the sorrow of his family. What I most recall is the visible distress of his earliest Dublin friends, colleagues, and contemporaries. You could see the pain etched on the faces of such as Brian Downey, photographer Tom Collins and those like publicist Terry O'Neill and Pogues manager Frank Murray, who'd worked with Phil from the beginning. Unable to approach the graveside throng, Brush Sheils mourned on the outskirts of the crowd. A week after the event, the death was still hitting many hard. There were others like Ted Carroll, Lizzy's first manager, who later became the prototype for 'The Rocker' when he opened the Soho golden oldies "Rock On" stall and ex-Strangelys Tim Booth and Ivan Pawle, whose flat, actually named Orphanage, had been a crash pad for Phil in his earliest days. For one generation, there were still many golden memories left but also, not far beneath the surface, the sense that we shouldn't be meeting like this. Then there were his international colleagues like Scott Gorham and John Sykes and wreaths from such as Rory Gallagher, Mama's Boys, Dire Straits and close friend Huey Lewis, whose own band Clover once supported Lizzy. But this was as lengthy a guest list as Lizzy ever had; mentioning everyone would be a near-endless litany. They knew who they were and why they were there. Throughout, the music was Irish…His death caused an undeniable shock, a sense of something misplaced, of what might have been. But he was as humanly fallible as any, a softer man with his own share of self-doubt, more sensitive and complex than he oft revealed in public. People will say that Philip Lynott was a victim of his own success, and is as true or false as any cliche, but they would be wrong to solely concentrate on the tales of excess and forget that he was and should be honoured as more than the leader of Thin Lizzy.”
Some revealing moments from one of Phil’s last ever interviews given to Hot Press in 1984: Tony Clayton-Lea: Prior to your marriage, I'd imagine you had a fair amount of sexual freedom. When your daughters grow up, would you allow - or like - them to have the same degree of freedom?
Philip Lynott: As a parent, no. As individuals, as friends, I'd say 'go out and enjoy yourselves'. I'd try and give them the benefit of me experience. I really would like to be a liberal dad, rather than be a (adopts parental tone) 'Don't do that... If I find that fella 'round here again, I'm gonna kick him up the arse... come up stairs and tell him to go' It's goin' to be difficult... there has to be a period where I'm going to (adopts maudlin tone) lose my little girls to some other guy... and I'm going to be jealous. I'll tell you when it happens. At the moment, I'm hopin' I'll be liberal, but I also know there's a streak in me that would scare the life out of the fellas. I'm lookin' forward to it. Everybody thinks, 'You've got girls, what are you goin' to do when they grow up?' Well, I'm goin' to try and make them as suss as possible, y'know, to the way men think.There's nothin' really wrong with the way a lot of fellas think, except when they start treatin' women like they were objects. I'll try and make sure that they're liked for themselves... If they don't respect their bodies, then nobody will. It's much harder for girls, at this present time, anyway. Hopefully, in the future it'll be better.
Tony Clayton-Lea: What are your opinions on homosexuality?
Philip Lynott: I've always got on as well with gay people, y'know? Maybe it's because I'm such a masculine guy. I think the whole point of bein' homosexual is to attract men, so they're very pleased if somebody doesn't take offence. I hate talkin' about them as if they were a different species. I find the thought of what they do behind closed doors offensive, but, as people, as mates... great. I really have a fun time. It never bugs me. I don't ever want to call it a problem, 'cos I've never regarded it in that aspect.
Tony Clayton-Lea: Do rock'n'roll stars ever grow up?
Tony Clayton-Lea: Do rock'n'roll stars ever grow up?
Philip Lynott: I think people who entertain grow up...You know when you look at yourself in the future? I'd like to think that at a certain age, I'd have written a book, have a nice little place in Howth, on Sundays I'd go down and play in the jazz band, y'know? Have two very exuberant daughters, one an athlete with a gold medal...To become wise about a subject means you must have been a fool at some time. I don't actually think you become wiser, you just get more experienced. And if you have happy times, there have been sad times. There is, however, a price to pay for the good times. I still enjoy playin' a guitar in front of a mirror, posin'. (laughs)”
Sadly because of his losing battle to drug addiction the world was never given a Phil Lynott novel but the music thankfully never died. Thin Lizzy’s music is as popular as it ever was and has managed for some unknown magical reason to remain timeless. More than thirty years after the death of their legendary front man Thin Lizzy continues to tour the world. Recently as 2012 they opened up for Guns n’ Roses and by the time this book hits the shelf a new album of original material will have been released in 2013. With original members Scott and Brian overseeing the remastering and mixing process of the Thin Lizzy reissue albums and the announcement that over 700 unheard and over 200 unreleased Thin Lizzy songs had been discovered the Lizzy flag will continue to fly high and inspire generations to come. Thin Lizzy even made frontpage news in America during the 2012 presidential elections campaign when Republican party nominee entered to the tune of “The Boys are Back in Town”. This caused Philomena and Phil’s widow Caroline to immediately issue a cease and decease order on the grounds that Phil would NEVER have supported Mitt Romney or share his same political views.
As time marches on so does Phil’s legacy. In 2005, a life-size bronze statue of Phil was unveiled on his old stomping grounds near Grafton Street in Dublin. There isn’t any statues of rock stars in Ireland so the unveiling ceremony was a grand affair for the city and attended by former band members Gary Moore, Eric Bell, Robbo, Brian Downey, Scott Gorham, Darren Wharton and of course Philomena. The attending Thin Lizzy members paid tribute with a live jam and all of Dublin celebrated their legendary native son. Every year the popular Vibe for Philo commemoration and Poetry exhibitions in Phil’s honor remain popularly attended events. His gravesite at St. Fintan's cemetery in Sutton, northeast Dublin, is a regular Thin Lizzy pilgrimage visited by family, friends, fans and almost daily by Philomena.
Phil’s mother still has a hard time accepting that Phil is no longer around and is shocked daily by the throngs of admirers that come from all over the world to pay honor to her only child. Like Cuchulain his childhood idol, Phil died young but the memory of his deeds continued to be sung for years to come and in time he became another one of Ireland’s mythical timeless folk heroes. Much like the conquering champions that he used to write about the father of Irish rock was able to obtain a seat amongst the Emerald isles most fabled table. And although a tragic figure like the bard of a Greek storybook Phil’s legacy remains as an important reminder to not only the power of how poetry and music can have a healthy and everlasting impact on the human soul but also his story is a sad reminder of the dangers of drug abuse and serves as a warning to what really is at stake and what you can stand to lose if you don’t get the proper help before it becomes too late. Hopefully this post will have some impact on spreading these messages and drive the point across to the executives at the Rock n’ roll Hall of Fame. Thin Lizzy should take their rightful place on the vaunted establishment’s walls and be inducted into the Rock n’ roll Hall of Fame. This would be a fitting and deserved capping of Thin Lizzy and Phil’s legacy. After all it’s been more than forty-five years since Lizzy was electrified into creation and there’s denying that we’re still in love with you.