Thin Lizzy Renegade Review- UPDATE!

Nobody gives a break
When you’re down on your luck

If you’re a lover of Rob Reiner’s Spinal Tap, I needn’t rehash the “11” joke (which inspired Bad News for all my fellow Young Ones fans), but Spinal Tap was how the end of Thin Lizzy’s Chinatown tour shaped up. According to Byrne and Putterford, their Australia shows were hampered by pyrotechinical difficulties. In other words, the Lizzies could’ve gotten killed. Gorham and Wharton describe onstage mayhem when the band weren’t permitted to bring their pyro effects because of customs’ regulations, and had to hire a local firm. Scott was told that the explosions were going to be massive, and when he saw what looked like flimsy candlesticks with bits of tin foil lining the stage, the chill that went up his spine wasn’t necessarily chemically-induced.

The opener was Are You Ready and the SFX were set to go off when the first power chord was struck, but instead of the usual flame and smoke cloud there was an explosion tearing holes into the ceiling, bringing down debris that hit Snowy in the chest knocking him flat, blowing the PA to fuck, and temporarily deafening everybody. Wharton said that the only thing that could be heard were the acoustic drums and his keyboards. The band retreated to the dressing room, and it took the techs an hour to sort everything and the gig went on.

Thin Lizzy and the US had a short, bittersweet fling that began and ended with The Boys Are Back In Town back in ’76. The following singles never came off quite right and the albums earned RIAA certifications over an extended period of time. Even Live and Dangerous which is hailed as the gold standard for live album recording (and went platinum in the UK staying on the charts for 62 weeks flying high at #2) only went up to #84 Stateside. Mercury Records (which is Phonogram’s American distributor) was run by two guys out of Chicago that didn’t know a damn thing about rock, and when Lizzy left that label for Warner Brothers in time for Black Rose, Warner’s didn’t give a shit about them. The other problem was the band itself. Drugs, sex, partying, and fighting fucked their US takeover. It began with Phil’s hepatitis infection during the Jailbreak tour. It was the Swinging 70s, and as a celebrity Phil embraced the time’s ceaseless pleasures. Getting drunk and stoned daily doesn’t help while putting together your To Do list where “Stop by chemist to pick up Trojans” should be at the top. And there you have it. It also helped spell out Phil’s early demise concerning the irreparable damage hepatitis did to his liver and his love affair with drink. Then when JTF hit stores going silver then gold across the pond, Robbo got into a punch up after eating his steak dinner (and ONLY a couple of beers according to Robertson) at the Speakeasy club with members of Gonzales when his pal Frankie Miller drunkenly interrupted their jam, causing BR to get bottled clean through the hand. Gary Moore came through and did the tour in America, JTF crawled up to #52 and #11 in the UK.

Bad Reputation had Robbo brought back into the fold tentatively, because his punk-ass (along with Jimmy Bain) was mouthing off to Phil (via the press) about starting up Wild Horses while he convalesced/was suspended. O’Donnell claimed that Robbo was for all intents purposes sacked because of his arrogance and was the spark for much of the infighting in Thin Lizzy. While Robbo admits that being young, dumb, and full of come was the cause of much consternation (and being in the wars), Phil didn’t have a leg to stand on considering Moore wanted to return to Colosseum instead of taking up lead guitar duties permanently. When Thin Lizzy hooked up with Tony Visconti the first time around to record Reputation in Toronto, Scott was given lead guitar duties exclusively, but his inferiority complex may have hampered what was excellent playing. According to Moore in Putterford’s book and the 2011 Black Rose Extended Edition liner notes, Scott had worked himself into mental state believing he wasn’t any good, and didn’t want to embarrass himself (which is why he passed up guesting on Moore’s solo album Back on the Streets). He was overshadowed by Robbo’s explosiveness while he is the typical SoCal lackadaisical type who happens to be of Midwestern parentage (Mom Gorham is a Michigander and Dad Gorham is from Iowa). One can see how well the “classic” Thin Lizzy lineup guitarists danced not dueled with Robbo so in-your-face and Scott possessing a certain reserve (it also may be why Scott fell into heroin). Robbo was flown into Canada to do overdubs, but was acting like a real asshole for pride’s sake, but he did want back into Lizzy as much as Phil needed him. However, the Reputation US tour was evil. The drug use skyrocketed, and money was being spent faster than Lizzy could make it. Chris Morrison, Thin Lizzy’s accountant and manager, had endless rows with Phil over the budget, but as Scott put it in Popoff’s book: “Not even the management told us what to do.” Downey concurs with this in Byrne’s book: “The management was never really in it anyway.” Downey and Scott nearly bailed from Lizzy on that tour from problematic performances, being upstaged by fellow supporting acts, and at that time Phil and Robbo’s relationship deteriorated to the point of fisticuffs. Bad Reputation marched up to #39 but took the #4 spot and a gold record in the UK.

Producing Live and Dangerous has the band at odds with Visconti because they insist not one thing was overdubbed. However I side with Visconti on this one boys. Phil overdubbed all his vocals AND did the backup vocals as well. It also has very clean performances for roughly a year’s worth of touring (30 hours of tape Kit Woolven sifted through to cull together the album from different shows around the globe). Not buying it? Compare it to UK Tour ’75, granted that was one show at the Derby College of Technology, but there was background noise, audience participation, and guitar tuning, but most of all you can hear Robbo’s and Scott’s distinctive backup vocals. I know, I know, it’s a man thing… But Live and Dangerous was the end of the line for Robbo and he was dismissed one month after the album’s release following a botched Spain show. For their American tour Gary Moore was drafted and this time for an extended stay, but the tides turned for Downey who begged off the tour from exhaustion and drugs, and super sub Mark Nauseef began his Thin Lizzy jaunts (you saw him on skins for their famed Sydney Opera House show before a million psychotic fans).

Black Rose’s US romance was blunted by heroin and Phil’s craziness. Moore and Lynott had a love-hate-more-love-more-hate relationship until Phil’s death.While Moore definitely said and did things that were uncalled for, I think his frustrations came to a head and was nearly driven to violence (Jim Fitzpatrick Lizzy’s album cover artist and one of Phil’s close friends referred to Gary as a manic depressive with borderline violent tendencies and self-confidence problems). Gary felt that Lizzy could have been as big as Journey (who they were supporting at that time), but Downey who knew the score was far more realistic, and saw how things were going in a downward spiral during the Black Rose recording in Paris with Visconti (not to mention experimenting with smack himself) and had no choice but to resign himself if he wanted to continue with the band. Black Rose: A Rock Legend was their magnum opus going gold and reaching #2 in the UK. In the US #81. In my opinion, Americans at the time just didn’t get it, I suppose you had to be a Thin Lizzy fanatic, Irish, or an insane rock enthusiast. It also has to be said that the Warner’s advertising was crap. Visconti called the album “Celtic music by a rock band”, and Scott said that at this time despite the fact that heroin was seeping through causing production in to slow down Thin Lizzy was at its tightest creatively and performance-wise. Gary Moore is credited largely for bringing in major Irish influence for the album (in this era three out of four members were Irish and Scott’s maternal great-grandparents were from Enniskillen, Northern Ireland).

But when the Chinatown tour reefed Scott’s home shores, the album creeped up to #120, and no Thin Lizzy single had charted since The Cowboy Song (#77). Then to make matters worse Scott managed to dislocate his knee during a smack trip at a gig at the Ontario Theater in DC and was up to his hip in plaster. For some crazed reason he decided to tough it out and perform the remaining three weeks sitting on a bar stool. A single fan photo of this feat surfaced on MyShit (the site has switched its focus to the pop music industry since Fuckbook and Twatter have cornered the global market on social assworking), while the venue is dark, you could tell it’s him because he had (has) distinctive hair. Wisely by the end of the tour, Scott stayed behind in LA for Xmas and New Year’s with his family to let them take care of him. It was also the last time Thin Lizzy toured America with Phil at the helm.

At best Renegade is a concept album gone horrifically wrong. Once again Renegade and Phil’s second solo album, The Philip Lynott Album, were being produced at the same time in London and the recently defunct Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas (where Phil and his assorted entourage of Lizzies, solo band members, Huey Lewis, and other friends would go to fuck off for “working holidays”. Scott Gorham: “Sitting there under a ton of sun-tan oil on this beautiful white beach, sucking on a few Bahama Mamas and looking at all the bikinis wiggling past.”). Kit Woolven was doubling as producer and engineer, but wasn’t about to make the same mistakes exasperating himself as he did with his previous Lizzy trek. He brought in Chris Tsangarides who was slated to produce the new Wild Horses album and worked with the Tygers of Pan Tang. Eventually Woolven (mostly) produced Phil’s second solo album and Tsangarides produced Thin Lizzy’s final two studio albums.

Because Thin Lizzy was already committed to some festival dates, the new album material was left discarded at the studios because nobody was able to make a decision as to what was going to be worked on when or first. Meanwhile the band racked up a pair of compilation album successes with The Adventures of Thin Lizzy (#6) and Lizzy Killers going gold and silver. The festivals were an overall hit, but the day they played Milton Keynes, the Trouble Boys single was released and spluttered up to #53. Trouble Boys, a Rockpile cover, (that featured the Percy Mayfield song Memory Pain on the B-side) everyone save for Phil was dead-set against releasing. Snowy White suggested recording Memory Pain, but watching the performances on Rockpalast was painful enough. Trouble Boys was promptly dropped from the album. That Milton Keynes gig was, coincidentally, a disaster because the support acts were anything but hard rock, there was torrential rain, and a crowd of below 10,000.

Phil admitted he wasn’t the best at choosing album titles would throw everything at the wall until something stuck. Since Trouble Boys flopped (which was a provisional album title) Phil needed a new idea, so to clear his mind he decided to go for a drink when it literally flew by him. Phil spotted a Thin Lizzy fan on a motorcycle with the band’s logo on his leather jacket with the word “renegade” going down the side of it. And that encounter laid the framework for Lynott’s smashing title track (another version of the story in the new liner notes had Phil on the tour bus when spotting the rider). The sleeve art was done by Fitzpatrick, if you go to famed rock photographer Denis O’Regan’s site (he met Phil in ’79 I believe, and Phil wanted to fuck his girlfriend) you’ll see Phil brandishing the Renegade flag. It’s a good thing that the star was stuck in the upper right hand corner rather than center like on the sleeve because Thin Lizzy was in enough hot water, they didn’t need anything that resembled allegiance to Ho Chi Minh since the Cold War was reaching its precipice back then.

Now Phil had a penchant for writing in code (Parisienne Walkways: “I remember Paris in ’49” [Philip Parris Lynott born 20/08/1949]; Romeo and the Lonely Girl: Romeo is an anagram for Moore; originally Angel From the Coast was supposed to be about Scott [Los Angeles = City of Angels]) but as his addictions worsened and the band fell apart it became more evident what his songs were alluding to. For the title track Phil was in full cry, back in the saddle as the storyteller (and Snowy’s arrangement is heavenly). I even was tolerant of Wharton’s keyboards. If the boy who lost his sights found his footing if only temporarily, he proved that he didn’t have to try very hard to make his audience tremble.

The best goddamn track on this album hands down is Hollywood (Down on Your Luck)! A collaboration of Scott and Phil (although during Rockpalast Phil credits Scott solely) which is autobiographical on Scott’s part, and Phil’s love of Americana. But I can’t help but feel a bit slighted as a New Yorker:

Not like living in New York
Man, it’s tougher…

Not like in New York
It’s high rise, it’s concrete and complex…

Not like in New York
All you’ve got is Broadway…

St. George Carlin said, “Living in New York is a character builder.” And being from LA is a caricature maker, so I can understand why Scott doesn’t live in LA anymore. Oh yeah, wasn’t your Sweet Marie (Broussard) a New York heiress? Sour Grapes, perhaps? But getting back into the song in question, not only could you dance to it, I can’t hear Wharton at all on it! Thank the universe! But if Phil was under pressure for the band to come up with the goods, then it was ready to blow on the next track

Also penned by Phil and Scott, The Pressure Will Blow isn’t so much about living the Lizzy life, but their lives in general. Phil growls with ferocity at the powers that be (label, wife, dealers, fans, friends, and critics) wanting a way out but they’d dug a hole so deep they couldn’t get out. And it’s a great song for when you’re in a jam and need to get your rocks off. Lizzy was stuck in a rut doing the same damn show night after night, but iridescent pebbles of truth and sincerity fell loose every now and again.

It’s Getting Dangerous has Phil in command as storyteller (with Scott co-writing) once again. I can’t help but feel that this track is a companion to We Will Be Strong (or should it be a second chapter?), but it would be an oversimplification to place all the blame on the heroin. While it isolated Phil and Scott, professionally Lizzy suffered greatly as they remained stilted creatively and mired in the aftershocks of excess that all successful musicians face. You get to the top, and you find what? More of the same. Phil lost touch with his audience and the world at large so he could only offer up a caveat emptor: How he tried his best, he said, “Watch out for the danger.”

VH1 Behind the Music: Thin Lizzy– Scott Gorham: “The great Thin Lizzy goal all of a sudden now it started to feel like it wasn’t achievable any longer. And if it was, I wondered if I even cared.”

Listening to the last five tracks, I knew Thin Lizzy was slipping. Opening the album is Angel of Death

Scott Gorham: “…Was too heavy metal for words, and I hated it. I mean, how much more corn do you want? There were great big hunks of butter dripping of that sucker!”

Clocking in at 6:18 I know that Phil was inspired by Prophecies of Nostradamus (on the Rockpalast DVD it’s listed at “Desaster”– what in the holy mother of ass is that?!), but this had the oddest beat that reminds me of the William Tell Overture. And Wharton’s keyboards do drive me up the wall. Phil’s narration (reverb and regular) is unintelligible and just plain silly.

Leave This Town had some potential with a cool bluesy rock opening, but it feels stunted. Also, regardless of who’s handling lead guitar, spend less time showing off fanciful tricks and play music. Another bit of narration by Phil with yet another cowboy back story was way out of place on this track as well.

No One Told Him was an attempt at reinvention of Dear Miss Lonely Hearts, with the exception that it was a dismal failure at finding a catchy pop sound. Then I was completely lost with Fats and Mexican Blood! What the fuck were these tracks doing on a Thin Lizzy album?! I couldn’t tell if Phil was trying to be a low-rent rocked up Cab Calloway for Fats intentionally. The lone bright spot for Mexican Blood was the acoustic Spanish guitar. Other than that it was nothing more than a cheap south of the border spaghetti western with a synth flamenco sound. Renegade tripped over its own feet going to #38 and #152 in the US.

UPDATE!!!!

Well looks like Scotty finally got off his ass between Black Star Riders gigs and recordings (will have a review of All Hell Breaks Loose sometime this life time) and gave the black sheep of the TL discography the “deluxe” treatment.

Taking a cue from Bad Reputation’s remastered re-release, Renegade was also a remastered single disc expanded edition with new CD sleeve art and cool liner notes. Now we all know this band was essentially a group of thirty-something burn-outs by 1981 drowning in smack and debt, but Philo managed to rally the troops and wave the Lizzy gold star red banner before changing lineups for the last time. So let’s talk about the sound, clean and crisp where you DON’T have to put the volume up to 15 on your cell phone or Ipod. Pro Tools cleaned house, enhancing Phil’s voice simply to adapt to the technology of our new professional and private entertainment systems. Despite the destruction drugs, drink, and smoking had done to Phil’s vocal cords, his delivery was at times just as powerful as the Jailbreak era. If he had lived, Phil would have matured into the artist he so desperately wanted to be.

Now let’s jump on those tracks. You get two additional versions of Hollywood (YAY!), the first is an extended cut, clocking in at 6:17. Scotty was awarded Metal Hammer’s 2013 Riff Lord Award, and this is a good demonstration of why. I know Robbo bitched about Bad Reputation being over saturated in riffs because Scott carried the can for the majority of the guitar work as Robbo was on probation. When it comes down to it, he’s an all-American rhythm guitarist, and maybe after 40 years of knowing the dude, Robbo may still not get it. The second nod and wink to Scott’s hometown was off the 7″ promo running at wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am 3:20. The harbinger of doom single Trouble Boys and its B side Memory Pain are also in the lineup. As far as I know the only CD release that Trouble Boys had was on the 1991 Greatest Hits collection that also featured the Lawrence Archer/Grand Slam ripoff Dedication that Scott and Downey re-recorded prior to the 21 Guns debut. I give it a pass, even though desperation at recreating the Rosalie success just reeked on that release. And finally, a cut of Renegade just 33 seconds shorter with a faster fade out. All-in-all I’d say buy it for the nostalgia, the remastering, and the few gems you can unearth. There’s no real way Scott and Downey can bring any more justice to it, it was just part of the simultaneous break down and evolution of a band that didn’t quite fit in with the 80s.

The last thing I wanted to get into was the CD liner notes and photos. Darren Wharton was infamously fucked when he was not given a feature for the back sleeve pics that depicted the four principal members of the band posturing with the Renegade flag. Well we finally get to see his photo on the third to last page! I wonder who has the flag and its battle axe topped pole? In the notes Downey stated that it was no secret to Phonogram that they were well aware of Phil and Scott’s heroin addiction, and made every effort to put them on the backburner. Phil was a perfectionist, and he drove producers up the wall when he recorded, so any roughs that the label was getting were probably sliding further down hill in the quality department. No matter what sort of gymnastics Morrison and O’Donnell were doing, they were getting fed up with Lizzy, but were powerless to stop Phil from spiraling. Phonogram clawed back so much money from Phil’s solo projects and Lizzy that promotion suffered. No one gave a tinker’s damn about Lizzy stateside, and fans found out about Lizzy concerts the day of the show. But you couldn’t ignore what they were doing to themselves, and it was evident during photo shoots from Black Rose. One shot had Phil leaning on his knee holding a black silk rose downward. But he looked ready to pass out, eyes nearly closed. In a group shot for Chinatown with a pair of Chinese models in qipaos and the guys in stylish overcoats, Scott was out of it and unable to look at the camera. You could make out Phil was most likely staggering around between shots. In Renegade it was worse. Scott looked drowsy and bloated in several shots, Phil seemed to be extremely agitated. Two photos reflected this mood change, the first in the two page spread (by Denis O’Regan) and another photo of this sad shoot is on Denis’ site. The second is the front of the back cover, and neither Scott or Phil were My Guy worthy.

Y’know I don’t give a fuck whether these guys had threesomes on every drug known to man, but it’s damn heartbreaking that they can’t be our heroes by their own volition. I suppose we have to grow up sometime.

P.S. Just got the dirt on Scott’s emergency room fashion disaster- by Scott himself! It was the final leg of the American Chinatown tour, and Lizzy was playing at the Ontario Theatre in DC. Scott was speedballing at the time (a deadly cocktail of coke and heroin, a pastime Phil engaged in as well according to Byrne’s new book), and he would fuck around with Downey jumping on and off the drum riser, when he miscalculated and crash landed on his knee. A roadie had to literally drag Scott with his guitar on his back to the backstage, and his knee swelled up to the size of a football. Now fashion dictated wearing skinny jeans, unfortunately it made the shit Scott got himself into, well, shittier. But despite all that, Scott finished the show- blitzed to the eyeballs. After that Scott got his cast and for the remaining weeks Darren Wharton had to dump him in  a wheelchair and ferry him around the airports. Nothing like being 18-years-old and paying your dues in a big-ass European rock band.

P.P.S. To all of Savile’s victims, Operation Yewtree came too many years too late. The BBC and the British entertainment establishment knew of Jimmy Savile’s crimes and it would not surprise me if executives even witnessed his abominable acts right in Shepard’s Bush studios. Esther Rantzen is a hypocritical bitch, a secretary turned TV presenter to get into the gilded celebufucktard world who exploited herself to the married with three children Desmond Wilcox (who was more than likely a serial cheater) and only married him when she was pregnant with their oldest child (who I believe became an orthodox Jewish nutter to rebel and get attention), and then to sterilize her image (as well as get enormous tax breaks in a country that has state subsidized enterprises such as the NHS which is why many wealthy Brits emigrate and/or buy citizenship to other nations with dodgy tax laws) sets up a charity for children that are sexual abuse victims that was patroned by a monster. If I could have chosen a better clip for Hollywood, I would have done it, but there aren’t many to be had.

Scott: Hey honey, if I punch myself in the face enough times, you think I'd wake up from this artistic nightmare? Christine: *HEADSLAP!*

Scott: Hey honey, if I punch myself in the face enough times, you think I’d wake up from this artistic nightmare? Christine: *HEADSLAP!*

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One thought on “Thin Lizzy Renegade Review- UPDATE!

  1. Lot of good stuff here. You mention lots of things that jog my memory about TL. I caught them in 77, 78 and in the 80s for the Chinatown tour. The 77 shows were when they opened for Queen and quite frankly they blew Queen off the stage which, at that time, was no easy feat. After TL’s set there was a hush over the crowd and even when Brian May started up with Tie your Mother Down it all sounded so thin by comparison. I stayed for the whole set just to make sure what I was seeing was actually happening. Then I caught TL opening for Journey at a 3,000 seater, and I’m convinced that the sound guy was under instructions to keep the volume really low during TL’s set. I couldn’t believe it – I walked up to the stage and it sounded so much better but when some security thug made me go back to my seat it was like listening to cheap stereo with broken speakers. When Journey took the stage it all somehow magically straightened out even though I wound up hating their set – too much sing along bulls**t and “clap your hands” garbage. Still, TL turned in a good show but you could see they weren’t happy. Last time I caught them was at the Agora Ballroom in Atlanta in support of the ChinaTown record. This show was not at all promoted locally and I only found out about it the day of the show. I have no idea why it was such a secret, guess their PR guys were non-existent for this leg. Anyway there was maybe 100 people there with about 20 of them being staff. It was a great show and Scott was sitting on the bar stool with a leg cast due to the accident you mentioned. I was able to go buy a beer and walk up to the stage in front of the monitor and check out the band. It was pretty amazing and while I thought they might lay down since there weren’t many people it was the opposite effect. They laid into it hard. My only complaint was that Snowy White looked like he was about to fall asleep at any moment. He has zero stage presence. I’ve seen narcoleptics with more pep.

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