February 2, 2019
Gary Moore passed away eight years ago this week. In a career that spanned five decades, Moore excelled in multiple genres. From Blues to Progressive Rock to Heavy Metal, Techno and back to the Blues again, he blazed a trail of sizzling guitar playing. A star in the UK and Europe, he was one of several guitarists such as Michael Schenker, Uli Roth, Rory Gallagher and others who became guitar heroes to millions of fans overseas as well has here in the U.S.
Gary Moore was born on April 4, 1952 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He first picked up a guitar at age 10. Turning professional at the age of sixteen, he initially started out in the Dublin-based Blues band “Skid Row” in 1968. Around this time, he happened to meet Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green at one of their appearances there. The two developed a friendship and eventually Green offered him his ’59 Gibson Les Paul when he decided he had had enough of the music business. He and Gary worked out a deal and Gary purchased the guitar for a mere $300(U.S.). Skid Row moved their base of operations to London but by 1971 Gary had outgrown the band and started a solo career.
In 1974 He released a solo album – “Grinding Stone“, which drew critical acclaim in the U.S. but a short time later he was asked to join former band mate Phil Lynott in Thin Lizzy after guitarist Eric Bell left. They cut the album “Nightlife” but by then Gary had decided to leave. Moore formed “Colosseum II”; a Progressive/Fusion Rock band that had moderate success in Europe (seen here playing the Peter Green Les Paul.)
Meanwhile, Thin Lizzy had re-recorded all of his parts on “Nightlife” with new guitarists Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson except the solo to “Still in Love with You.” Gary’s solo was so revered by frontman Lynott that he insisted Moore’s replacement Robertson copy it note for note when they first started doing the song live after Gary left. By 1978 Robertson was out of the band and Moore was once again asked to rejoin. They cut one more album together – the critically acclaimed“Black Rose: A Rock Legend” and a tour capped off by the famous gig at The Sydney Opera House before Moore was gone again, this time permanently. Starting in the late seventies, Moore released several Rock albums: “Back on the Streets” (shown here with Thin Lizzy) “G-Force,” (The name of the band he briefly formed as well) and “Corridors of Power” in 1982.
In 1983 he released the Metal album “Victims of the Future” which showcased his attacking guitar style. A remake of The Yardbirds “Shapes of Things” got him video airplay on MTV and he had another hit with the first release of “Empty Rooms.” The Hard Rock assault continued on 1985’s “Run for Cover” but two collaborations with Phil Lynott – “Military Man” and “Out in the Fields” stood out. In 1987 Moore released the Lynott-inspired “Wild Frontier” with its Keltic-themed etudes that still rocked hard such as “Over the Hills and Far Away”, the standout “The Loner” and the Lynott tribute; “Johnny Boy.”
Moore really made his mark however, when he decided to make a Blues album. In 1990 Moore released “Still Got the Blues”, with the crack Midnight Blues Band consisting of horns as well as keyboards and harmonica. Their contribution, coupled with Moore’s hard-edged guitar playing made this a standout album.
More Blues albums followed – 1992’s “After Hours” included more blues goodness as well as the excellent “Blues for Greeny” in 1995 consisting of early Fleetwood Mac covers and dedicated to Peter Green. By 1997 Moore wanted to change things up again with the release of the more contemporary “Dark Days in Paradise” and by 1999 had totally changed direction with the release of the Techo-inspired “A Different Beat.” This latest album seemed to confuse his fans but I found it interesting. He blended dance beats with a multitude of guitar textures, to ear-tingling effect. The songs “Go On Home”, “Lost in your Love” and “Worry No More” stand out as well as the nearly ten minute “Surrender.”
Deciding to go back to playing Blues again, he released several more Blues album in the 2000s starting with of course, “Back to the Blues” and ending with his last studio album “Bad For You Baby” in 2008. In concert, after years of shunning his rock albums during the nineties, he started performing songs from them again in the mid-2000s. In that time frame, Gary made several live appearances that stood out – the Fender 50th Stratocaster Anniversary Concert where he played an electrifying version of “Red House” and the twentieth anniversary concert commemorating Phil Lynott’s passing; “The Vibe for Philo.”
Sadly, years of touring as well as alcohol abuse claimed him on February 8, 2011 at the age of 58. I was deeply saddened when I heard of his death and it affected me for several years afterwards, whenever I thought of him. He was a guitarist who could literally play any style of music. Some didn’t care for his hard rock stylings of Blues numbers and thought he overplayed, but I believed he infused new energy into the Blues in a way not seen since Stevie Ray Vaughan. The combination of heavy guitar backed by a Blues band with a horn section was magical. Of course being a former Metal head, I loved his Rock albums as well. It still saddens me that he is gone. I’m just glad we got to enjoy him for another twenty five years after Phil Lynott’s death. RIP, Gary (and Phil.)
Also, check out The Guitarists We Lost in 2018.
What’s your favorite Gary Moore song/album/era?