The late Gary Moore was one of the most influential and well-respected guitarists in rock history. Born in Northern Ireland in 1952, he would go on to perform with some of the biggest names in rock music, and his unmistakable style would encompass an eclectic range that included blues, hard rock, heavy metal and jazz.
Two of his earliest influences were Peter Green and Eric Clapton, and you can hear their dazzling blues licks permeating his work. He began his musical career in the late ’60s when he joined the Dublin blues-rock outfit, Skid Row, which also featured his friend, and future Thin Lizzy bandmate, Phil Lynott.
Moore released two albums with the band before joining Thin Lizzy in 1971, where he linked up again with Lynott. His time in the band would be brief, and he’d depart in 1974, but his experience in Thin Lizzy was significant. He honed his skills as well as recorded classic tracks such as ‘Still in Love with You’. This short tenure in the band would equip Moore with all the appropriate skills to go ahead and make it on his own as a legend. He would link up again with Thin Lizzy in the late ’70s, but this time was as a guitar-playing god.
Afterwards, Moore would blossom as a solo artist. He released the hit single ‘Parisienne Walkways’ in 1978, which established him as one of the most exciting guitarists around. Augmented by the husky vocals of Lynott, there’s no wonder why the blues-rock masterpiece is hailed as Moore’s signature song.
Across the rest of his solo career, Moore would collaborate with some of the most iconic names in the business. His second album, 1982’s Corridors of Power, featured the likes of former Deep Purple drummer Ian Paice, Whitesnake bassist Neil Murray, and keyboardist Tommy Eyre.
Most notably, though, his 1990 album, Still Got the Blues, saw Moore returning to the blues roots, those that had informed his style as a teenager. On the record, he collaborated with three of the most lauded living guitarists, Albert King, Albert Collins, and former Beatles guitarist George Harrison. Collaborating with these three pioneers is a testament to just how respected Moore had become by the dawn of the ’90s.
Sadly, Moore passed away at the age of 58 in 2011 due to a heart attack that was attributed to the drinking problem he developed later in life. However, Moore still lives on through the incredible music he produced in his lifetime. He also lives on through the numerous interviews he gave over his life, wherein he discussed his complex artistry, giving fans an insight into his mind.
Luckily for us, a few years prior to his death, Moore appeared on the Planet Rock radio show ‘My Planet Rocks’, and discussed his favourite songs of all time and why they inspired him so much. It was perhaps the most revealing interview Moore ever gave regarding his musicianship.
Unsurprisingly, the first record that he chose was ‘Hideaway’ by revered London outfit John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers. Featuring both Eric Clapton and John Mayall, this 1966 instrumental was a hugely influential piece for budding guitarists of Moore’s generation. Significantly, Moore credits the album the track was taken off, Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton, as the one that got him into the blues.
“Well, ‘Hideaway’ was on the 1960s album of The Bluesbreakers album with Eric Clapton and John Mayall. It was the album that turned me on to the blues, basically, and this is when Eric was most fiery. He was only like 21 when he made this record, and it’s an incredible piece of guitar playing. It’s a Freddie King instrumental, and Eric sort of tells his own version… he is kind of showing the world what he is made of. So it’s a great track,” Moore said.
The next song that Moore mentioned is Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Manic Depression’. Taken from The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s debut, 1967’s Are You Experienced. This fan favourite of Hendrix’s was the one that confirmed to Moore just how much of an iconoclast the Seattle native was.
Moore recalled: “I remember hearing the song starting, so I was like ‘Oh, this is great sort of R&B singer, soul singer’, that’s kind of how I saw him, but then his guitar started, and I was going ‘wait a minute, what’s going on? This guy can be really special; something is going to happen.’ And the next thing he puts the guitar up to his face, and I was thinking, ‘this guy plays with his teeth’.”
Another entry on the list that isn’t so surprising is The Beatles’ ‘Here Comes The Sun’. Moore made it very clear over his lifetime that he owed a lot to George Harrison, particularly in the way that the ‘Quiet One’ constructed his solos. He admitted: “From him, I’ve learned about melody a lot, from him and Hank Marvin, actually”.
Moore would learn a lot from playing alongside Harrison, and these were invaluable lessons that helped him take his playing up a notch. He said: “He would just put this little lick in it, would have some little maybe fast bits in it and just be kind of outside what you would imagine in the solo for that song to be.” He added: “He really was a giant in the music world for me, very sadly missed”.
Another player who accounts for the swaggering bluesy licks that Moore did so well was B.B. King. Picking King’s track ‘The Thrill Is Gone’, as Moore explained: “I love minor-key blues for a start. It’s in C minor, so right there it’s (where) it got me, before you even start with the lyric. But the lyrics (are) beautiful as well. I love, kind of, sad sort of love songs that are played in that kind of blues mode. I love that, I’ve always liked it, going back to Peter Green and people like that. That sort of minor-key thing to me in the blues and the guitar, they just go together so well, and he is a master of it”.
No list of Gary Moore’s favourite songs would be complete without a nod to the aforementioned Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. Choosing their enduring romp ‘Black Magic Woman’, which to many is Green’s masterwork, Moore opined: “I just think it represents Peter (Green) in so many ways. A lot of people think of Peter Green just as a great blues guitarist, but he was also a great singer and great songwriter. This was a very early effort from him, and it’s such a simple song. It was covered by Santana later on, as you probably know, and became a huge hit for Santana. But this is the original version, and to me, it says it all.”
Of course, the final track that Moore picked was the 1979 Thin Lizzy hit, ‘Sarah’. Written by Lynott and Moore about the former’s newborn daughter, it is perhaps the best song that was borne out of the Lynott-Moore partnership. He remembered: “We did that, and Tony (Visconti – producer) spent ages with me getting the guitar that very clean guitar sound. He put through Eventide harmonizers and all kinds of things. I had this kind of little pedal, a distortion thing. I put the guitar through that, there was no amp on that particular sound for the solo. We came up with some very different sounds that you wouldn’t associate with Thin Lizzy”.
One of the finest guitarists of all time, it’s a tragedy that Gary Moore passed away so prematurely. However, through interviews such as this, we get to understand his artistry and persona better, and for budding guitarists, moments such as these are vital for refining their own sound and learning from the very best.
Listen to Gary Moore’s six favourite songs below.
Gary Moore’s six favourite songs:
- ‘Hideaway’ – John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton
- ‘Manic Depression’ – Jimi Hendrix
- ‘Here Comes The Sun’ – The Beatles
- ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ – B.B. King
- ‘Black Magic Woman’ – Fleetwood Mac
- ‘Sarah’ – Thin Lizzy