Triumphs, tragedies and making your concert debut in Wolverhampton. Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham talks to
The first day on a new job . . . it's something you never forget, even if you're a multi-million selling rock star. That's certainly the case for Scott Gorham, the American-born guitarist who was part of the classic Thin Lizzy line-up.
For guitarists Gorham and Brian Robertson it was their debut performance with Lizzy, back in 1974 at Wolverhampton's famed Lafayette Club, alongside legendary singer and bassist Phil Lynott and drummer Brian Downey.
"One thing I can remember is that probably the bouncers outnumbered the actual paying customers. There was nobody there," Gorham laughs.
This was a Thin Lizzy that had had some success with Whiskey In The Jar but had yet to achieve superstar status with the likes of The Boys Are Back In Town, Waiting For An Alibi and Jailbreak.
With original guitarist Eric Bell out of the band, Gorham and young Scottish upstart Robertson were recruited and the famous Thin Lizzy twin guitar sound was born.
Gorham has another reason to remember that night at the Lafayette – receiving an instant lesson in stagecraft from the rest of the band.
"This was one of four shows we were doing that was going to culminate in us playing in London for a lot of different record companies so we could actually get record deal. So the Lafayette club was the first show that I and Brian had ever done as Thin Lizzy.
"The thing with that was that when you're rehearsing you just sort of stand around playing the songs. But on game day there we were at the Lafayatte Club and Brian Downey counts us in 'One, two, three, four', hits the first beat and Phil, Brian Downey and Brian Robertson just exploded on stage and I turned round and went 'What the hell?'!
"Nobody told me that this was part of the deal. I kind of cowered back to my amps going, 'What the hell's going on here?' And after about the third song Phil kept looking back at me, trying to nudge me back towards the front, with me going 'That's OK. I'm OK back here'. Finally he just come off the mic, grabbed me by the shoulder, dragged me up to the very front of the stage and said 'Right, don't move from there!"
Another Midlands concert looms large in Thin Lizzy's history, the 1979 Christmas show with 11,000 fans packed inside the agricultural arena at Stafford Bingley Hall.
"There was a big cattle market or something," says Gorham. "I think I remember that the support band just got their ass kicked that night by the audience. I just remember they just got murdered that night because the crowd just did not want to know about anything but Thin Lizzy."
We're talking as the latest incarnation of Thin Lizzy prepares to return to Wolverhampton Civic Hall next month, almost exactly a year after a triumphant show at the venue this January.
That tour was put together to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of the band's iconic leader, Phil Lynott. Taking his role as lead singer was Ricky Warwick alongside Gorham, Downey, Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell, bassist Marco Mendoza and keyboard player Darren Wharton.
"The whole tour went great," says Gorham. "The whole tour was sold out except for maybe one or two places that were nearly sold out. I think a couple of years or four and back we kind of struggled a bit for ticket sales but I think people have heard who's in the band now and seen YouTube clips and it's all come good."
Fans certainly seem more enamoured of this version of the band than the one of a few years ago fronted by guitarist John Sykes.
"Yes absolutely, we saw that on the last tour. It just shows you the power of Ricky Warwick, what he is and what he does and how he does it," says Gorham.
Guitarist Campbell has since returned to his Def Leppard duties and his temporary replacement Richard Fortus is now back with Guns 'n' Roses. Filling their shoes in the second lead guitar spot is former Alice Cooper guitarist Damon Johnson.
Gorham explains: "When we knew Richard had to get back to Guns 'n' Roses we were pretty fortunate that we had just played with Def Leppard and Alice Cooper and it was the first time I had been able to see Damon play.
"I told him that in a month's time Richard was going to go back to Guns 'n' Roses and that kinda logged in his memory there and he had a think about it and got hold of management and said he would really, really want to join Thin Lizzy
"He ended up actually quitting Alice Cooper to come and be the right hand guitar player in Thin Lizzy. So he's now a permanent member of Thin Lizzy and we are whole again!"
"Everybody loves him to death. It's like a big happy family travelling all over the word again. That's kind of the key to this whole thing. if you're going to come out and do the miles that we're doing, you've got to have a good time."
It's been an incredibly busy 2011 for Thin Lizzy, with the tour, festival appearances, the release of expanded editions of classic albums and the release of a lavish collection of BBC material – At The BBC, in three formats, a 6CD, 1 DVD box set, a 2CD anthology and a 5 LP vinyl set.
"We were out on the road for seven months this year," says Gorham. "Then we crank it up again in January and we're going to do it all again. We'll be doing this tour here January and February, we'll be playing Europe, well, Scandanavia really, then it's back to America, then we come back over here for a few of the festivals then it's back over to America for a few festivals over there. Then they're trying to book gigs now in Australia, Japan and South America. We'll be getting a fair few Air Miles!
"Everybody has stuck with this, which is great which was probably not the case just a few years ago when there was the whole thing of 'No Phil, no Lizzy'. That thing has kind of lapsed now, now that so many people have got to see what we do. I think there's always going to be a couple of people who are going to think on the negative side but I think any band gets that anyway."
One of the emotional high points during a Thin Lizzy gig is when Phil Lynott's image is projected at the back of the stage during Still In Love With You. This year the band was hit a further blow with the death of former guitarist Gary Moore.
"We spiritually feel that Phil is still in the band. That's still a big deal for us," says Gorham.
"Also we've started to put Gary Moore at the back. We want to make sure that people don't forget Gary. It's our way of saying we're still thinking about Gary and Phil. We try to pay homage to as many as we can."
Moore's death came as a huge shock to Gorham.
"Oh man. It was Brian Downey that came down to reception when we were in Spain and he said 'I've got some bad news for everybody. Gary Moore is dead'. And I turned around, thinking this was some sort of black road humour. I turned around and I looked at Brian, waiting for a punchline or something and saw the look on his face and thought, 'Oh no, he is dead.
"It was a big shock. It's always a shock when a friend of yours dies. It was a hard one to take.
"Phil's been dead for quite a number of years now so the real emotional side of it is thankfully not so prevalent any longer. It took me a while to get over his death because Phil and I had been together for over 11 years, living out of each other's pockets almost, with the amount of work we did together and just hanging around.
"We've just put a book together which Omnibus is putting out some time next year, so there'll be a few stories in there."
And does Gorham ever think about what might have been . . . if Lynott had lived, if Thin Lizzy had reformed with him?
"Oh god, yes, I think about that all the time. I would have liked to have recorded something now, with the whole digital generation, what we could have actually come up with."
A this point, as I prepare to ask Gorham if the current line-up has any plans to make a long-hinted-at return to the studio, that digital technology intervenes with a resounding "Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep" down the line.
The interview is over. But Thin Lizzy, they very clearly are not.
Thin Lizzy play Wolverhampton Civic Hall on Friday, January 27, 2012. Tickets, priced £27.50 plus booking fees, are available at Midland Box Office: 0870 320 7000 or online at www.wolvescivic.co.uk
Concert review - Thin Lizzy at Wolverhampton Civic Hall