Gary Moore (1952 – 2011) Death Is Just A Heartbeat Away
I was my late teens when my good mate Rob first introduced me to Gary Moore. Or rather Gary introduced himself, together with his good mate Phil Lynott, through the power of their collaboration on a piece of music they created in 1985, a short while before Lynott himself passed away in early 1986.
It was called Out in the Fields and when I first got to hear it in 1985 it was as a result of Rob playing Moore’s latest album ‘Run For Cover’ for me.
The guitar riff that opens the song caught me off guard when it first rang loud out of the large mobile disco speakers that Rob and I had. (We used the mobile disco to make some spare change so that we could buy more records.)
And then came the songs’ opening verses and chorus:
It doesn’t matter if you’re wrong or if you’re right.
It makes no difference if you’re black or if you’re white.
All men are equal till the victory is won.
No colour or religion ever stopped the bullet from a gun.
Out in the fields, the fighting has begun.
Out on the streets, they’re falling one by one.
Out from the skies, a thousand more will die each day.
Death is just a heartbeat away.
Here was a song by two close friends, both Irishmen, one white and one of mixed race. A song about the stupidity of the war in Ireland, and of how fragile life in those troubled times was. And there we were, two other close friends, listening to the song half a world away in a time in South Africa where we had the sceptre of National Service hanging over our heads, where blacks and whites seemed to be further apart than ever, where troubles on distant borders and in nearby townships were taking lives each day.
It was, for me at least, a personally defining piece of music. I still get those first few lines stuck in my head on occasion, ear-worm style.
And then we listened to Parisienne Walkways.
Originally just over 3 minutes long when it was first released in 1979, it was another Moore/Lynott master class in guitarmanship. Their musical partnership stretched back to the early 1970’s when they played together in Skid Row. They met again professionally when Moore had his on-again off-again years with Thin Lizzy. And then they collaborated frequently when Moore focused on his solo career.
From those original 3 minutes, Walkways grew in stature and legend, and became Gary Moore’s signature piece whenever he played live. On many occasions, he rode the song for over 10 minutes at a time, torturing his guitar strings throughout.
It became his Purple Haze, his Cocaine. And it is inevitably the piece of music with which he will now most often be remembered.
The body of Robert William Gary Moore was found in his hotel room in Estepona on Spains’ Costa del Sol where he had been on holiday. He was 58 years old. Whilst no official cause of death has been announced, tabloid newspapers in the UK were quick to suggest that the rock legend had “choked on his vomit after knocking back champagne and brandy.”
Whatever the cause of his death, Moore will be missed by musicians and fans alike. He was perhaps one of the worlds’ most underrated guitarists ever. But his work, especially as a live musician will ultimately elevate that status to the ranks of Hendrix, Clapton and King.
Rest in Peace Gary.