Robertson performing in 2011
|Also known as||"Robbo"|
12 February 1956 |
|Genres||Hard rock, blues rock, heavy metal, rock and roll|
|Instruments||Guitar, vocals, bass guitar, keyboards, cello, drums, piano|
|Associated acts||Thin Lizzy, Motörhead, Wild Horses, The Bitter Twins|
|Gibson Les Paul Deluxe
Gibson Les Paul Custom
Robertson was born in Clarkston, Renfrewshire (now part of East Renfrewshire), where he was educated, attending Eastwood High School and became a musician. He studied cello and classical piano for eight years before switching to the guitar and drums. He played in gigs around his local area with bands like Dream Police, who later evolved into the Average White Band.
In June 1974, Thin Lizzy were auditioning for two new guitarists and a try-out for Robertson was arranged. Aged 17, Robertson was taken on along with Scott Gorham on the other lead guitar. The two lead guitarists provided a critical part of Thin Lizzy's signature sound, referred to by critics as their "twin guitar attack". During his time in the band, Robertson was a contributing member to five studio albums released by Thin Lizzy: Nightlife (1974), Fighting (1975), Jailbreak (1976), Johnny the Fox (1976), Bad Reputation (1977) and a live album Live and Dangerous (1978).
Although frontman, bassist/lead vocalist Phil Lynott was the primary songwriter for Thin Lizzy's material, Robertson contributed a substantial share of songwriting for the band, sometimes collaborating with Lynott and the band. Bad Reputation was the only record that did not feature his song writing and he performed only on selected tracks from this album.
In Thin Lizzy, the unique twin harmony lead guitar sound instigated by Robertson and Gorham, contributed much to the distinctive sound of the band and influenced subsequent bands such as, Iron Maiden, Metallica, The Darkness and Velvet Revolver. Robertson's pioneering, unconventional use of the wah-wah pedal as an extension of the instrument during soloing rather than as a purely rhythmic effect provided a boost to the band as well. In 1978 Robertson finally left the band and was replaced by guitarist Gary Moore, whom he had replaced in 1974.
Robertson formed Wild Horses along with Rainbow bassist Jimmy Bain. Achieving only partial success in the UK, the band split up after releasing two albums, Wild Horses (1980) and Stand Your Ground (1981). In 1980 Robertson was featured on the Eric Burdon album Darkness Darkness. Robertson appeared for one performance of Thin Lizzy's final tour in 1983, alongside other former guitarists. In 1986 he recorded a cover of "Still in Love with You" as a tribute to Phil Lynott, appearing alongside Bobby Tench.
Robertson joined Motörhead in late 1982, replacing "Fast" Eddie Clarke. He recorded the band's King Biscuit Flower Hour sessions, remaining to record the 1983 album Another Perfect Day. His last appearance with Motörhead was at the Metropol in Berlin, on 11 November 1983. His resistance to playing "classic" Motörhead songs, coupled with a playing style which did not fit well with Motörhead's aggressive style of music, resulted in his decision to move on. He then joined Gary Barden's band Statetrooper until they disbanded.
In 1992 Robertson made a guest appearance with the band Skyclad at the Dynamo Open Air Festival, in Eindhoven, Netherlands. In 2004 he also made a guest appearance with the band Ash at the Oxegen music festival in Ireland, playing guitar on their version of Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town". He was reunited with Lizzy band mates in August 2005 for a tribute show in memory of Phil Lynott, in a line fronted by Gary Moore. Robertson and Moore appeared with Brian Downey, Scott Gorham, Eric Bell and Jethro Tull bassist Jonathan Noyce.
His first solo album Diamonds and Dirt, featuring Ian Haugland of the band Europe, Nalle Pahlsson from Treat, Leif Sundin from MSG and Liny Wood, was recorded in Stockholm at Polar Studios over a two-year period. It was produced by Robertson, Soren Lindberg and Chris Laney. The album features thirteen songs, written by Robertson and others including Phil Lynott, Frankie Miller and Jim White. It was released in Europe through Steamhammer Records in March 2011.
Like many British rock guitarists, Robertson was significantly influenced by earlier blues guitarists. Robertson's influences include Freddie King, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Peter Green. ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons is also mentioned as a later influence.
Robertson is often associated with the Black 1960 Les Paul Custom, with white/parchment (rather than black) coloured pick guard, featured in photographs on the Live and Dangerous album and subsequent video. However, in an interview Robertson explained that his main guitar remains his original Thin Lizzy Sunburst 1973 Les Paul Deluxe, albeit re-fretted (due to wear) and with 1959 vintage Gibson Seth Lover PAF humbucker pickups fitted roughly by his guitar technician. The pickups are without the normal German-silver pick-up covers.
Although associated with Marshall amplifiers (100 watt non-Master Volume Superlead heads and 25W Celestion Greenback speakers), Robertson has been known to use Mesa Boogie (100W Dual Rectifier head) and Soundman amplifiers. The Jailbreak album was recorded using a Carlsbro combo. Robertson's original wah-pedal is a UK made Colorsound although he sometimes used a Cry Baby wah wah in the 1990s and a borrowed Vox Wah in the "Still in Love with Blues" video (which he cut the rubber feet off, to the dismay of host Stuart Bull).
Robertson's use of the WEM Copycat tape echo unit was later replaced by a modern rack mounted digital delay unit. He used a Black Les Paul custom and mentions he experimented with "Boss Analog Chorus Delay, an MXR Pitch Transposer, Yamaha analogue delays, and MXR 32 band Graphic EQ" during his Motörhead days.
Record producer Tony Visconti mentioned that for "Killer Without A Cause":
On his VHS video "Still in Love with the Blues" Robertson is pictured with a vintage red Les Paul guitar, unusually equipped with soap-bar pick-ups and a trapeze bridge, although it does not feature on the video itself. Robertson's Facebook page features more information on this instrument: purchased by Thin Lizzy's manager in 1973, the guitar has an unusually lightweight body as it was built by Les Paul himself for his then wife, guitarist Mary Ford.
Guitar Rig & Signal Flow
A detailed gear diagram of Robertson's 1974 Thin Lizzy guitar rig is documented.
- Diamonds and Dirt (2011)
With Thin Lizzy
- Nightlife (1974)
- Fighting (1975)
- Jailbreak (1976)
- Johnny the Fox (1976)
- Bad Reputation (1977)
- Live and Dangerous (1978)
- Life (1983)
With Wild Horses
- Pat Travers – Makin' Magic (1977)
- Peter French – Ducks in Flight (1978)
- Roy Sundholm – The Chinese Method (1979)
- Zaine Griff – Ashes and Diamonds (1980)
- Eric Burdon – Darkness Darkness (1980)
- Frankie Miller – Dancing in the Rain (1986)
- Balaam and the Angel – Live Free or Die (1988)
- Mona Liza Overdrive – Vive La Ka Bum (1989)
- Skyclad – Tracks from the Wilderness EP (1992)
- Shane MacGowan and The Popes – The Snake (1994)
- The Clan – That's All... EP (1995)
- Shane MacGowan and The Popes – Christmas Party EP (1986)
- Various Artists – Thousand Days of Yesterdays – A Tribute to Captain Beyond (1999)
- Lotus – A Taster for the Big One (1999)
- Five Fifteen – Silver Machine (2000)
- Lotus – Quartet Conspiracy (2000)
- Dogface – Unleashed (2001)
- Steve Ellis – Last Angry Man (2001)
- Meldrum – Loaded Mental Cannon (2001)
- Five Fifteen – The Man Who Sold Himself (2004)
- The Bitter Twins – Global Panic! (2009)
Interviews on DVDs
- Gary Moore and Friends: One Night in Dublin – A Tribute to Phil Lynott (2005)
- Motorhead Videobiography – double DVD (2007)
- Motorhead Overkill – double DVD (2008)
- "Thin Lizzy Live and Dangerous – DVD (2007)
Interviews on VHS video
- Still in Love with the Blues a JamTrax guitar tuition video/masterclass featuring Robertson with Stuart Bull. The title is a play on Robertson's signature Thin Lizzy track, "Still in Love with You". The video is also available on YouTube.
- Byrne, Alan Thin Lizzy, Soldiers of Fortune, Firefly Publishing, November 2005 pp. 51 & 56 ISBN 0-946719-81-0
- "Pete Frame's Rocking Around Britain, p.235". Omnibus. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
- "Stiff Records Official Website". stiffrecords.com. Retrieved 2008-12-24.
- Burridge, Alan and Stevenson, Mick The Illustrated Collector's Guide to Motörhead Collector's Guide Publishing, 1994 pp. 17 & 40–43, ISBN 0-9695736-2-6
- "Former Thin Lizzy Guitarist Brian Robertson Back in the Studio". komodorock article. Retrieved 2008-02-13.
- "Brian Robertson". Dinosaur Rock Guitar article. Retrieved 2007-04-03.
- The official Brian Robertson website – Gear
- "The guitar and bass rig database record for Brian Robertson in Thin Lizzy in 1974.". Guitar Geek article. Retrieved 2007-04-03.
- "Thin Lizzy Bad Reputation". Tony Visconti article. Retrieved 2007-04-03.
- "Brian Robertson".
- Cooper, Adam (2003). Brian Robertson's 1974 Thin Lizzy Guitar Rig. GuitarGeek.Com