Producer Tony Visconti Opens Up About His Fears Surrounding Phil Lynott’s Drug Use

It’s been nearly 40 years since the death of Thin Lizzy’s de facto leader, bassist Phil Lynott, shook not only the Irish rock band but the music world as a whole. The musician met a tragic end, a death by pneumonia and heart failure due to septicemia, all exacerbated by his alcohol and drug dependencies. He was 36 years old.

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There was a person in the background of Lynott’s life who saw the writing on the wall early on and confronted the bassist a few years before his untimely death. The band’s producer, Tony Visconti, known best for his longtime work with David Bowie, recently opened up to Classic Rock about his fears surrounding the artist’s drug use. Visconti revealed there was a three-day period in which Lynott was bedridden and the producer seemed to be sure then that he was on death’s door.

Visconti had previously worked with the band on their 1977 album, Bad Reputation, and agreed to produce their follow-up release, Black Rose (1979). Lynott’s bandmate Scott Gorham recalled to the outlet that Visconti had always been “the voice of calm and reason” in the recording studio, “trying to keep a handle on everything.”

The producer remembered the raucous time that was the making of Bad Reputation, but the wild times would only increase with Black Rose, which was recorded in Paris, France. “Mentally, everyone was upbeat,” he detailed. “But at the same time, sitting on the couch at the studio, you’ve got three dealers. One guy selling smack; the other guy selling coke; and the third guy selling hash… it was that way every night.”

Those nights would soon catch up with Lynott and things began to take a turn for the bassist, according to Visconti. “When Phil was bedridden for three days, I was very frightened,” the producer said, adding “I seriously thought he was going to die in his hotel room.”

However, Lynott recovered and Visconti said he sat the artist down for a talk. “When he emerged I had a good heart-to-heart talk with him about his drug abuse, but he assured me, as always, that he had it under control,” he recalled.

The band completed the album with an at times heartsick Visconti at the helm. “We really didn’t waste too much time due to drugs in the studio,” the producer added, “but the emotional strain was terrible on me.” Visconti and the band wouldn’t work on another album together after the release of Black Rose.

Photo by Jack Kay/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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