John Sykes – Guitarist, Wiki Info, Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, Blue Murder, Tygers of Pan Tang
John James Sykes is a well-known English rock guitarist famous for his work in Whitesnake, Blue Murder, Thin Lizzy and Tygers of Pan Tang. Sykes was born July 29, 1959. He joined the band Tygers of Pan Tang in 1980, releasing the album “Spellbound” the following year. He would go on to record another album, “Crazy Nights,” released in 1982, and participated on two tracks for the band’s fourth album, “The Cage,” before leaving the band to audition for Ozzy Osbourne’s band after the death of Randy Rhoads.
Upon failing to get the gig with Osbourne, Sykes was recruited by former Uriah Heep frontman John Sloman for a new band called Badlands. The project would be short-lived, never releasing any music officially, although a number of bootlegs of rehearsals do exist. Later that year, at the age of 23, Sykes was invited to join Thin Lizzy by the band’s frontman Phil Lynott. He participated in the recording of the band’s final studio album, “Thunder and Lightning,” which included the Sykes-written track, “Cold Sweat.” It would be the first evidence of Syke’s tremendous songwriting ability, which would be revered later in his career.
Sykes toured with Thin Lizzy through the fall of 1983 to promote “Thunder and Lightning.” The band recorded several performances from the tour which would be used to put together a live album called “Life.” The album would be the band’s last, as they disbanded immediately after the tour.
During Sykes’ time with Thin Lizzy, he caught the attention of Whitesnake frontman David Coverdale, who invited him to join the band after the European release of their 1984 album, “Slide It In.” Sykes re-recorded some guitar parts for the album’s US release, and toured in support of the album. Sykes would co-write the majority of the tracks for Whitesnake’s 1987 self-titled album, laying down the guitar tracks and recording most of the backing vocal tracks.
The album would make a name for Sykes as a songwriter, but Coverdale fired the entire band before the album was released, citing matters of ego. Adrian Vandenberg was brought in to replace Sykes, and re-recorded the solo for “Here I Go Again,” the only guitar part on the album that isn’t Sykes. “Whitesnake” would go on to become the band’s most successful album, reaching #2 on the Billboard albums chart, which was simply unheard of for a hard rock album at the time. The album sold more than 8 million copies in the US alone, and produced several hits which Sykes had co-written.
After being dismissed from Whitesnake, Sykes went on to form Blue Murder with former Cactus / Vanilla Fudge drummer Carmine Appice and Tony Franklin, who played bass in The Firm. The band recorded a demo with Ray Gillen (Black Sabbath and later a different Badlands), but an executive at the band’s label convinced Sykes to dismiss Gillen and handle the vocals himself. The band enjoyed moderate success with it’s self-titled debut album, but the 1993 follow-up, “Nothin’ But Trouble” was not received well and the band would break up after two albums and a live release.
After Blue Murder, Sykes began recording and touring under his own name, releasing the albums “Out of My Tree” in 1995, “Loveland” and “20th Century” in 1997, and “Nuclear Cowboy” in 2000. In 2004 Sykes released the live album “Bad Boy Live!,” in which Sykes covered a number of the greatest hits from all of his bands and solo material. None of Sykes’ solo releases enjoyed a great amount of commercial success, though critics lauded his work.
In 1996, Sykes would reform Thin Lizzy with Scott Gorham, Brian Downey and Darren Wahrton. In addition to handling guitar duty, Sykes also handled the vocals as the band’s singer Phil Lynott passed away years earlier. The band has toured off and on ever since, releasing a live album called “One Night Only” in 2000. In July 2009, Sykes left Thin Lizzy, saying he wanted to get back to playing his own music.