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Phil Lewis was almost thirty when he relocated to California and replaced Paul Black as the frontman of rising glam metal act L.A. Guns. Having first arrived on the English music scene nearly a decade earlier as a member of the short-lived Girl alongside future Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen, Lewis spent the first half of the 1980s working with such acts as the New Torpedos and Tormé before emigrating to the United States.
L.A. Guns already had a complicated history by the time they were introduced to Lewis. Formed by guitarist Tracii Guns in 1983 before briefly joining forces with fellow Los Angeles group Hollywood Rose to create Guns N’ Roses, L.A. Guns gained momentum in 1985 with the recruitment of Black. Between Guns and Black the majority of what would become the group’s debut album was recorded, along with contributions from former Dogs D’Amour vocalist Robert Stoddard, but before the band completed work on the sessions Black had been fired.
‘I guess I was a little cocky with the label. I kind of had a fuck you type of attitude with them,’ confessed Black in a 2008 interview with KNAC.com. ‘I didn’t like anyone trying to change me though and A & R reps like to manipulate even though most of them are complete idiots. They kept telling me to write songs like Cinderella, Bon Jovi and Poison. It was insulting to me. Why should I follow in their footsteps just because they are successful? I wanted to set trends, not follow them.’
With Black out of the picture Lewis was brought on board and the band recorded their debut album which would be distributed through Vertigo in January 1988 to critical acclaimed. By this point Poison had begun to dominate the Los Angeles hair metal scene but L.A. Guns received considerable airplay with the tracks No Mercy and Sex Action. The following year they released their sophomore record Cocked & Loaded and were launched into the mainstream with their signature tune The Ballad of Jayne.
While their 1991 song Over the Edge was included on the soundtrack to the Keanu Reeves action blockbuster Point Break, complications within the ranks slowly began to tear the group apart and Lewis quit to form a new band, Filthy Lucre. Over the next few years L.A. Guns had a revolving door of frontmen that would include future Steel Panther singer Ralph Saenz and former Love/Hate vocalist Jizzy Pearl.
Lewis finally rejoined the band in 1999 for Greatest Hits and Black Beauties, a collection of re-recordings of L.A. Guns classics, but within a few years tension had once again returned but this time it would be Guns who would part ways with his bandmates. In the years since then there have been two rival groups performing under the moniker of L.A. Guns, one fronted by Lewis and the other spearheaded by Guns.But in a recent statement Lewis has revealed that he has once again left the band, leaving the future for the remaining members uncertain. ‘With a heavy heart I have to inform you that as of Jan 1, 2017 I will no longer be a member of this line up. I feel I have gone as far as I can in this band and unless I get out and focus on myself and something new that has a future I’m going to stagnate,’ he announced. ‘For the last five years I’ve been enthusiastic to record a new record, Hollywood Forever really recharged my batteries and made me feel very proud to be in this band, but it feels like so long ago now. At this stage I want to walk away with at least a little dignity.’
While the news of Slash having rejoined Guns N’ Roses after twenty years caused fans the world over to rejoice, there has been much speculation about the possibility of Lewis and Guns reuniting once again. Guns shared a Facebook post from another page that stated, ‘For you diehard L.A. Guns fans out there, you might have seen or read about Philip Lewis’ announcement on Facebook yesterday that he was leaving THAT version of L.A. Guns. To clear up any confusion, Philip and TRACII GUNS are currently hard at work on their BRAND NEW STUDIO ALBUM. The line-up is rounded out by Shane Fitzgibbon on drums and Johnny Martin on bass with Michael Grant on guitar as a touring member. Their album will be released in 2017!’ He then added, ‘Phil you owe me 25 bucks for the cleanup I had to do today!!!’