John Sykes

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John Sykes
John Sykes 1984.jpg
Sykes performing with Whitesnake in 1984
Background information
Birth nameJohn James Sykes
Born (1959-07-29) 29 July 1959 (age 59)
Reading, Berkshire, England
Genres Hard rock, heavy metal
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Years active1980–present
Associated actsStreetfighter, John Sloman's Badlands, Tygers of Pan Tang, Thin Lizzy, Phil Lynott, Whitesnake, Blue Murder
Website Official website

John James Sykes (born 29 July 1959) is an English rock guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter who has played with Streetfighter, Tygers of Pan Tang, John Sloman's Badlands, Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, and Blue Murder. Sykes shared composing duties for all songs on Whitesnake's 1987 self-titled album with David Coverdale. Sykes is also a successful solo artist.

English people Nation and ethnic group native to England

The English people are a nation and an ethnic group native to England who speak the English language. The English identity is of early medieval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Angelcynn. Their ethnonym is derived from the Angles, one of the Germanic peoples who migrated to Great Britain around the 5th century AD. England is one of the countries of the United Kingdom, and the majority of people living there are British citizens.

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and in the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

Guitarist person who plays the guitar

A guitarist is a person who plays the guitar. Guitarists may play a variety of guitar family instruments such as classical guitars, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and bass guitars. Some guitarists accompany themselves on the guitar by singing or playing the harmonica.



Tygers of Pan Tang and John Sloman's Badlands (1980–1982)

Sykes joined Tygers of Pan Tang in 1980 and his first gig with the band was at Reading Festival in front of 60,000 people. [1] He played guitar on the albums Spellbound (1981) and Crazy Nights (1982), as well as participating on two tracks for their 1983 release, The Cage . [2]

Tygers of Pan Tang British heavy metal band

Tygers of Pan Tang are a heavy metal band, part of the new wave of British heavy metal movement. They formed in 1978 in Whitley Bay, England, and were active until 1987. The band reformed in 1999 and continue to record and perform. The name is derived from Pan Tang, a fictional archipelago in Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné fantasy series whose wizards keep tigers as pets.

<i>Spellbound</i> (Tygers of Pan Tang album) 1981 studio album by Tygers of Pan Tang

Spellbound is the second album by British heavy metal band Tygers of Pan Tang, produced in 1981 on MCA. Spellbound is the first of two full length Tygers of Pan Tang albums to feature as second guitarist John Sykes, who later joined Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake. It is also the first album with vocalist Jon Deverill. The album was re-issued in 1989 in a double-LP package with Wild Cat and on CD in 1997 with bonus tracks.

<i>Crazy Nights</i> (Tygers of Pan Tang album) 1981 studio album by Tygers of Pan Tang

Crazy Nights is the third studio album by British heavy metal band Tygers of Pan Tang, released in November 1981 on MCA and is rumoured to be the last ever album to be recorded at Trident Studios before it closed the same year.

In 1982, John Sykes was recruited by former Uriah Heep frontman John Sloman, for his new band Badlands, alongside his future Whitesnake bandmate Neil Murray. Although there was some interest from EMI, the project was to be short-lived however, as Sykes was offered to join Thin Lizzy and there was no management or finance to hold on to him. [3] Badlands had performed live twice only and disbanded shortly after. No music has ever been officially released, although demo tapes and bootlegs of rehearsals do exist. Prior to joining Badlands, Sykes auditioned, unsuccessfully, for Ozzy Osbourne's band following the death of Randy Rhoads. [4] Sykes also auditioned for Ronnie James Dio's new band, Dio, to record on 1983's "Holy Diver" album but was unsuccessful, as Dio instead chose Sweet Savage guitarist, Vivian Campbell.[ citation needed ]

Uriah Heep (band) English rock band

Uriah Heep are an English rock band formed in London in 1969. It has had the same lineup since 2013: lead and rhythm guitarist Mick Box, keyboardist Phil Lanzon, lead vocalist Bernie Shaw, drummer Russell Gilbrook and bassist Davey Rimmer. Of the current lineup, Box is the only remaining original member. Throughout many lineup changes, the band has included many notable musicians, such as vocalists David Byron, John Lawton, John Sloman, Peter Goalby and Steff Fontaine, bassists Gary Thain, Trevor Bolder, John Wetton, Bob Daisley and John Jowitt, drummers Nigel Olsson, Lee Kerslake and Chris Slade, and keyboardists Ken Hensley and John Sinclair.

John Anthony David Sloman was born in Cardiff, South Wales, 26 April 1957 as the eldest of six children. He is best known as the lead vocalist for Welsh band Lone Star during 1977/'78 and classic rockers Uriah Heep from 1979 to 1981.

Philip Neil Murray is a Scottish bass player, best known for his work in Whitesnake, The Brian May Band, Black Sabbath and with Gary Moore.

Thin Lizzy (1982–1983)

At the age of 23, Sykes was asked by Phil Lynott to join Thin Lizzy, filling the spot left by previous guitarist Snowy White. He participated in the recording of the band's final studio album Thunder and Lightning , deemed by many music historians as the pinnacle of their commercial success. [5] He also co-wrote the track "Cold Sweat" with Phil Lynott: "I came in late. They pretty much had the material together [...] We wrote that in the studio." As for the soloing parts:"A lot are me, some are Scott. On some songs, we took one each". [2]

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.

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.

Snowy White English guitarist, musician and songwriter

Terence Charles "Snowy" White is an English guitarist, known for having played with Thin Lizzy and with Pink Floyd, and more recently, for Roger Waters' band. He is also known for his 1983 solo offering "Bird of Paradise", which became a UK Singles Chart Top 10 hit single.

With Sykes on board, the band toured the album successfully for almost a year. The live album Life:Live was recorded during this time. Following the tour, Thin Lizzy disbanded.

<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".

Sykes joined Phil Lynott for Sweden's "Folk Park Tour", a series of summer outdoor gigs (July–August), in a band dubbed "The Three Musketeers" (as suggested by Lynott himself in the UK press), featuring Phil Lynott (vocals, bass), Brian Downey (drums), John Sykes (lead guitar), Donal Nagle (rhythm guitar) and Mark Stanway(keyboards). Then, Sykes was contacted by Whitesnake's manager, Ossie Hoppe, to secure his services for the following tour, upping his offer every time to the point Sykes could not refuse. However, Sykes wanted his friend Phil's personal blessing: "So I went to Phil and told him [...] His attitude was: I'd never hold you back- I wish you well. He was a real gentleman about it". [6]

Whitesnake (1984-1987)

David Coverdale hired Sykes to join Whitesnake following the release of Slide It In in 1984. He re-recorded some guitar tracks for the US release: "I basically beefed up the rhythms [...] me and Neil Murray [...] had two days to do some overdubs [...] Micky Moody and Mel Galley had already recorded the album." [2] The new lineup made their tour debut at SFX Center in Dublin on 17 Feb 1984, [7] followed up by more UK dates, rest of Europe, Japan and USA and culminated with the 1985 Rock in Rio festival, where the band played two gigs (11/01 and 19/01). [8]

Sykes was heavily involved in Whitesnake's next project, co-writing 9 out of 11 songs on the band's self-titled album with David Coverdale. [9] They started working on the songs in the spring of 1985 in South of France and, around September, the band headed to Little Mountain Sound Studios in Vancouver to work with producer Mike Stone. Sykes recorded guitar parts, as well as some backing vocal tracks. [10] Towards the end of the 1987 sessions, Coverdale fired progressively the entire band (allegedly because of personality clashes and matters of ego) and brought in Adrian Vandenberg to record the solo on "Here I Go Again". Sykes later stated: “I regret that I never got to play those songs live - and I think fans regret it, too.” [11]

This was Whitesnake's most successful album, peaking at #2 on the Billboard 200 chart [12] and selling over eight million copies in the United States alone. It contained the hit singles "Still of the Night", "Is This Love", "Give Me All Your Love", and "Here I Go Again" (the last was not a Sykes composition).

In June 2017, British publication Rock Candy featured an exclusive interview with Sykes, where he stated: "At the time, I had a real sense of where I felt Whitesnake should be heading musically [...] I don't believe David had any clue what we should sound like [...] Geffen were keen to get down on record the sort of style that would appeal to American fans. Up to that point, Whitesnake meant nothing in the US". [13]

Blue Murder (1988–1994)

After Coverdale fired the 1987-era band, Sykes went on to form Blue Murder with Vanilla Fudge drummer Carmine Appice and The Firm bassist Tony Franklin. Sykes subsequently stated: "I was anxious to get back into the saddle, do an album my way and then go on tour [...] Yes, I wrote all the songs, but [...] I always tried to present this as a proper band and not a solo project."

After a demo was recorded with Ray Gillen on vocals, A&R executive John Kalodner encouraged Sykes to handle the vocal duties himself. [14]

Their self-titled debut album was produced by a young Bob Rock, but more than that, it is about Sykes's guitar, balancing technique and emotion. 1989's epic "Valley of the kings" found the band serving up their own Egyptian-themed "Kashmir". However, the 1993 follow-up Nothin' but Trouble did not fare as well. After two studio albums and a live recording, Sykes ended the Blue Murder partnership and he began recording and touring under his own name.

In the April 2014 issue of Classic Rock Magazine, Sykes gave an estimate on chances of reforming Blue Murder: "If I wanted to reform Blue Murder, then I could do it at anytime [...] I am moving forward, not looking back. However, I wouldn't totally rule it out at some point further down the line. I love what we did and if the right circumstances appeared, then who might happen."

Solo career (1994–present)

In the years following Blue Murder, Sykes recorded several solo albums: Out of My Tree (1995), Loveland (1997), 20th Century (1997) and Nuclear Cowboy (2000). A song from 20th Century, "Cautionary Warning", was used in the anime series Black Heaven.[ citation needed ]

Sykes performing in 2007 Thin Lizzy (10).JPG
Sykes performing in 2007

In 2004, the live album Bad Boy Live! was released, covering a number of "greatest hits" from Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, Blue Murder, and his solo work. [15]

Sykes has made rare guest appearances on the Hughes Turner Project debut album on the track "Heaven's Missing an Angel", and later on keyboardist Derek Sherinian's 2004 solo album "Mythology" , playing alongside Zakk Wylde on the track "God of War".

Thin Lizzy reformed (1994–2009)

In 1994, he reformed Thin Lizzy with Scott Gorham, Brian Downey, and Darren Wharton. Sykes, as well as taking on the role of lead guitarist, handled the lead vocals due to the death of Phil Lynott years earlier.

Touring occasionally with Thin Lizzy, a live recording One Night Only was released in 2000.

On 7 July 2009, Sykes announced that he had parted ways with Thin Lizzy, stating that "I feel it's time to get back to playing my own music". [16]

Later collaborations

On 7 May 2011 episode of That Metal Show , when asked about a Blue Murder reunion, Carmine Appice said they were "talking." No further details were given. [17]

On 26 July 2011, during his taping of "That Metal Show," Sykes announced that he was forming a new band with drummer Mike Portnoy, [18] dubbed ‘Bad Apple’. However, on 24 January 2012, Eddie Trunk confirmed that the Sykes/Portnoy project had dissolved, saying: "Obviously bands are like any relationship, some click, some do not. This was simply a case of two different people not only getting to know each other musically but also personally, and the schedule and timing for making this work just fell apart. Mike and the band's bass player, Billy Sheehan, were ready to go, and John simply was not on the same timetable." [18] The next day, Richie Kotzen was announced to have replaced Sykes.

On 29 January, Sykes posted on his website: "The project I was putting together with Mike Portnoy didn't work out, and I wish him all the best for the future. I'm continuing to work on my new album, and I look forward to putting out some great new music in 2012." [19]

Upcoming solo album

In February 2013, Sykes announced he was working on his fifth solo album. [20] Sample clips from the album were released in late 2014. [21] Sykes elaborated on the upcoming album in an extensive interview with Japanese magazine Young Guitar published in April 2017. [22] In February 2019, it was announced that Sykes had signed with Golden Robot records to release the new album in mid-2019, titled "A Brand New Day." Additionally, it was announced that he would be touring with former Blue Murder bandmate Tony Franklin on bass. [23]

Personal life

Sykes married Jennifer Brooks-Sykes in 1990. Together they had three sons, and one son from Jennifer's previous marriage to Rainbow bassist, Craig Gruber. They were divorced in 1999.[ citation needed ]


John Sykes signature Les Paul

In 2006 Gibson Guitars began producing an "Inspired By" Gibson Les Paul which was modeled after Sykes' 1970s-era Les Paul Custom. [24] There were two versions available; an "aged" look (recreating the exact looks of John's Les Paul) and a "standard" or "VOS" model. This was a limited edition run, with 66 aged look models created, and just over 100 VOS models created. [25]

Other equipment

His amplifiers include several Jose Arredondo-modified Marshall JCM800s he's used since early 1980s. He started using the Mesa/Boogie amplifiers (Mesa/Boogie Mark IIC+, Mark III Coliseum and Dual Rectifier heads) more during his tenures with Whitesnake and Blue Murder ( 2 of his black Mesa/Boogie amps were used for the actual Whitesnake recordings). [26] Later on though, he switched back to his JCM800s when touring solo or with Thin Lizzy's "reunion" line-up.

Although rarely, he can also be seen using Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus combos for his clean tones. Other amplifiers include: Peavey "5150" EVH, various Fender combos (Frontman 25R, Princeton Reverb, Vibroverb, Bandmaster).

“For the rhythm on ‘Still of the Night’, I used my 1978 Black Les Paul Custom”, Sykes said. “At that time, I had a Dirty Fingers pickup in the bridge. I plugged in two Mesa/Boogie Coliseum - which are great-sounding amps. I ran the gain at about 4, so the tone was heavy but clear [...] and I tracked in stereo with a slight delay between the two sides. Then I doubled the part.” [11]

Gear used on the ‘John Sykes: Sy-Ops’ album:

• Black Beauty Gibson LP Custom • 59 and ‘85 Gibson Les Paul • Eddie Van Halen signature models • Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster • Jose Arredondo - modded 50W Marshall and Mesa Boogie amps • No pedals, just the guitar’s cable plugged into the amp. [22]


1980StreetfighterNew Electric WarriorsCompilationCompilation, Track 3: "She's No Angel"
1981 Tygers Of Pan Tang Spellbound Studio
1981Tygers Of Pan Tang Crazy Nights Studio
1982Badlands (U.K.)Badlands demo tapeDemowith Neil Murray & John Sloman
1982StreetfighterCrazy Dream EPEPwith Merv Goldsworthy & Gary Taylor
1982John Sykes Please Don't Leave Me Singlewith Phil Lynott
1982Tygers Of Pan Tang The Cage StudioGuitar on "Love Potion No. 9" and "Danger in Paradise"
1983 Thin Lizzy Thunder and Lightning Studio
1983Thin Lizzy Life:Live Live
1984 Whitesnake Slide It In (US Mix) Studio
1987Whitesnake Whitesnake / 1987 Studio
1987Whitesnake 1987 Versions EPEP
1989 Blue Murder Blue Murder Studio
1992Thin Lizzy Thin Lizzy - BBC Radio One Live In Concert LiveRecorded on 28 August 1983
1993Blue Murder Nothin' but Trouble Studio
1994Blue Murder Screaming Blue Murder: Dedicated to Phil Lynott LiveRecorded in December 1993
1995John Sykes I Don't Wanna Live My Life Like You Single
1995John Sykes Out of My Tree Studio
1997John Sykes Loveland Studio
1997John Sykes 20th Century Studio
1998John Sykes Chapter One Compilation
2000John Sykes Nuclear Cowboy Studio
2000John Sykes Best of John Sykes Compilation
2000Thin Lizzy One Night Only LiveRecorded in 1999
2001Tygers Of Pan Tang Live at Nottingham Rock City LiveRecorded in April 1981
2001Phil Lynott Live in Sweden 1983 LiveRecorded on 5–6 August 1983
2004John Sykes Bad Boy Live! LiveRecorded in April 2004
2014Whitesnake Live In 1984: Back To The Bone LiveRecorded in 1984
2019John Sykes A Brand New Day Studio


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