Todgers, Jukeboxes and Greedy Bastards: Friends Of Phil Spill! #2

More tales from the people in the life of Mr Lynott…

Darren Wharton

Lizzy’s on-off keyboard player recalls the nefarious ‘cheese incident’.

“When Thin Lizzy toured the UK, Philip, myself and Gus Curtis, who was Philip’s PA and driver, lived at Phil’s house at Kew Gardens, Richmond. On the occasion concerned, [Lizzy guitarist] John Sykes was also at the house.

“One morning I awoke to loud shouting and cursing. We’d all been out the night before so everyone was a little hung‑over. I hauled myself out of bed, pulled on my jeans and walked out on the landing as John and Gus emerged from their own rooms. The shouting and ranting came from below us all. Phil’s voice roared, ‘Gus, Dar, John, get down these stairs now!’ It sounded serious.

“In the kitchen, he was in a complete rage. In-between shows there was little point keeping a full fridge, so Phil would usually have his own private bottle of vodka and a nice piece of Cheddar cheese. To our horror, Phil was stood in a dressing gown holding out his piece of cheese. Its wrapper had been opened with a perfect bite taken – the type of chunk you’d see in a _Tom & Jerry _cartoon. One solitary, perfect-radius dent; its sole distinguishing mark the impression left by a crooked front tooth.

“‘Who’s bit my fokken cheese?’ Phil demanded. We all looked at each other. Phil had a temper and nobody wanted to piss him off even more. ‘Not me Phil,’ I replied. ‘Nor me,’ John agreed. ‘I have no idea,’ Gus insisted. Phil looked again at the mark and held out the cheese for inspection. ‘Bite the fokken cheese,’ he demanded.

“Everyone stood there in silence, uncertain if he was serious but unwilling to argue. So I leant forward and bit the cheese. My perfect teeth proved my innocence. I was off the hook.

“Phil thrust the evidence at Sykes: ‘Bite the cheese.’ John looked worried as he took
a mouthful. To his relief, the bite radius did not match. Philip was still in a rage and fuming. Gus now was starting to look very worried indeed.

“‘Bite the fokken cheese, Gus.’ Gus tried hard not to laugh, not daring to make eye contact with anyone else in the room. He leaned in and hesitantly bit the cheese. The bite mark matched perfectly. He was guilty. As John and I sighed with relief, Phil turned tail and stormed out of the room. Phil was an awesome guy, but you wouldn’t want to cross him.”

Geoff Barton

Sounds Journalist

“It was September 1975 and I’d just given Thin Lizzy’s Fighting album an extremely lukewarm review in Sounds. I was a Lizzy fan, but Fighting just didn’t cut it for me at the time. ‘The band’s second LP with their new twin-guitar line-up is an adequate rock album, no more,’ I wrote. ‘This one suffers from the familiar Lizzy studio trait, lack of any real energy or aggression.’

“The following month I went to see Lizzy play live, at London’s New Victoria Theatre I think it was. About halfway through the show, Phil went into a bit of a diatribe against rock critics and I wondered if he knew I was in the audience. It turned out he did! At the end of the monologue, Phil just kind of shrugged his shoulders and said with a wry smile on his face: ‘But no matter, this next song is for Geoff Barton – Still In Love With You.’ That was probably the most humbling moment of my entire career…”

Robin George

Lynott sideman.

“I auditioned to join Thin Lizzy in the spot that eventually went to [guitarist] Snowy White. The call didn’t come until the evening before, so I stayed up all night listening to the Live And Dangerous record. And, of course, the buggers didn’t ask me to play a single track from that album.

“Later on, Phil played on my album Dangerous Music and I was on his solo single, Nineteen. He asked me to fly up to Newcastle with him to promote the single on a TV show called Razzmatazz. At the airport in Newcastle they searched me and my guitar but left Phil alone. When we got to the TV studio he winked and threw me this massive chunk of dope. I couldn’t believe he’d just waltzed through, but he was always Mr Cool.

“On the plane home, Phil asked Brian Downey and I to re-form Thin Lizzy and we both agreed. So we made some recordings in the studio in his back garden in the house at Kew during December [1985]. It went absolutely great and we took a break for Christmas. His driver took me to the station and Phil came along for the ride. As we got to Euston, Phil asked for the tape of the material we’d been working on, saying he wanted to listen to it over the holiday break. I gave it to him, of course.

“A few days afterwards I was working in my studio when I got a call from a radio station in Stoke, asking me to comment on Phil’s death. It shocked the fuck out me. I knew he was ill, but not the full extent. I told the DJ to fuck off – how unprofessional of them. Unfortunately, the cassette of our material failed to resurface after his death. It was the only copy.

“It was such a shame as Phil was vibed up about the new Lizzy.”

(Image credit: Rex)

Snowy White

Hang da fokken DJ…

“Thin Lizzy were playing New Orleans in the early 1980s, just after I joined on guitar, and one afternoon the manager informed us that we would have to get up well before breakfast the following morning for a live interview session with a really important radio station. The main DJ was a major Thin Lizzy fan.

“Phil, who was not a morning person, replied, ‘No… it’s too fokken early.’ But the manager was insistent, stressing that the DJ would give a real push to our show. Eventually, but with very bad grace, Phil relented.

“So the next morning, the whole band was down in the lobby, waiting for Phil, who’d had a bit of an evening the night before. He was still grumpy and really didn’t want to go, but the manager forced the issue. The drive to the radio station took about an hour and a half, and Phil’s mood darkened with every traffic jam.

“Upon arrival, they kept us waiting before we went on. As we’re led into the studio, Phil was still moaning and the manager was trying to calm the situation, stressing that the guy was a major fan. And then the DJ, who appeared somewhat nonplussed at our presence, turned his attention to Phil and asked the immortal question: ‘So who are you and what’s your role within the band?’ Phil’s face was a picture as he glowered: ‘I play da fokken bass.’ The interview only went downhill from there…”