Review: Thin Lizzy — 'Bad Reputation' Special

Posted Jul 28, 2012 by Alexander Baron
Does the world need another documentary about Thin Lizzy? If you need to ask that question, you don't know what rock music is all about.
Thin Lizzy performing in Newcastle  April 1979  photographed by a die hard fan. In the background is...
Thin Lizzy performing in Newcastle, April 1979, photographed by a die hard fan. In the background is lead guitarist Gary Moore, who like Phil Lynott is now sadly no longer with us.
This programme by BBC4, is currently on iplayer for those who can receive it, but it won't be there for much longer!
A one hour warts and all documentary, it will probably contain something new even for die hard fans, because it includes archive footage, some of it very old, and interviews with the likes of producer Tony Visconti, who explains how the song Dear Lord was recorded.
As to be expected, the programme is largely about Phil Lynott, whose death at just 36 - not 35 as the newscaster says towards the end - was in its own way as great a tragedy as the death of John Lennon nearly six years earlier, the only difference being that Lennon was murdered by a psycho while Phil committed slow motion suicide, something Visconti noticed when the band was recording the 1979 Black Rose album with him in Paris.
The programme starts with Scott Gorham returning to Ireland to remix some old tapes where he embraces Joe Elliot - staged for the camera, of course, but no less sincere for that.
Fellow Irish rocker Bob Geldof chips in a few notable comments, and among other things we learn how and why the band's first guitarist, Eric Bell, walked off stage during the middle of a gig in Belfast; how the band came to have two lead guitarists; and how Phil's health started breaking down earlier than even most die hard fans will have suspected, he contracted hepatitis in America and was taken to hospital - clearly the result of too much partying.
Eric Bell also explains how they came to record the traditional Irish song Whiskey In The Jar, a massive hit that has been recorded many times before and a few since, but has never, and will never, be bettered, with Lynott's thick, velvet-like voice and Bell's flamboyant soloing.
Brian Downey - the only drummer Thin Lizzy ever had - relates some old anecdotes, and Phil himself explains how the band got its name, and more. There was no such contribution from Gary Moore - who died last year, nor from Snowy White or Darren Wharton. Brian Robertson did contribute, and the years of hard drinking have clearly taken their toll on him.
The programme also gives the impression that after Thin Lizzy broke up, that was the end of the story until Phil's death on January 4, 1986 due to his addiction to heroin. He may have partied hard, but he was a workaholic, and in 1983 toured Sweden as a solo artist - with Brian Downey on drums. Then there was Grand Slam.
More information about Grand Slam can be found here, and about Phil Lynott, here.