Phil Lynott’s unique 1982 bass solo proves his genius
Being both singer and bassist in a band is more difficult than you might think. It’s like rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time: similar functions, different mentalities. A bassist / singer should have a clear and concise ear for the melody while simultaneously paying attention to the basic rhythms and chord roots in order to prevent the song from becoming a nebulous mess.
Phil Lynott, thanks to his legendary work in Thin Lizzy, was someone who was able to skillfully function in both capacities at the same time. A singer influenced by the blues, Lynott was initially not an instrumentalist, making the melody the intrinsic musical element on which he would draw in his subsequent bass playing. On songs like “The Boys Are Back in Town” and “Romeo and the Lonely Girl,” Lynott has created hummable and memorable basslines in themselves, revealing a natural ear for rising and falling notes.
Lynott’s inherent desire to get his audience to sing along to whatever he did in return was manifested when Thin Lizzy performed live. During their shows, Lynott would often take a brief bass solo that focused on creating parts that the crowd could then repeat to him. This style of calling and responding solidified Lynott’s bond with the people who came to see the band, and in turn, the audience felt like they were contributing to the music that was being played on stage.
Once Lynott asked the audience to rehearse the part they envisioned, it was time to level up. As the audience continued to sing the main line, Lynott snuck in and out of the main theme with different variations, improvisations and counter melodies. For someone without formal musical training, Lynott has a superb ability to incorporate different ideas of rhythm and melody into his playing.
As the audience begins to pull away, Lynott takes full control and plays more and more theatrical triplets that slide down the neck. The audience, unsurprisingly, is whipped into a fervor.
After further calls and responses, this time in the form of scat chants, Lynott goaded the audience into sternly judging their responses. Each time the audience sang louder and louder, Lynott increased his opinion until he finally had to admit “It’s Beautiful.”
Check out Lynott’s legendary bass solo below.