"His work can be quite disturbing. God alone knows what's going through his mind when he draws": For years Thin Lizzy's Scott Gorham kept his art secret, but all is now revealed

Scott Gorham studio portrait and his illustration 'Curiosity'
Scott Gorham alongside his illustration 'Curiosity' (Image credit: Ross Halfin)

Scott Gorham launched his first ever art exhibition in London in April. Until then, you were probably unaware that the Thin Lizzy and Black Star Riders guitarist likes to wield paintbrushes and pens as well as a Gibson Les Paul, probably because Gorham hid this ‘other’ talent under a bushel for decades, drawing in the secrecy of hotel rooms around the world, and without informing bandmates or even his wife of several decades, Christine. Indeed, Gorham insists that he would never have disclosed this artistic side but for the stubborn insistence of Mrs Gorham, who stumbled on a folder of his drawings at their home. 

While discussing his art with Classic Rock, Gorham appears almost apologetic, at times close to embarrassment. “With a guitar around my neck you can throw me out on stage in front of a crowd of a hundred thousand, no problem,” he says solemnly. “But put me in a room with ten people looking at the art that I hid for forty years, I will turn into jelly.” 

Gorham’s artworks were inspired variously by life on the road, getting sober, the state of the planet, and even the time that Phil Lynott took him to his first football match, a game between Lynott’s beloved Manchester United away to Newcastle United. 

“The experience left an indelible stamp on me,” Gorham recalls of going to that game. “A few months later we were on tour in Germany, and I went out and bought an art pad and some pens and drew this figure I called The Fanatic (below). 

Scott Goham: The Fanatic illustration

The Fanatic “The Manchester United players had given us tickets to a game up at Newcastle. Within five minutes Manchester United scored. I think Phil was the only supporter of Manchester in the stadium, so that was quite scary. Then a second goal went in, and a third. Then number four, and scarves and hotdogs are being thrown onto the pitch. Newcastle fans around us are crying. Phil was very smart, in self-preservation he sat quietly in his seat. But as a follower of American sports I had never seen that level of support, so I drew The Fanatic, this guy who was totally beaten up and defeated. It isn’t about Newcastle United but football fans in general.” (Image credit: Scott Gorham)

Back in his native California, just before flying to England in 1974 in the hope of joining Supertramp, 14-year-old Gorham took an art course. Apart from that he is entirely self-taught. 

“The only reason I took that lesson was because the alternative was another semester of typing,” he says, laughing. “I knew I’d never want to work in an office, so I figured I’d try art.” 

So how would Gorham describe his style? 

[Long pause] “You know, I really haven’t even thought about styles,” he replies, before a smirk appears on his face. “All I can say is the way that I draw is complicated, so how about that?”

Having stepped away from Black Star Riders in 2021, Gorham continued to draw in an unused but suitably sunny and solitary room at home, concealing the designs under the bed. “And then one day Christine was cleaning and found my folder. When she asked who had drawn them, I was hesitant to admit it was me. There was nobody else around to blame, my big secret was out. 

“This was four years ago,” he continues. “Since then Christine chipped away, persuading me into letting it go [to the outside world]. Whenever she brought up the subject I would leave the room, I just didn’t want to know. But she finally talked me round.”

Scott Gorham's Pain illustration

Pain: “Pain is almost like a self-portrait. Look at the bones growing into my right eye. Back in the day I went through some real problems in the band [Thin Lizzy]. There was a lot of tension, and I got cluster headaches, which are like the big-ass grandaddy of the migraine. They would lay me out in a dark room and last for three or four hours. Then when the band broke up, Phil and I deciding that getting away from it all would save our lives, everything melted away." (Image credit: Scott Gorham)

Three years ago, Gorham posted The Fanatic on social media to commemorate what would have been Phil Lynott’s birthday, and was deluged with requests for prints. However, the whole element of subterfuge is what makes this story so fascinating. Why keep things so secret for that long? 

“In all the time I travelled with the guys in Thin Lizzy, nobody ever said anything about art,” Gorham replies. “I thought that if I started pulling this stuff out they’d razz me to death. And if they ridiculed me, then I’d probably stop drawing, which I didn’t want to do, so I kept it as my thing. I suppose I do wonder what Phil might have thought.” 

Did he also keep quiet about it because people tend to consider rock stars who become artists a bit of a cliché? 

“Not really. Like I said, the absolute truth is that had I been laughed at it would have destroyed me. That’s why it means so much to hear that [Thin Lizzy cover artist] Jim Fitzpatrick likes what I’m doing. Jim and I have been friends for forty years, and I always loved it when he brought in the artwork that he’d drawn for each of the band’s albums. To have him say anything nice about my stuff is incredibly thrilling.” 

Print copies of Scott's art are available online from Scott Gorham World.

Scott Gorham: The Missing Link illustration

The Missing Link: “I watched a documentary about the lineage of the human race. It made me imagine this archaeologist out in the desert, shovelling away, and he’s exhausted and on the verge of giving up, when suddenly he’s faced by this thing looking up at him from the dirt. ‘My God, what’s that?’ And of course it’s the missing link – finally." (Image credit: Scott Gorham)

Thin Lizzy artist Jim Fitzpatrick on Scott Gorham

“Scott kept his art secret from me, too, and getting to see it was a very pleasant surprise,” says Jim Fitzpatrick, whose illustrations adorned the sleeves of Thin Lizzy’s albums Vagabonds Of The Western World, Jailbreak and Black Rose, among others. 

“Although Scott is an amazingly talented guitarist, I wasn’t expecting a great deal. He’s a rocker on stage, he’s magnetic, but that doesn’t mean he can paint. Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones is a great artist, but for rock stars that’s about as good as it gets. 

“So when I saw the images I was gobsmacked. I still don’t think Scott believes that I like them, but I honestly do. He draws very well indeed. His work can be quite disturbing. The Fanatic is extraordinary, and Pain reminds me of Scott himself on stage. God alone knows what’s going through his mind when he draws."

Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.