John James Sykes (born 29 July 1959) is an English rock guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter who has played with Streetfighter, Tygers of Pan Tang, John Sloman's Badlands, Thin Lizzy, Whitesnake, and Blue Murder. Sykes shared composing duties for all songs on Whitesnake's 1987 self-titled album with David Coverdale. Sykes is also a successful solo artist.
Sykes performing with Whitesnake in 1984
|Birth name||John James Sykes|
|Born||29 July 1959|
Reading, Berkshire, England
|Genres||Hard rock, heavy metal|
|Associated acts||Streetfighter, John Sloman's Badlands, Tygers of Pan Tang, Thin Lizzy, Phil Lynott, Whitesnake, Blue Murder|
Tygers of Pan Tang and John Sloman's Badlands (1980–1982)Edit
Sykes joined Tygers of Pan Tang in 1980 and his first gig with the band was at Reading Festival in front of 60,000 people. He played guitar on the albums Spellbound (1981) and Crazy Nights (1982), as well as participating on two tracks for their 1983 release, The Cage.
In 1982, John Sykes was recruited by former Uriah Heep frontman John Sloman, for his new band Badlands, alongside his future Whitesnake bandmate Neil Murray. Although there was some interest from EMI, the project was to be short-lived however, as Sykes was offered to join Thin Lizzy and there was no management or finance to hold on to him. Badlands had performed live twice only and disbanded shortly after. No music has ever been officially released, although demo tapes and bootlegs of rehearsals do exist. Prior to joining Badlands, Sykes auditioned, unsuccessfully, for Ozzy Osbourne's band following the death of Randy Rhoads. Sykes also auditioned for Ronnie James Dio's new band, Dio, to record on 1983's "Holy Diver" album but was unsuccessful, as Dio instead chose Sweet Savage guitarist, Vivian Campbell.
Thin Lizzy (1982–1983)Edit
At the age of 23, Sykes was asked by Phil Lynott to join Thin Lizzy, filling the spot left by previous guitarist Snowy White. He participated in the recording of the band's final studio album Thunder and Lightning, deemed by many music historians as the pinnacle of their commercial success. He also co-wrote the track "Cold Sweat" with Phil Lynott: "I came in late. They pretty much had the material together [...] We wrote that in the studio." As for the soloing parts:"A lot are me, some are Scott. On some songs, we took one each".
With Sykes on board, the band toured the album successfully for almost a year. The live album Life:Live was recorded during this time. Following the tour, Thin Lizzy disbanded.
Sykes joined Phil Lynott for Sweden's "Folk Park Tour", a series of summer outdoor gigs (July–August), in a band dubbed "The Three Musketeers" (as suggested by Lynott himself in the UK press), featuring Phil Lynott (vocals, bass), Brian Downey (drums), John Sykes (lead guitar), Donal Nagle (rhythm guitar) and Mark Stanway(keyboards). Then, Sykes was contacted by Whitesnake's manager, Ossie Hoppe, to secure his services for the following tour, upping his offer every time to the point Sykes could not refuse. However, Sykes wanted his friend Phil's personal blessing: "So I went to Phil and told him [...] His attitude was: I'd never hold you back- I wish you well. He was a real gentleman about it".
David Coverdale hired Sykes to join Whitesnake following the release of Slide It In in 1984. He re-recorded some guitar tracks for the US release: "I basically beefed up the rhythms [...] me and Neil Murray [...] had two days to do some overdubs [...] Micky Moody and Mel Galley had already recorded the album." The new lineup made their tour debut at SFX Center in Dublin on 17 Feb 1984, followed up by more UK dates, rest of Europe, Japan and USA and culminated with the 1985 Rock in Rio festival, where the band played two gigs (11/01 and 19/01).
Sykes was heavily involved in Whitesnake's next project, co-writing 9 out of 11 songs on the band's self-titled album with David Coverdale. They started working on the songs in the spring of 1985 in South of France and, around September, the band headed to Little Mountain Sound Studios in Vancouver to work with producer Mike Stone. Sykes recorded guitar parts, as well as some backing vocal tracks. Towards the end of the 1987 sessions, Coverdale fired progressively the entire band (allegedly because of personality clashes and matters of ego) and brought in Adrian Vandenberg to record the solo on "Here I Go Again". Sykes later stated: “I regret that I never got to play those songs live - and I think fans regret it, too.”
This was Whitesnake's most successful album, peaking at #2 on the Billboard 200 chart and selling over eight million copies in the United States alone. It contained the hit singles "Still of the Night", "Is This Love", "Give Me All Your Love", and "Here I Go Again" (the last was not a Sykes composition).
In June 2017, British publication Rock Candy featured an exclusive interview with Sykes, where he stated: "At the time, I had a real sense of where I felt Whitesnake should be heading musically [...] I don't believe David had any clue what we should sound like [...] Geffen were keen to get down on record the sort of style that would appeal to American fans. Up to that point, Whitesnake meant nothing in the US".
Blue Murder (1988–1994)Edit
After Coverdale fired the 1987-era band, Sykes went on to form Blue Murder with Vanilla Fudge drummer Carmine Appice and The Firm bassist Tony Franklin. Sykes subsequently stated: "I was anxious to get back into the saddle, do an album my way and then go on tour [...] Yes, I wrote all the songs, but [...] I always tried to present this as a proper band and not a solo project."
Their self-titled debut album was produced by a young Bob Rock, but more than that, it is about Sykes's guitar, balancing technique and emotion. 1989's epic "Valley of the kings" found the band serving up their own Egyptian-themed "Kashmir". However, the 1993 follow-up Nothin' but Trouble did not fare as well. After two studio albums and a live recording, Sykes ended the Blue Murder partnership and he began recording and touring under his own name.
In the April 2014 issue of Classic Rock Magazine, Sykes gave an estimate on chances of reforming Blue Murder: "If I wanted to reform Blue Murder, then I could do it at anytime [...] I am moving forward, not looking back. However, I wouldn't totally rule it out at some point further down the line. I love what we did and if the right circumstances appeared, then who knows...it might happen."
Solo career (1994–present)Edit
In the years following Blue Murder, Sykes recorded several solo albums: Out of My Tree (1995), Loveland (1997), 20th Century (1997) and Nuclear Cowboy (2000). A song from 20th Century, "Cautionary Warning", was used in the anime series Black Heaven.
Sykes has made rare guest appearances on the Hughes Turner Project debut album on the track "Heaven's Missing an Angel", and later on keyboardist Derek Sherinian's 2004 solo album "Mythology", playing alongside Zakk Wylde on the track "God of War".
Thin Lizzy reformed (1994–2009)Edit
In 1994, he reformed Thin Lizzy with Scott Gorham, Brian Downey, and Darren Wharton. Sykes, as well as taking on the role of lead guitarist, handled the lead vocals due to the death of Phil Lynott years earlier.
Touring occasionally with Thin Lizzy, a live recording One Night Only was released in 2000.
On 7 July 2009, Sykes announced that he had parted ways with Thin Lizzy, stating that "I feel it's time to get back to playing my own music".
On 26 July 2011, during his taping of "That Metal Show," Sykes announced that he was forming a new band with drummer Mike Portnoy, dubbed ‘Bad Apple’. However, on 24 January 2012, Eddie Trunk confirmed that the Sykes/Portnoy project had dissolved, saying: "Obviously bands are like any relationship, some click, some do not. This was simply a case of two different people not only getting to know each other musically but also personally, and the schedule and timing for making this work just fell apart. Mike and the band's bass player, Billy Sheehan, were ready to go, and John simply was not on the same timetable." The next day, Richie Kotzen was announced to have replaced Sykes. That band became The Winery Dogs
On 29 January, Sykes posted on his website: "The project I was putting together with Mike Portnoy didn't work out, and I wish him all the best for the future. I'm continuing to work on my new album, and I look forward to putting out some great new music in 2012."
Upcoming solo albumEdit
In February 2013, Sykes announced he was working on his fifth solo album. Sample clips from the album were released in late 2014. Sykes elaborated on the upcoming album in an extensive interview with Japanese magazine Young Guitar published in April 2017. In February 2019, it was announced that Sykes had signed with Golden Robot records to release the new album in mid-2019, titled A Brand New Day. Additionally, it was announced that he would be touring with former Blue Murder bandmate Tony Franklin on bass.
On November 16, 2019, Sykes announced via his website that he was no longer partnering with Golden Robot Records, leaving the upcoming album in continued limbo.
John Sykes signature Les PaulEdit
In 2006 Gibson Guitars began producing an "Inspired By" Gibson Les Paul which was modeled after Sykes' 1970s-era Les Paul Custom. There were two versions available; an "aged" look (recreating the exact looks of John's Les Paul) and a "standard" or "VOS" model. This was a limited edition run, with 66 aged look models created, and just over 100 VOS models created.
His amplifiers include several Jose Arredondo-modified Marshall JCM800s he has used since early 1980s. He started using the Mesa/Boogie amplifiers (Mesa/Boogie Mark IIC+, Mark III Coliseum and Dual Rectifier heads) more during his tenures with Whitesnake and Blue Murder (two of his black Mesa/Boogie amps were used for the Whitesnake recordings). Later on though, he switched back to his JCM800s when touring solo or with Thin Lizzy's "reunion" line-up.
Although rarely, he can also be seen using Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus combos for his clean tones. Other amplifiers include: Peavey "5150" EVH, various Fender combos (Frontman 25R, Princeton Reverb, Vibroverb, Bandmaster).
“For the rhythm on ‘Still of the Night’, I used my 1978 Black Les Paul Custom”, Sykes said. “At that time, I had a Dirty Fingers pickup in the bridge. I plugged in two Mesa/Boogie Coliseum - which are great-sounding amps. I ran the gain at about 4, so the tone was heavy but clear [...] and I tracked in stereo with a slight delay between the two sides. Then I doubled the part.”
Gear used on the as-yet-unreleased album (tentatively titled "A Brand New Day"):
• Black Beauty Gibson LP Custom • 59 and ‘85 Gibson Les Paul • Eddie Van Halen signature models • Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster • Jose Arredondo - modded 50W Marshall and Mesa Boogie amps • No pedals, just the guitar’s cable plugged into the amp.
|1980||Streetfighter||New Electric Warriors||Compilation||Compilation, Track 3: "She's No Angel"|
|1981||Tygers Of Pan Tang||Spellbound||Studio|
|1981||Tygers Of Pan Tang||Crazy Nights||Studio|
|1982||Badlands (U.K.)||Badlands demo tape||Demo||with Neil Murray & John Sloman|
|1982||Streetfighter||Crazy Dream EP||EP||with Merv Goldsworthy & Gary Taylor|
|1982||John Sykes||Please Don't Leave Me||Single||with Phil Lynott|
|1982||Tygers Of Pan Tang||The Cage||Studio||Guitar on "Love Potion No. 9" and "Danger in Paradise"|
|1983||Thin Lizzy||Thunder and Lightning||Studio|
|1984||Whitesnake||Slide It In (US Mix)||Studio|
|1987||Whitesnake||Whitesnake / 1987||Studio|
|1987||Whitesnake||1987 Versions EP||EP|
|1989||Blue Murder||Blue Murder||Studio|
|1992||Thin Lizzy||Thin Lizzy - BBC Radio One Live In Concert||Live||Recorded on 28 August 1983|
|1993||Blue Murder||Nothin' but Trouble||Studio|
|1994||Blue Murder||Screaming Blue Murder: Dedicated to Phil Lynott||Live||Recorded in December 1993|
|1995||John Sykes||I Don't Wanna Live My Life Like You||Single|
|1995||John Sykes||Out of My Tree||Studio|
|1997||John Sykes||20th Century||Studio|
|1998||John Sykes||Chapter One||Compilation|
|2000||John Sykes||Nuclear Cowboy||Studio|
|2000||John Sykes||Best of John Sykes||Compilation|
|2000||Thin Lizzy||One Night Only||Live||Recorded in 1999|
|2001||Tygers Of Pan Tang||Live at Nottingham Rock City||Live||Recorded in April 1981|
|2001||Phil Lynott||Live in Sweden 1983||Live||Recorded on 5–6 August 1983|
|2004||John Sykes||Bad Boy Live!||Live||Recorded in April 2004|
|2014||Whitesnake||Live In 1984: Back To The Bone||Live||Recorded in 1984|
- Crossfire: A Salute To Stevie Ray Vaughan, (1996), Blues Bureau International
- HTP, Hughes Turner Project (2002), MTM Music
- Mythology, Derek Sherinian, (2004), InsideOut Music
- Merry Axemas 2 - More Guitars for Christmas, (1998), EPIC Records, a Sony Entertainment Special Product
- The House is Rocking: A tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, (2015), Cleopatra Records
- Moore Blues For Gary: A Tribute To Gary Moore By Bob Daisley And Friends, (2018),
- "Tygers of Pan Tang Setlist at Reading Festival 1980". Setlist.fm. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "Sykes Noble Interview". 27 March 2008. Archived from the original on 27 March 2008. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
- "Interview with NEIL MURRAY". Dmme.net. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
- "Rudy Sarzo biography (The Musicians' Olympus)". Reocities.com. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
- [dead link]
- Putterford, Mark, "Phil Lynot:The Rocker", Omnibus Press, 7 April 2010.
- "Whitesnake Concert Map by tour: Slide It In | setlist.fm". Setlist.fm. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
- "Whitesnake Setlist at Rock in Rio". Setlist.fm. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
- "Whitesnake - 1987". Discogs.com. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
- Wall, Mick (2010). "Appetite for Destruction: The Mick Wall Interviews". Hachette UK, Retrieved 15 June 2012
- Molenda, Michael (1 November 2011). Guitar Player Presents 50 Unsung Heroes of the Guitar. Backbeat Books. ISBN 9781617134487.
- "Billboard 200 Chart". Billboard.com. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
- "WHITESNAKE – Guitarist JOHN SYKES Discusses DAVID COVERDALE – "I Have No Interest In Ever Talking To Him Again"". Bravewords.com. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
- "2001 Interview with Troy Wells of ballbusterhardmusic.com". Johnsykes.com. Archived from the original on 19 December 2009.
- "Sykes Interview". 10 April 2008. Archived from the original on 10 April 2008. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
- "John Sykes | News". Johnsykes.com. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
- 5/10/11. ""Carmine Appice, Dave Meniketti" ( Ep. 708 ) from That Metal Show | Full Episode". VH1.com. Retrieved 2 January 2012.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
- "Sykes/Portnoy band ends, the story". Eddietrunk.com. Archived from the original on 27 January 2012. Retrieved 24 January 2012.
- "Sykes News". Johnsykes.com. Retrieved 30 January 2012.
- "JOHN SYKES - Fifth Studio Album Due In 2013". Bravewords.com. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
- "New Track Samples". Johnsykes.com. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
- "YOUNG GUITAR 2017年4月号：特集 ジョン・サイクス". Shinko-music.co.jp. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
- "John Sykes | Golden Robot Records". Goldenrobotrecords.com. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
- "Update | John Sykes | News". Johnsykes.com. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
- Gibson Custom Shop Inspired By John Sykes Les Paul Custom (Modern Guitars Magazine) Archived 28 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
- "John Sykes Les Paul Custom VOS". Forum.gibson.com. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
- "John Sykes | Equipment". Johnsykes.com. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
- [permanent dead link]
- "John Sykes | Discography". Johnsykes.com. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
- "The House Is Rockin': A Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan - Various Artists | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 9 May 2020.
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