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  Barikada - World Of Music - Interviews

Interviewer: Dragutin Matošević

Eric Bell
Eric Bell
Interviewer: Dragutin Matošević

Eric Bell, Northern Ireland - guitarist (Interview performed on October 2009)

Eric Robin Bell (born 3 September 1947 in East Belfast, Antrim, Northern Ireland [1]) is a rock musician and guitarist. He was the lead guitarist for Thin Lizzy, and played on the band's first three albums - "Thin Lizzy", "Shades of a Blue Orphanage" and "Vagabonds of the Western World". He had spent most of the 1960s playing in a number of Irish bands, including Shades of Blue (the Thin Lizzy album took its name from this band and from Phil Lynott and Brian Downey's band Orphanage) and a brief stint with Them (September - October 1966, the last line up to feature Van Morrison). Although Thin Lizzy were gaining in popularity, the pressures of recording, touring and the excesses of the rock-star lifestyle, began to take its toll. He left the band after a New Year's Eve concert in 1973, after throwing his guitar into the air in the middle of the concert, pushing the amplifiers into the audience and storming off, as he said on the Gary Moore and Friends DVD interviews. There was a brief reunion for Thin Lizzy's 1983 tour, but for the most part, Bell has concentrated on a solo career with his group, the Eric Bell Band. He has subsequently worked extensively with ex-Jimi Hendrix sideman, Noel Redding and toured with Bo Diddley. Bell performed in the Phil Lynott tribute concert "The Boy is Back in Town" in the Point Theatre, Dublin, Ireland in 2005. This was released on a DVD called "One Night in Dublin: A Tribute to Phil Lynott". (Intro text taken from Wikipedia). Eric Bell's official web site - www.eric-bell.com/paginas/index.aspx .

Hi Eric! Although you played in many good formations - you are the best known as founder and member of Thin Lizzy. Now from this time distance what good memories you have for those days?

1. The memories of early Thin Lizzy are magicial to me. We knew we had something right away, the right chemistry, the right look, the right music... it all happened very natural. We were all very close. Philip (Lynott) and myself moved into a house together, and pretty soon about 6 people moved in, they became our road managers, and light men, and sound engineers. Dublin at this time was an exciting place to live, lots of young people our age, lots of gigs and musicians, this was around the end of 1969. We were a 4 piece group to start with, with Eric Wrixon on keyboards. About 5 months later, Eric left and we became a 3 piece. thats when we started attracting big crowds to our gigs. It felt great to walk around Dublin with Philip and Brian... we were very popular.

Thin Lizzy

Famous Radio Luxemburg and Radio One D.J., John Peel, liked Thin Lizzy's music and supported the band giving you a good deal of airplay. Obviously - that meant a lot to you. I believe you also have had a lot of luck to achieve his attention. A, I right?

2. It wasn't John Peel who picked up on us... It was Kid Jensen who was a top D.J. on Radio Luxemburg. When our first album "Thin Lizzy" was released, Kid got a copy and started playing a track from it every night on his radio show "Jensen's Dimenshions". Alot of people listened to his show... then a week later, he played the whole album (both sides) and said it was his favorite album of the year. It was amazing... We went over to meet him a month later, and he made us guests on his radio show. Yes, he was very important to our success, and later, on our 3rd. album ("Vagabonds of the Western World") he read some of Phil's lyrics on the song "The hero and the madman".

Reading you biography I noticed a lot of well known musicians you met, played with (Noel Redding, to mention one of them). What you benefited dealing with such musicians?

3. The thing about playing with well known musicians is it can give you a better chance of good things happening regarding your career, better management, better gigs, better money. The music, the rehearsals would be run more professionally. Also, you would learn their musical influences and how they deal with being in the music businness.

During 1972 and 1973 Thin Lizzy toured together with Slade and Suzi Quatro. What is fascinating me - as supporting band you reached higher positions in rock encyclopedias comparing to these two performers. Is it true - sometime musician have to swallow its pride in order to attract other people to listen to his music?

4. The tour with Slade was very difficult... at the time, Slade was the biggest band in England. Thin Lizzy was brought from playing in large pubs and clubs, playing to 200 people to playing in town halls that had 2500 people. Nobody wanted to hear Suzi Ouatro, or Thin Lizzy... a lot of nights we were booed of the stage, and so was Suzi. They just wanted to hear Slade. But, we learned a lot from that tour, mostly Philip. And, later Suzi, and ourselves became famous ourselves.

Many fan of music of 70-ties are considering Thin Lizzy as band which played a traditional Irish song, "Whiskey In The Jar". According to my knowledge, your recording company (Decca) persuaded you to issue that song. Obviously, they were right with that decision. You reached very high positions on many top charts. What meant this song for your further musical career?

5. There is no doubt about it. "Whiskey In The Jar" helped us so so much... It made alot of people know who we were... It was in the charts for 6 weeks or something... and it was in the charts in lots of different places. But..sometimes, there is a down side to having a hit record... you get pressured by the record company and your management to produce another hit... you start to play to a magic formula... a lot of audiences just want to hear the hit record. Your music on your instrument can really start to suffer.

You left Thin Lizzy in order to continue musical career with new band. Leaving the Thin Lizzy - from nowadays perspective - was it smart decision?

6. I left Thin Lizzy for a few reasons... the music I loved playing was starting to change... i felt we were starting to turn into a pop group... so, I became very unhappy, and started drinking quite a lot, and taking pills, and smoking a lot of dope. Everyone else was doing the same thing, but I had lots of problems going on in my life and started getting very spaced out, and something told me I had better leave the group, before I became another dead rock star. So, I would say it was a smart decision.

Tall me more details - what happened after? How successful you were, with whom you played with?

7. After I left Lizzy, I didn't really play for a while... then, I slowly started playing with different musicians around Dublin. A few months later, I got a phone call from Noel Redding. Noel lived in Ardfield, West Cork, in a very big old farmhouse with 34 acres of land. He asked me to come down to have a play with his new band he was just forming, Noel on bass and vocals... Dave Clarke on keyboards and vocals (also Dave wrote most of the songs) and Les Sampson on drums. I joined the band and we rehearsed for months of and on in Noel's house. After a while we recorded our 1st. album in London called "Clonakilty Cowboys". It did all right, and then we started touring mostly in the UK, then in Europe. About 7 months later, we did our 1st. 11 week tour of America, and also recorded our 2nd. album, mostly in America. It was called "Blowin'". After this, about 4 months later, the band split up. Myself and Noel stayed in touch, and we would do small tours of England and Europe (we also played some Jimi Hendrix tribute gigs in Amsterdam etc.).

Being in formation called Mainsqueeze - you played in Yugoslavia. What do you remember from that visiting?

8. As far as I can remember, Mainsqueeze was backing Bo Diddley when we played Yugoslavia. The things I remember were the potholes in the roads... massive holes... Our driver had to swerve all over the road to avoid them... There seemed a lot of poverty and poor people outside the town... old peasant women all dressed in black. We stayed in a beautiful hotel which was pretty cheap, and the food was very cheap as well. We played in a huge stadium there, and some of the police came into our changing room after the show. A pretty policewoman, kept asking me for my boots... I wore red suade boots on stage then.

What are you doing these days? What are your plans for the future.

9. These days, I've got my own 3-piece group... The Eric Bell Band... on drums (Romek Parol) and bass (Brian Bethell). We play a bit in England, Ireland, and Europe. I really enjoy it these days, and we're recording a new album in November 2009. ...

Thank You for your interesting questions Dragutin. Best Wishes, Eric Bell.

Thin Lizzy - Whisky in the jar (1973)
Eric Bell
Eric Bell
Eric Bell

Dragutin Matošević
Tuzla, Bosna i Hercegovina

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