Scott Gorham

 

Groupology

  • Thin Lizzy
  • 21 Guns

Jurassic

Watch Scott Gorham in Action at the bottom of this page!

Famous / Infamous for

 

Very long hair, and for being somewhat overshadowed by his flashier guitar partners. Despite that, Scott Gorham had the longest tenure of any guitarist in Thin Lizzy. Scott has too often been under-rated.

Influences

Obvious: Scott has mentioned the Allman Brothers as an influence. When I listen to Thin Lizzy, it's pretty clear to me that both Robbo and Scott Gorham had digested a lot of Jimmy Page's Pentatonic-based rock licks.

Not-so-obvious: Brian Robertson, Gary Moore, Snowy White, and John Sykes. Not so much as stylistic influences, but Scott claims that working with each of his Lizzy guitar partners forced him to become more proficient. His chops took a noticeable leap up when Gary Moore returned to Lizzy in 1978, and the improvement is quite evident on Black Rose and subsequent albums. Scott has also mentioned Hendrix, Clapton and Beck as influences. Maybe there's a touch of that Clapton-like sense of meter, but I don't hear any Hendrix or Beck in his playing.

Strengths

Songwriting/arrangement. Lynott gets most of the credit for Lizzy's songs — and rightly so. But Brian and Scott's guitar parts were a huge part of Lizzy's sound and magic. Scott was responsible for coming up with the signature harmony lines. It wasn't originally intended as the band's trademark, but he and Robbo liked the way it sounded, so they continued it until it became so.

Melody. Scott Gorham is a very melodic player. And though he's from L.A., he quickly picked up on the band's Celtic heritage and embraced it. The melodic lines Scott composed were often very Celtic in nature. Listen to the ascending run in the chorus of the song Soldier of Fortune. It's definitive of Scott's sensibility and sounds very Irish. But there's more than just the Celtic melodies. Listen to the melodic solos on The Sun Goes Down, or the (second) solo in Still in Love With You on live versions of the song.

Improvement. As stated, Scott chops progressed over time in Thin Lizzy. In an article in Guitar magazine, he explained:
"To be honest, each guy that came in gave me a kick in the ass. It's a tough position to be in, having to work with a new guy again and having to work up the enthusiasm all over again. But I think I definitely improved 'cause a lot of great players went through that band. Gary Moore, in particular, tightened up my act quite a bit 'cause he was such a precise player. I was playing catch-up ball with him at that point."

Confidence. Scott's has very laid-back, easy-going, low-key personality, but it must have taken some mighty big balls to get on stage with a guitar opposite the likes of Brian Robertson, Gary Moore, and John Sykes. Yet Scott did so, and always managed to reatain his individuality and bring something unique and valuable to the table.

Weaknesses

Scott's lead playing was always very fluid, melodic, and tasty, but at times I wish it had more ballsy attitude, aggression, and fire. His playing is certainly not devoid of emotion, but like his personality, his style is kind of mellow compared to his more famous partners. When I think of Scott, I think: smooth. His style is smooth, his tone is smooth. Considering he was playing with some quite aggressive players, perhaps smooth is exactly what was called for from Scott. Still, I personally would have liked to have heard a little more of that I'm gonna rip your head off ballsy attitude in his leads. When he comes close on things like Waiting for an Alibi, and Got to Give it Up, it's really enjoyable. In my opinion, we don't hear enough that attitude from Scott.

Tone

Like all Lizzy guitarists, Scott is associated with the classic Les Paul - Marshall sound. But compared to his partners, Scott always had a smoother, warmer tone with less top end bite. This sometimes makes it seem as if Scott wasn't quite loud enough to cut through the mix compared to his partners.

Through the early years of "classic lineup" while working with Brian Robertson, Scott mainly used Les Paul Deluxes with mini humbuckers (shown top). After Jailbreak, he switched to a 1957 Les Paul Standard with full sized humbuckers. When Snowy White was in the band, he experimented with Schecter strats. By the time of Thunder & Lightning he was back to the Les Paul again. For a several years after that, he was playing a black strat made of Tom Anderson parts (Tom used to sell necks and bodies). This guitar has the initials "SG" on the black headstock. His strat guitars have thin and wide necks — very 80s Charvel feeling. He strapped on a Les Paul again for 21 Guns' Nothing's Real CD. These days, he plays a black Fender strat with a floating Floyd and a Humbucker/single/single configuration. His amps in the Lizzy days were usually EL-34 Marshalls, but Scott has tried others including Burman, Mesa Boogie and even some Yamaha amps during the Chinatown - Renegade era. For the Lizzy reunion tours of the late 90s, Scott was using Marshalls SL-X amps.

For effects, Scott liked phase shifter in the 70s, but like Robbo, he didn't use any kind of overdrive or distortion pedals. Just the warm power amp distortion coming from his amps.

Guitar Style

Scott is a 70s-style blues rock player with similar contemporaries to (and including) Brian Robertson. Guys like Pat Travers, Joe Perry, Humble Pie-era Peter Frampton, Ronnie Montrose.

Rhythmically, you get the standard rock bar chords, but Scott is also the guy responsible for the funkier, jazzier, augmented and diminished chords in many Lizzy songs. Listen to the chords in the verses of The Boys are Back in Town. That's Scott's work on what John Sykes calls the "jangly bits." Now that I think about it, that's where I personally learned many of those chords from! Thank you, Scott Gorham. Scott also brings a loose, funky rhythm style you can hear featured on songs like Angel From the Coast, Romeo and the Lonely Girl, and S&M.

Scott had good chops by 70s standards. As with Robbo, Scott's lead work is almost entirely Pentatonic-based and features a lot of the same Page-like Pentatonic licks. He uses the Major Pentatonic a bit more than his Lizzy brethren. There's a lot of legato. But while Scott did become a cleaner and faster player around the time of Black Rose, he doesn't have that disciplined, pure alternate picking style and the chops associated with 80s metal or shred. And where Robertson's style was more aggressive, Gorham's was smoother and more melodic.

Scott's guitar style is characterized by a marvelously distinctive elasticity that is very fluid, even, and controlled. You can hear it in the aforementioned funky rhythms, but it's even more characteristic of his lead work — particularly in the way he plays a lot of the stock, Pentatonic rock licks. The solos on Dancing in the Moonlight, S&M, and Waiting for an Alibi, all highlight this Gorham trademark very effectively. Also characteristic is Scott's a very subtle use of palm muting to add little accents, as in the terrific solo on Fools Gold. Scott's technique is far more subtle than the heavier-handed palm muting that characterized the 80 "flash" style.

Perhaps the best way to hear Scott's style isolated from his Lizzy partners is to pick up a copy of Bad Reputation. Recorded during one of Robbo's fall-outs with Lynott, Bad Reputation is a magnificent and diverse album, and it's almost entirely Scott Gorham on guitar. (Robbo only plays on two solos: Opium Trail and Killer Without a Cause.)

Vibrato

Pretty quick and narrow. Scott and Robbo used to study each other's vibrato to make sure it was in time and tempo for the harmony parts.

Scott Gorham in Action

 

Recommended Listening

Thin Lizzy

 

21 Guns

Profile By Dinosaur David B. Copyright ©2002 All rights reserved.

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