Soundscape: Phil Lynott & early 1980s Bass Gear

Growing up in a country that heavily relies on other nations for its taste in music, it is incredibly rare to find any Irish rock n roll bass player with a high enough calibre and notoriety enough for a young musician to aspire to.
From a mere handful, the most arguably important of them all is a Manchester born kid from Crumlin; Philip Paris Lynott.
Trying to break through in a nation whose music scene revolved around country music and show bands, Phil pushed a boundary of what was realistically possible for an aspiring irish musician, and paved a way for the now flourishing music scene the country has to offer.
Everything from the Hip hop, Ska and Indie scenes in Dublin owe themselves for to Lynott and the generation of Thin Lizzy fans that opened a lot of doors for Irish musicians to break into their own respective markets and build loyal audiences.
This is far from Phil being the “first” or “most well known” bass player to come from Ireland.
In fact, it’s closer to do with the fact that Phil Lynott is one of the most respected and influential rock n roll bass players over all, and a lot of music fans and musicians list his sound as one of the pioneering sounds of ‘70s and ‘80s Hard Rock.
Notably, the way Phil continuously played driven 8th notes landing on top of the beat, with the rare pushing of chord changes. Phil’s playing style was a lot of things, but Laid back is definitely not one of them. Phil Played with passion and with balls of steel, and an arsenal of musical weapons that took no prisoners.

Phil Used many basses in his career, for the sake of a brief run through, here are a few lesser known models as used by Phil.

Rickenbacker 4001, as used in the early days of Thin Lizzy
Fender Jazz Bass, as used on the Road in early days of Thin Lizzy.
Ibanez Roadster, as used in the later years for both The Phil Lynott solo outfit and Grand Slam
Roland G33 Bass (1981)
Roland G33 from 1981, as used by Phil Live on the Old grey Whistle Test

All these Iconic basses aside, without a doubt the most important Bass played by Phil is his American Fender Precision bass. Although Phil played multiple different instruments throughout his lifetime, this bass in particular is a staple of Phil’s career and is the main ‘Thin Lizzy’ bass.


Pickups, being a vastly important factor of the overall bass tone, It was only recently when fretless bass legend and Fender ambassador Tony Franklin shared an image to Instagram of his fender ’76 and ’77 P Basses that I was suddenly reminded of the rather unique pickup configuration used by Lynott.
In the below image, you can see both basses share the same mis-matching pickup configuration with an unusual off-cream Jazz pickup in the bridge position. Being the best possible person to ask about his own bass, I asked Tony for his two cents worth and to see if he could at least point me in the right direction.

tony franklin 76 77
Tony Franklin’s basses. Photo Credit: Tony Franklin, Instagram

“It’s the @dimarzioinc [Dimarzio] Model J in both basses. Could be the same in Phil Lynott’s – as those were the only game in town back then. Still are for me!” (Tony Franklin)
This narrows it down that Phil’s P Bass Pickup, the split coil neck pickup; is likely made by DiMarzio. If as well a respected musician as Tony Franklin is anything to go by, in Phil’s time Dimarzio were seen as an industry standard, as they still are.

DiMarzio produce a Model P DP122 pickup which is designed to increase gain from the bass, and promises more noise or hum cancelling than the Fender P bass stock Pickups. The pickup is offered in the off-cream colour option and retails at around €66.

BC Rich Mockingbird as played by Phil Lynott in the early 80s

Whilst playing and touring briefly with Gary Moore in the early 80s, Phil played a rather unusual bass choice for the Blues driven Hard rock they were playing; a 1979 BC Rich Mockingbird bass.
Also, it’s incredibly worthwhile noting the stock pickups in the Mockingbird bass are two DiMarzio model P pickups. Make a note of this fact; I’m going to refer back to this point later.

Phil Lynott Live from the Thin Lizzy days, and a Stack of Hiwatt amps

The next question to tackle is the bar style pickup in the bridge position. This pickup is absent from many early photos of the bass, which would imply it was only installed later on in Phil’s lifetime. This was a difficult one to track down, but I can kind of gather where it came from.

In the 80’s and whilst exploring his solo career Phil adopted a wider spectrum of songwriting and production as a breakaway from the Thin Lizzy sound. Phil also experimented with a lot of other basses such as the aforementioned Mockingbird, as well as the Roland and Ibanez basses, again, for the sake of pursuing something new.

The Jazz style pickup in the Fender P Bass closely resembles those from the Yamaha BB series, the earliest model of which was the Yamaha BB3000 produced in 1982. Phil can be seen playing a Yamaha bass live during a shared set with Wild Horses on British TV music show Alright Now.

yamaha-bb3000 1982
Yamaha BB3000

It seems incredibly likely that Phil either owned or Experimented with the Japanese Yamaha bass guitar models and possibly took a liking to the bridge pickup, ultimately having it installed in his main bass.
The same seems very likely for the Mockingbird’s DiMarzio Model P pickups.
The Yamaha BB3000 Jazz Pickup is designed for high output and lots of clarity. As far as passive powered pickups go, they’re probably the highest output before going into Active territory.

Summarised, Phil Lynott played a Black Fender Precision bass produced in America, with a Maple fretboard, added Chrome Pickguard, Badass bridge and a Custom Pickup configuration consisting of a DiMarzio Model P and a Yamaha BB3000 J Pickup. Phil’s P Bass was strung with Rotosound Jazz Bass 77 RS77LD Strings and He used Hiwatt Tube amplifiers.
This was a Thunderous bass sound widely renowned and still is to this day, highly regarded as a Rock n Roll apex of Bass.

Originally posted on Blogger 15/06/2016


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