‘Sleep? When I was in Thin Lizzy, I was lucky if I got to bed at all’ - Eric Bell

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Eric Bell, original guitarist and founding member of Thin Lizzy

Thin Lizzy's Eric Bell
Thin Lizzy's Eric Bell
1. Up and at it - what is your morning routine?

I do a few exercises – I have to these days (at the age of 76). I make a cup of tea and then play the guitar for about 20 minutes or half an hour. I try to do two hours a day if I can, but I always start first thing. There are a lot of classical musicians who practise from five to eight hours each day. Music is all-consuming.

2. What might you eat in a typical working day for...

Breakfast? Usually cereal, maybe an egg. And another cup of Rosy Lee.

Lunch? I don’t really have lunch – if I’m really hungry, I’ll have something, but very rarely.

Evening meal? I like Indian food and I make my own dishes now and again – I like a curry. I also make a mean stew and I throw up amazing salads. I am sort of semi-vegetarian; I do eat meat, but not very much.

3. Is nutrition important to you – do you take health supplements?

I take a vitamin and mineral tablet – it’s like a horse pill, the size of it. I don’t know whether they work or not, but it helps to think they do. I do think nutrition is important, but when you’re on the road, the amount of rubbish you eat is amazing. Sometimes, you just can’t help it - it’s a case of either eating from McDonald’s or starving. When I’m not touring, though, I try to make sure I eat more healthy meals.

4. Ever been on a diet – if so, how did it go?

No, never been on a diet.

5. Weekend treat?

Now and again, I’ll go to an Indian restaurant. I really love all the different spices in Indian food.

6. How do you keep physically and mentally fit?

Drugs... Seriously, just exercising and going out for walks. I live quite close to a beach which is great. I don’t indulge too much in the things I used to indulge in. I live in Carrowdore which is just about a 20-minute drive from Ballywalter beach. The air on a beach is incredible, especially after having lived in London for such a long time. The solitude helps my mental health, too.

7. Best tip for everyday fitness?


8. Were you a fan of school sports/PE or do you have a memory from those days that you would rather forget?

I would rather forget... At school, I didn’t understand the rules of football or rugby so I didn’t know what was going on. I was always picked last for the school team. It was a case of ‘Who’s going to take Bell? ‘Oh, we’ll have him’… It didn’t do my confidence any good, but I thought: ‘You will all hear about me in later years’ – and most of them did.

9. Teetotal or tipple?

Pass me that whiskey... I enjoy a drink, but I don’t indulge the way I used to. I like draught Guinness, red wine or a hot whiskey.

Thin Lizzy's Eric Bell
"Sleep didn’t matter so much in my Thin Lizzy days – you were lucky if you got to bed at all, sometimes," recalls Eric Bell
10. Stairs or lift?

Probably, the stairs – playing a guitar - or any musical instrument - is very physical, much more than people realise, so the fitter you are, the better you feel in mind and body. Fitness definitely enhances my playing.

11. What book are you currently reading?

Believe it or not, I’m actually reading a book that I wrote called Remembering - an autobiography about my life before, during and after Thin Lizzy. It’s very weird reading your own life story.

12. Best Netflix/streaming TV?

I like Frasier – excellent comedy; the chemistry between the characters is brilliant.

13. Any new skills or hobbies?

No, not really, I just like to continue practising and playing my guitar. I did join a tai chi class about eight months ago, which was interesting.

14. How do you relax?

If you watch a cat, it is the classic example of relaxation; it can just sit there, totally switched off. Sometimes, I’m like that and can switch off easily, other times there is ‘talk’ in my head, asking, ‘What about this, what about that?’ Reading and television help as a distraction

15. What would you tell your younger self?

Don’t indulge so frequently.

16. What are your goals for 2024?

The number one goal is to remain healthy. That’s what stops musicians from playing – rheumatism, arthritis, the whole list. If that happens, your musical career can be finished. I try not to think of my number (76) – because it’s unreal that I’m still here.

17. What time do you get to bed and do you think you get enough sleep?

Yes, I think I do – I get to bed about 12 o’clock and generally sleep well. I lie down now and again during the day, too, even for 20 minutes, which seems to revitalise me. Sleep didn’t matter so much in my Thin Lizzy days – you were lucky if you got to bed at all, sometimes.

18. Biggest gripe or regret?

In my younger days, I had great fun for about three years and then everything changed – there was a lot of drugs and a lot of drink in our environment all the time and I know that if I hadn’t had left Thin Lizzy at the time I did, I wouldn’t be here today. Gripe? All politicians. Nothing ever changes.

19. Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

They have from when I was younger. I sort of live from day-to-day now. My priorities are keeping myself together and trying to do the best I can whenever I am called to do it.

Thin Lizzy's Eric Bell
The Eric Bell Trio will be performing at The Deer’s Head, Belfast, on Saturday June 29 as part of the Belfast City Blues Festival
20. Has coronavirus – or any health epiphany or life event - changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

Anything can happen in life, so yes, I do think about my mortality, especially since quite a few of my musician friends have passed away. I do believe in a superior being out there, there’s no doubt about it. I like believing in a superior being(s)and that they are so much more advanced than us. Maybe some day we’ll meet them – who knows?

The Eric Bell Trio will be performing at The Deer’s Head, Belfast, on Saturday June 29, as part of the Belfast City Blues Festival (June 28-30). Tickets from Eventbrite and festival details at belfastcityblues.com