Gary Moore

Groupology

  • Skid Row
  • Thin Lizzy
  • Colosseum II
  • G-Force
  • Greg Lake Band
  • Gary Moore
  • BBM

Jurassic

Watch Gary Moore in Action at the bottom of this page!

Famous / Infamous for

Famous For: Astounding guitar work in just about every electric genre. Owning Peter Green's 1959 Bluesbreaker Les Paul. Being the player's player, while remaining unknown to the masses. Unfortunately for us Dinosaurs, Gary's most famous for being a blues player. Many of his current fans are completely unaware that he was a true rock/metal GOD before he ditched rock music and the fans who supported his early career.

Infamous For: Joining Thin Lizzy. Leaving Thin Lizzy. Being difficult to work with. A serious case of Guitar Face. Being a superstar in Europe and Japan and totally unknown in the U.S. Joining Thin Lizzy. Leaving Thin Lizzy. Alienating his rock fans with his blues career. Alienating his blues fans with Dark Days in Paradise and A Different Beat. Joining Thin Lizzy. Leaving Thin Lizzy. Losing his will to rock. Having to sell Peter Green's 1959 Bluesbreaker Les Paul.

Influences

Obvious: Jeff Beck and Peter Green are the two most recognizable influences in Gary's playing. You hear the Beck more in the rock stuff, and the Green more in the bluesy stuff. There's also a Clapton/Bluesbreaker/Cream influence in Gary, and some Hendrix too — in his rock style on a Strat. Gary was also clearly influenced by working with Phil Lynott. Many of Gary's rock songs were Lizzy-like, in their composition and use of Celtic melodies. Gary is a second generation rock guitar hero. One of the guys like Michael Schenker and Eddie Van Halen who were raising the bar for everyone as early as the late 70s.

Not-so-obvious: A largely overlooked period of Gary's career was his time with the progressive band Colosseum II. That was the period where Gary really honed his speed chops. There is some John McLaughlin/Mahavishnu influence on that stuff. There are also occasional hints of that Allan Holdsworth be-bopish element in Gary's style.

Strengths

I used a baseball analogy to describe John Sykes, and related him to Willie Mays — the all-around talent. In the same parlance, Gary's a Mark McGuire type — the longball hitter. He doesn't do everything great, but when it's time to deliver, he absolutely crushes the ball. Similarly, Moore wasn't always the best singer or songwriter, but from about 1978 to 1990 his guitar playing combined everything you could ever want or ask for from a Dinosaur Rock guitar hero. It had fire, passion, intensity, emotion, balls, great gobs of attitude, melody, and a wide array of dynamics from bombastic to subtle. In just about every playing category, Moore had more.

Intensity. Everything about Gary Moore's rock playing had an extreme intensity to it that I haven't heard equaled in anyone else's playing. Gary bled through his guitar. You can hear and feel the intensity in the notes. Compared to other players, Gary bent his notes further; he applied his vibrato more fervently; he whammied more frantically; he crafted his solos toward more intense crescendos. His tone was intense — always just on the verge of feedback. Everything was always under total control, but Gary had this frantic intensity that no one else had.

Attitude and emotion. Gary's rock playing had loads of attitude. On heavy songs, that attitude was: I'm gonna tear your head off. You can hear it in his rude and raunchy phrasing, his searing bends, prebends and vibrato. On ballads and lighter songs, the attitude is more: I'm gonna touch your soul. You can hear it in the way he employs more subtle dynamics such as the volume swells. Moore's playing always had tons of feeling and sex in it.

Melody and melodic theme-driven compositions. Songs like Parisian Walkways, The Loner, his rendition of Roy Buchanan's The Messiah Will Come, and Still Got the Blues are all songs built around a melodic guitar theme. These songs let Gary indulge in some of his most emotional and melodic playing.

Chops. Gary has blazing speed, but unlike the Shrapnel shredders, Gary has a heavy touch and gets there through brute force and sheer will. He sounds rougher and rawer. And unlike most of those shredders, Gary usually didn't use speed just for the sake of speed. He'd usually set up the speed playing with slow melodic playing, and usually made sure the speed was used to progress the song or build the tension in a solo.

Compositional solos. On his studio albums, his solos were composed "stories" within the song, and typically start slow and build to a crescendo. On live albums, he would stretch out the solo's original thematic ideas and play some of the most amazing stuff you'll ever hear.

Freestyle solos. Back in the 80s, during a live show, the guitar hero would usually take a "freestyle" guitar solo live. Sometimes they did it on albums too, like Van Halen's Eruption. No one did this better than Gary. His first one was called White Knuckles, and that solo evolved into the classic intro to the song End of the World. He cut another one on the European version of Murder In the Skies. The best ones are the studio version of End of the World on Corridors of Power, and it's even more mind-melting live version that's on We Want Moore.

Collaborations with Phil Lynott. Despite their often volatile personal relationship, Lynott/Moore musical collaborations always had a magic about them each man was hard-pressed to capture individually. This was something both men admitted freely. Thin Lizzy's Black Rose album was their collaborative peak, but other creative high points for both artists included the songs Still In Love With You, Parisian Walkways, Out In the Fields, and Military Man.

Remakes. Gary was always great at taking some classic old rock song, and breathing new fire and intensity into it. He recorded great versions of the Animals Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, Free's Wishing Well, a zany version of the Easybeats Friday on My Mind. His best remake is the staggering version of the Yardbirds/Beck Shapes of Things. Also worth finding is a positively ripping remake of Thin Lizzy's Emerald that has made its way to certain compilations.

Versatility. Moore was at home in any style of music. He honed his rock style through his years with Thin Lizzy. He developed amazing speed playing chops-intensive fusion with Colosseum II. He's done instrumental music. As a solo artist, he wrote pop songs to complement the heavy rockers. He became a decent singer. He's done blues.

Weaknesses

A tale of two Garys.

Before 1991

Songwriting. In his rock metal days, Gary was never the best songwriter around. Now he did get it right a lot of the time, but he wasn't too consistent. There always seemed to be one or two suspect songs per album, and it usually weakened the album as a whole. While he came up with some rock metal classics, Gary also had a penchant for fast, frantic, songs like Rockin' Every Night, Rockin' And Rollin', Really Gonna Rock Tonight, Teenage Idol. The guitar parts on these songs were always hot, but the lyrics were as painfully clichéd as the song titles suggest. Victims of the Future contains his most incendiary lead work and Wild Frontier contains arguably his best collection of rock songs. But I don't think Gary ever made that one perfect, cohesive, studio album where all of the playing and songwriting elements were in balance with each other.

Singing. Gary never wanted to be a lead singer. He tried several times to find a singer with a better range than his own, but the guys he hired never lasted for any length of time. Eventually Gary came to terms with the fact that he was going to have to front his own band. But like many guitarists, Gary had written a lot of his songs in the keys of E and A. Singing in those keys meant Gary often a had to push his voice beyond where it naturally wanted to go, and the results weren't always great. Around the time of Run For Cover, and quite noticeably on Wild Frontier, Gary started purposely writing songs that were within his own vocal range. Once he made this adjustment, he was able to stay out of vocal trouble. His voice in its natural range actually has nice quality to it.

After 1991

The Blues. Granted, a lot of people love Gary Moore's blues playing. But for those of us who loved Gary as a Dinosaur rock/metal guitar God, Gary's decision to pursue the blues was a complete disaster.

Gary — the rocker Gary — played some great, fiery, rock blues on Still Got the Blues. During those sessions, Gary got to know and learn about the blues from Albert King. So Gary decided he was going to dedicate himself to becoming a serious blues guitarist — 'cause God knows, the world don't have enough of those. And Gary decided he was gonna be a minimalist/purist blues player at that. Albert King told him to turn down. Albert King told him to play less notes. Albert King took Gary to the vet and had him neutered.

Since this decision, each subsequent Gary Moore release has had tamer and tamer guitar work on it. Gary can still deliver a fiery performance live, but he's now forgotten more about playing hot, intense, lead guitar than most of us will ever know. Returning to the baseball analogy, listening to Gary these days is like watching Mark McGuire bunt.

Losing himself. Gary is a victim of his own versatility. Having done rock, progressive, metal, and blues, Gary seemed to run out of ideas of where to take his music. He started doing projects that took him even further away from his own guitar style. After Hours and Blues for Greeny explored the Bluesbreaker thing ad-nauseam. Hooking up with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker for an album (BBM) is a dream gig for any player who grew up on Cream. It could have been outstanding had they explored any new territory. But the guys botched it (or simply just sold-out) by making the project a second-rate Cream rip-off. At that point, I would have bet money Gary was gonna hook up with Baker and Steve Winwood next, and call it "Blind Stupidity." OK — we get it already! Gary can do Eric. Gary can do Peter Green. But where the hell is Gary Moore?

And just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, Gary did return to original music (notice I didn't say rock) with Dark Days in Paradise and A Different Beat. Both of which, might have been interesting had Gary played some hot guitar on them. But he didn't, and without any, these albums are dull as hell. More bizarre — instead of actually promoting these albums when he played live, Gary milked the piss out of the same setlist of blues songs for the better part of ten years. His record company finally lost faith and dropped him. In a particularly lucid moment in a recent interview, Gary actually acknowledged that he had succeeded in alienating both of his rock and blues fanbases. Duh! Seemed like the perfect time to rediscover his other hero, Jeff Beck, and have a go at making instrumental guitar music — something he could actually excel at. Instead Gary chose to return to the blues, and began recycling the same old progressions, riffs and licks again. But it's a dead horse, and Gary is whipping the shit out of it.

Oh sure, Gary's name is still revered among the revivalist blues players and latecomers who "discovered" Gary in 1990 (ironically, he's never been big with true blues purists). But for us rock fans and guitar players who were with him from the beginning — the people who know that Gary is capable of so much more than blues — we're simply not buying it. The emperor has no clothes. The biggest, baddest Dinosaur Rock Guitarist is extinct.

Tone

Before 1991

Gary has been associated with several guitars over the years: Peter Green's 1959 Les Paul with its backward phased neck pickup — a mainstay used with Thin Lizzy, Colosseum II, the 80s rock era and in the 90s blues era. A 1960 Strat (shown at top of page) that had belonged to Tommy Steele's guitarist. Used during the classic Corridors of Power - Victims of the Future era. A 1955 Les Paul Jr — used in Thin Lizzy and later on Victims of the Future. A furry, leopard skinned Charvel strat used briefly during the G-Force era. He occasionally used Hamers (Run for Cover era), and by the time of Wild Frontier, he was experimenting with Paul Reed Smiths. As the 80s progressed, Gary used his vintage guitars less in the live setting. He usually played some reissue stock Fender Strats, various Charvel Super Strats with humbuckers and Floyd Rose trems. He briefly endorsed Ibanez Roadstar guitars but never really played them. In 1999 Gibson, honored Gary by marketing a rather odd looking and mediocre sounding Gary Moore Signature Les Paul. There's plenty of pictures of Gary posing with one. Be shocked if you actually see Gary playing one live. There's a good set of pictures of Gary's guitars and amps through the years at the this Japanese website: http://www.gary-moore.net/

Whether he was using a stock Strat or a stock Les Paul — he was equally at home on both — Moore had tone you'd kill for. The classic Gary Moore rock/metal tone on Corridors of Power and Victims of the Future is that of a stock Strat or Les Paul through an early 70s Marshall 100 watt, containing EL-34s. Gary said that he liked the guitar sound "just on the verge of being out of control." That's a very good description of it. His guitar sound form the rock/metal era literally SCREAMS. Another distinctive characteristic of that classic Gary tone is that you can hear the pick attack on the strings. His Strat tone was unbelievably thick and brown — far more so than Beck's or Blackmore's. Heavy strings helped. His Les Paul tone sustains for days. At one point in the early 90s, he was getting a the best Les Paul tone I've ever heard using a Soldano SLO 100 kicked with an Ibanez Tube Screamer.

Though he used Roland Delays and RE-555 Chorus Echo units over the years on his live stereo rig, Gary's tone (live or studio) never sounded over-produced. It was primarily a pure guitar wood + Marshall tone — not overly gainy or buzzy but smooth, and thick. The one exception was a failed experimental direct-into-the-board tone he used on G-Force. Gary typically used an overdrive pedal for solos: Boss DS-1 in the early 80s, Ibanez TS-9s in the late 80s, TS-10s and Marshall Bluesbreakers and Guv'nors in the 90s — never seemed to matter which. Oddly perhaps, Gary was never much of a wah guy.

Guitar Style

Gary wasn't a schooled player — certainly not a theory guy. However, his time with Colosseum II actually forced him to learn more than he typically shows in his rock playing. His rhythm style is very standard rock fare — primarily root 6 and 5 chords and power chords. He'd use a few Blackmoreish forth diads for balls on things like Cold Hearted and Devil in her Heart.

Gary had an extreme, aggressive lead style. Because he learned to play on excessively heavy strings (we're talking wound Gs here) Gary has very strong hands and fingers, and a heavy touch. When he finally discovered what were for him, "light" strings — 10 or 11-52 — he found he could bend notes further than most players. So like his influence Jeff Beck, Gary's lead style often features huge, four fret bends and prebends, and exquisite finger vibrato at the top of these bends. Gary's intonation is dead-on. He embraced most of the 80s metal flash and whammy techniques, but he always avoided tapping. Most important to Gary's style, I feel, was the pure BALLS and kick-ass attitude that came through in his phrasing. He would go rude with heavy handed bends and pinched harmonics, or he could go subtle with delicate playing volume swells and soaring melodies.

In the rock era, he was primarily a Minor Pentatonic player, but you'll also hear plenty of Aeolian, and Dorian. You get a bit of Mixolydian — probably the Beck influence, and occasionally some Major Pentatonic. In general, Gary prefers minor sounding scales.

As stated before, Gary was an absolute master of the compositional solo. His solos aren't just stories within the song, they're more like Penthouse letters. They are sexual. They build slowly, become more frantic as the progress, and end in a climax. Everything about Gary's playing was always aimed squarely at your crotch.

There's a good deal of legato present in Gary's picking style. You hear it especially in the stock blues licks, but also in the abundant hammer-ons and pull-offs, and trills. On the less bluesy playing, and when it's time to pour on the speed, Gary's a pure alternate picker. There some tremolo picking, and on rare occasions, you'll hear a quick muted sweep picking, but just as a phrasing subtlety.

Gary Moore stylistic trademarks include:

  • palm-muted flurries on the low strings
  • blistering muted climbs up to a crescendo note
  • call-and-response patterns
  • four fret bends and prebends
  • rapid-fire open-string pull-offs
  • fast, repetitive, major-7th arpeggios moved chromatically that can sound like tapping — but are not
  • assorted whammy bar flash effects

Vibrato: Gary had a fairly quick and medium width finger vibrato. He was more extreme with the whammy bar. He was a big whammy user and abuser in the 80s. He primarily used the bar for flash pyrotechnics ala Jimi Hendrix, and Ritchie Blackmore, but there was also the characteristically Gary technique of bouncing the bar rhythmically. A good example of this is on the song You're Gonna Break My Heart Again, where the technique is actually part of the composition. More commonly, Gary employed the technique as a guitar fill. Gary never made the trem a truly integrated part of his phrasing the way players like Jeff Beck, Joe Satriani, and Brad Gillis did, but he did on occasion use the more advanced reverse dips and slurs.

Gary Moore in Action

Recommended Listening

Thin Lizzy

G - Force

Gary Moore

Profile by Dinosaur David B. Copyright ©2002 All rights reserved.