This short extract is from my new memoir Getcha Rocks Off.
An odd thing about becoming involved in the rock biz is how few of my former rock heroes I have actually gotten to work with over the years. I meet people these days in their twenties and thirties and they talk about Iron Maiden and Def Leppard, Guns N’ Roses and Metallica the same way I once might have talked about David Bowie or Roxy Music. Yet for me the Maidens and Leppards, Roses and Tallicas meant nothing, as a fan. For a start I was older than all of them, or about the same age in the case of Iron Maiden. I’d even been in the business longer. There was no thrill in meeting them the way there was when I met Jimmy Page, or Ozzy Osbourne. Or, finally, David Bowie and Bryan Ferry.
Even then, by the time I got to meet those people I’d been around long enough to downplay it in my mind. It didn’t trip me out. Not like the way it did when I got to know Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy.
There had been the time with Pete Makowksi, when I was just eighteen and stood shyly behind him as he rapped with Phil, and was appalled when Johnny Rotten, whom I’d never heard of, came over and started moaning about being bored. I could not have guessed that a couple of years later I’d actually be working with some of these people.
‘My friends call me Philip,’ he had told me the first time we met, and of course I was deeply flattered that he might think of me in that way – though I never did hear anyone else call him Philip, not that I recall anyway.
We met because Philip was always coming to Wild Horses gigs. Guitarist Brian Robertson had still been in Lizzy when I’d first met him, now he was co-fronting Horses with Jimmy Bain, who were managed by the same Lizzy team.
Robbo was only a couple of years older than me and he was always delighted with my constant pestering for Thin Lizzy stories. It gave him a chance to relive recent glories. How Robbo had come up with the riff to ‘Don’t Believe A Word’ but Phil had not credited him for it. How the Mafia ran the band’s record company in America. How Phil had hit him in the face so hard one time he thought he’d never talk again – ‘Fingers like fucking bananas!’ Times he must have known that, even then, would probably never come round for him again.
As the band’s PR, it would be my job to make sure Phil was made a fuss of whenever he showed up at the shows. But Phil could take care of himself. At least, he could back then. As the years passed though things changed.
The last time I actually spoke to him was at the end of 1985, and our situations were different. I had been clean, if not particularly serene, for over two years, but he was still deep down in the devil’s hole. You could see it a mile off. Not just the permanent night sweats and heavy sniffles, but now something else, the thickening of the jowls, the stoop no longer faked but deadening. The eyes forlorn and full of the pain of trying to hide it all away somewhere not so secret any more.
As well as writing, I was now appearing on the Monsters show. Phil was our guest that week and the two of us sat in make-up together watching the monitors, waiting for our turn to go on.
I don’t know why, it must have been his sombre mood, but I began to babble about regrets. I wince when I recall the conversation now. How thoughtless and insensitive, how plain rude. It must have been something to do with the low centre of gravity he now had. The pull towards the depths was simply inescapable.
‘Do you regret Lizzy never really making it in America?’ I asked him, out of the blue.
He turned his sad face towards me and smiled. ‘Yer, but dat’s like saying you regret not fookin’ Kate Bush . . .’
I nodded. Fair point.
When I heard of his death just a few weeks later, I was amazed. I knew he was still fucked up, still on the gear, the same death trip he’d been on for years. And yet… cats like Phil Lynott didn’t die just like that, did they? Unless it was an OD. But the papers said it wasn’t an OD, that it was multiple organ failure, brought on by years of bad living. I thought of my bad living through some of those years and still didn’t get it. Could it be that Phil had lived a life even badder than the baddest of us?
Apparently it could. And that’s when it dawned on me that I’d never really known Lynott at all. That perhaps none of us had. I wanted to find out more yet knew this was not the time. That those who knew the real Philip would be unwilling to share that information. Maybe one day, but not right now…