The year was 1982, and I was a 16 year old hard rock and metal fan, as well as a fledgling guitarist just starting to really get into the instrument. One weekend afternoon I happened to hear this amazing song on local rock FM station 101.5 WPDH called "End of the World" that featured some amazing guitar work, like nothing I had ever heard before, as well as vocals that I recognized to be from legendary Cream member Jack Bruce. After the song finished and I was busy scraping my jaw off the floor after hearing the opening guitar blast, heavy riffing, air raid siren solos and whammy bar theatrics, the DJ stated that it was the new single from former Thin Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore. Now Thin Lizzy I was somewhat familiar with, but mostly the songs from Jailbreak and Thunder and Lightning. This was something, or someone, I had to check into immediately.
Within days I found myself in the local record shop picking up a copy of Corridors of Power, and my love affair with the guitar playing of Gary Moore began. This guy had all the technique in the world, but he also played with raw emotion as well, touching upon hard rock, metal, blues, jazz, and pop styles as seamlessly as any player I had ever heard. Instantly I tried to learn his licks and riffs (not an easy feat!), though looking back I think it was his use of pinch harmonics, screaming sustained notes, and string muting that really stuck with me all these years. Before long Moore released the equally impressive Victims of the Future, and he joined my short list of guitar heroes that also included Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi, Michael Schenker, Uli John Roth, and Robin Trower.
Fast forward to February 6th, 2011, and a 58 year old Gary Moore was found dead in his hotel room while vacationing in Spain, apparently by choking on his own vomit after a night of celebrating with his girlfriend. Another report lists a possible heart attack. Though no official coroner's report has been released as of yet, all indications are this was a death that could have been avoided. Those who were close to Gary claim that the guitarist has long ago curtailed his famous partying habits from the crazy 1970's and led a much more peaceful life, which makes his passing all the more tragic.
It's safe to say that Gary Moore influenced a generation of rock and blues guitar players, most of whom now mourn his passing. Whether you began listening to Gary from his early days in the original Irish rock/blues legends Skid Row, his brief time with Thin Lizzy (and it was brief, contrary to all references that list him as 'former Thin Lizzy guitarist' first and foremost), the jazz-rock outfit Colosseum II, his time with Greg Lake, or his glorious solo career (which started out with Moore delivering some classic hard rock & metal albums before launching into the blues in the early 90's), his music always remained inspirational and influential.
Sadly, Moore never gained the success here in North America that he had in many other parts of the world, especially Europe. While some tunes from his early hard rock repertoire got some FM radio play here ("Empty Rooms, "End of the World", "Shapes of Things", "Always Gonna Love You", "Military Man", "Out in the Fields" just to name a few), and tracks from Thin Lizzy's Black Rose are still deemed classics to this day, it was ironically his blues career that saw the most success, especially his album Still Got the Blues. But just as quickly as fans jumped on board his hard hitting blues style, after a few albums interest waned and sales & tours here became quiet once again. In Europe however he remained as popular as ever.
Those who knew Gary remember him as a wonderful, caring person, and a fabulous musician. For the rest of us, we remember the music, much of which will always remain timeless and classic. We will also remember that killer tone, that impeccable technique, that searing, raw emotion, and those soulful vocals. I was lucky to see Gary Moore in concert only once, in Poughkeepsie, NY at The Chance Theater back in the late 1980's (Wild Frontier or After the War tour, can't remember which one), and it was a show I'll never forget. My only wish is that I'd been able to catch him a few more times.
So, while we all mourn our fallen hero, who died tragically, needlessly, and way too young, let's also pay him tribute and remember him by celebrating his life and his music. Dig out your copy of Corridors of Power, Victims of the Future, Black Rose, After Hours, We Want Moore, G-Force, Dirty Fingers, Scars, Grinding Stone, Run For Cover, War Dances, or whatever happens to be your favorite release from Gary, and appreciate the immense talents he had and the way he made us feel when enjoying his music.
Thanks for the music Gary-we'll miss you!