Saturday, 17 March 2012

Thin Lizzy's Eric Bell and Van

Eric Bell was a founding member of Irish rock group Thin Lizzy.  He was born on September 3, 1947 in East Belfast, Northern Ireland. Like Van he got his start in showbands.  The bands he played for included The Bluebeats, The Earth Dwellers and The Dreams.  He also played in the last line-up of them before Van departed in September and October of 1966.  In 1969 Bell teamed up with ex-Them member Eric Wrixon, Brian Downey and Phil Lynott to form Thin Lizzy.  Bell named the group Thin Lizzy, after Tin Lizzie, a robot character in The Dandy comic.  

Thin Lizzy became incredibly popular in the early 1970s. As lead guitarist, Bell played on Thin Lizzy's first three albums Thin Lizzy, Shades of a Blue Orphanage and Vagabonds of the Western World. He co-wrote a number of songs with Lynott and Downey, including "The Rocker" which became a live favourite throughout the band's career.

After Bell’s final official appearance with the band in 1973, the guitarist briefly formed his own Eric Bell Band before Noel Redding recruited Bell for his own outfit. Whilst musically prolific, it proved a short-lived alliance and The Noel Redding Band split in 1976.  Bell pursued other avenues including a stint in saxophonist Dick Heckstall-Smith’s Mainsqueeze. Bell was on hand to perform at the unveiling of the Philip Lynott statue in 2005. That same year he took to the stage alongside the late, great Gary Moore for a rendition of ‘Whisky In The Jar’ at the Point Theatre for the Phil Lynott tribute show 'The Boy Is Back In Town'.

 Here are excerpts from Eric's Interview with Michael Limnios on the Blues GR blog.    

Eric, when was your first desire to become involved in the music & what made you fall in love with the blues music?

 When I was around 14 years old, I bought a cheap acoustic guitar, and started trying to teach myself  to play copying from records, like Lonnie Donegan and The Shadows...then the blues boom started and reached Belfast and all the local bands started playing the blues.

How do you to describe your philosophy about the music?

The music is sacred…it's like very important...when I listen to some music it just takes over my gives me strength, belief, humour, all these emotions.

Where did you pick up your guitar style & in which songs can someone hear the best of your work?

I've been playing now for a long time, and I listened to all types of music, and tried to play things that had meaning to me, I'm still practising and still trying....Well, you can hear my work on Thin Lizzy's first 3 albums, and  I have 3 CDs out...”Live Tonite”,  “Irish Boy” and “Lonely nights in London”.

I wonder if you could tell me a few things about your experience with Van Morrison?

Van was a very intense guy; he had a great belief in what he did and came across as a very hip man...a bit like a serious jazz musician...I only played with him for about 3 months, and the way he was on stage really changed me...he would just try anything, change the songs, experiment and not really care what people expected him to do.

Tell me about the beginning of Thin Lizzy. How did you chose the name and where did it start?

I left The Dreams Showband I was playing with 6 nights a week, and went around Dublin looking for a drummer and bass player to form a group...4 weeks later I was about to give up as nobody was interested, I went to the Countdown Club, and happened to meet Philip and Brian, we started talking and they said they would form a group with me.. I chose the name from a cartoon called Tin Lizzie and because Dublin people say tree and tick instead of three and thick I put an H in to make Thin then changed Lizzie to Lizzy… We started in Dublin City.

Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory and what is the thing you miss most about Philip Lynott?

When I knew Philip, he was a very gentle guy, good company, and very much into music...We got a house and lived together just to work on the music...I miss those days.

Of all the people you’ve meeting with, who do you admire the most? Which of the people you have worked with do you consider the best friend?

I admired Van, Philip, Rory Gallagher, Gary Moore. The best friends would have been Brian Downey, Philip, Gary Moore, and Noel Redding.

Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory of Bo Diddley? What advice has given to you?

Bo was such a nice man, one of the boys, and a great sense of humor. He was very young at heart and really seemed to love Life. The only advice he gave me was one day at a sound check, I asked him how I could be a better singer...he just said “there's nothing wrong with your voice you just sing.

If you go back to the past what things you would do better and what things you would a void to do again?

I would keep my interest in practicing guitar, and would cut down drink and smoking dope.

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