Unbelievably Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous album turns 40 and Brian Downey’s Live & Dangerous are celebrating this momentous occasion with two live gigs in Nell’s Blues Club on Nov 24th & 25th – With that in mind it would be rude not to chat with one of Thin Lizzy’s founding members about their landmark album coming of age.
Brian Downey’s ALIVE AND DANGEROUS show at the Nell’s Blues Club on Friday 24th November is sold out but tickets for Saturday 25th November are still available.
RNL – Well Brian you must be in shock that we are talking about a 40-year anniversary of ‘Live & Dangerous’?
BD – Yeah! It is incredible that it has been around for 40 years; actually we were only reminded about that after we had formed the band, we hadn’t considered the timing but couldn’t resist celebrating the anniversary as the album had captured Lizzy in the height of their success time back in the day. It’s a real pleasure to know the album is still held in such high regards today, we kinda knew it was something special though as we were kinda untouchable back then, we were a really good live entity and very few bands could touch us live in the UK at that time.
We were confident heading into those sessions, we headed out to Philidelphia, Toronto and London, so between those three venues we certainly got the best quality from those gigs. There was a bit of criticism over the years regarding ‘Live & Dangerous’ the likes of Toni Visconti brought up regarding overdubs etc, but he did ask each of us individually if we wanted to add any additional ones to the recording, and I was happy myself with what had been recorded but I think Phil wanted to add the odd vocal and maybe a bassline here or there and maybe Scott Goram too but nothing too excessive. I feel Tony exaggerated the interpretation of just how much had been done.
RNL – Thin Lizzy were very much a live band weren’t they?
BD – Very much a live band, absolutely. People would often comment that Lizzy were a better band live than in the studio, whether or not that was true I couldn’t honestly say but we did have a great reputation for our live shows.
RNL – I suppose back in the day that was how it was done, live shows, grafting, making a name for yourselves up and down the country earning a reputation, the thoughts of recording a studio album would have been a pipe dream for many bands?
BD – That’s absolutely right, when we were doing the clubs it was six nights a week up and down the M1 in the UK, it was exactly what we wanted to do, we wanted to play as many venues as we could. It did hold the band in good stead; we really tightened as a live band. The band always had a great sound live from the early days with Eric Bell to Snowy White and even John Sykes.
RNL – Did you ever have a personal favorite Thin Lizzy line up?
BD – I think for me the early incarnation with Eric Bell was a fun time, going to England and playing all those famous venues like the Marquee, The Speakeasy, it was wonderful time to be playing in London at that time, it was the capitol of the world of pop music and for an Irish band to be playing all those venues we read about in NME & Melody Maker it just sticks in my mind. Bumping into all those special musicians who graced the stages of the clubs, making London our home and even getting there was an achievement in itself!
RNL – I can only imagine, a bunch of Irish guys getting in a van and heading for London to follow their dreams, it was a pretty ballsy move?
BD – It certainly was, there weren’t too many Irish bands doing it then, obviously Skid Row had done it before us, Rory Gallagher etc but very few Irish bands had made it in London.
RNL – You guys had a tough time of it in the early days, the 1st three albums were’nt well received and even though the record label saw potential in the band that never translated to commercial success, it must have been a frustrating time for you guys?
BD – We didn’t have any success at all with the 1st,2nd or 3rd album and even though there was a gradual progression in sales, we were frustrated as Phil was writing some great tunes, we knew we had great material. Phil was really coming into his own as a songwriter and I genuinely thought the 1st album would have broke us in the UK. We had a kind of a cult following in the UK until ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ changed things for us.
RNL – Even after Whiskey In The Jar it still took a while for the penny to drop with the public though didn’t it?
BD – It did yeah, it actually took a whole new line up! It just hadn’t been working as a 3 piece and even though Gary Moore came in to join us, I thought Gary may have stayed on but he decided to go back to his own band. So we had to back to the drawing board and hold auditions. We eventually found Brian Robertson and Scott Goram.
RNL – That really changed the sound and direction of the band?
BD – Completely, the dueling guitar thing came in. Phil was probably thinking it would be a good idea to have two in case somebody walked again! There were other bands with dueling guitars, Wishbone Ash, The Allman Brothers and we knew it was a good idea to have a second guitar to thicken out the sound a bit and before you knew it, it became somewhat of a trade mark and everyone relates twin guitars to Thin Lizzy it seems.
RNL – You touched on it earlier regarding touring, you guys covered the states with some great names including the likes of Queen?
BD – Yeah that’s right, we originally toured the states with Bachman Turner Overdrive and then Journey, somewhere along the way Eric Bell left, the Queen tour Brian Robertson wrecked his hand in a barney in a speakeasy and Gary Moore had to fly over and help us out. Gary came in and played unbelievably well, we had maybe 5 days rehearsal to get him ready for the tour as we’d cancelled the 1st week of the tour to get Gary in.
RNL – What was Gary Moore like, was he a big character?
BD – Gary was a great guy, I played with him shortly before he died in his own band, I always regarded Gary as a personal friend over the years. Even before he joined Lizzy and he was playing with Skid Row we were friends and even more so when he joined us in the band our friendship just extended. Even when he walked out on Lizzy, he just left us in the lurch in the middle of another tour; I never fell out with him.
RNL – There always seemed to be some kind of drama surrounding Thin Lizzy, ever changing line up’s and fall outs what would you attribute that too?
BD – There were a lot of big personalities in the band, big ego’s but that possibly made us play better as a band, no major friction but there was always an element of anything could happen you know. When you have big personalities like Gary Moore and Phil Lynott in a band you’ll always have some level of drama but then you had myself and Scott Goram who were more low key, so that helped to provide a bit of balance.
RNL – The band held it together until the early 80’s and there was talk of drink and drugs becoming an underlying issue, did this ultimately become the bands downfall?
BD – It did in the end I think, the plan was to try keep it out of the eye of the public as long as possible, but people started to question the bands credibility with members walking in and out of it every second month. The drugs really started to take their toll maybe 6-8 months before the end and possibly even a year or so before that when the heavy stuff had been thrown around. Phil had been strung out; Brian Robertson had maybe been drinking too much, we all were probably drinking too much.
RNL – What would you attribute that too? Were you guys just burnt out?
BD – Possibly, Snowy White has a great story about coming down for breakfast one morning as Phil was walking in and Snowy asked him ”You just in for breakfast Phil” and Phil says ‘No man im just coming home” that’s the kind of philosophy that you would have found in the band back then.
RNL – Im sure that was pretty widespread in the music industry back then? It was all part of the Rock ‘N’ Roll lifestyle?
BD – Absolutely and I had no issue with that whatsoever, as long as we could deliver on stage I had no issue. Phil could do that; he could stay up for 3 or 4 nights in a row and still get up on stage and play out of his skin.
RNL – Thin Lizzy itself over the years now has taken many guises since the original line up and is still in demand, does that fill you with pride to know that a band coming up on its 50 year anniversary is held in such high regard?
BD – it’s really great to know that, Phil is dead now over 30 years and the bands back catalogue still sells really well, we had a reunion back in 2011-2012 and we packed out most of the venues we played. It’s a humbling thought to know that the record buying public still holds the band with such esteem.
RNL – I think its part and parcel of an Irish upbringing that all Irish ids must be raised on Thin Lizzy!
BD – Yeah (Laughs) in Ireland for sure!
RNL – You have your shows coming up in London to celebrate the 40yr anniversary, I’m sure you’re looking forward to that?
BD – Really looking forward to playing London again, everybody is really looking forward to the two upcoming gigs at Nell’s Blues Club on the 24th and 25th and all being well possibly a UK tour in the New Year.
A big thank you to Brian for taking the time to chat to us here at Rock ‘N’ Load World HQ: Enjoy the show my man, enjoy the show.
Friday nights show is Sold Out but there are a few tickets left for Saturdays show, catch this rare performance while you still can.
BRIAN DOWNEY’S ALIVE AND DANGEROUS