Any list of great Irish rock and blues guitarists that doesn’t include Gary Moore (1952-2011) isn’t worth the Guinness coaster that it’s scrawled on. Belfast-born Moore’s first guitar, a second-hand Framus acoustic, was given to him by his father when he was ten. As an aspiring guitarist, he was influenced by the great early-period Fleetwood Mac bluesmen Peter Green and Eric Clapton. Despite being left-handed, Gary Moore taught himself to play right-handed.
As a young teenager, Moore played in a number of Belfast bands and befriended Rory Gallagher, another Irish guitar luminary. When he was sixteen, Moore moved to Dublin, where he fell in with Phil Lynott, who was fronting the blues/rock band Skid Row. When Lynott was kicked out of Skid Row, Moore continued to play with Skid Row, though he later regretted it. Before we continue with our overview of Moore’s career, let’s listen to the title track of his 1990 album, Still Got The Blues.
Still Got The Blues was the best-selling album of Moore’s solo career and the title track was his only solo single to make the US Billboard Hot 100 (#97). The above video is from Gary Moore Live at Montreux,1995. As was his habit, Moore played a Les Paul guitar. In this case, it appears to be “Greeny”, the 1959 Les Paul Standard that Moore bought from Peter Green in the early 1970s. On the Les Paul forum, there is a thread devoted to the exceptional tone that Green achieved at Montreux 1995.
From early 1974, Moore was an on/off member of Thin Lizzy – he was wary of the band’s hard-living lifestyle, which explains his periods of absence. Moore’s first proper solo album – he released the unsuccessful Grinding Stone (1973) as the Gary Moore Group – was Back on the Streets (1978). The album included the UK hit single Parisienne Walkways (#8), which featured Phil Lynott on bass and lead vocals. For listeners in the UK, the song is Moore’s signature song. Let’s have a look at the video:
Gary Moore’s next successful album was 1985’s Run For Cover, which featured Phil Lynott’s vocals on the hit single Out In The Fields. After Phil Lynott’s untimely death at the age of 36 in January 1986, Moore dedicated his successful 1987 album Wild Frontier to his departed friend. This brings us more or less up to 1990s Still Got The Blues.
Ironically, given Moore’s skill as an improviser, Moore was accused of plagiarising a 1974 instrumental called Nordrach by the obscure German band Jud’s Gallery in his solo on Still Got The Blues. Moore denied knowing the German song and noted that neither a CD nor a vinyl copy of the song was in print. The Munich Court held that the track might have been heard on the radio or perhaps at a concert. It further held that while there was no evidence that the solo replicated Nordrach, “copyright infringement does not depend on outright theft”. One can be thankful that copyright law has progressed since then, as this seems to be a parochial decision by a patriotic German Court. Nonetheless, copyright remains a tricky and contested matter.
Gary Moore released nine fine albums after Still Got The Blues. Blues for Greeny (1995) is notable as it was a tribute album to his old friend and inspiration, Peter Green, while Dark Days in Paradise (1997) and A Different Beat (1999) included experiments with electronic music. The rest of the albums were dominated by Moore’s trademark in-the-pocket blues/rock.
Gary Moore died of a heart attack on 6 February 2011. R.I.P. Gary Moore. If you would like to see more from Gary Moore, you can subscribe to his YouTube channel.