Tag Archives: Darren Wharton

Rocks In The Attic #496: Barclay James Harvest – ‘Early Morning Harvest’ (1972)

RITA#496I should like this band – they’re from Oldham! One of the founding members went to my school. They’re probably Oldham’s most famous musical exports, except for the Inspiral Carpets perhaps. And those N-Trance guys. And Mark Owen from Take That. And Darren Wharton, the keyboard player from Thin Lizzy. Wow, Oldham was really a melting pot of talent!

I’m not au fait with Barclay James Harvest’s music though. I’m very familiar with the Barclays bank in Oldham – just on the corner of High Street. I don’t think that counts though. I might send in a fake CV to the branch, using the name James Harvest, and crowbarring all of their song titles into the cover letter – you know, just for shits and giggles. Given the average intelligence level in Oldham – about as low as the number of teenage pregnancies is high – and the general lack of interest in the town’s history by its inhabitants, it would just get thrown in a bin by the HR manager. Oh well, it’s an idea. Maybe I’ll do it when I’m retired, if Barclay’s still exist by then. The bank can’t be doing well; I’d bet most Oldhamers (Oldhamites?) keep their money under the mattress, next to their stockpile of Woodbines.

Barclay James Harvest write melodic folk rock, not a million miles away from the likes of America. The band America, that is, not the country. Although the country is about a million miles away from the town of Oldham, recently named the most deprived town in England. In fact, that might make it more similar to some places in America – Oldham, twinned with the Bronx!

Hit: Mockingbird

Hidden Gem: Taking Some Time On

Rocks In The Attic #263: Thin Lizzy – ‘Live And Dangerous’ (1978)

RITA#263One of my favourite live albums, and a great opportunity to write about the time I saw Thin Lizzy play live.

When I first found rock music and the guitar in my early teens, I very quickly found Thin Lizzy – a perfect and oft overlooked meld of the two. I can remember hearing the riff from Jailbreak for the first time, and it blew my mind. It sounded so wrong and yet so right. They seemed to come along at just the right time for me that I was confident enough on the guitar to pick things up by ear, so by listening to their records, and with a little help from my guitar teacher Dave Taylor – who was a huge Lizzy fan – I found I could play most of their stuff pretty easily.

I first met Dave when he used to come into our sixth form college and give group guitar lessons. It was always amusing to see what level of hangover he would have when he walked in every Wednesday morning. I have a permanent vision of him walking in, wearing sunglasses and looking very unkempt in a green and yellow polo shirt. I then had private lessons for a couple of years, but when I went to University, the distance between us meant that I stopped having lessons and drifted out of touch. Over those three years, he went from giving guitar lessons in a room in his house to buying a section of a mill in Oldham and installing rehearsal rooms and a recording studio.

I would eventually use these rehearsal rooms with my first regular gigging band, Delta 7, but another band would use them in the interim. Thin fucking Lizzy!

I don’t know how Dave made the connections with the band but in 1996, various former members of Thin Lizzy decided to get back together and start touring again. Guitarist John Sykes took vocal duties, with guitarist Scott Gorham, drummer Brian Downey and keyboard player Darren Wharton joining the reunion. The only non-member of the band was Marco Mendoza, who played bass.

Not only did they use Dave’s studio, but they chose the most inauspicious venues in the whole world – Oldham’s Queen Elizabeth Hall – as the location for the first show. Seeing Thin Lizzy play without Phil Lynott may sound like sacrilege, but they were awesome and after the opening bombast of Jailbreak, Sykes took the opportunity to dedicate the whole show to Lynnott. Critics can say what they want, but it was Lizzy up there, and I love the band so much I’d be the first person to admit it if they didn’t deserve the use of the name.

This was probably one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen – one of my favourite bands, reforming for the first time since their leader’s untimely death, rehearsing in my guitar teacher’s rehearsal rooms and playing for the first time in a local venue more famous for wedding receptions and tea-dances. I even bought a t-shirt from the merch stall which was manned by Dave’s wife and daughter (not the same person by the way – as far as I know, Oldham doesn’t suffer from inbreeding, just a bad gene pool).

I like to think that if I hadn’t gone to University when I did, and continued to see Dave for guitar lessons, I might have had some involvement in the show – I’d have happily been a roadie if it meant the honour of carrying Scott Gorham’s guitar amp.

Live And Dangerous is a great live album, capturing Lizzy on the road at their peak (and featuring an appearance by a pre-‘& The News’ Huey Lewis on harmonica on one track). The album does sound slightly over-polished though, and band members over the years have admitted to recording overdubs on some of the songs. While producer Tony Visconti claims that the album is only ‘75% recorded in the studio’, band members have claimed that it is ‘75% live’. It’s disappointing either way, and makes me suspicious of all other albums that claim to be recorded live.

Hit: The Boys Are Back In Town

Hidden Gem: Massacre

Rocks In The Attic #99: Thin Lizzy – ‘Johnny The Fox’ (1976)

It took me quite a while to track this album down on vinyl. When I eventually found it, in Manchester’s vinyl exchange, I realised why. Most record shops over a decent size won’t store this album in the Rock & Pop section, as you might expect – instead it gets lumped into the Breaks & Beats section, all because of the very cool drum intro that opens Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed on the second side of the record.

Although it’s not as popular as the Jailbreak album, I think I prefer this album. There’s only so many times you can listen to The Boys Are Back In Town and Jailbreak – and although this album doesn’t really have as big a hit as those two songs, the biggest hit on the album – Don’t Believe A Word – is a really nice, short sharp slice of Phil Lynott’s poetic lyrics.

I came across an amusing comment on this album on Wikipedia:

The album also includes two tracks with the name “Johnny” in their titles as well as the album title itself, a character by that name having already appeared in earlier songs such as Showdown and The Boys Are Back in Town. Guitarist Scott Gorham noted the name’s proliferation: “Phil should’ve been this guy’s publicity agent, as he was cropping up everywhere!”

There’s a story that my Dad always tells that happened to him in the early 90s. At somebody’s wedding reception or 50th birthday party, in a function room of a grim working man’s club somewhere in Oldham, a lady walked over to my Dad and said “Pete – I think the lead singer of Thin Lizzy is sat in the next room. He’s sat having a beer.” “You mean Phil Lynott?” asks my Dad. “Yes,” she says. So my Dad rolls his eyes, and goes and takes a look. On his return, he says to the lady “Well, I don’t think it’s Phil Lynott.” The lady looks disappointed. “Why not?” she asks. “Because,” he replies, “Phil Lynott’s black, and that guy’s white. And Phil Lynott’s been dead for five years!” It was later established that the honky at the bar was Oldham resident, and latter-day Thin Lizzy keyboard player Darren Wharton.

Hit: Don’t Believe A Word

Hidden Gem: Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed