Jim on Phil Lynott

That s a young me on the left beside my good mate Philip Lynott with poet Peter Fallon in Neary s Pub in Dublin back in 1972.896 n  1  Thumbnail0

I had known Philip to see long before I ever met him. He was definitely one of the more colourful people who hung around Grafton Street in early seventies Dublin. I was tall ,with long red hair nearly down to my waist, denim bell bottoms with batik patterns, a black t-shirt with white stars and a zodiac necklace. I thought that I looked the business but Lynott always managed to look just that bit cooler, not just because he was black (it certainly helped) and beautiful with big brown eyes and an afro; he dressed to kill like Jimmy Hendrix with an attitude to match. We would pass each other on Grafton Street, often quite deliberately - as we found out later- and give each other the nod. We both hung around the same bars, Nearys and the Bailey, and it was in Nearys that we were finally introduced by the poet and publisher Peter Fallon. We got on like house on fire in spite of our mutually competitive natures. I would wind him up, he would wind me up and then we would all have a good laugh about it. 

Our backgrounds were startlingly similar; we were both brought up by single mothers in the harsh environment of a confining, conservative Ireland. Like myself he was an only child and we were both raised by strong, independent women who were also the breadwinners. We were both determined to be different and therefore to make a difference; I as an artist, he as a musician. 

‘We have to work together’, Philip said at our first meeting, ‘we'd be a deadly combination’. It was decided there and then that I would do the album covers for his band ‘Thin Lizzy’, who had a hit at the time with a rocked up version of an old Irish tune called 'Whiskey in the Jar'. Over the next couple of years we became as close as two brothers, we had a very similar outlook on life and we shared the same humour and sense of the absurd. I produced what I regard as my best graphic work for Thin Lizzy. I did everything. Flashing logos, some cool covers and singles and a raft of stuff from t-shirts to tour jackets. When I got into financial trouble after I returned from the U.S.(I lived there for about a year and a half-more later) Philip bailed me out by commissioning two of the best pieces of work that I produced in that period. One was a painting of Philip in that off-white suit, poised at the chess board, cigarette in hand and the other was a hyper realistic family portrait set in the gardens of his home GlenCorr, just down the road from where I now live. It was one of those beautiful, idyllic sun drenched summer days (we don't get too many of them around here) and I took a roll of photographs of Philip, Caroline, and their baby daughters Sarah and Kathleen rolling about on the lawn. 

At one time, Philip spent a great deal of his own time producing a singer and even appeared in the video for the single shot in Holywood castle in Bray, Co.Wicklow, all of which he told me he did free gratis and for nothing. Philip, who had been generous with his time help and advice for so many others, including myself, felt particularly wounded and hurt by this deeply personal attack. He said to me "Did you ever get to the point in your life where you just don't want to get up in the morning. I've got about two hundred people to support and they're all pissed off with me because I want to change things and live my own life. No matter how hard I try, there's always someone on my back and now even when I try to help people, they throw it back at me and make me sound like a fucking prick. I really have nothing left to give. I need to get away from all this". 

Maybe in about twenty years time I'll feel like telling people the rest of that conversation. It would hurt too many people who are still around if I told it now and besides it was of a deeply personal nature. It was by far the most revealing conversation that I had ever had with Philip or anyone else for that matter, and to be honest I found it quite shocking and upsetting. I thought perhaps that he was suffering the after effects of alcohol or drugs or both but he assured me that this wasn't the case. He was totally lucid but in the most extreme psychological pain. He couldn't talk to anybody about it because there was no-one that he could trust and besides he had too much pride to let anyone know how he really felt inside. He was after all Philo. The Rocker. The Hard Man. 

Philip was too smart to die. Philip always liked to live close to the edge. Philip had it sussed. Philip had everything sussed. For some reason I always thought that Philip was immortal. If we got drenched in the same rain storm, he'd sit there in his wet clothes, smoking a joint, while I would have my clothes out on the rads and my hair under a dryer. Still, I'd end up sniffling for a week while he'd be out partying every night. And so I reacted with complete and utter incredulity to the news of his death. Ironically it was in the Bailey, his favourite haunt, that I first heard of his death. I had been out all day and missed the phonecalls and I was having a lunch hour drink with my ex-wife and two old friends of Philips, Tony Higgins and Tom Collins, when a guy opposite lifted up his early edition evening newspaper and we read the headline ‘PHILIP LYNOTT DEAD'.  

For some reason my mind flashed back to a beautiful summer evening on the Burrow beach, about three years earlier. There was a big gang of us gathered for a football match that myself and Philip had organised, including myself, Terry Woods, Noel Bridgeman, my son Conánn lined up against Philip, Brush Shields, Robbie Gaffney - I think Frankie Murray had flown over for that one aswell. Philip scored the first goal and Brush was brilliant; they were all over us for about twenty minutes but they slowly ran out of steam. I scored a scorcher from deep inside my own half (inside my own imagination!). Terry Woods hacked at everything that moved and by the time we quit at two-all we were banjaxed. Caroline and the girls brought the beer and we all smoked ourselves senseless. I ended up slide-tackling Philip in the sea under three feet of water while the others all fell about the place. That is the Philip that I remember to this day, full of life and energy, black, beautiful and charismatic; kind, gentle and generous. The kind of man who'd give you the shirt off his back, which in my case he actually did, but that's another story...