Scott Gorham on 40 Years of Thin Lizzy's Jailbreak
Interview: Scott Gorham looks back on Thin Lizzy's breakthrough Jailbreak album
Now aged 64, Scott Gorham’s Californian drawl and amiable personality have refused to fade despite his long established status as a Londoner. It’s been 42 years since he joined Thin Lizzy and three decades since that band seemingly ground to a halt following the death of founder Philip Lynott.
Gorham would be among those to revive the Thin Lizzy name from 1996 to 2001, and again in 2004, before deciding eight years later that the desire to make new music should be fulfilled under a new name. Besides widespread touring, Black Star Riders have since released two albums, All Hell Breaks Loose and The Killer Instinct.
Here Gorham explains why Lizzy are back for selected dates to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Lizzy’s breakthrough sixth album, Jailbreak, and thirty years after the loss of Lynott.
Until Jailbreak and its hit single The Boys Are Back In Town, Thin Lizzy really had been on the precipice of extinction, hadn’t they?
Yeah. Everyone around us was telling us it was make or break time. So no pressure there, then [laughs].
But the song that saved the band wasn’t even intended to be on the album.
That’s right. We had demoed maybe 15 songs and were only going to put ten on the album. As a band we chose that ten. It was one of the managers that went through the ones we’d rejected and The Boys Are Back In Town was among them, though it didn’t have any guitar harmonies on it at the time, though the lyrics were complete. So we swapped it over. We were pretty bad at picking the singles [chuckles]. It was these two deejays in Louisville, Kentucky, that made the song a hit by playing it incessantly until other radio stations caught on.
Do you still think of Jailbreak as Lizzy’s defining album statement?
Absolutely, it was our saviour. If it wasn’t for the The Boys Are Back In Town and a couple of others, you and I wouldn’t even be talking.
But if a Martian comes down and you want to give him a Thin Lizzy album, you say: Here, take this copy of Jailbreak?
Or maybe Black Rose? But, yeah, I think Jailbreak would be a good one to give the little green fella.
Are you going to be playing the Jailbreak album in its entirety at this summer’s Ramblin’ Man Fair?
Probably not, but we’ll play a lot from it. It’s more of a celebration of Phil Lynott than of Jailbreak, it just so happens to be the anniversary of its release.
Are any of Jailbreak’s selections previously unplayed onstage? Did you play Romeo And The Lonely Girl, for instance?
You know, I don’t think we ever did and it was one of Phil’s favourites on that album, and of mine too. We might have done it in rehearsal but not in public so far as I recall.
Fight Or Fall might not have translated to the stage?
No. That one we definitely didn’t do live.
Can you pin down a reason for the album’s continued resonance?
Well, production-wise it’s not the greatest but it’s where Phil finally got his shot together lyric-wise. The stars all lined up for him and propelled him forward into the artist people think of now. Brian [Robertson] and I were also starting to get our own shit together; to feel comfortable as a partnership.
For me, there isn’t a bad song on it.
Well, thanks. That might also have had something to do with it. There’s a lot of signature tunes on there.
How do you think Phil would feel about Jailbreak’s relevance four decades on?
[Laughing]: He’d love the vindication of it. Phil adored publicity and having his picture taken. He’d be thrilled, man.
Can you think of some element of the album’s creation, or a fact hitherto unknown, to share with us?
Wow, great question. The reason we got John Adcock in to produce the album was because he was this big, imposing guy. We thought he’d put us in our place and tell us how things would be done, but from day one Phil was like, ‘Fuck you man, this is my band’. So that plan of the management’s totally backfired.
What did you do on January 4, the anniversary of Phil’s death?
I’d love to make up a story for you, Dave [cackles loudly]. I fell to my knees and cried; I was quivering, I couldn’t get out of bed. But no, that’s not true.
He’s been gone so long that I didn’t do anything specific, but I do think about Phil all the time. And there’s times when I get really angry that he went and died on me. Had he not, I’m sure there’s some way we’d have been out there still doing Thin Lizzy.
A lot of people still miss Phil, Pete Townshend, for instance. I met Pete in a music shop just after Phil had died and he we had a conversation in which I said, ‘If anyone would understand [my loss], it would be you given what had happened to Keith Moon’. And he replied, ‘I miss Phil way more than I miss Keith’. I didn’t know how to respond to that. What he probably meant was that Phil was a songwriter and an entertainer and not that Keith Moon was probably just a pain in the ass.
**At Ramblin’ Man the band will be re-joined by former keyboardsman Darren Wharton. **
He’s one of my favourite guys, and such a talent. I’ll share the stage with Darren at any point.
The addition of former Motörhead man Mikkey Dee, whose drumming style is so thunderous, is perhaps a surprise?
People have said that about others we’ve brought in, but it’s amazing how adaptable these A-List drummers are. People who get to that level do so because they can play in more than just one style. Mikkey was so enthusiastic about doing this couple of shows with us because he’s a huge fan, and that’s what you’ve gotta be.
Are you able to confirm who’s playing bass?
It’s still between a couple of large-ish names, but it’s all down to scheduling.
Finally, there must be reservations of some kind about reviving Thin Lizzy again? With BSR having worked so hard to establish themselves as a separate entity, does it not represent a backwards step?
I hope people don’t see it that way. We’re not actually doing anything BSR-wise this year; we’re writing and recording a third album.
To be perfectly clear, this is not an attempt to put Thin Lizzy back together again. The handful of shows we’re doing are just one-offs in different places, purely to pay tribute to Phil and to Jailbreak.
In fairness when Lizzy broke up you said there was a possibility of further future activity, so it’s not a complete U-turn.
That’s right. There’s gotta be a reason. We’re not going to book a three-month tour [as Lizzy]. We’ve worked really hard with Black Star Riders, nobody wants to harm that. I really hope that people understand what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it.
_• __Thin Lizzy play the Ramblin’ Man Fair on July 23._