L.A. GUNS frontman Phil Lewis spoke to XS Rock about his '80s collaboration with former OZZY OSBOURNE and GILLAN guitarist Bernie Tormé. TORMÉ released four albums, including the cult classic "Back To Babylon", before Lewis exited the group and Bernie teamed up with TWISTED SISTER's Dee Snider and IRON MAIDEN's Clive Burr to form DESPERADO.
"When GIRL broke up, I was pretty much musical poison in the London music scene," Lewis said. "Nobody really wanted to work with me, you know? At that time, it was like labels were looking for another DURAN DURAN or SPANDAU BALLET. You know, that kind of stuff…. and they'd say, 'Phil, if you get a haircut, you can come back,' and it was a real down time for me. So, when I did get the call from Bernie asking if I'd be interested, first of all, it was an honor to even be called. I couldn't understand why he was looking for a singer. He was perfectly adequate doing it himself. He just wanted to try a different approach and concentrate on just guitar and see how it would go and it went gangbusters. We made the 'Back To Babylon' album. It was so fantastic, and we played the old big clubs up and down the country and we packed them out. A label should have signed us. Maybe not a big major label but somebody should have signed us. It was a travesty that they didn't. Eventually, we got frustrated and it was about this time when I got the call to come out yo L.A. and met Tracii [Guns] and put this L.A. GUNS thing together. It didn't take me more than a year and a half to go back to England with the gold record under my belt and a great big 'fuck you' to all those labels and all of those people at the label that wouldn't give us the time of day. We would have done something. It's tragic because it was a good band and it was a real band. But that's just the nature of this business."
Lewis went on to describe his collaboration with Tormé as a "great learning experience." He added: "I last saw him [at the 2018] show we did in London. He liked Tracii and they got on well. He was going to jam with us. But he didn't have his gear with him. He just wanted to come and say hi and watch the show. It was really, really great to see him and then he took viral pneumonia. I just pulled out the album 'Back To Babylon' and listened to the track 'Mystery Train' and just got all choked up thinking about him."
Tormé is known for stepping in and saving the day for Ozzy Osbourne when Randy Rhoads tragically died in 1982. Bernie played seven shows with Osbourne over a 10-day period before leaving Ozzy's band, only to be replaced by NIGHT RANGER guitarist Brad Gillis.
Tormé passed away on Sunday, March 17 at the age of 66. He died one day short of his 67th birthday, surrounded by his family. He had been on life support for the past four weeks at a London hospital following post-flu complications.