Brian Robertson (guitarist)

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Brian Robertson
Brian Robertson in 2011.jpg
Robertson performing in 2011
Background information
Also known as"Robbo"
Born (1956-02-12) 12 February 1956 (age 63)
Clarkston, Scotland
Genres Hard rock, blues rock, heavy metal, rock and roll
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals, bass guitar, keyboards, cello, drums, piano
Years active1974–present
Associated acts Thin Lizzy, Motörhead, Wild Horses, The Bitter Twins
Website Official website

Brian David Robertson (born 12 February 1956) is a Scottish rock guitarist, [1] best known as a member of Thin Lizzy and Motörhead.

Thin Lizzy Irish rock band

Thin Lizzy are a hard rock band formed in Dublin, Ireland in 1969. Two of the founding members, drummer Brian Downey and bass guitarist and lead vocalist Phil Lynott, met while still in school. Lynott led the group throughout their recording career of twelve studio albums, writing most of the material. The singles "Whiskey in the Jar", "Jailbreak", and "The Boys Are Back in Town" were major international hits. After Lynott's death in 1986, various incarnations of the band emerged over the years based initially around guitarists Scott Gorham and John Sykes, though Sykes left the band in 2009. Gorham later continued with a new line-up including Downey.

Motörhead English rock band

Motörhead were an English rock band formed in June 1975 by bassist, singer, and songwriter Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister, who was the sole constant member, guitarist Larry Wallis and drummer Lucas Fox. The band are often considered a precursor to the new wave of British heavy metal, which re-energised heavy metal in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Though several guitarists and drummers have played in Motörhead, most of their best-selling albums and singles feature the work of Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor on drums and "Fast" Eddie Clarke on guitars.


Early life

Robertson was born in Clarkston, Renfrewshire (now part of East Renfrewshire), where he was educated, attending Eastwood High School in nearby Newton Mearns, and became a musician. [2] He studied cello and classical piano for eight years before switching to the guitar and drums. He played in gigs around his local area with bands like Dream Police, who later evolved into the Average White Band.

Clarkston, East Renfrewshire town

Clarkston is a suburban town in East Renfrewshire, in the Central Lowlands of Scotland. It lies 4.7 miles (7.6 km) east of Barrhead, 7.2 miles (11.6 km) east-southeast of Paisley and 3.9 miles (6.3 km) northwest of East Kilbride. A small dormitory town with a population of 14,944, Clarkston is on the southern fringe of the Greater Glasgow conurbation and directly adjoins the neighbouring suburbs of Busby, Giffnock and Netherlee.

Renfrewshire (historic) lieutenancy area of Scotland

Renfrewshire or the County of Renfrew is a historic county, registration county and lieutenancy area in the west central Lowlands of Scotland.

East Renfrewshire Council area of Scotland

East Renfrewshire is one of 32 council areas of Scotland. Until 1975 it formed part of the county of Renfrewshire for local government purposes along with the modern council areas of Renfrewshire, North Ayrshire and Inverclyde. Although no longer a local authority area, Renfrewshire still remains the registration county and lieutenancy area of East Renfrewshire.


In June 1974, Thin Lizzy were auditioning for two new guitarists and a try-out for Robertson was arranged. Aged 18, Robertson was taken on along with Scott Gorham on the other lead guitar. He was given the nickname "Robbo" by Phil Lynott to distinguish him from drummer Brian Downey. The two lead guitarists provided a critical part of Thin Lizzy's signature sound, referred to by critics as their "twin guitar attack". During his time in the band, Robertson was a contributing member to five studio albums released by Thin Lizzy: Nightlife (1974), Fighting (1975), Jailbreak (1976), Johnny the Fox (1976), Bad Reputation (1977) and a live album Live and Dangerous (1978).

Scott Gorham musician, songwriter

William Scott Gorham is an American guitarist and songwriter who was one of the "twin lead guitarists" for the Irish rock band, Thin Lizzy. Although not a founding member of Thin Lizzy, he served a continuous membership after passing an audition in 1974, joining the band at a time when the band's future was in doubt after the departures of original guitarist Eric Bell and his brief replacement Gary Moore. Gorham remained with Thin Lizzy until the band's breakup in 1984. He and guitarist Brian Robertson, both hired at the same time, marked the beginning of the band's most critically successful period, and together developed Thin Lizzy's twin lead guitar style while contributing dual backing vocals as well. Gorham is the band member with the longest membership after founders Brian Downey (drummer) and frontman and bass guitarist, Phil Lynott.

<i>Nightlife</i> (Thin Lizzy album) 1974 studio album by Thin Lizzy

Nightlife is the fourth studio album by Irish band Thin Lizzy, released in 1974. It was produced by Ron Nevison and bandleader Phil Lynott, and was the first album to feature the band as a quartet with newcomers Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson on guitars.

<i>Fighting</i> (Thin Lizzy album) 1975 studio album by Thin Lizzy

Fighting is the fifth studio album by Irish rock band Thin Lizzy, released in 1975. Following the release of four studio albums, the band finally forged an identifiable sound featuring the twin guitars of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson. This sound draws from hard rock, folk, pop and rhythm and blues. It set the stage for the big commercial breakthrough of the follow-up album, Jailbreak. The album was also their first album to chart in the UK, hitting No. 60.

Although frontman, bassist/lead vocalist Phil Lynott was the primary songwriter for Thin Lizzy's material, Robertson contributed a substantial share of songwriting for the band, sometimes collaborating with Lynott and the band. Nightlife and Bad Reputation were the only records that did not feature his songwriting and he performed only on selected tracks from the latter album.

Phil Lynott Irish singer-songwriter and musician, founding member of Thin Lizzy

Philip Parris Lynott was an Irish musician and songwriter. His most commercially successful group was Thin Lizzy, of which he was a founding member, the principal songwriter, lead vocalist and bassist. He was known for his distinctive plectrum-based style on the bass, and for his imaginative lyrical contributions including working class tales and numerous characters drawn from personal influences and Celtic culture.

In Thin Lizzy, the unique twin harmony lead guitar sound instigated by Robertson and Gorham, contributed much to the distinctive sound of the band and influenced subsequent bands such as, Iron Maiden, Metallica, The Darkness and Velvet Revolver. Robertson's pioneering, unconventional use of the wah-wah pedal as an extension of the instrument during soloing rather than as a purely rhythmic effect provided a boost to the band as well.

Iron Maiden English heavy metal band

Iron Maiden are an English heavy metal band formed in Leyton, East London, in 1975 by bassist and primary songwriter Steve Harris. The band's discography has grown to thirty-nine albums, including sixteen studio albums, twelve live albums, four EPs, and seven compilations.

Metallica American heavy metal band

Metallica is an American heavy metal band. The band was formed in 1981 in Los Angeles, California, by drummer Lars Ulrich and vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield, and has been based in San Francisco, California for most of its career. The group's fast tempos, instrumentals and aggressive musicianship made them one of the founding "big four" bands of thrash metal, alongside Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer. Metallica's current lineup comprises founding members Hetfield and Ulrich, longtime lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo. Guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassists Ron McGovney, Cliff Burton and Jason Newsted are former members of the band.

The Darkness (band) British band

The Darkness are an English rock band formed in 2000. The band consists of Justin Hawkins, his brother Dan Hawkins, Frankie Poullain and Rufus Tiger Taylor (drums).

Robertson's young age, however, proved a hindrance to the band, as he struggled to deal with Lizzy's newfound fame after the release of the hit single "The Boys Are Back in Town" and the accompanying Jailbreak LP. He began drinking heavily towards the end of 1976. [3] In late November of that year, Robertson went to the Speakeasy Club in London with his friend and fellow Scotsman, singer Frankie Miller. A fight ensued, in which Robertson attempted to protect Miller from getting hit in the face with a glass bottle by putting his hand in the way. The bottle cut straight into Robertson's hand, injuring him badly and costing the band a crucial American tour. [4] Lynott was furious, and replaced Robertson with Gary Moore, whom he had replaced in 1974, for a tour supporting Queen.

The Boys Are Back in Town 1976 single by Thin Lizzy

"The Boys Are Back in Town" is a single from Irish hard rock band Thin Lizzy. The song was originally released in 1976 on their album Jailbreak.

The Speakeasy Club, also known as The Speak, was a club situated at 48 Margaret Street, London, England, and served as a late-night meeting place for the music industry from 1966 to June 1978. The club took its name and theme from the speakeasies of the American Prohibition era. The club was owned by David Shamoon, an Iraqi-born entrepreneur, along with Blaises and The Revolution Club.

Francis John Miller is a Scottish rock singer-songwriter.

While Robertson recuperated from his injury, Lizzy flew to Toronto in May 1977 to record the Bad Reputation album with American producer Tony Visconti, with Gorham ostensibly taking all of the guitar parts. However, at Gorham's insistence, Lynott allowed Robertson to rejoin the band that June as a guest in Toronto. Gorham had left the songs "Opium Trail" and "Killer Without a Cause" without solos so that Robertson could contribute; the two also played lead together on one song, "That Woman's Gonna Break Your Heart." [5] Robertson was fully reinstated for the remainder of 1977 and into 1978, during which the majority of the tapes for the band's well-known live double LP Live and Dangerous were recorded. In July 1978 Robertson finally left the band for good, due to his drink habits once again spiraling out of control, as well as irreconcilable differences with Lynott, and was again replaced by Gary Moore.

Robertson formed Wild Horses along another Scot, Rainbow bassist Jimmy Bain in 1977, while recovering from his injury. After his final exit from Thin Lizzy in 1978, he returned to the band. Achieving only partial success in the UK, the band split up after releasing two albums, Wild Horses (1980) and Stand Your Ground (1981). In 1980 Robertson was featured on the Eric Burdon album Darkness Darkness . Robertson appeared for one performance of Thin Lizzy's final tour in 1983, alongside other former guitarists. He was featured on the recording of the tour, Life, appearing on the songs "Emerald" and "The Rocker." In 1986 he recorded a cover of "Still in Love with You" as a tribute to Phil Lynott, appearing alongside Bobby Tench. [6]

Robertson replaced "Fast" Eddie Clarke as the lead guitarist of Motörhead in May 1982. He recorded the band's 1983 King Biscuit Flower Hour sessions and Another Perfect Day , his only studio album with the group. "That felt totally uncertain," he told Classic Rock . "It only came about because I was helping out some friends and, when they asked me to join officially, I said, 'Okay, but I'm not fucking rewriting the Ace of Spades." [7] His last appearance with Motörhead was at the Metropol in Berlin, on 11 November 1983. [8] His resistance to playing "classic" Motörhead songs, coupled with a playing style that did not fit well with Motörhead's aggressive music, resulted in his departure. After leaving Motörhead, Robertson joined Gary Barden's band Statetrooper and remained until they disbanded.

In 1992 Robertson made a guest appearance with Skyclad at the Dynamo Open Air Festival, in Eindhoven, Netherlands. In 2004 he also made a guest appearance with Ash at the Oxegen festival in Ireland, playing guitar on their version of Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town". He was reunited with Lizzy bandmates in August 2005 for a tribute show in memory of Phil Lynott, in a lineup fronted by Gary Moore. Robertson and Moore appeared with Brian Downey, Scott Gorham, Eric Bell and Jethro Tull bassist Jonathan Noyce. This concert and an extended interview with Robertson were released on the DVD One Night in Dublin: A Tribute to Phil Lynott .

During February 2008 Robertson returned to the studio to work on new material. [9] He also made a guest appearances on The Bitter Twins debut album Global Panic!, which was released in 2009.

His first solo album Diamonds and Dirt , featuring Ian Haugland of Europe, Nalle Pahlsson from Treat, Leif Sundin from MSG and Liny Wood, was recorded in Stockholm at Polar Studios over a two-year period. It was produced by Robertson, Soren Lindberg and Chris Laney. The album features thirteen songs, written by Robertson and others including Phil Lynott, Frankie Miller and Jim White. It was released in Europe through Steamhammer Records in March 2011.

Robertson lives in Essex, England when he is not on tour or recording in Scandinavia, where he spends a lot of his working time.


Like many British rock guitarists, Robertson was significantly influenced by earlier blues guitarists. Robertson's influences include Freddie King, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Peter Green. ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons is also mentioned as a later influence. [10]



Robertson playing at an annual tribute concert for Lynott; the 25th annual "Vibe for Philo" Vibe for Philo Robbo Robertson.jpg
Robertson playing at an annual tribute concert for Lynott; the 25th annual "Vibe for Philo"

Robertson is often associated with a Black 1960 [11] Les Paul Custom, with a white/parchment (rather than black) coloured pick guard, featured in photographs on the Live and Dangerous album and the subsequent video. However, in an interview Robertson explained that his main guitar remains his original Thin Lizzy Sunburst 1973 Les Paul Deluxe, albeit re-fretted due to wear and with 1959 vintage Gibson Seth Lover PAF humbucker pickups fitted by his guitar technician. The pickups are without the normal German-silver pick-up covers, a popular modification.

Robertson acquired his Deluxe in 1974, just after joining Thin Lizzy. It was his main guitar on all of the Lizzy studio albums. In the autumn of 1977, when he had the pickups on the Deluxe changed, he began using the Custom (photographs taken at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, from October of that year are among the earliest-known images of Robertson using the guitar [12] ). This became his main guitar from then until the early 1980s, when he switched back to the Deluxe (he can be seen with it in some footage with Motorhead). It has been his main guitar ever since. [13] Robertson can also be seen playing a white Fender Stratocaster with black pick-guard and a black Gibson SG in mimed footage with Lizzy.

Although associated with Marshall amplifiers (100 watt non-Master Volume Superlead heads and 25 W Celestion Greenback speakers), Robertson has been known to use Mesa Boogie (100 W Dual Rectifier head) and Soundman amplifiers. The Jailbreak album was recorded using a Carlsbro combo. Robertson's original wah-pedal is a UK made Colorsound although he sometimes used a Cry Baby wah wah in the 1990s and a borrowed Vox Wah in the "Still in Love with Blues" video (which he cut the rubber feet off of, much to the dismay of host Stuart Bull). [14]

Robertson's use of the WEM Copycat tape echo unit was later replaced by a modern rack mounted digital delay unit. He used a Black Les Paul custom and mentions he experimented with "Boss Analog Chorus Delay, an MXR Pitch Transposer, Yamaha analogue delays, and MXR 32 band Graphic EQ" during his Motörhead days. [10]

Record producer Tony Visconti mentioned that for "Killer Without A Cause," featured on the Bad Reputation album:

... Robertson plays guitar through the strange talk box, the simple gizmo that Peter Frampton made famous on his successful live album." [15]

On his VHS video "Still in Love with the Blues" Robertson is pictured with a vintage red Les Paul guitar, unusually equipped with soapbar pickups and a trapeze bridge, although it does not feature on the video itself. Robertson's Facebook page [16] features more information on this instrument: purchased by Thin Lizzy's manager in 1973, the guitar has an unusually lightweight body as it was built by Les Paul himself for his then-wife, guitarist Mary Ford.

Guitar Rig & Signal Flow

A detailed gear diagram of Robertson's 1974 Thin Lizzy guitar rig is documented. [17]



With Thin Lizzy

With Wild Horses

With Motörhead

Other albums

Interviews on DVDs

Interviews on VHS video

  • Still in Love with the Blues a JamTrax guitar tuition video/masterclass featuring Robertson with Stuart Bull. The title is a play on Robertson's signature Thin Lizzy track, "Still in Love with You". The video is also available on YouTube.

Related Research Articles

<i>Jailbreak</i> (album) 1976 studio album by Thin Lizzy

Jailbreak is the sixth studio album by Irish hard rock band Thin Lizzy, released in 1976. It proved to be the band's commercial breakthrough in the US, and the only Thin Lizzy album with a certification in that country. The singles include "Jailbreak" and "The Boys Are Back in Town", the latter being Thin Lizzy's biggest US hit, winning the 1976 NME Award for Best Single.

<i>Johnny the Fox</i> 1976 studio album by Thin Lizzy

Johnny the Fox is the seventh studio album by Irish band Thin Lizzy, released in 1976. This album was written and recorded while bassist/vocalist Phil Lynott was recovering from a bout of hepatitis that put him off the road halfway through the previous Jailbreak tour. "Don't Believe a Word" was a British hit single. Johnny the Fox was the last Thin Lizzy studio album on which guitarist Brian Robertson featured as a full member of the band, as the personality clashes between him and Lynott resulted in Robertson being sacked, reinstated, and later sacked again.

<i>Bad Reputation</i> (Thin Lizzy album) 1977 studio album by Thin Lizzy

Bad Reputation is the eighth studio album by the Irish rock band Thin Lizzy, released in 1977. As the front cover suggests, most of the tracks feature only three-quarters of the band, with guitarist Brian Robertson only credited on three tracks. He had missed most of their previous tour, following a hand injury sustained in a brawl, and this album turned out to be his last studio effort with Thin Lizzy. On 27 June 2011, a new remastered and expanded version of Bad Reputation was released.

<i>Life</i> (Thin Lizzy album) 1983 live album by Thin Lizzy

Life is a double live album by Irish rock band Thin Lizzy, released in 1983. This double album was recorded during their farewell tour in 1983, principally at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, UK. Phil Lynott had felt reluctantly that it was time to disband the group after the 1983 tour and to mark the occasion, former Thin Lizzy guitarists Eric Bell (1969–73), Brian Robertson (1974–78) and Gary Moore joined the band on stage at the end of these gigs to do some numbers. This was called "The All-Star Jam".

<i>One Night Only</i> (Thin Lizzy album) 2000 live album by Thin Lizzy

One Night Only is a live album by rock band Thin Lizzy, released in 2000. Thin Lizzy had reformed in 1994 for a series of gigs marking ten years since the band split in 1984. Latter-day Lizzy guitarist John Sykes now took the lead vocal while Marco Mendoza was recruited on bass. The venture was popular enough to be repeated but by the time this album came out, original drummer Brian Downey had decided the affair was too disorganised and retired from the group leaving none of the original trio remaining. Keyboardist Darren Wharton also quit around the time of this album's release. The band, led by Sykes and Scott Gorham, subsequently continued performing with various lineups. This album features ex-Ozzy, Whitesnake, and Black Oak Arkansas drummer Tommy Aldridge.

<i>Greatest Hits</i> (Thin Lizzy album) 2004 greatest hits album by Thin Lizzy

Greatest Hits is a double-CD compilation of Thin Lizzy songs released in 2004.

Brian Downey (drummer) musician, songwriter

Brian Michael Downey is an Irish drummer, best known as the drummer and a founding member of the rock band Thin Lizzy. Along with Phil Lynott, Downey was the only constant member of the hard rock group until their break-up in 1983. Downey also co-wrote several Thin Lizzy songs. Allmusic critic Eduardo Rivadavia has argued that Downey is "certainly one of the most underrated [rock drummers] of his generation".

Jailbreak (Thin Lizzy song) 1976 single by Thin Lizzy

"Jailbreak" is a song by Thin Lizzy that originally appeared as the title track on their 1976 album Jailbreak. Along with "The Boys Are Back in Town", it is one of their most popular songs, played frequently on classic rock radio.

<i>Wild One: The Very Best of Thin Lizzy</i> 1996 greatest hits album by Thin Lizzy

Wild One: The Very Best of Thin Lizzy is a 1996 compilation album by Irish rock band Thin Lizzy. It was released ten years after the death of frontman Phil Lynott in 1986 as a tribute to him.

<i>BBC Radio One Live in Concert</i> (Thin Lizzy album) 1992 live album by Thin Lizzy

BBC Radio One Live in Concert is a live recording from 1983 by Irish rock band Thin Lizzy, released in 1992. This show at the Reading Festival in 1983 came at the end of their farewell tour, and was originally intended to be the band's last concert.

Grand Slam are a rock band, formed in 1984 as the brainchild of ex-Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott.

<i>One Night in Dublin: A Tribute to Phil Lynott</i> 2006 video by Gary Moore and Friends

One Night in Dublin: A Tribute to Phil Lynott is a live DVD by Gary Moore credited to "Gary Moore and Friends".

Thin Lizzy Live at Sydney Harbour '78 was a live concert performance by Thin Lizzy on 29 October 1978, subsequently produced in VHS and DVD format and available from Warner Vision. It was originally a made for television special produced by local radio station 2SM and Australia's Seven Network.

Still in Love with You (Thin Lizzy song) 1986 single by Bobby Tench

"Still in Love with You" is a song originally recorded by Thin Lizzy, first released on their 1974 album Nightlife, and later released on the live albums Live and Dangerous, Life, BBC Radio One Live in Concert, The Peel Sessions and One Night Only. Allmusic's review of the song says it "is widely considered to be Thin Lizzy's greatest, most romantic ballad."

<i>Still Dangerous</i> 2009 live album by Thin Lizzy

Still Dangerous is a live album by Irish rock band Thin Lizzy. It was compiled from two live concerts by the band at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia, at 20 & 21 October 1977 during the tour in support of their Bad Reputation album. No overdubs were made to any tracks so the album is completely live. The tracks "Cowboy Song", "The Boys Are Back in Town", "Massacre" and "Emerald" were previously released on the album Live and Dangerous. "Me And The Boys" is a different, and much longer, version that the one released as the live B-side to the "Rosalie" single

<i>Diamonds and Dirt</i> 2011 studio album by Brian Robertson

Diamonds and Dirt is the first solo studio album by Scottish guitarist Brian Robertson, released in 2011. Robertson was previously a member of Thin Lizzy, Motörhead and Wild Horses.


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  11. The official Brian Robertson website – Gear
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