Ozzy Osbourne and Bernie Tormé reunited in 2018

Guitar great Bernie Tormé dies, aged 66

Guitarist and singer Bernie Tormé has died, one day short of his 67th birthday, a month after being hospitalised with double pneumonia.

Born in Dublin in 1952, the young Bernard Tormey played with local band The Urge before moving to London where, as punk exploded, he formed the Bernie Tormé Band. The band supported the Boomtown Rats and Generation X and contributed two tracks – Living For Kicks and Streetfighter – to the celebrated 1977 punk showcase album Live at the Vortex.

After two singles, the band fizzled out in 1979 as Tormé joined Gillan, the band formed by ex-Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan. Tormé played on Gillan’s three most successful albums, Mr Universe (1979, #11), Glory Road (1980, #3) and Future Shock (1981, #2) as well as five top forty hits, before departing the band in 1981.

In March 1982 Tormé was drafted into Ozzy Osbourne’s band as a replacement for guitarist Randy Rhoads who had died in a plane crash days earlier in the middle of a US tour. His tenure with Ozzy lasted only ten days and seven shows before he quit, citing record company politics, a demotivated band and a wish to return to solo work. Released in the summer of 1982, Tormé’s début solo album Turn Out the Lights reached #50.

After another solo album, 1983’s Electric Gypsies, Bernie formed a new band, christened simply Tormé, with vocalist Phil Lewis. They recorded two albums, Back to Babylon (1986) and Die Pretty, Die Young (1987) before Lewis quit to join LA Guns; a revamped Tormé line-up later recorded a third album, 1993’s Demolition Ball. In the meantime Bernie had formed Desperado with former Twisted Sister vocalist Dee Snider and ex-Iron Maiden drummer Clive Burr; the band recorded an album Bloodied, But Unbowed in 1988 although further record label problems meant that it remained officially unreleased until 1996.

In the late ’90s Tormé recorded two albums with Chris Jones and John Pearce of the Anti-Nowhere League: Wild Irish (1997) and White Trash Guitar (1999). Inspired by favourable reaction to a number of Gillan reissues, Tormé reunited with Gillan bassist John McCoy to form the band GMT with drummer Robin Guy; they released two studio albums Bitter & Twisted (2006) and Evil Twin (2008), the latter featuring a guest appearance from Dee Snider on the opening track. After a 2011 live album Raw – Live Tormé again returned to solo work, releasing four crowdfunded albums Flowers & Dirt, Blackheart, Dublin Cowboy (a triple album of electric, acoustic and live recordings) and Shadowland between 2014 and 2018. Shortly before his passing, Tormé had retired from live performance, completing his Final Fling UK tour in December 2018.