Monday, February 7, 2011

Vale Gary Moore

In 1985, I freely admit that I had terrible taste in music. Largely influenced by my older brother’s extensive tape collection that featured all the teen staples of the time – Zeppelin, Neil Young, Dire Straits, John Cougar, I was slowly forming my own taste for music which was mainly bad heavy metal. At that time, I had some Hits of ‘85 compilation. I seem to remember it had some George Michael and Genesis on it but what stood out for me was the Gary Moore song Out in the fields. For some reason it tapped into my early adolescent penchant for melodrama, squealing guitar solos and anthemic choruses. I clearly remember playing this song over and over, running around our rumpus room (wow, we had a rumpus room!) and playing air guitar solos on top of couches. I’m sure my parents must have thought they had a freak on their hands but the seeds of my unbridled love affair with music were being sown in that infantile show of joy.

Not long after this, rock music became an obsession for me and Gary Moore was an integral part of this. I bought every album on cassette or vinyl. I had obscure Japanese imports and was feverishly devoted to his style of guitar playing which was often a lot better than the songs they were being played in. Moore was an obsessive follower of Peter Green, a blues guitarist who was in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and the first incarnation of Fleetwood Mac – this influence always moved through Moore’s own music. Even though Moore could play a zillion notes per second in a solo, his music always had a style, tunefulness and fluidity that bared the soul beneath the technique (he also gave amazing 'guitar solo face' too - you know what I mean). Further, albums such as Wild Frontier and After the War flirted with Celtic influences in ways similar to Thin Lizzy, a band he played with in the 70’s with long time friend and collaborator Phil Lynott. The lyrics to his songs were often cheesy and awkward but Moore was always a literal heart-on-sleeve kind of guy that it was so earnest and so honest that you could never be that critical. You just sang along while warming up your fingers for the next air guitar solo.

I think Moore is best known in Australia for his Still Got the Blues album. This was a successful stylistic shift for him after his rock albums as he reverted back to the music he loved as a child and worked with a number of his heroes (Green, Buddy Guy, Albert King) to produce a bunch of reasonably well received blues albums. I was a blues fan but Moore was a rock guitarist for me so I never really embraced this even though it brought him a lot of success and it was a style he continued until his death. I got moved by other music – bands like Faith No More, Hüsker Dü, the Pixies and Jane’s Addiction. Then Nirvana came and changed everything and I can’t say I really listened to Gary Moore again apart from the occasional fling of nostalgia when I found an old cd or tape when I stayed at my parent’s house.

It was inevitable that my tastes would change but somehow this obscure Irish guitarist spoke to a kid developing his music tastes on the other side of the world and at that time, I loved it. I loved it in a way I would love musicians in the future – Pink Floyd, Bob Mould, Radiohead, Queens of the Stone Age. These were not bands I casually listened to but with whom I had unhealthy obsessions and intimate relationships with. This is the music I could listen to over and over again – listening to the same album ten or twelve times in a single day and it is the soundtrack that forms part of the narrative of my life.

And really, that first intense musical relationship with a single artist started with Gary Moore. So waking up today to hear he passed away has left me feeling sad which is slightly odd because while I think it’s natural to feel that way, it was a long time ago too. Part of me feels bad that I never saw him live and strangely, that I abandoned him – that I couldn’t be that thirteen-year-old devotee forever. I guess no one ever can be but whether I want to intellectualise it or not he is part of my musical DNA, part of my childhood and probably the first of my childhood musical heroes to die. Rest in peace Gary and long may you shred.


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