And now for something completely different. Bow To Your Masters is a Heavy Metal tribute to legendary Irish hard rockers, Thin Lizzy. Released on double coloured vinyl, in a gatefold sleeve with art that pays homage to the work of original Lizzy artist, the great Jim Fitzpatrick. In all, a beautiful package.
With the exception of Worshiper (a Boston band I’ve caught live), I’m unfamiliar with the contributing artists. That doesn’t matter as the material they have to work with is great. What I really like about Bow To Your Masters is the choice of material – it’s not the obvious Lizzy material. There is no Whiskey in the Jar (a good thing as Metallica fans may get confused) or The Boys Are Back In Town. Here there are lots of overlooked classics such as Johnny, Massacre and It’s Only Money. Some of their later career metal stuff – Cold Sweat and Thunder & Lightning. The Celtic rocker Emerald and some real deep cuts from the bands Decca days (Ray Gun/Vagabond of the Western World)
Looks like there may be new Celtic-rock material from legendary guitarist and Celtic-rock innovator Gary Moore coming out. Just prior to his death in 2011, Moore was working on new Celtic rock material. Moore was a member of Thin Lizzy (3 times) in the 1970s and played on their Celtic infused 1979 album Black Rose as well as recording his own Celtic metal opus Wild Frontier in 1987. From 1990 onwards Moore turned to the blues and had a very successful career.
Some classic hard rock here for yah. Black Star Raiders have their roots in iconic Irish rockers, Thin Lizzy. BSR started life as a post Lynott touring version of Thin Lizzy, until the band then decided to write new material and did not feel it was right to put it out under the Thin Lizzy brand (the absolute right decision in my book). Black Star Riders are fronted by Belfast man Ricky Warwick, a rocker and poet in the mold of the late Phil Lynott. The guitar harmonies are pure Lizzy with one half of the BSR guitar duo being long time Lizzy legend, Scott Gorham. Fans of Celtic-rock will love the title track, Another State of Grace, which rocks out like Lizzy’s Emerald. Fans of classy, guitar driven hard rock will just love this.
Gary Moore who tragically died last Sunday at the age of 58, while on holiday in Spain was a huge part of my mid-to-late teenage year – between ’85 and ’89 to me Gary was the man. Whether it was playing repeatedly his 1985 hit “Out in the Fields” on Phibsboro ice rink jukebox, spending my Christmas money in the Virgin Megastore buying the ‘Run For Cover’ and “Rockin’ Every Night: Live in Japan” LPs, suffering hours of bad pop videos just so I could see the video of “Over The Hills…..” on some crappy music show on RTE 2 and just generally playing the shite out of his 1987 Celtic/hard rock masterpiece, “Wild Frontiers”. Gary was truly the man! I loved his guitar playing – Gary could shred like no other – he was fast if not faster then ever other axeman out there but his guitar playing was not just a bunch of notes played really fast but a living, breathing extension of himself as he bleed emotion through the strings. Not only could he play, he could write great songs and he was proudly Irish and wore it as a badge of honor.
Gary was born in East Belfast and was exposed early to the guitar by his music promoter father. As a young teen Gary witnessed Peter Green playing with Fleetwood Mac in Belfast and Green’s brand of British blues changed Moore’s life. By 16 Gary had move to Dublin and joined the legendary Skid Row (not the “18 and Life” crap artists) – two major label albums were recorded and US and European tours were undertaken with support to the likes of The Allman Brothers Band and Frank Zappa. After Skid Row fell apart, Gary recorded his 1st solo album, “Grinding Stone”, but a short time later he got a call from his old Skid Row mate Phil Lynott to join Thin Lizzy following the departure of Eric Bell. Gary joined Lizzy as they revamped their sound to hard rock. A single was cut, but Gary was gone from the band within 4 months, right in the middle of the recording of “Nightlife” – Gary’s guitars do made it onto the standout album track, the ballad “Still in Love With You” (Brian Robertson refused re-record the guitars on “Still in Love with you”, Gray’s solo in Robbo’s opinion was just too good). Rumor has it, the departure had to do with Gary’s doing some serious partying.
Thin Lizzy by 1976 were twin guitar, bonafide rock godz and Gary was now quietly pushing the bounds of musical experiment with the progressive rock of Colosseum II and Greg Lake.
In 1977, came a second call from Philo, Lizzy guitarist Brian Robinson had his hand cut in a fight days before a major US tour with Queen. Gary flow out to the rescue. Gary was offered the position full time but declined due to Colosseum II commitments.
1979 came and Robbo was permanently out of Lizzy and Gary accepted a full time gig – the masterpiece Celtic rocker, “Black Rose” was recorded – Lizzy’s most successfully studio album. Gary also released his second solo album, “Back on the Streets”, containing Gary’s first top 10 single, which Phil Lynott co-wrote and provided vocals, “Parisienne Walkways”. “Parisienne Walkways” is a beautiful soulful guitar ballad that with a single note inspired an army of teenagers to start playing the electric guitar and simultaneously caused an army of guitar players to give up playing. Gary then joined Phil in a 3rd project – The Greedies – a punk band featuring both members of Thin Lizzy and The Sex Pistols.
Things were not well though between Gary and the rest of the Lizzy bhoys – and Gary quit suddenly during a US tour. Again, over excessive partying – this time Gary was clean and the Lizzy boys were seriously indulging.
The early 80’s saw Gary building up his solo career, putting together a strong band, working on his singing voice and song writing skills. Gary toured hard and built up a large hard rock/metal fan base in the UK, Europe and Japan. 1985 saw the release of Gary’s first great solo LP, “Run for Cover”. “Run for Cover” saw the burying of the axe between Phil and Gary, Phil joined Gary on two tracks, the Lynott penned “Military Man” and the top 5 UK hit, “Out in the Fields”. After 17 years and a few false starts Gary had now finally arrived. The album was also symbolic as it represented the hand off of the Thin Lizzy legacy from Phil to Gary.
By 1986 Phil was dead. On 1987’s, “Wild Frontiers”, Gary played tribute to his friend and mentor in the only way he knew and produced a masterpiece of Celtic rock. “Wild Frontiers” fielded multiple hit singles and Gary was now a major rock player in Europe.
1989 heralded the release of Gary’s next album, “After The War”, this was an album that seemed to me to have lost the magic of the previous two releases and was somewhat direction less – there was great Celtic metal, “Blood of Emerald’s”, classic metal, “Led Clones” and the American sounding title track. I think there may have been pressure by the label to break America etc. Nevertheless the album was still successful.
The next year Gray do something that at that point of time could have be seen to have been very foolhardy. After 10 years of building up a very successful solo career rock – Gary reinvented himself. He went back to his early teenage inspiration of Peter Green and American blues and released an album of original and blues standards and just for authentic’s sake he was joined by some of the great black American blues artists like BB King, Albert King and Albert Collins. “Still Got The Blues” became Garys biggest release to date and unlike the forced predecessor, “Still Got The Blues” did crack the American market going gold. Ironically, looking back 20 years later what seemed foolhardy or even career suicide was actually a genius move as within a couple of years Kurt Cobain had slew the beast of hard rock and hair metal as we knew it and while most of Gary’s 80’s comrades were relegated to the oldies circut or reality TV, Gary had a very healthy though lower key career playing the blues as a highly respected guitar player without having to worry about still fitting into his leather trousers.
Me, I parted company with Gary after “Still Got The Blues” and followed Mr. Cobain for a while and then switch my focus to The Pogues and their bastard children – though ultimately without “Wild Frontiers” I would not be doing the whole Shite’n’Onions thing.
Gary Moore, rest in piece. You left a great body of work, most of it timeless and were instrumental in the foundation of Irish rock. Slán agus beannacht.
Generations of Irish, both at home and in the States, have often spun misty-eyed, drunken yarns around the fire of the myth of the Black Irish. For some, this myth seeks to simply explain the age-old (and often disproved) theory about how so many of the native Irish have dark features – dark eyes, dark hair, in many cases, dark skin, and sometimes, more forebodingly, a dark soul. At any rate, sordid tales of the mixing of Spanish blood have been told by more than one Grandparent to a wide-eyed child when asked why they have the dark features they do.
For others, these tales hold a more personal meaning – they seek to explain the often self-destructive ways of a certain people – perhaps a troubled family member or friend – as the Black Irish were often described as ‘black’ not only for their features, but for their psyche – their moods,. Their addictions and their sometimes general bleak outlook on life. They were often said to be sullen and detached. In many ways, they often seem almost other-worldly. Famous playwright Eugene O’Neill was said to be a stereotypical Black Irishman. He could be light and playful one minute, and swing into a dark depression the next. His plays were full of Black Irish characters battling addictions of one variety or the other – some felt that these were the characteristic of the mystical Black Irish.
Whether or not these well-worn legends are true or not isn’t the point. The point is that these myths and preconceived notions live on, true or no, to stand the test of time. In much the same way, one of rock’n’roll’s favorite deceased sons – Thin Lizzy’s frontman, bass player and Black Irishman extraordinaire –Phil Lynott – fits the mold of these clichés to a tee. And like these tall-tales, although he has long since departed this world, his life, legend and influence live on in the canons of rock history.
Rather than give halfhearted history of Thin Lizzy, and run down a basic list of who played for them and when, I’d rather look at the myths and legends of the band and their frontman, Phil Lynott, and how he influenced a generation of bands to follow – how the myth, true or no, has persevered.
Mainly known for their twin-guitar attack (led by a revolving door of talent including Gary Moore, Eric Bell, Brian Roberston, Scott Gorham and John Sykes) and street smart, tough songs, Thin Lizzy pioneered the Irish Rock sound, and later even dabbled in and welcomed the punk influence.
The seminal album Jailbreak, with its “anthem-for-every-buddy-cop-movie-ever-made” “Jailbreak” set the world on it arse. Tough-sounding songs followed, along with successful tours, albums and singles, and also collaborations with Johnny Thunders and members of the Sex Pistols. Thin Lizzy songs could often do what so few could – provide hard and gritty tales, along with the softer, quieter ones – and often in the same song, showcased in such gems as “Cowboy Song.”
The twin guitar attack that propelled Lizzy was one that worked in unison – rather than work against eachother for personal glory, Lizzy’s guitar sound complimented one another perfectly, and Lynott’s bass provided and ever steady and driving backbeat. It takes only a listen to “Jailbreak,” “Fighting My Way Back” or “Bad Reputation” to understand that this band was something special. As a Lynott tribute site notes: “You find testimonies to Lynott in unlikely places, like the approval of hardcore artist Henry Rollins, or in the beautifully sad way that Smashing Pumpkins have interpreted ‘Dancin’ In The Moonlight’. Noel Gallagher from Oasis has paid tribute on his song ‘Step Out’, which echoes Thin Lizzy’s roaring version of ‘Rosalie’. Meanwhile, documentary film, ‘The Rocker’ demonstrates Irish music’s massive debt to Phil’s example. U2 benefited from his advice early on. Bass player Adam Clayton even paid homage by cultivating a well-intentioned Afro hairstyle.”
Phil, it was said, welcomed the punk movement as a kick in the ass to complacent rock’n’roll and, for a short time, formed his own punk outfit, impressed with all the freedoms the genre could offer. Lynott was indeed a free spirit. An impressive artist who had achieved much, but still had so much more to give. The group that could do so much would soon see blackness take root and their careers enveloped in darkness.
As the story so often times goes, success has its downsides, and in the case of Phil Lynott, alcohol and drug abuse would provide a tragic end to a troubled soul. In his prime, Phil Lynott was nearly untouchable. He could combine sentiment with humor and an everyman kind of grace. The emotion he put into his songwriting, singing and bass playing is obviously evident – but he was also had weaknesses. A curse of the Black Irish or just simply an incurable addiction? Those who knew him spoke of his shy and unassuming ways, said he was at heart a family man, but as time wore on and his battles with addiction intensified, he made no bones about his drug use, eventually leaving his cherished family.
In the end, the band disbanded and Phil slipped deeper into addiction. He did attempt to clean-up and he and Gary Moore were set to reunite for a project, and did record a tune called “Out in the Fields” which reminded me of the harder direction Lizzy once took. But the story, as is the case for many of the Black Irish myths, simply couldn’t end happily. Lynott fell ill due to pneumonia and died in January of 1986, the drugs and drink finally taking its toll on his heart.
So, in the end, the man passes into legend, another chapter in rock’n’roll and another example of how life is often times dark for the Black Irish. Thin Lizzy, however, continue to tell their tale with their music, as legions of fans act as modern day storytellers every time they put on a CD or LP. May their tale never be forgotten.
So the story of the black Irish lives and breathes in many ways, but why shouldn’t it? Why shouldn’t our lives be touched by magic, if only in a small way? As Phil himself mused, looking back on his early years and success with a cover of the Clancy Brothers classic “Whiskey in the Jar”: “We figured that people would hear it and say ‘There’s the boys having a good laugh at the Clancy Brothers. I was more of a poser in those days. I used to hang around Grafton Street. I was getting a lot of limelight probably because I was the lead singer and because I’m black. But why shouldn’t there be a black Irishman?”
You were a true Black Irishman, Phil. One of the best. R.I.P.
While Shite’n’Onions has focused on Celtic punk and rock since inception there is one area of Celtic rock that we have never really touched on –\m/ Celtic Heavy Metal \m/.
This omission is somewhat ironic as I first heard the mixing of traditional Irish music and rock through metal bands. My introduction to Celtic anything (with the exception of my parents Dubliners and Wolfe Tones tapes and successfully avoiding trad music at school) was through a band called – Mama’s Boys – 3 brothers from the North of Ireland raised playing traditional Irish music who discovered Horslips and had a Saul on the road to Damascas conversion from trad to rock’n’roll. Mama’s Boys recorded and toured throughout the 80s and while the infusion of Celtic sounds was somewhat sporadic (tracks like Runaway Dreams) it really perked up my ears. Small bit of trivia – Flogging Mollys’ Dave King was briefly singer for Mama’s Boys prior to joining the big league with Fastway (and former Mama’s Boys bassist and vocalist John MacManus now plays bass for Fastway). Mama’s Boys split in the early 90s after death of younger brother Tommy and the remaining brothers John and Pat want full into Celtic music with an band called Celtus who had moderate success in the UK.
With my interest pricked I delved into Thin Lizzy’s back catalog and especially stuff like Emerald (please Flogging Molly cover this!) and the amazing Black Rose. While Lizzy never incorporated traditional instruments the guitars shreaded Celtic melodies like you wouldn’t believe.
Thin Lizzy lead me to Gary Moore and his 1987 Wild Frontiers album – the most complete Celtic metal/rock album I had heard to date – Moore took Lizzy’s Black Rose (which he played on) and added trad instruments – fiddles and uilleann pipes – and was joined by members of The Chieftains to make the ultimate tribute to the late Lizzy front man Phil Lynott.
And that was really my Celtic rock world (and yeah The Pogues existed but when you did the metal then that was all you did) through the early 90s. My interest in Metal wained in the early 90s as I opened up to newer sounds – Therapy?, That Petrol Emotion – and metal changed when Kirk Cobain slew big the beast that was hair metal and I didn’t like the sound of the new flavors of the month from Kerrang!! – Sepultura and Pantera and all the various shades of black, death and fart metal. One band I did catch by chance playing live around that time was Skyclad – the originators of Folk-Metal – thrash meets Lizzy”s Emerald with a full time fiddle player to boot – Skyclad were to open for Danzig in Dublin but Glen stubbed his toe and Danzig pulled out – Skyclad pulled together a last minute gig in a biker bar in Capel Street and they were amazing (audience filled with guys in kilts with clamors and this was pre-Braveheart). Skylclad had started something for the metalheads of Dublin. Me, I moved and moved on musically.
Interestingly both Celtic punk and metal bands stick within the musical structure of their respective genres. While the punk bands will see their roots in The Pogues and their forefathers The Dubliners and that drinking, fighting, rebel ballad tradition. The metal bands reference Horslips and further back to The Chieftains and focus on Celtic mythology and pre-history – the scally caps are replaced by blue face paint.
So, 17 years on there is now a whole sub genre of Celtic Metal with bands from Ireland, Germany and as far a field as South America. The scene developed first in Ireland and was primarily influenced by the aforementioned Skyclad and Horslips – early and influential Irish bands were Cruachan, Primordial and Waylander who all took the lead from Skyclad and combined trash/black metal with traditional Irish folk in a Horslips goes metal style.
“Skyclad were the original Folk Metal band I suppose and they certainly influenced both Waylander and Cruachan, but coming from Ireland I’m sure both Keith [Fay of Cruachan] and myself thought we had a divine right to play Folk Metal, especially as we’re both influenced by the Horslips as well.“
Following on in the wake of Cruachan, Primordial and Waylande came more Celtic metal bands from Ireland including Geasa and Mael Mórdha and bands cropping up in places as diverse as Switzerland (Eluveitie), Spain (Mägo de Oz) and Germany (Suidakra).
So, with the help of Wikipedia and Youtube I thought we would take a look at the current crop of bands that Skyclad, Horslips and to a lesser extent Thin Lizzy can take the blame for:
Cruachan – Founders of Celtic metal waaaaaay back in 1992. Founding member Keith Fay was inspired by Skyclad and took what they were doing and added a Celtic dimension. Horslips were another big influence. Originally Cruachan were a black metal band infused with traditional Celtic music though their metal sound has moved more towards traditional heavy metal. Cruachan will be the band most familiar to Shite’n’Onions readers as Shane MacGowan co-produced their album Folk-Lore. Shane-o also contributed vocals to versions of “Spancil Hill” and “Ride On” on that album.
Eluveitie are a Celtic metal band from Winterthur, Switzerland founded in 2002. Switzerland was of course the original European home of the Celt’s. Eluveitie often sing in Gaulish (an extinct Celtic language). The band had decent chart success with their last release Slania in both the Swiss and German charts.
Geasa are a Celtic metal band from Dublin, started in 1994. Their style is traditional Celtic music merged with black metal. The band has released one demo album, one EP, and three full-length albums.
Mael Mórdha (founded 1998) are also from Dublin and play Celtic doom metal (ie Black Sabbath at their most depressed.) They describe themselves as “Gaelic doom metal”. The band tried to enter the Eurovision Song Contest 2005 as Ireland representative.
Mägo de Oz are from Spain and have been around since 1988. Their style is more traditional heavy metal (ie Iron Maiden) meets Celtic (band members included a violinist and flautist). Mägo de Oz has had some serious success in Spain and South America.
Primordial – are from Dublin and along with Cruachan are the Granddads of Celtic metal. The band was formed in 1987 and added a Celtic bent to their black/doom metal sound in the early nineties.
Suidakra are a melodic death metal (if you can imagine that) band from Germany with Celtic influences.
Waylander are from Norn Ireland and play more traditional heavy/power/trash metal with Celtic influences. The band were formed back in 1993 and were part of the first wave of Celtic metal bands emerging from Ireland – as with Cruachan, Horslips were a huge influence.
Celtic Legacy were another Irish band that were around from the mid-nineties to 2010 (they basically went broke trying to finance their own stuff). The band were heavly influenced by Thin Lizzy at their Celtic best.