Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Gary Moore 1952-2011

When I was a young teenager in the first half of the 1980s, the young people in the youth group I went to, were divided into two groups. Each group had its look, its music, its heroes, and its places. The Indie/Goth crowd looked either to The Sisters of Mercy or The Smiths for their inspiration, for those of us who were Rockers - our hero was undoubtedly Irish guitarist Gary Moore. The first 'proper' gig I ever went to was Gary Moore, at Hammersmith Odeon, on his Wild Frontier tour, revisiting the Celtic Rock he had enjoyed in his Thin Lizzy days a decade previously.

Memory is one of the strangest capacities of the human mind. Smells, sights, places - all trigger streams of recollections. For me, the music of Gary Moore brings a deluge of memories from those formative years. Our teenage years are critical in forming who we will be for the rest of our days, and Moore's guitar playing was the 'soundtrack to my early teenage years. For several years his music was almost constantly on my stereo - albums like "Live in Japan", "Corridors of Power", "Dirty Fingers" or "Run for Cover", filling my room - and leading to much air-guitaring.

By my mid-teens I was getting bored of the hard-rock format and was discovering all kinds of other music. The pastoral-sounds of Barclay James Harvest would form a strong pull in one direction - while blues and jazz started to pull me in another. The piano-blues of players like ray Charles, Memphis Slim and Champion Jack Dupree, and the Paul Jones radio programme grabbed my attention and these new sounds I heard resonated strangely, and deeply within me (and left my friends thinking I was just odd!). One day in an A-level economics lesson, it was Simon Welsh who told me that he'd heard that Gary Moore had also got tired of heavy-rock, and had produced an blues album, "with some old blues guitarists"....

"Still Got The Blues" was, by all accounts a huge risk for Gary Moore - but one which paid off, massively for him. It's the album of his I have played more than any other, packed full of gems. Moore's guitar was always more suited to Blues than to the hard-rock of albums like "After the War" where the format constrained the melodic, lyrical power of his playing. Moore was never a straightforward guitar-shredder (although he did do the silly thing that all post Eddie Van Halen guitarists do - when they stand and play silly scales, ridiculously fast) - he was in fact an extremely versatile player, who was so at one with his instrument that he could deliver enormous emotion through it. His expressiveness with the guitar "he makes it cry, he makes it scream, he makes it cry", still affects me after all this time.

With Collosseum II, Moore turned his hand to fusion/jazz-rock, delivering a series of albums of electrifying playing, with John Hiseman, and Don Airey. To countless sessions with all manner of people from The Travelling Wilbury's to Paul Rodgers, to Frankie Goes to Hollywood to Cozy Powell - Moore brought his trademark searing guitar. Moore was musically restless, roaming from style to style, always exploring and experimenting - he could play blindingly fast, he could play mournfully slow numbers, he ventured in classical territory, played with dance rhythms, celtic rhythms - with remarkable effect.

Live, Gary Moore was a consummate showman - giving his all in every performance. Having seen several of his rock and blues shows, I personally rate the Blues performances (especially in the days of the full 'Midnight Blues Band') as being far superior. Gary Moore - in full flight, playing songs such as "Midnight Blues", "All Your Love" or his trademark, "Still Got the Blues" was in fact an electrifying experience. His playing still makes the proverbial hairs on the back of my neck stand up!

Gary Moore died this weekend, of a heart-attack, while on holiday in Spain. He was only 58, and had several musical projects in the pipeline, including (apparently) an acoustic blues album, that will sadly now never be made. Only the day before his death, I was on his website, looking and hoping for the announcement of new live-dates. I was shocked to read, the next day of his demise. I will be 40 this week - and feeling rather old! What has made this even stranger is that within a few weeks of this milestone, two of the heroes of my youth, Gary Moore and BJH's Woolly Wolstenholme have died. These are the two musicians/bands, who I have listened to more than any other over the last 25 years. I'm not sure which makes me feel older, entering my 5th decade, or the heroes of my youth passing into history.

The final tragedy of Moore's passing has been the disgraceful behaviour of the gutter press - well actually just The Sun, in the UK. Without any proper evidence or sources, and within only a few hours of Moore's death they printed a story (full of lurid detail) about his death, claiming that he had a 'booze-up' on holiday and asphyxiated on his own vomit. The fact that witnesses say Moore left the hotel bar quietly after a couple of drinks at 11pm suggests otherwise - however what is really angering fans is that The Sun knew that a post-mortem had been ordered, but didn't wait for the results, simply sensationalised their 'rock-star death' story: which turned out to be completely made-up. The post-mortem indicated that Moore had suffered a heart-attack, and that this was the cause of death. When Moore's children, friends and family were in grief and shock - they deserved better than this. I hope they sue The Sun - and win such a huge sum from The Dirty-Digger that his noxious News Corp is forced to actually change its editorial standards. I have never bought a copy of The Sun - but if I was a Sun reader, I'd join The Sun boycott.

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