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The supergroup that almost was

Louder has published online the story of Baby Face that originally appeared back in 2012 in the Classic Rock magazine issue 176. It’s a well written piece with quotes from Colin Hart and Paicey. Here’s how the drummer summarises the project’s fate:

Phil’s voice was staggering, wonderful. But he couldn’t play, at least not to the standard that we needed if it was just Ritchie, myself and a bass. When there’s only three of you, everybody’s got to be really good on everything they do.

Really, the bass playing had to be on a par with someone like Jack Bruce. And, God bless him, Phil wasn’t there yet. He was pretty simple, and quite often out of tune and out of time. And although he became really, really good at everything he did, at that point he wasn’t.

Read more in Louder Sound.

Thanks to Jim Collins for the heads up.

16 Comments to “The supergroup that almost was”:

  1. 1
    Dr. Bob says:

    Maybe it’s just my tastes but when I think of the great rock singers of the 70s Phil Lynott doen’t make my honorable mention list.

  2. 2
    Rock Voorne says:

    So Lynotts playings wasnt yet up to the required standards?

    David Coverdales voice appearantly wasnt enough and they picked Glenn who was superior vocally and played bass.

    What BURN could have been with Phil instead of mister Whitesnake, I wonder.
    Harmonies with 2 black music inspired voices or they could have picked Roger who wrote well.

    Just saying….

  3. 3
    MacGregor says:

    Bob @ 1- I agree also, Lynott was ok as a lead vocalist & better as a front man & bass guitarist for a decent rock group later on, in a much improved Thin Lizzy. I noticed someone on another site mentioned the James Dewar & Robin Trower style. James Dewar was a wonderful vocalist & a very good bass player with a wonderful feel, which suited Trower majestically.
    Also of course Paul Rogers & Free which then became the wonderful Bad Company. Blackmore may have been influenced by those vocalists. However the BIG issue for this woefully named band would have been Lynott NOT putting up with Blackmore & his antics. Phil was a street fighter indeed, from the old school of hard knocks. We can only imagine who would have won that disagreement. Cheers.

  4. 4
    Steve Morris says:

    Yep James Dewar was one of the finest blues rock singers of his or any generation. His work with Trower was fantastic.
    Stone the Crows could have been really big had it not been for the tragic death of Les Harvey.

  5. 5
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Lynott, for all his songwriter and story-telling qualities was a baritone singer, that relative rare beast among hard rock singers (Phil Mogg of UFO comes to mind as well). Lizzy’s music was written and arranged around his voice, but it would have never worked with Deep Purple or Ritchie’s songs per se for that matter.

    Evans was fired for being a baritone, Gillan was hired for his unbelievable falsetto range, Coverdale had a range between baritone and tenor (certainly higher than anything Phil could muster, he had a very limited range and no falsetto to speak of), but even he had Glenn added to him with his falsetto prowess. Even Dio had a higher range than Phil Lynott, both Bonnet and Turner could go way up higher.

    Phil’s bass playing abilities aside, the whole project was doomed because of that aspect (which I believe Ritchie never really considered in depth), because especially back then Blackmore did not write and arrange for baritone singers. He didn’t even write in keys apt for them.

    Remember: Phil (along with the rest of the first Lizzy line-up) played on the Funky Junction Tribute, but could not sing a single Purple song there because they were all outside of his natural range; session singers did the vocals.


    And listening to Phil’s out-of-tune and out-of-time attempt at Roger’s bass solo in Funky Junction’s rendition of Fireball still makes me wince just as much when I first heard it almost 50 years ago. It’s appallingly bad for recorded work. Phil was no Nick, Roger or Glenn. And no matter what Lizzy fans try to tell you, he never became more than a perfunctory bassist either; he played bass like a down-tuned rhythm guitar (which was where he came from in the first place). The bass tracks on the legendary Live & Dangerous Lizzy album were all rerecorded in the studio (as was much of the rest of the album, something which Lizzy fans like to gloss over too, Made In Japan it sure wasn’t).

    It was either Mark Clarke or Bob Daisley who said that what Ritchie was essentially looking for in a bassist in the 70ies was “someone who could do everything he did one octave lower”. Phil could never even approximate that. It was a (too) high standard even for most Purple bassists, Glenn was the only one whose chops would have allowed him to do that. Coverdale once said in an interview that Glenn would amaze him at Mk III rehearsals for simply replicating what Ritchie played (if asked to do so – he generally didn’t turn to copying Ritchie’s riffs as his first idea) – without ever any prior practice or wrapping his head around Ritchie’s ideas.

    I always wondered why Blackmore made no attempt to poach Dewar from Trower. As a bassist and singer he would have made Ritchie’s dreams come true. Perhaps he lacked “frontman star quality” for him (just like Clem Clempson was deemed unfit to replace Ritchie by the other Purple members) or just would not be lured away from Trower.

  6. 6
    MacGregor says:

    I have to admit I have never been a follower of Thin Lizzy, although I am well aware of a few of their more popular songs. Other musicians (guitarists) I knew back in the 80’s & 90’s were into them & the proverbial ‘ The Boys are Back in Town’ was always cranked out at the odd jam etc. The closest I have come to Lizzy on a recording or Lynott I should say, was the Lynott & Gary Moore track Out in the Fields. I liked that song, a good solid rock song with all the ingredients supplied nicely.
    The mid to late 70’s was that era of double guitar slinging ‘British’ hard rock bands that popped up. Priest, Maiden, Lizzy etc. There are some decent songs here & there mind, much better than what followed in the later 80’s era. Thanks for that Funky Junction link, I am not sure if I am game to listen to it. Maybe curiosity will kill this cat again. Cheers.

  7. 7
    George in Ohio says:

    Included in the “All Those Years Ago” book compilation of Jon Lord’s life (which is outstanding, by the way) is a separate folio of Fin Costello photos, mostly from the “Burn” tour. One of the pics shows Jon and David Coverdale on stage with Tim Bogert of Vanilla Fudge fame, who must have been sitting in at a Purple concert. I am forever and completely a Roger Glover fan, as he is as close to a perfect fit for Purple as any bassist could be; and Glenn Hughes was similarly well suited for DP, albeit with a different twist. All that being said, if Purple absolutely HAD to get another bassist, Tim Bogert would have been a fabulous addition. He could sing extremely well, and his bass skills were impeccable – one of hard rock’s true pioneers. If Ritchie and Ian had jammed with Bogert instead of Lynott, they certainly would not have scrapped the project because of displeasure with his bass playing chops, as they did with Lynott. RIP Tim Bogert – hope you and Jon are jamming somewhere in the Great Beyond.

  8. 8
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Bogert was great, no question.

    But Ritchie was very image conscious, Phil Lynott’s neo-Hendrix look with Afro hair and uniform jackets plus leather pants was certain to be part of the equation in wanting to get together with him.

    Bogert (unlike, say, a young Glenn Hughes) wasn’t really teen poster material visually. Don’t forget how David had his cross-eyes set and was put on slimming pills before the first promo pics with him went out. He was following Ian Gillan who was perceived as handsome (and Ian’s looks had also played a role in him getting the job, Ritchie likened him to Jim Morrison and early promo pics of Mk II with Ian in a pilot leather jacket played heavily on that).

  9. 9
    George in Ohio says:

    Perceptive observation, Uwe. Hadn’t thought of Ritchie’s image conscious side and how that factored into his decisions. There’s a video interview with Ritchie somewhere on Youtube where he mentions his displeasure with Graham Bonnet’s short haircut – particularly after Ritchie told him to keep it long and he cut it anyway. And you are correct that Bogert wasn’t exactly poster material visually. So on that basis he wasn’t as much of a fit.

    But musically, I think Bogert was vastly superior to Phil Lynott on the bass and would have slid right in with the guys if for some reason Roger (or Glenn) wouldn’t have been available. And he was an underrated singer – not a Glenn Hughes screamer, but he could definitely hold his own at the microphone.

  10. 10
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Bonnet – who never really liked long hair on himself – was unwittingly ahead of the pack. Come the late 70ies, early 80ies, it was all of the sudden trendy that front men singers would start wearing their hair short (to set themselves apart) in otherwise long-haired bands: Freddie Mercury/Queen, Rob Halford/Judas Priest or Paul Di’Anno/Iron Maiden. Time’s were a-changin’. Bonnet looked different, but was a sight. And he defied expectations with his manly roar that took no prisoners.

    Bogert was one of the top ten rock bassists to come out of the 60ies, he was right up there with Jack Bruce, Felix Pappalardi and Macca. His tough luck was that following Vanilla Fudge he was never again in a really stable outfit: Cactus, Beck, Bogert & Appice, Boxer … they all only had project lifespans. Ironically, in Cactus his busy playing style would clash with guitarist Jim McCarty’s narrow vision of “keeping the bass simple”. Imagine being Tim Bogert and hearing something like that. Guitarists can be a real pest.

    I’ve been there myself! ; – )

  11. 11
    MacGregor says:

    Blackmore developed a knack for picking musicians that didn’t work out at all at certain times. Glenn Hughes firstly, then Graeme Bonnet in Rainbow, JLT in DP a disaster indeed. Regarding Bonnet he was never going to fit the look. It makes you wonder what Blackmore was thinking, other than, ‘he will do what I say’. Oh well, not to worry. Regarding Jim McCarty expecting Tin Bogert to keep it simple, well there is another unrealistic expectation. Maybe it is some of those pesky guitarists that do have a problem. Nice to hear it isn’t the drummer getting the blame, after all drummers are totally innocent of anything. Cheers.

  12. 12
    Eitablepanties says:

    @ 10. Those singers you mentioned that cut their hair short, Mercury , Halford, Di’Anno cut their hair short because they were already starting to lose it. Receding and just started to look awful from aging. Not to look different from anybody else, but because long long hair is a young mans look not an aging rock star lesbian look.

  13. 13
    Uwe Hornung says:

    @12: That may be a reason sometimes, but not with these three:

    Mercury cut his hair because he wanted to leave the 70ies behind and long hair was going out of style in the gay community.

    Halford generally had as many image changes as Cher – he went back and forth between long, longish, shortish and crew-cut in the 70ies and 80ies, only by the late 80ies did he follow nature’s call (in Halford’s case: a receding hairline) and went for bald. Like Freddy he was a gay man too and thus influenced by fashionable gay looks.

    And Di’Anno copped his hair style from Halford (by his own admission) and it was also more convenient when he was working on those North Sea oil rigs making good money when Iron Maiden had dire financial straits before they took off.

    Udo Dirkschneider (long before he went bald) with Accept was another one: Long-haired band, military style crew-cut front man – it was very much an image thing and it worked for all those bands.

    BTW: I liked it, when Big Ian cut his hair short (and stopped the dye). It was time. Same thing when Jon stopped dying his hair blond, that pony-tail gave him a nice elder rock statesman look.

  14. 14
    MacGregor says:

    Regarding the long & short of it, hair I mean. Yes indeed I have always noticed over the years that the receding hair line eventually leads to getting it cut shorter. Although I am still trying not to go too short myself, I cannot stand that cold air behind my ears & neck, an awkward feeling it is. Most rockers did that, cut it off for looks or convenience etc, moving from the 70’s into the 80’s & beyond. In regards to some in the gay community moving that way at that time, well maybe they did. I never really thought of it like that, however it is probably true to some extent. Although Bowie lopped his hair off much earlier than the 1980’s, however he was the ever changing chameleon of popular music! The only old school rocker who I have never noticed with short hair is Mick Box from Uriah Heep. Everyone else it seems, including Francis Rossi after so many decades, eventually had a haircut. I cannot imagine what Mick would look like with short hair, he has had that long hair for going on into his 6th decade of rocking & rolling. Bless him for keeping up the tradition of ‘too old to rock ‘n roll, too young to die! Cheers.

  15. 15
    MacGregor says:

    Come to think of it there are a few other old school rockers who maintained their mane, so to speak. Ozzy & Lemmy spring to mind. And then we had Neil from The Young Ones maintaining the classic rock look & vibe. Marillion, Hawkwind & Steve Hillage were often mentioned on that great comedy, by Neil of course. Motorhead appearing on one episode also. The British comedy Black Books with Bill Bailey appearing as Manny, he often was on the end of Bernard’s cutting put down remarks, being called ‘Hawkwind’ on one occasion. Also called ‘Gandalf’. Bloody hippies, he he he! When witnessing DP in 1984 I was aghast at Gillan’s short hair, thinking of the Samson mythology, the strength being lost with his voice if he ever cut his hair. Gladly it was not to be. Cheers.

  16. 16
    Eitablepanties says:

    @13. Maybe DiAnno & U.D.O gay to? … Balls to the Wall fellas!!!

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