He may be best known for his work with Thin Lizzy and Motörhead, and he possibly never got the same attention in the media as other members of those bands, which may be a little unfair as he is a very good guitar player. Exhibit A is that he followed Gary Moore in Lizzy, but he also played on record with a diverse group of artists like Pat Travers, Eric Burdon, Skyclad, Shane MacGowan, Balaam and the Angel and a host of others. This is a man who you wouldn`t go much wrong with if you hired him for your band. Read on.
The night they got my blood!
Geoff Barton talks to Thin Lizzy`s Brian Robertson who recalls a few hair-raising stories
Sometimes it`s more difficult to “play your own sounds” than you might imagine. Brian Robertson, guitarist with Thin Lizzy, has had quite a few ups and downs in his career – trying to get bands together, gigging for little or no reward, having to sell prize guitars – all this and more.
It`s the sort of thing that plagues any musician who wants to play his music all the time but finds himself frustrated at every turn.
Brian, a quiet, laid-back Scot, has been with Lizzy for just four months: “I didn`t know I`d be getting a job with Lizzy. I hadn`t a clue. I just thought `well, if I don`t get the job it won`t be a reflection on my guitar playing, it`s just that my particular style doesn`t suit and that`s it`.”
Moore`s sudden departure from Lizzy left a space that was hard to fill. So, the band expanded to a four piece in order to seal the gap that he left.
What did it feel like stepping into Gary Moore`s shoes?
“It was a bit heavy in some ways you know, especially in Ireland where Lizzy have a big following. You always tend to be compared. But there`s absolutely no comparison in styles – not even in ability!
“All good guitar playing is about, is fitting your music in with the band you`re playing in.
“I remember one of the first gigs the new band did was in Liverpool, and this guy was standing in front of the stage and holding up a picture of Eric. He pointed at the photo, then pointed at me saying, `ahh, forget it!` – that really freaked me, you know?”
But now, back to the past for a while, and the inevitable question – how did you start playing guitar?
“Well, first it was piano.”
“Yeah. I did eight years classical piano. Eventually I began playing in the cabaret bands, you know, just doing the club circuit up there. My brother and I both started playing piano at the same time, but he wasn`t much good at it so he went on to guitar. I went on to guitar as well, and we got a really good band together.
“I played mostly pop and cabaret stuff, nothing to speak of really, which is the whole scene up there, anyhow. It`s a real drag. You don`t get the gigs unless you play pop.
“If you don`t play the gigs, you don`t get the bread, so you don`t survive.
“The last band I had up there changed subtley from playing pop to playing rock `n` roll without our agency knowing. We did it very well, we were doing the same gigs as we would have done if we`d remained a pop band – but we started getting better crowds, and going down really well. We thought we might be getting somewhere.
“That sums the whole thing up, really. The agencies just don`t want to know you if you can`t play `Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep`.”
Brian favours a high action style of guitar playing. He admits that he can`t play low action because if he tries to bend a string his finger will slide right over it. He finds he has to get his finger right underneath the string to bend it successfully.
He has quite a few guitars – on stage he uses a Les Paul, with an SG close at hand in case he breaks a string. He uses the SG mainly in the studio. In fact, when he was recording Lizzy`s new album he used six guitars in all. Among them a couple of Stratocasters, a stereo Les Paul and a Telecaster.
But he`s still looking for his ideal guitar.
“I used to have an old type SG standard, but that got ripped off. That was just about the most comfortable guitar I ever had.
Brian is not all that fond of what he calls “flash” guitarists, and for that reason he`s not keen on Hendrix. He admires B. B. King and a lot of the old blues players for their relaxed approach.
As far as he`s concerned – well, he claims to have gone through some “weird scenes” with a guitar. Here`s one of them.
“At one gig we did in Dundalk we came off fifteen minutes early. We`d played a good, tight set but the crowd had hardly clapped at all. They`re a bit heavy over there as far as going off early goes, and they said we had to go back on. We said `okay`. So, we went back on, turned everything up and just went daft all over the place.
“I was at the front really hammering at my guitar, and I couldn`t understand why all the chicks were looking at me and not at Phil. I looked down at my guitar and realised it was covered in blood.
I`d gashed my finger open from hitting the strings so hard and I was literally dripping with blood, you know. It took the roadies one and a half hours to clean it off the guitar the next day.
“And the thing was that before we`d gone back on stage Phil had said to me `what do they want, blood?` And they got it in the end.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Ron Wood, The Sharks, John Cale, Michael Fennelly, John Sebastian, Sparks, John Entwistle, Maggie Bell, CSNY, Scott English, Tommy Aldridge, Tom Scott, John Grimaldi, Steve Howe, Lorraine Ellison, Tony Visconti.
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