Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Remembering Phil on Paddy's Day.

Smash Hits did a piece on Phil Lynott in the early ‘80s, which began by positing the question, “What’s Black, Irish and has a big head?” The answer is Guinness, of course, cos Philo was a rocker par excellence but he didn’t have a big head, no sirree. In the early ‘80s in Ireland, where I grew up, Thin Lizzy were revered, usually by young fellas with AC/DC patches on their denim jackets, but those of us who were bugging out on Joy Division, The Buzzcocks and PIL revered Phil Lynott too, for many reasons. Firstly, we recognized that Thin Lizzy was a seriously good band, secondly we saw from interviews with Phil that he had a lot of love for new music; punk, new wave and even synth pop.

Ultravox member Midge Ure was Lizzy’s stand in tour guitarist in ’79 and I’m sure his friendship with Lynott opened up the Irish rocker to Kraftwerk, Moroder and Yellow Magic Orchestra. Listen to “Yellow Pearl” (the Top of the Pops opening theme for a good chunk of the '80s) from his first solo album for ample proof of that. The third reason we respected him was because he was black and Irish, the real “black Irish,” and we understood, as members of a culture that had been down-trodden, decimated and finally wrenched apart by infighting, how his race made him more vulnerable to xenophobia, stereotypes and racism. All that made us really proud of him.

We felt this because we knew how we were stereotyped as alcoholics (the Irish can and do drink a great deal though), barbaric and stupid, even though we produced thinkers and writers like Jonathon Swift, W.B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, Lady Gregory, Samuel Beckett and James Joyce. Phil Lynott was an icon for us because he could rock out with the best of them and then he could turn around and work with the likes of Steve Jones and Paul Cook from the Sex Pistols and Midge Ure from Ultravox. You could hear blues, soul, funk and Kraftwerkian electro in his solo records. Simply put, Philo was a man for all seasons, a renaissance man, the man.

It’s been twenty three years since he passed away and I can think of no better way to tip my hat to Saint Patrick — the Christian, Roman British slave who began the Christianizing process that civilized all of western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire and the barbaric slide into the Dark Ages. This is why we honor him. — than to do likewise to Phillip Parris Lynott. So drop the green beer, the corned beef and cabbage (we don’t do any of that in the old country) and slap on a tune like “Old Town,” “Girls” or “Don’t Believe A Word” and revel in one of the best Irish exports ever, black as Guinness and Irish as all get out. Go dtuga Dia suaimhneas da anam.


No comments: