When I was travelling through Ireland a few years ago, I entered the main post office in Dublin and asked for a special stamp issued in a rare series. There was Rory Gallagher on it. The clerk referred me to an out-of-the-way sport shop with a tiny book section and I got to purchase the stamp there. I turned around to leave but the shopkeeper advised me that I should not forget Phil. I was not aware that a stamp with another Irish musical hero had been published. This hero was Phil Lynott, the leader of the well known band Thin Lizzy. I did not hesitate to open my wallet again. Not only did I not want to disappoint the shopkeeper but the enigmatic Phil Lynott has always been one of my favourite musicians. For me it was worth noting that the Irish people pay remembrance to their outstanding artists – the celebrities who make part of the recent musical history and achieved global fame in the field of rock and blues music. Their nation is proud of them and does not forget. Even in my wildest dreams it would not have occurred to me that four years later on the Irish would have a reason to publish another series of this kind of stamps.
On 6th February 2011 the news about the death of Gary Moore spread the world. The outstanding musician, composer, singer and especially a brilliant guitar player was only 58 and according to his musical mates and relatives he did not seem to have any troubles with his health.
He died in Spain in a vacation resort Estepona. His dead body was found at 4 a.m. in an apartment in the Kempinski hotel. The world press media immediately started to make up the cause. The British daily newspaper The Sun speculated about alcohol overdose and suffocating with vomit. Tabloid newspapers seek sensations so why not use the Jimi Hedrix story from 1971 that later turned out to be true. The general public must be shocked and so it is appropriate for a rock star to depart from the scene in an attractive enough way. Here they apparently could not come up with drug addiction, otherwise highly exploitable. Eventually all turned out to be much simpler and even the British tabloid had to correct its previous announcement.
Gary Moore with his girlfriend set out for a six-day vacation after having finished the recording of his new album. Sadly enough he could not have the chance to relax for the few days in a decent way. After checking in Gary ordered a sandwich and a drink at the bar, and later he willingly chatted with one of his fan who had recognized his idol and took the chance to tell him a few words. In the evening Gary took a walk on the beach and close to 11 p.m. he went back to his room. In the early morning he was found dead.
Both police and medical reports confirmed that Gary Moore suffered from a massive heart attack during his sleep. His heart could not withstand and the moment became fatal. This is globally one of the most frequent natural death causes. We are not talking about any stormy scenes, no nervous situations.
The world of musicians and especially fans of Gary´s music was astonished. Gary was in such a good shape. His recent performances (including concerts in the Czech Republic and Slovakia) and recordings are a clear proof. However, the grim reaper makes no selections. Often the greatest price has to be paid by the one who is „guilty“ just for making his job properly throughout his life.
And Gary Moore could be considered one of the most hardworking persons in the rock-blues industry. A full description of his forty-year career would ask for a whole book. Let us now focus on the main facts and the most significant information in this much more limited space.
ENTRY TO THE MUSICAL SCENE
(Skid Row, Colloseum II, Thin Lizzy)
Gary Moore was born on the 4th April 1952 in Belfast, Northern Ireland as Robert William Gary Moore. The first guitar he ever played was an acoustic Framus. Gary was eight that time. At his fourteen Gary continued to learn to play as a right-handed musician but he used an instrument designated for the left-handed. He had got his first amplifier by then and listened diligently to his idols such as The Beatles, The Shadows, Elvis Presley later accompanied by Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix. Albert King or John Mayall. As he did not feel very comfortable in his hometown, he left for Dublin at 16. Being only 19 he accepted the offer made by his friend Phil Lynott to play in a promising and hard playing band called Skid Row. Lynott left the band shortly but Gary Moore recorded two of the band´s albums (Skid Row and 34 Hours) and toured the USA as a support of The Allman Brothers (widely known at that time) and The Mountain. Listening to these albums we can clearly identify Gary´s technical and tonal fundaments that he later developed to a great extent. In 1973 Gary makes his first solo record Grinding Stone and in 1974 he joins Thin Lizzy and takes part on the recording of their album Nightlife.
As a flawless player Gary joins Jon Hiseman´s jazz-rock Colloseum II and stands out on Strange New Flash (1976), Electric Savage (1977) and Wardance (1977).
One year later another Gary´s solo album is released with the name Back on the Street including a great hit Parisienne Walkways. The bass is played by Phil Lynott who also contributed by his impressive vocal. The record put ground for another collaboration of the two protagonists in Thin Lizzy. However, Gary Moore becomes highly discouraged by the circumstances in the band. He is not able to make up with the excessive alcohol and drug consumption of his band mates. Having finished the USA tour he left the band although he had made a great success with the band´s album Black Rose (1979).
Gary founded the band G-Force that performed as a guest band on Van Halen´s tour among other gigs. Everything looked promising but after allegedly just a mediocre success of their album the band split up.
JOURNEY TO THE TOP
(hard and heavy, Phil Lynott)
Despite all obstacles, Gary Moore keeps on going with his typical will and vigour. In the early 80´s he shines on live performances including the favourite Rockpalast in Germany. His new band features Ian Paice on drums, Don Airey on keyboards and Neil Murray on bass guitar. Supported by this robust line-up Gary Moore wins success even in the gigantic live performance Masters of Rock, a festival showing Van Halen, Ozzy Osbourne or AC/DC among others. A series of new records is released: Corridors of Power (1982), Dirty Fingers (1984), Victim of the Future (1984) and Run for Cover (1985). If it had not been like that in the late 70´s, Gary Moore is definitely entering the world guitar elite in the 80´s.
Gary´s solo albums are recorded with high energy, many songs feature strong melodic lines, the instrumentation reveals traces of Celtic and Irish folk music (eg. Over the Hills and Far Away from Wild Frontier – 1987) and all these details account for individuality and originality. The band always rocks fine and Gary´s technically perfect and impressive guitar, yet interwoven with strong melodies and emotions clearly differs from the heavy metal tic-tac-toe that could be heard almost everywhere in the 80´s. From the wide range of successful songs and magnificent instrumental tracks we should definitely name Out in the Fields (from Run for Cover), produced and recorded together with Phil Lynott. A new megahit set out for the world with topical lyrics based on the never ending war between the Catholics and the Protestants in Northern Ireland. This was not the only time Gary Moore entered the field of current awkward themes. Murder in the Skies from Victim of the Future is a response to Soviet armed forces shooting down a South Korean civil airplane, effectively killing all the 269 passengers.
The already mentioned album Wild Frontier was dedicated to the memory of Phil Lynott who died in the beginning of 1986 in connection with excessive alcohol and drug consumption. Ironically it should have been Phil Lynott taking the lead vocals on the first hit single Over the Hills and Far Away.
After the tragic passing of his friend and mate, Gary Moore felt desolated. After the success of Out in the Fields another co-operation with Phil Lynott was planned. The year of 1989 brings a new brilliant and successful record After the War. With this album Gary Moore reached the peak of one of his developmental and creative period that had been based on the hard-and-heavy spirit and had left behind a considerable number of musical jewels.
(from B. B. King to electronics)
Coming down the imaginary spiral, a new Gary Moore in a mysterious cloak is entering the scene in the right moment. The artist is here to reach back to the musical roots and make an excellent form of both white and black blues available to a wide audience again. Being well trained on any fusions of hard rock, jazz and heavy metal, Gary Moore is now able to take the time and space to play with the new songs as well as the tones of his guitars as a real virtuoso.
The new album Still Got the Blues (1990) is reaching the whole world quickly. With regards to its content and quality the album is considered one of the 50 most important records from the history of rock music. Gary Moore enters the blues scene with his peculiar vigour, great technical investment and sense for the detail. The new repertoire consists of well composed original songs and a few classic blues standards. The arrangements make the whole well matching and so both the recordings and the live shows represent a compact and unobtrusively spectacular experience. A similar approach can be seen on the album After Hours from 1992 and later an excellent recording from live performances is released as Blues Alive.
Gary Moore´s show is always an extraordinary experience. As always, there is a band of excellent musicians, now including the horns too, and above that all the smooth yet expressive guitar and vocal sung with both great feeling and a professional approach. Soon Gary came to the conclusion that he would probably be the best one to sing his own songs – and so he joined the imaginary group of singing guitarists like Rory Gallagher, Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter or Alvin Lee and especially the long queue of black bluesmen, not excluding Jimi Hendrix.
When there is a soft, wistful song to sing, Gary is able to communicate it to his audience with deep feeling and without excessive pathos. On the other hand, when it comes to hard rocking, no-one can doubt Gary himself has the energy and strength like the whole band – both as a singer and a guitarist. On his records and later even the live performances Gary hosts renowned black blues musicians like B. B. King, Albert Collins or Albert King. Gary lets his dreams come true this way. In his childhood, he listened to the recordings of these artists who provided inspiration and incentives for Gary´s entering into the world of music.
This was a huge and important contribution to the musical awareness of the public. Gary Moore, now a globally renowned and respected musician, ignited strong interest in blues music – not only in his own audience. This way Gary continued in the aim of his older mates Gallagher, Clapton, Peter Green, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and lots of others who re-discovered Muddy Waters and a whole range of American bluesmen for the generations of their own fans.
Nearly 25 years later, legendary bluesmen appear again through new recordings and concerts of Gary Moore. The young audience always gives them a warm welcome. The legends were introduced to them with contemporary sound and all the expressivity and prestige, in a persuasive way and by someone whom the audience fully trusted. Gary himself produces and interprets the blues subject matter with such a great style and in such an excellent way that even the rather narrowly focused hard rock and heavy metal audience showed respect for this kind of music.
Having achieved such great success, Gary could dare to turn to two former members of one of the essential British bands, The Cream. This was the composer, bass player and singer Jack Bruce and the drummer Ginger Baker. The BBM (Baker, Bruce, Moore) band is founded and a new album Around the Next Dream is released in 1994. The record features many freshly written tracks and a few original Cream songs are rehearsed for live shows, Gary´s guitar being the cornerstone of the new spirit.
In 1995 another pleasing album is released, the Blues for Greeny. With taste and respect for the original Gary excellently interprets the songs written and recorded many years ago by one of his blues idols – Peter Green. The legendary 1959 Gibson Les Paul sings again. This guitar was given to Gary by no-one else but Peter Green himself. Gary Moore got to know Peter Green while Gary was a young boy and the two of them became great friends. Gary adored Peter and Peter quickly realised what talent lies in the young bloke and wanted to support his musical activity. He persuaded his manager to arrange a recording agreement for the Skid Row – the band Gary was playing with at that time. In 1970 when Peter Green decided to leave the Fleetwod Mac, a famous band as soon as then, he offered Gary Moore his Les Paul guitar in exchange for Gary´s Gibson SG.
This was an unrefusable offer for Gary – and so he enriched his equipment with this unique jewel, to put it in his own words. Since then he played this superb instrument until 2006. I failed to find out (and I probably will not ever explore) why this marvellous guitar appeared in the US market. Why should such a player and guitar enthusiast as Gary Moore ever say goodbye to one of his most adored instruments? I could not believe the reason would simply be of business nature even though the price was astronomical indeed.
The beginning of the new millennium was approaching and Gary Moore – perhaps in response – unexpectedly left his rock-blues path and made two electronic albums Dark in the Paradise (1997) and A Different Beat (1999). While he surprised his fans and perhaps annoyed some of the purists, he moved through this style with grace. He proved that the jazz-rock music of the 70´s was not the only one fusion with which an exceptionally competent guitarist and composer could experiment. We are finding here almost industrial beats but also a number of perfectly sung and played melodies that let the listener visit some mysterious new spaces.
(Scars, new hard&blues-rock variations, on the stage again)
Gary Moore enters the first decade of the new millennium with a return to the roots of the blues on the explicitly named album Back to the Blues (2001). Next year a little harder record is released, Scars (2002), that was recorded and later performed live in a trio, bringing about the mood of Hendrix´s The Experience. Gary called in musicians from a younger generation and the recordings and concerts clearly correspond with the contemporary heavy-rock trends but distinguish themselves by the brilliant, expressive and most of all unique guitar of Gary Moore.
Later on Gary returns to the blues again as the albums Power of the Blues (2004), Old New Ballads Blues (2006) and Close as You Get (2007) are released. Especially the last one is touching the very first, so to say archaic kind of blues music. During this period Gary Moore cut down on performing live and engaged more in sound supervision over various compilations and his own radio shows on the blues topics in the London radio Planet Rock. Maybe it was this activity that motivated him to record Close as You Get where the otherwise pure electric guitarist appears in the role of a bluesman with an acoustic guitar. No wonder this album featured Mark Feltham on the blues harp, a friend and a band mate of Rory Gallagher.
Pieces of this mood are also present on the last studio record of Gary Moore, the album Bad for You Baby (2008). Anyway, Gary´s enviable nature expresses itself again and so we could not miss deeply felt ballads as well as dense blues-rock riffs and precisely played sharp guitar.
In 2010 Gary Moore sets out for another tour with a new band of experienced and respected musicians. After 20 years Gary meets Neil Carther again, his former keyboard and guitar player and vocalist. The rigorous drum work is being done by Darrin Mooney, know from the Scars project and the Primal Scream, and Jonathan Noyce of the Jethro Tull takes up the bass. The playlist is built on the hard and blues-rock style and we can hear both songs from Gary´s hard and heavy period as well as blues treats. After a number of performances on European summer festivals Gary promises a new album with the song Where Are You Now, already played in recent concerts. Gary with his band mates are looking forward to future playing and recording. The publishing of the DVD called Gary Moore Live in Montreaux 2010 is also being prepared. Gary´s fans are thrilled and full of great expectations.
However, on February 6th 2011 it was announced that Gary Moore had suddenly died. How could that happen? ‘It´s not possible, isn´t it just a hoax?’ We would like to console ourselves with such naive lies. ‘He was just 58, he could have played for another 20 years. Look at B. B. King…’ Unfortunately, human life is an uncertain thing and the grim reaper makes no selections.
Another one of the real big and unique artists passed away. Without any doubt, the loss will be more than recognizable in the field of rock musicians who always strive to set their musical targets high. Those who are resistant to the commercial world of the cheap ordinary emptiness we are encountering every day in the mass media.
Taking inspiration in the threesome Vienna classics, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, we could think of a trio of Irish blues-rock heroes: Rory Gallagher, Phil Lynott, Gary Moore. And all three of them are now rocking on the other side. Wasn´t it too soon both for themselves and for us who liked them?
Gary Moore was a versatile active musician. Besides his own projects he collaborated with many other artists too. Both in the studio and on the stage he was always concentrated, precise and excellent. Not many artists could be distinguished by such a permanent uniqueness. During the 40 years Gary did a lot of useful work. The tone of his guitar was always outstanding, in tense moments, introvert moods or even in expressive swift movements. It did not really matter if Gary was using a Marshall or Soldano amplifier, or some other one, nor was it too important whether he was playing a Gibson Les Paul or a Fender Telecaster. All the time his music was precise, filled with deep spirit, smooth and not lacking taste, yet always highly energetic.
Gary Moore made up his own style and while recognizing and respecting the classics, he has become one of them.
Dónal Gallagher, brother of the legendary Rory Gallagher, said shortly after the death of Gary Moore: ‘He was an excellent musician and a great friend. God save your soul, Gary, we will miss you.’ These words probably expressed what was in the minds of many musicians and music fans all around the world that time. So let us raise our glasses with Irish whiskey to pledge the eternal memory of this exceptional musician. Your tones, Gary, will be with us forever. May you rest in peace.