Thin Lizzy live 1972 – 1975

Thin Lizzy live 1972 – 1975
thinlizzy-whiskeyApologies if you have read some of this story before. I’ll be spending the next few days with my memories of Thin Lizzy in concert, and I though I’d start by recalling when I first saw the band in 1972, which I have written about before, as part of a post about a concert by the recent Thin Lizzy line-up.
Anyway back to 1972. It’s a Friday night and I’m in the upstairs bar of Sunderland Locarno (“the Mecca”). There’s a tall black guy standing next to me. He’s chatting away to everyone in a strong but soft Irish accent. He seems a friendly guy; looks like he could be in a band. An hour or so later the night’s group take to the stage. They are called Thin Lizzy, and the guy from the bar is the front man. None of us have heard of them; someone tells me that John Peel plays them quite a bit and that they have an album out called “Shades of a Blue Orphanage”. They play pretty well; the front man has great presence, the guitarist is pretty good and the drummer’s impressive. I find out later that the tall guy is called Phil Lynott and the other members are Eric Bell on guitar, and Brian Downey on drums. Roll on a year. I’m watching Top of the Pops and Thin Lizzy are on my TV playing an Irish-folk sounding tune “Whiskey in the Jar” which has a great guitar riff. Next day I go out and buy the record. My journey with Lizzy was beginning. Over the next few years Thin Lizzy play Sunderland a few more times, hitting the stages of the Mecca and the Rink. They appear down the bill at the Reading festival a couple of times. Each time I see them they get stronger and tighter, but they also seem to miss out on that “big break”. I must have seen them 5 or 6 times during the period 1972 to 1975.
ThinLizzyFightingThe next time I saw Thin Lizzy will have been on 22nd June 1973, again at Sunderland Mecca. By now they had released “Vagabonds of the Western World” which featured live favourite “The Rocker”. Support came from local band Beckett: “Thin Lizzy and their cover of Rosalie. Back in early ‘73, my band Beckett…..most of us hadn’t heard any Bob Seger, so his album [Back in ’72] was played incessantly…..On June 22nd..we were booked to play our local Mecca in support of Thin Lizzy who were riding the success of Whiskey in the Jar. While our crew were loading our gear into the lift under the venue, Lizzy turned up and we all stood around in the sunshine chewing the fat … while playing in the background was our tape of Back in ‘72. Phil was much taken with Rosalie and they decided, there-and-then, that they would cover it in their live show. Bob Seger and Thin Lizzy: two of the most heart-poundingly exciting live rock shows I ever saw.” (Keith Fisher of Beckett, ).
I next saw Lizzy at the 1974 Reading Festival, half-way down a varied bill which featured Georgie Fame, Procol Harum, Trapeze, and Greenslade, and was headlined by Traffic. By 1974 the classic twin guitar line-up was in place: Philip Lynott, Brian Downey, Scott Gorham, and Brian Robertson, and they had released “Nightlife”. The classic band was now together and was starting to form that classic sound. The attitude and presence were there; some of the songs and the success took a little longer. I saw them back at the Mecca on 25th October 1974 with support from Quicksand.
ThinLizzy76In 1975 Thin Lizzy released “Fighting” which features “Rosalie”, as mentioned above. I was back at Reading, and so were Lizzy, this time a little further up a bill headlined by Yes, Wishbone Ash, and Hawkwind. They played: Fighting My Way Back; It’s Only Money; King’s Vengeance; Still in Love With You; Showdown; Suicide; Rosalie; The Rocker; Sha La La. Encore: Baby Drives Me Crazy.
I may have seen them once or twice more. I have vague memories of a gig at Sunderland Top Rank (the “Rink”), perhaps with Status Quo. Or maybe I remember Quo playing the Mecca, while Thin Lizzy played the Rink on the same night (or vice versa)…who knows….the gigs all sort of blend into one now. I know that Lizzy toured in ’73 supporting Slade and played Sunderland Rink, but I missed that gig as I was seeing Santana at the City Hall on the same night. What I also know is that Lizzy were gigging constantly throughout those years and played in the North East many times. There were a great live band and I guess I took them for granted. I was lucky enough to be able to see the band honing their craft and developing into the class rock act that we all know and love.
In 1976 everything changed for Thin Lizzy. They released “Jailbreak”, the single “Boys are back in town” was played everywhere and massive success followed. For some crazy reason I missed them on the Jailbreak tour (I still regret such things today), and remember kicking myself for doing so at the time. I made up for it by catching most of their tours from then on, which I’ll write about this week, starting tomorrow with Autumn 1976 and the “Johnny the Fox” tour.
Many thanks to Mitch for his action shot of Phil Lynott which he took at Newcastle City Hall on 1st Nov 1976 (I’ll write about that gig tomorrow) and to the great site which catalogues Lizzy tour dates.

7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Neil Thompson on October 19, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    I was at the Mecca gig in June 73. They were a very fan friendly bunch (as you mentioned, you were standing next to Lynott) me and my brother, Mitch, were sitting on the next table to Eric Bell and Brian Downey before the gig – this is something that very rarely happened in the pre-punk days! The gig was brilliant – with Phil’s perspex bass guitar and the mirror on the top of the neck being very effective with the light show. I remember when they finished Whiskey in the jar Phil said ‘we’ve got a new single out called Randolph’s tango but we don’t play it live!’ Something that wouldn’t go down too well with record companies nowadays!
    The ‘Nightlife’ tour played mainly universities and clubs and I think I’m right in saying that it didn’t come to Newcastle or Sunderland so the next time we saw them was the ‘Fighting’ tour. Brilliant gig – Gorham was on fire. Fighting is my fave Lizzy album with great tracks like ‘King’s vengeance’ – I’ve read lately that it’s Gorham’s least fave Lizzy album! We went backstage to meet them and couldn’t believe it when the door was open and fans were in the dressing room chatting to them – this, again, was very rare at the time at the City Hall (the only other band that ever let us in for a chat was Budgie)
    We carried on seeing them at all the City Hall gigs (the last one I saw was June 78) and they were incredible every time. A few years ago I went to Islington to sell an acoustic guitar and this chap came up and asked ‘Can I help you?’ – it was Brian Robertson! He was a friendly chap and invited me round to his place to look at a portable recording studio he was selling (I’d told him I was looking to buy one) – he still looked every part the rock star. Great band – great memories.


  2. Posted by vintagerock on October 19, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    Hi Neil
    I’ve searched the Internet, but can find no record of a Lizzy gig at the Mecca in 71 or 72. However I remain (semi)convinced that I saw them at the Mecca before Whiskey in the Jar. I distinctly remember that when I saw them I’d never heard of them, and no one recognised Phil in the bar, so I guess it had to be in 71 or 72? I think we went to the Mecca not knowing who was on that night. I recall thinking that Thin Lizzy was a strange name for a band…but then my failing memory does play tricks…Peter


  3. Posted by Neil Thompson on October 19, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    There’s every chance that they played at the Mecca in 72. We didn’t start going there until 1973 so we missed loads of classic gigs (I would have loved to see the Free Feb. 70 gig but I was a bit young to go)


    • Posted by vintagerock on October 19, 2014 at 8:13 pm

      Hi Neil
      I was also too young for Free in 70. My wife is slightly older and was there, which she keeps mentioning every now and then just to rub it in. She also reckons she saw Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green and Pink Floyd at the Mecca or Bay, which also annoys me 🙂 Cheers Peter


  4. Got most of the past Lizzygigs here

    Really enjoyed reading the stories about Lizzy
    Best wishes from Peter


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: