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The Lynott I Knew
Legendary Irish music figure Frank Murray reflects on his years working with Thin Lizzy and his relationship with their iconic frontman.
Peter Murphy, 09 Mar 2011
That’s some bill!
This was 1970 in Detroit, and Skid Row were on the bill as well. So we got the head blown off us twice, first by the Allman Brothers, they were magical, and afterwards Iggy came on and blew us away again. It was like he landed from Mars. The Allmans were sublime. We came back talking about the twin guitars. Phil decided upon a sound that he was gonna go for. It became, then, essentially like a hard rock band. That’s what people like Bowie had done, perfected a sound. Marc Bolan had perfected a sound with T.Rex. I think Philip decided, ‘We’re gonna go concentrate on this, and stop trying to be a bit folky, a bit psychedelic, a bit of this, a bit of that. We’re gonna be great at one thing’. Jailbreak became the hit, they had established their sound, but what was important was that there were enough great songs on the previous two albums to put into a live set. We just had this genius collection of songs. The same thing happened with The Pogues when it came to If I Should Fall From Grace With God. Without the three albums they wouldn’t have had the classic live sound. And that’s so important, the core of any great set.
What was it like when the band returned home to do Irish tours?
It was a really odd time. Horslips had happened here, so they kind of opened up the ballrooms. The showbands were going down, they were going nowhere. The ballroom managers realised that they were going to make a killing out of Horslips. Back in the ‘60s those guys would bar you from the ballrooms, they didn’t want anything to do with beat groups. We were bad news. Our hair was long. They seemed to assume we were on drugs. But Horslips as a homegrown act had high production values. Some places were used to giving you electricity for your lights or for the guitars – but a lot of them, you were just talking to farmers who owned ballrooms and they never knew what you were talking about when you talked about power requirements, or if you wanted a few drinks in the dressing room. The dressing rooms were usually just freezing places. There might be a pot of tea in the middle of it. It was quite primitive. In fact it was really primitive. We used to pack them, even when we were peaking over here with the Eric Bell line-up. At Christmas we’d play up North, we’d have guys who’d call themselves the Provos coming in trying to make us play the national anthem. Or, in the ballrooms, some guy would be telling us about how many thousand people were in and we’re going, ‘Is this the record for this place?’ and they’d always say, ‘Nah. we had Big Tom here about three weeks ago and he had about 150 more than you’. If they put 150 more in, the place would collapse! But they never would give you the satisfaction of saying that you had the record, so it became a joke among us, we’d go into ballrooms and we’d ask ‘Did Big Tom play here recently?’ and ask how many he had in.