Ireland lost one of its greatest guitarists last weekend with the passing of the legendary Gary Moore. Here, friends and colleagues pay their respects to a uniquely talented musician.
Hot Press was shocked on Sunday night to learn of the death of Gary Moore, the legendary Belfast-born guitarist who died in his sleep while holidaying in the Spanish resort of Estepona.
He was 58 and still at the height of his musical powers.
One of the greatest players of his generation, Gary Moore began his professional career in his teens. He was still only sixteen years of age when he moved from Belfast to Dublin in 1969, to join Skid Row – originally a four-piece that featured Brush Shiels on bass, Nollaig Bridgeman on drums and Philip Lynott as lead vocalist, as well as Gary on lead guitar.
Soon afterwards, Philip Lynott was sidelined, with Brush and Gary sharing vocals, turning Skid Row into a power-trio of the kind that was in vogue at the time, following on the success of Rory Gallagher’s Taste, Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Skid Row were signed to CBS Records and released two albums, Skid in 1970 and 34 Hours in 1971.
Adept at blues, hard rock and jazz, Moore was also a superb, lyrical, melodic guitar player and featured on a number of other Irish albums in cameo roles, including Dr. Strangely Strange’s Heavy Petting, among others. He was drafted temporarily into Thin Lizzy by Philip Lynott to replace the departing Eric Bell, but left before the formation of the definitive four-piece Lizzy line-up, with Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson on twin lead guitars. However, on the Nightlife album (1974), he played the extraordinary solo on ‘Still In Love With You’, which became one of Thin Lizzy’s most enduring tracks and a perennial live favourite. Gary returned to the Lizzy line-up briefly again, when Brian Robertson was ruled out of a US tour in 1977. Moore also featured on the Lizzy album Black Rose, released in 1979.
“He was a genius player,” Hot Press editor Niall Stokes said. “Even as a teenager, he had something special about him and throughout his career he worked really hard at improving his technique. His contribution to the Irish rock canon was immense, both in his own solo work, his days with Skid Row, the great records he recorded with Philip Lynott and with Thin Lizzy, and in various other cameos. My heart goes out to all of his close friends and family. It is a huge loss.”
While his relationship with Lizzy lead singer and songwriter Philip Lynott was hugely competitive, and there were often disagreements between them, they remained musical cohorts, and joined forces for the celebrated hit single ‘Parisienne Walkways’ (1979) on which Philip sang and the later single, ‘Out In The Fields’ (1985), which reached No.5 in the UK charts.
While he featured along the way alongside Jon Hiseman in Colosseum II, for most of his career Gary Moore led his own band, shifting between hard rock, metal, jazz-influenced fusion music and the blues. The first Gary Moore Band LP, Grinding Stone, was released in 1973. In recent years he had returned to his roots, first with the release of Still Got The Blues in 1991 and later with Back To The Blues, in 2001. In all, he released 20 studio albums, as well as six live collections, including the Live At Montreaux DVD.
The tributes to Gary have been coming in thick and fast with Bob Geldof observing that: “He is one of the great blues players. Axl Rose will say that without Thin Lizzy you don’t get Guns N’ Roses, and that whole idea of rock and roll, and Gary was sort of fundamental in developing that twin-guitar, lyrical thing like on ‘Parisian Walkway’.
“But really you didn’t have to cut the skin hard to find just a great, great blues player, and absolutely one of the best.”
Echoing those sentiments former Lizzy man Eric Bell said: ““I used to see him quite regularly up until about a year ago. He was a very robust guy, he was off all drugs and he only had a few Guinness’s with me, so he was a pretty healthy bloke. I met him when he was 11 years of age, I saw him playing one night and we became friends. He had incredible enthusiasm for music, great energy, very dedicated musician, he just lived for music.”
On to Hot Press straight away was B.P. Fallon who says: “I’m saddened and shocked. Gary was a friend ever since he came down to Dublin to join Skid Row. He was an amazing guitarist even then, talented beyond his 15 or 16 years. George Harrison once told me: ‘Gary Moore makes me sound like a skiffler’. His music – with Thin Lizzy and with Phil Lynott, with The Traveling Wilburys and with BB King via Colosseum and his own bands – was and is something very special. God Bless Gary Moore.”
There were other warm words from Bryan Adams who described him as “a guitarist extraordinaire”; Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler who said: “His Still Got The Blues album was one of the great albums, certainly one of my favorites. His way of playing can not be learned – it comes from the soul”; Henry Rollins who reflected that, “It’s a big loss. He was too young to go”; and Boy George who tweeted simply, “Top guitarist!”
He is survived by his two children from his first marriage, Jack and Gus and his daughter Lily. May he rest in peace.
STILL GOT THE BLUES
Thin Lizzy drummer Brian Downey recalls the great bluesman.
The first time I saw Gary Moore I knew – from the first couple of bars he played – that he was a fantastic musician. It was in Belfast in 1967. He was in a band that were supporting my band at the time, Sugar Shack.
He was just spectacular. He was so young. He did an unbelievable solo. I think it was in a Yardbirds song, ‘Five Long Years’. I was watching him with our guitar player Dermot Woodfull. Both of us were mesmerised, stuck to the spot. He was so good. I knew he was going to go on to do great things.
When I got back to Dublin I met Phil Lynott in The Bailey. I knew he was forming Skid Row with Brush Shiels. I told him if he wanted a really good guitar player he should check out this guy from Belfast, Gary Moore.
The first time Gary played Dublin he was filling in for a guitarist in a band called The Method. That’s where Phil first saw Gary play. Phil immediately said, “You’re right, that guy is amazing. I think Brush is going to ask him to join the band.” And he did, which was when Gary moved to Dublin.
He was a great friend. We used to go out drinking together when we were all living in Dublin and he was playing in Skid Row. I always got on really well with Gary. We both had a great love of the blues. I remember the first time Fleetwood Mac came to Dublin, when Peter Green was with them. We went up to the gig together – myself, Phil, Frank Murray and a few others. We were good friends who loved the same kind of music.
The first time Gary joined Thin Lizzy, he was filling in for Eric Bell after he’d left. He was superb. We didn’t really have time to rehearse. He was one of these musicians that just knew instinctively what to play. He had heard some of the tracks on the albums but he didn’t have much time to learn them. He picked them up really quickly all the same, because he was so talented.
In fact, it was unreal. I remember asking him how he managed, not having played the songs before. He said he looked at Phil’s hands. Anytime Phil changed to an A or a B or whatever, he’d follow it. To do that and carry it off is amazing. That’s how we winged it on the particular tour!
Gary really loved the blues. I know he changed tack to rock but that was a temporary distraction. I was in his band for a while playing blues with him. It was fantastic. The guy was a phenomenal blues guitar player. I don’t think anyone – any white guys, anyway – could touch him for playing blues.
He played the solo on ‘Still In Love With You’ which was taken straight off a demo we did in Worthing and used on the Nightlife album when Scott and Robbo joined. I decided to overdub the drums and Phil wanted to overdub the bass. We kept Gary’s solo and his rhythm guitar because it was so great. So the only stuff that survived was Frankie Miller’s vocals and Gary’s guitar.
The last time I saw him was at a gig in Belgrade in 2007 or 2008. I spoke to him on the phone a few times since. He asked if I would be interested in working with him again over the next year or so and I said “absolutely!”. The last time we spoke was about eight months ago. He was in great spirits. It’s hard to believe that he’s gone now. What a terrible loss to us all, and to the music. – Brian Downey.
HE HAD A WICKED SENSE OF HUMOUR
Scott Gorham remembers Gary Moore
As fans of the band will know, Gary Moore became part of the Thin Lizzy story on a number of occasions. The first time I met him was when he came out on the Bad Reputation tour with us, after Brian Robertson had cut his hand. Gary was the first guy Phil thought of to fill the gap, because he knew Gary was such an amazing player. From the moment he plugged in his guitar, I was like, “Whoa, this guy can play!” He was such a great musician I sort of went into shock thinking, “God can I keep up with this guy?”
He was a real team player. He really wanted to make it work and we did. We went out on that tour with Queen and we slayed the audiences every night. It was a great success.
Recording the Black Rose album was a really a fun time. He brought real stability into the band, at a time when it really felt like our edges were starting to get a little bit frayed. It really sharpened us up. Gary brought a lot of great ideas to the table too, song-wise and parts-wise. We came out with one of our better albums as a result.
There was nothing negative in that period, ever. I think the only time it became negative was when we went out on the second run of touring and Phil and I got a little bit too big into the party mode. Gary wanted to be more serious about playing – and that’s when he decided he was going to take off, half-way through that American tour. I was cheesed off with him for a long time about that, as I’m sure Phil was, but later I understood why he did it. We met up many times over the years since and it was water under the bridge. We could just talk and laugh and have a good time together.
The last time I saw Gary was when we did the gig in The Point in 2005 (Gary Moore and Friends – A Tribute To Phil Lynott). That was kind of a cool thing: the last time you get to see your friend, you’re up on stage and playing with him. I feel good about that.
Gary was a great friend to us all. He had a wicked sense of humour (laughs) and you better be ready for it! You needed a bit of a thick skin around Gary because he would go for you, but in such a funny way you’d have to laugh. At the same time you’d be thinking, “Oh My God he’s right!”
He had such a keen sense of humour and he was a really quick-witted guy. I’ll miss him for that – but most of all for his extraordinary gifts as a musician.
GARY MOORE IN HIS OWN WORDS.
Hot Press was fortunate enough down through the years to interview the legendary guitarist on numerous occasions. Here’s what he had to say about…
Being a musical perfectionist
“People might say I’m ‘difficult’ because I’m a bit of perfectionist when it comes down to it. I think that I set such high standards for myself that sometimes I expect other people to live up to these standards, and it’s not fair because they’re not setting the same goals for themselves. When people aren’t doing their job or when I feel they’re not working as hard as they should be, then I get pissed off and start yellin’ at them. Yet I don’t think I’m a particularly hard person to work with. I mean I don’t throw tantrums unnecessarily and I don’t smash the hotel up if the TV’s not workin’ or somethin’ like that. That’s more Ritchie Blackmore-kind of syndrome y’know! That’s just so ego – it’s nothin’ to do with me.”
“It’s very competitive and very bitchy. People – especially other guitarists – would love to go away from one of my gigs and say, ‘Gary Moore was shite last night’ because it makes them feel more secure. Unfortunately, they can’t really do that because I do try to keep a pretty consistent standard up, and I try to be in a fit state to go on stage.”
Wild times with Lizzy
“I don’t get into a lot of fights. That’s going back a bit. I mean that’s when I was with Lizzy and I wouldn’t remember half of what happened! It was like that – just a blur and so stupid. Not the later Lizzy but the first time round I’d do a bottle of wine before going on-stage, another while I was up there, and half a bottle of whiskey when I came off, so I wasn’t really sure of what I was doin’ half the time. I think, though, that I got it all out of my system in the space of two years – drugs and everything. I haven’t taken drugs for a long time now.”
The Old Town
“I love goin’ back to Dublin I love the vibe there and you always get the feeling that there’s loads of things goin’ on. Looking back now, I’d say that Dublin is probably one of my favourite places to live. When I was making the After The War record I spent about three months in Dublin – in fact I wrote most of that record there. It was nice being back. I really enjoyed it.
“One of the things I did find strange was going back to places like Slattery’s which I used to play when I was in Skid Row and seeing the same guys on the same stage playing the same songs, all of twenty years later. But then that’s all I’m doing myself really. I’m still playing ‘Walkin’ By Myself’ and ‘Stop Messin’ Around’, stuff like that.”
“I like Nirvana and the whole grunge thing. It’s almost like a second generation Black Sabbath approach. I like the venom in that music. At least it’s honest and it wasn’t created in a studio by a producer and it doesn’t take three years to make a record. I’d much rather hear something like that on the radio than something as pasteurised as contemporary heavy metal. I can’t bear to listen to that stuff much less try to get up and play it...
“When I first started playin’ guitar, when I was about ten, I was into The Shadows and stuff like that, but within a year or two I had become a huge blues fan through trying to play along with Clapton and Mayall, and being really into the whole British blues boom at the time.
“What I still love about the blues is that it’s different every time you play it. You play however you feel at the time. It’s so expressive and spontaneous.”
Gary Moore was in conversation with Paul O’Mahony and Liam Fay. See hotpress.com for the full archived interviews.
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