Thin Lizzy Years

Eric Bell was a founder member of Thin Lizzy, playing guitar on their first three albums. In Belfast, Eric progressed through bands such as The Bluebeats, The Earth Dwellers, The Atlantics and The Jaguars. To make ends meet he also had stints as a street gas lamplighter, and as a worker in a pickle factory and a shirt factory.

In 1965 he joined The Deltones and in 1967 had a brief spell with Belfast's Them, alongside Van Morrison. Eric eventually formed his own band, Shades Of Blue. At first they were very popular, but it didn't last. When John Farrell, vocalist with The Movements, offered Eric a job in his new showband The Dream, he couldn't refuse, subsequently moving to Dublin with them. The Dream had a hit in Ireland with "I Will See You There", written for the band by The Tremeloes. Fed up with the showband scene, Eric decided to have another attempt at forming his own band.

Thin Lizzy, First Album

One night in Dublin he met Eric Wrixon, Them's keyboardist, who took Eric to The Countdown Club. A band called Orphanage were on stage comprising of Joe Stanton on guitar, Pat Quigley on bass and Brian Downey on drums along with vocalist Philip Lynott. Eric was amazed by Brian's drumming and wanted him in his band. He'd hardly noticed Philip, who was not yet playing bass. Eric caught up with them and suggested the possibility of working together. Philip had already heard of Eric through Gary Moore. Philip told Brian that he should join Eric and then surprised Brian by saying he would be joining too as Vocalist AND bassist!

Brian had no idea that Brush Shields from Skid Row, had been teaching Philip bass guitar! Philip had been Skid Row's singer, but Brush felt he needed to add something extra to the band, hence the bass lessons. Once that had been achieved Brush promptly sacked Philip!

Eric, Philip & Brian arranged to meet at Eric's flat where Philip brought along a reel to reel tape full of demo's, from which Eric could sense the potential of working together. Philip and Brian had to announce to Pat and Joe that they were leaving Orphanage to form a group with Eric and Eric Wrixon.

The rumour was going around Dublin that a Bell-Lynott super group was going to be formed, but there seemed to be some kind of a delay in this news becoming official.

None of them could think of a suitable name for the group. The best they could come up with was Gulliver's Travels, but it just didn't suit the Quartet. During rehearsals one day Eric was flicking through some comics when he saw the Dandy's strip about 'Tin Lizzie'. Brian Downey thought it was a ridiculous name, but with a little tinkering by Eric the name became Thin Lizzy and suddenly it didn't seem so bad.

Thin Lizzie

During January 1970, Thin Lizzy rehearsed and made their first official live performance at St. Anthony's Hall, Dublin.

In June of the same year, EMI Ireland expressed an interest in signing up the four-piece. By July the deal had been done and their first single entitled "The Farmer" was released.

Eric Wrixon had left the band, as money was so scarce although they did have a loyal following. Philip and Eric also toured Folk Clubs, as a duo, to make ends meet. Phil and Eric moved into a house in Clontarf, near Dublin, along with Eric Wrixon and many others including Freaky Pete (mentioned in "Here I Go Again") who became one of their roadies.

They now had a manager called Brian Tuite who thought he could get a deal with Frank Rodgers from Decca Records in the U.K. Rodgers was visiting Ireland to see another band but Tuite managed to get them on the bill, as backing musicians. Rodgers decided on that night alone to signup the Lizzy boys on the understanding they would relocate to London.

They duly crossed the Irish Sea and once in London went to Decca's studios to record their debut album, "Thin Lizzy" which was released in April 1971. Recorded over five days, Brian admits to a couple of drumming mistakes and Eric's preferred guitar tracks were lost, but overall they were happy.

Radio Caroline DJ, David "Kid" Jensen loved the album so much he contacted Rodgers and thereon became a keen follower, player and friend to Philip and Thin Lizzy. A return to Ireland ensued; Ted Carroll was recruited as co-manager with Tuite.

Fleetwood Mac's manager, Clifford Davies helped out for six months and then Pete Barden joined for a brief spell too.

Back in London Thin Lizzy met Radio One DJ, John Peel, who was also taken aback by Thin Lizzy's talent and enthusiasm and subsequently also gave them a good deal of airplay.

Their first gig in London was in early 1971 at Blaise's Club and later that year they were on stage at Ronnie Scott's. The night after that they were supporting Status Quo! Thin Lizzy toured up and down the country and now had moved into their own accommodation.

Eric was living in Belsize Avenue with Carroll, Gary Moore, roadie Frank Murray and at least 15 other people!

comic

Thin Lizzy released an EP in August 1971 titled "New Day". Decca were unsure about financing a second album and so the compromise of an EP was reached. It had the desired effect on Decca who then gave their backing for Thin Lizzy to record their second album, this time at Lane Lea Studios in Wembley.

"Shades Of A Blue Orphanage" was released in March 1972. Eric believed that their best material had been used on their debut album, and given the lack of studio and mixing time they felt rushed and slightly disappointed with the result.


At a meeting at Decca's offices the trio were told that an American guy had offered Decca money for Thin Lizzy to record an album of Deep Purple hits. Decca agreed as Thin Lizzy were not bringing in a lot of money, but it was decided that they would go under the name of Funky Junction. Benny White and Dave Lennox, from Elmer Fudd were vocalist and keyboardist, respectively. "A Tribute To Deep Purple" was released in January 1973.

Shades...

During 1972 and 1973 Thin Lizzy toured Europe. During this time, Carroll bought out Tuite and introduced Chris Morrison into the management. Morrison persuaded Slade's manager/producer (also the man who discovered Hendrix), Chas Chandler to put Thin Lizzy on tour with Slade and Suzi Quatro. That tour was a defining moment for Thin Lizzy.

Philip was hoping their next single would be "Black Boys On The Corner". However, Decca wanted to release Thin Lizzy's version of "Whiskey In The Jar", a traditional Irish song that had already been a hit for The Dubliners. Thin Lizzy were mortified, as it was not even a song they had penned themselves, but they had no choice. On it's release in November 1972, it shot to the top of the Irish charts and reached No.6 in the U.K. Chris O'Donnell heard the single and called Morrison with ideas of promoting the record, which worked. Thin Lizzy's popularity soared overnight.

Eric was living in Belsize Avenue with Carroll, Gary Moore, roadie Frank Murray and at least 15 other people!

The Rockers

Thin Lizzy promoted "Whiskey in the Jar" all over Europe and this was something Eric didn't enjoy, creating tension within the band. Their next single, "Randolph's Tango" failed to make the U.K. charts although in Ireland it got to No.14, and so the "one hit wonders" rumour began. O'Donnell had permanently joined the team after his successful promoting.

"Vagabonds Of The Western World" was recorded with ample studio and mixing time at Tollington Park and released in September 1973. Philip had also enlisted Jim Fitzpatrick to do some designs for Thin Lizzy, a business relationship that would last for many years and a friendship that lasted up until Philip's tragic and untimely death.

"The Rocker" released in 1973 failed to make an impact in the U.K. However, O'Donnell had lined up an extensive tour of the U.K. and Ireland. During the tour after a hand injury suffered by Brian, they recruited Gary Moore's drummer, Pearse Kelly, to help out.

The last show of the year at Queen's University, Belfast was on New Years Eve and heralded Eric's departure from the band. On the afternoon of the show Eric went on a drinking spree which continued when he finally got to the venue. He was utterly drunk once Thin Lizzy came on stage and midway through threw his guitar in to the air, kicked his cabinets offstage, walked off and collapsed! Eric was revived by a roadie and they finally managed to get him to go back on stage where Philip and Brian were bravely carrying on the performance. The next day Chris Morrison raged at Eric, and Eric replied that he'd had enough and wanted to leave Thin Lizzy. Philip was furious with Eric and it was a long while until they spoke again, but then they resumed their close friendship. Vagabonds...

Eric knew, however, that he had to escape from the drink and drugs that were freely and widely available for the sake of his health.

In 1980 Eric recorded a tribute song to Jimi Hendrix Philip and Eric's guitar idol. The last Eric's performance with Thin Lizzy was in the farewell Tour in 1983 at Hammersmisth Odeon when Philip reunited all the guitar players of Thin Lizzy story to play a brilliant show.

Very Special Thanks to Dawny McCarrick.