"I'd like to establish a solo career before I start to live off past glories": Watch a subdued but hopeful Phil Lynott give his final ever TV interview

Phil Lynott on the Music Box
(Image credit: Music Box Limited)

In 1985, rock stars were not protected by an army of public relations professionals. If you knew where to find them you could talk to them, and if you happened to work for a fledgling TV music show, you could invite them to appear. 

And so it came to pass that then rock journalist (now head of Spinefarm Records) Dante Bonutto came to interview former Thin Lizzy mainman Phil Lynott in December 1985. He'd run into Lynott into a party, and asked him to guest on Music Box, a cable and satellite television channel launched in London the previous year. Lynott, who'd recently released a solo single, Nineteen, was happy to oblige.  

He was not in a good place. Since Thin Lizzy had broken up two years earlier Lynott had stepped the boards with Grand Slam, but record companies weren't interested – a series of drugs busts and a reputation for partying too hard made the suits nervous – and a new solo career looked like it was plateauing before it got started, despite the signing of a deal with Polydor.   

“He was struggling," Bunutto told Classic Rock. "He wasn’t getting the response that you would have thought that someone of his reputation would have got. It was very surprising… because if Phil had survived that period, he would be one of the biggest stars in rock now making records with Bono and Bon Jovi.

"He didn’t look well, a little bit yellow and was a little bit down. Not like the person I had seen hanging out before – the party man and great guy." 

Lynott is subdued and a little forlorn in the interview, occasionally coming across as a man feigning enthusiasm for material he doesn't quite believe in. But he's hopeful for the future, talking about plans to record solo material with former Thin Lizzy guitarists Gary Moore and John Sykes, and addressing rumours of a possible reunion with the old band. 

"There was something in the Daily Mirror yesterday saying Thin Lizzy were going to get back together again, and was a quote from the management saying that we might get together to do a charity thing," he says. "We are keeping close communication. I mean, I was working with Scott [Gorham, Lizzy guitarist] recently. And Brian Downey [drummer] is gonna play. I'm gonna get a band together for March and tour with my album."

Lynott then goes on to dampen the expectations of any watching Lizzy fans, saying, "I'd like to establish a solo career before I start to live off past glories."

The album never came, and when Thin Lizzy did finally reunite, ten years later, it was without the man who defined them. Lynott died just weeks after the Music Box broadcast, his final interview leaving fans with impression of a man reluctantly battling for his future, but doing so with grace and humility. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.