REDUX: Record Review – Phil Lynott – Yellow Pearl

June 9, 2011

This single in particular is a reminder that for at least three years, Midge Ure was a man with a midas touch. After the collapse of the “punk supergroup” The Rich Kids, Midge Ure spent some time in Thin Lizzy; helping out his friend Phil Lynott when guitarist Gary Moore went solo. Ure played on the “Black Rose” album and toured with the band, but by 1980 he was casting his lot with Ultravox, but he remained friends with Lynott, and gifted him with what I consider is one of his best songs of this “golden period” where Ure could do no wrong.

Phonogram | UK | 7″ | 1980 | SOLO 3

Phil Lynott – Yellow Pearl UK 7″ [1980]

  1. Yellow Pearl 2:58
  2. Girls

“Yellow Pearl” is a stunner of a number that places trusty Phil Lynott in a super-hip synth-rock production that sounds like a lost Visage number. Or more probably, that La Düsseldorf’s “Menschen” from  their “Individuellos” album was on heavy repeat in the Ure playlist. The songs are very similar both rhythmically and melodically with sleek underpinnings of classic Krautrock motorik energy to propel them forward, but each of these records had a 1980 copyright date, so if Ure was copping La D’s licks he didn’t waste any time!

“Yellow Pearl” is almost entirely synthetic with Ure drafting in his Visage cohort Billy Currie to add his distinctive Arp playing to the carload of synths already being played by Ure and Lynott. Lizzy’s drummer Brian Downey was moved to syndrums and no one would ever mistake this for the product of a black leather clad metal act’s output, even though that’s what it is! Check out the credits from Lynott’s “Solo In Soho” album for this track:

Synthesizer [Arp Synthesizer] – Billy Currie
Synthesizer [Mini Moog, Arp Synthesizer, String Machine] – Midge Ure
Written By – Ure
Drums [Syn Drums] – Brian Downey
Voice [Female Voice] – Laureen
Bass [Bass Guitars], Guitar [Rhythm Guitars], Effects [Vocoder], Synthesizer [Mini Moog], Percussion, Vocals – Philip Lynott

This is one heck of a sleek track with alarmist lyrics about Japan’s emerging technoculture. There are three distinct single versions of this song, which makes things a bit confusing for collectors. As shown above, there is a black vinyl 7″ with Phonogram silver injection molded labels. This features the shortest version of the track at three minutes as seen on the video you might see online. This mix opens with a siren wail and cuts straight to the song’s prodigious hooks and compulsive rhythms. This is the version that soon became the theme song to BBC’s venerable Top of the Pops TV series for several years following in an instrumental version. The mix on the “Solo In Soho” album of 1980 is a 4:06 version.

Phonogram | UK | 7″ | 1980 | SOLO3

Phil Lynott – Yellow Pearl UK 7″ [1980]

  1. Yellow Pearl 3:21
  2. Girls
There is also a clear vinyl 7″ version with paper labels that sports a 3:21 remix of the track. This also shows up on the Midge Ure compilation “If I Was: The Best Of Midge Ure + Ultravox,” that appeared in 1992. This version opens with a drum machine rhythm and a Japanese woman saying “We all must beware of the yellow pearl” as the track gradually builds up a head of steam to the level of urgency that the previous single has right out of the starting blocks. I have this record, but lack the 2:58 and 4:06 versions [so far].

Phonogram | UK | 12″ | 1980 | SOLO 312

Phil Lynott – Yellow Pearl UK 12″ [1980]

  1. Yellow Pearl 4:29
  2. Girls

The third single release of this cut was on a 12″ single that was obviously the source for the edited mix on the clear vinyl 7″ version. This is the longest mix of “Yellow Pearl” and retains the hallmarks of the clear vinyl remix, albeit stretched out in an expansive 4:29 version. This is the version I committed to disc recently. I suspect that the silver injection label version might be actually re-released in 1982 since after the track was made the TOTP theme song in 1981, the cut also appeared on Phil’s second solo album; 1982’s cleverly titled “The Phil Lynott Album.” The timing on that track is 2:56, leading me to believe that the shortest, most urgent version of the track [that was also the version on the video] is a second 7″ single release from 1982.

So to tally up, I have the 3:21 and 4:49 versions of this song. I don’t have the 2:59 or 4:06 versions and need to do something about that. The silver injection 7″ version is vinyl only, but the 4:06 1980 LP version has been placed in the running order of the recent remaster of the 1982 “Phil Lynott Album” in place of the 2:56 version it should have, so I can get that as a download. I’m not a fan enough of Phil to want a whole CD of his. Nevertheless, this is an awesome cut that shows that Midge Ure was magnanimous enough to give one of his best songs ever to a friend. “Yellow Pearl” sounds like a track from the 1980 “Visage” or “Vienna” albums, which is to say that it sounds like the soundtrack to my life!

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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3 Responses to REDUX: Record Review – Phil Lynott – Yellow Pearl

  1. Echorich says:

    It’s kind of amazing how wide open music really was at the turn of the 80’s. Imagine, Irish rocker Phil Lynott, a man who’s music was of the bluesy, bar room rock variety, takes on a Motorik edgy synth track and it gets released. Yes there’s the weight of a confirmed chart rocker being allowed to do as he liked from the record company, but you are right Monk, this could have been an Ultravox or Visage track on any other day and fit right in with that new vision of rock and roll.
    If you look at music now, it’s more formulaic and built within specified parameters more than any other time I can think of.
    In the end I wish Ure himself didn’t succumb to formula but then he wasn’t alone there by the mid 80’s.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – Good point, re: formulaic. I think that digital technology makes exploring and recording the past more prevalent than eking out an uncharted future, and this is the crux of the problem confronting us now. Digital tech makes recordings and repurposing of existing recordings as simple and powerful as its ever been. Maybe too simple and powerful as remix/mashup contribute to the retroculture wave that sees even music I like now, deliberately recalling music of the past. Previously, new technologies were more generative than reproductive, so we had pioneers going off on eccentric new paths. When sampling became the Last New Thing, it had an inherent backward-looking bias that made progression less likely.


  2. I happen to have played the “Best of Midge” version of this song on the most recent “Crusty Old Wave” podcast and yeah, very much a product of its time (Japan as an economic threat, ah those were the days!) but still wonderful all these years later.


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