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Gary Moore - The Official Biography


For a guy who is one of my favorite guitarists and biggest influences on guitar, I felt I knew a lot about Gary Moore (before reading this book). I was wrong! This book showed me that while I knew plenty about Gary's music and guitar work, I knew scant little about his personal life. I always read or watched every Gary Moore interview I came across where he's talking about his music. From these, you can glean bits of his personality, but they hardly paint a full picture.

Biographies on Thin Lizzy, Phil Lynott, and players Gary worked with, such as Ozzy and Glenn Hughes, all filled in more of the blanks. They all paint a picture of a supremely-talented, all-or-nothing musician. And when these musical relationships reached critical mass, they usually ended badly. But those are only slices of Gary's life, told in the context of stories that weren't about Gary. 

Who was Gary Moore, really? Harry Shapiro (who also wrote an excellent biography of Jack Bruce) goes deep. He leaves no stone unturned to finally tell Gary's story, and he does so extremely thoroughly. The list of people Shapiro interviewed is two pages long! It includes all the (living) usual subjects -- musicians Gary worked with going back even further than Skid Row to Gary's earliest playing days. But it is the interviews from wives, friends, and family members; Gary's guitar tech, his manager, his personal assistant, that finally paint the clearest picture of who Gary was beyond his guitar. That is the story that remained untold -- until now.

As Shapiro states in the preface:

Here was a guitarist of quite exceptional talent, driven to great artistic heights both by his natural abilities, and by his insecurities, fathoms-deep canyons of doubt that could cripple him, who could be extremely difficult and arrogant, often letting his mouth rule his head with untethered comments that, over the years, won him few friends in the industry. Yet he was an absolute perfectionist and a serious self-critic who set the bar incredibly high for himself, and expected the same from those around him. 

Once he was offstage and out of the studio, and when, crucially the guitar came off -- a guitar that was for Gary as much as a shield as it was an axe -- a different person was revealed. Here was an extremely shy, sensitive, warm, funny and generous individual who never took his abilities for granted and was forever learning, searching and looking around the next corner. 

This is that story. This book begins at Gary's childhood in Belfast where Gary was in constant conflict with an alcoholic father, and continues the story through Gary's death. What else? Unfortunately, this book (rightfully, IMO) portrays Gary an emotionally stunted, immature man in both his personal and professional life.

On the professional side, Gary was extremely demanding and exacting of his bandmates. Many musicians found Gary far too difficult to work with. Most professional players don't like being told exactly what, or what not to play. Some put up with it due to Gary's immense talent. Others bristled. As Cozy Powell once commented when he left Gary's band, "You don't hire me, then tell me what to play. I'm Cozy fucking Powell." 

As his solo career developed, Gary was often his own worst enemy. He eventually found success despite many poor business decisions.  One extreme example came after the Still Got the Blues album became an international hit (Gold in the US, and Platinum in much of the rest of the world), Gary turned down a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to open for the Rolling Stones on world tour. An opportunity that likely would have made him a household name in the US. Gary didn't care. By that time, he'd made good money, and was tired of everything that came with big rock tours. Later, when Gary was deep in debt and truly needed money, he was forced to sell the Greeny Les Paul, and play shows for Putin, Russian oligarchs, and other shady characters. 

Gary's personal life was characterized with not just the difficult relationships with other players, but the disheartening stories I'd read over the years about Gary frequently being an asshole​​​​​​ -- often to his fans, for example, just for approaching him for an autograph. This book sheds light on the multitude of reasons why that was. The preface of this books contains a quote from Gary's ex-wife, Jo stating: "You will come across people who will say Gary was the biggest arsehole in the world, but when you were hugged by Gary, you stayed hugged." And of course, many of the musicians who worked with Gary saw both sides of him. 

Sadly, it was the women in Gary's life who paid the highest price for Gary's emotional problems and immaturity. Gary had a grandiose, romantic, but very adolescent-like view of women. He was an intensely jealous man which led to incidents like the scars on his face. Worse, when his women didn't live up to his expectations, Gary was quick to cut-and-run, or cheat. He left one of his first girlfriends for her younger sister. He later cheated on a wife with the nanny. If his life had run true to form, only Gary's death spared his last girlfriend (for whom he'd left his last wife) of a similar fate. So, not a good or easy guy to be with where the ladies were concerned.

His ex-wife, Kerry says he was always a good father to his children. Or at least to her children. Gary's first child, a daughter product of a one-night-stand while Gary was still in his teens, might disagree, calling her relationship with her father for most of her life, "complicated and messy."

The further you get into this book, the more you see that Gary Moore seemed truly incapable of happiness. All Gary really wanted to do -- the only thing he seemed capable of doing competently -- was playing guitar.  

Ultimately, Gary Moore lived his life on his own, binary terms. He would have had it no other way. The story is difficult and sad, but the book is a triumph. An absolute must-read for Gary fans. 

Minor quibble on the book's editing. There are a couple of places where the timeline seem unintentionally out of sequence (at least in the Kindle version). For example, during the chapter on Gary's time with Greg Lake's band, the last bit of the chapter has a few paragraphs that belong with the G-Force chapter. There are similar issues where bits of the Colleseum II content clash with the Lizzy timeline. It's minor, and it doesn't detract from the book, but it happened more than once, so I mention it. Blame the editor. Not the author.

From the Dino perspective, the author doesn't exactly slag Gary's heavy rock, Victims of the Future-era guitar work -- he gives it it's due, but it's clearly not the author's favorite period of Gary's.  He seems far more enthralled with the Dark Days in Paradise period. 🤮 No accounting for taste.

That said, the last part of the book, after the story's been told, contains a very welcome amalgamation of Gary's gear talk, gleaned from every guitar magazine interview Shapiro could lay his hands on.