Classic hard-rock group Thin Lizzy ended its original run in the early ’80s, but songs like “The Boys Are Back in Town” and “Jailbreak” remain radio staples, and numerous rock acts cite the band founded by the late Phil Lynott as an influence.
Off and on since 1996, guitarist Scott Gorham – whose original nine-year run in the band in the ’70s and ’80s was the longest of any member besides Lynott – has toured with different lineups as a reunited Thin Lizzy. But when the current lineup began writing new music, he wasn’t comfortable releasing it under the old name.
“Every interview that I would do, it was always in the top three questions, ‘When are you going to write some new songs and record a new album?’ We were the only band that re-formed and did not do this,” Gorham says.
“My whole time in Thin Lizzy, whenever we wrote and recorded an album, Phil Lynott was always right next to me. He was my best friend, and he started this band. The thought of recording another album without my pal, to carry on without him, it never sat right.”
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The band chose to record its debut album, “All Hell Breaks Loose,” under the name Black Star Riders. The band will play its own music as well as Thin Lizzy songs at Amos’ Southend on Thursday.
Some thought Gorham and company were crazy. Under the Thin Lizzy name, the band could sell out shows and play giant festivals.
“We walked away from a really successful thing and into the unknown,” Gorham says. “We believed in these songs so much, we were willing to walk away from the big-payday thing.”
Yet releasing new music under your old band’s name can be tricky at best. Some fans still have trouble accepting Axl Rose’s version of Guns n’ Roses, or the current Lynyrd Skynyrd. When your band leader is no longer alive, the transition gets even trickier.
“We’ve had so many people say, ‘You’ve done it in the right way. It’s great that you didn’t record under the name Thin Lizzy,’ ” adds Gorham, 63, a California native who has lived in London since joining Thin Lizzy in 1974.
It helps that the new album is so close to the original thing, with twin guitars, bluesy, hard-rock licks and a hint of Lynott’s Irish soul roots in singer Ricky Warwick, who hails from Belfast.
Gorham appeared on Warwick’s solo album a decade ago at the behest of Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott, who later recommended Warwick for the reignited Thin Lizzy.
“There’s a lot of Phil in Ricky,” he adds.
In Europe, where Thin Lizzy remains huge, Black Star Riders enjoyed a wide print and TV rollout. But in the States, the group is still spreading the word.
“The cities we walk into, if they haven’t done the PR and promotion, somebody is going to read ‘Black Star Riders’ and not know what it is,” says Gorham, who plans to record a follow-up to BSR’s debut in the fall. “It does feel like we’re starting over.”