The Text The Station subject for Saturday's 6 Music show was Lies You Have Told To Improve Your Social Standing. I told a story of how when I was 17 I was threatened with a beating from a very drunk man and, as I was cornered and had to think fast, I told him that I was Scottish and was a close personal friend of Simple Minds. Somehow this stopped me from getting beaten up. I could have just as easily told the story of when I was 18 and lied to improve my social standing at a bus stop. I was in Alameda, an island town just outside San Francisco, and when a man pointed to my Gary Moore t-shirt and asked "Is that you?" I said "Yes". The man was impressed that I was famous enough to have my own face on a t-shirt despite my own face looking nothing like the face I was wearing. It was a lie but, at least for a little while, I was the coolest person at a bus stop.
Fact is, he wasn't the only one to be impressed with my Gary Moore t-shirt in Alameda. I remember going in to a record shop and some long haired Poison t-shirted "dude" got very excited by it. I met Metallica on that trip. I knew James Hetfield liked my t-shirt because he said so and I knew Lars Ulrich coveted my t-shirt because he refused to speak to me. Gary Moore t-shirts are pretty rare in America.
I hadn't thought much about Gary Moore since 1989 until last week when I found a Thin Lizzy Tribute concert archived on BT Vision. It was completely fantastic. The songs were great but that wasn't what was particularly appealing, it was Gary Moore's utter beaming enjoyment of playing the songs. He looked like the happiest man on Earth. That was never my memory of Gary.
Although his albums were the kind of over-the-top, fat riffed, rock splendours that I loved at the time, I got the feeling that Gary wasn't that keen on it himself. He was one of the very, very best rock guitarists of his generation but with that came interviews, press shots, album cover photos and videos. He looked like a sad little boy who's parents made him wear a dress to school every day. It just wasn't him. And when he had a minor hit, his record company wanted a proper hit. When he got a proper hit, the record company wanted more proper hits. It was this stuff that I loved. I'm not saying that Gary hated it but the very fact that he turned his back on radio friendly rock at his peak and returned to his beloved blues says a lot. He got thousands of people to love him and then revealed what he truly wanted to do, something I assume Michael McIntyre has been planning all along also. All those times I saw him in concert, all those times I saw him in videos, he never smiled once. I decided to let Gary go off on his own went he turned to the blues. It felt good that he'd outgrown me and I was happy for him to try something he loved without the safety net of me buying his records and wearing his t-shirts. I was happy for him. I couldn't join him on his blues journey because the blues is not for me. But I do regret not peeking in just once to see how he was doing, just like Victoria Wood at the end of Eric & Ernie. I'm sure during those blues gigs he would have been grinning just like he was at the Thin Lizzy Tribute. Happy because he's a man doing something that he loves and he's doing it well. Imagine that. Smiling like I had never seen him smile.
I say that. I saw Gary Moore smile once. It was at Welcome To The Garden Party, a rock festival in Milton Keynes on the 28th June 1986, the same day as Wham!: The Final. I remember that because on the coach journey to the gig our coach egged the Wham! fans coach. I wasn't vegan then. It was so exciting that Gary Moore was on the bill and I remember screaming the news at my Mum. "MUM! GARY MOORE'S GOING TO BE AT WELCOME TO THE GARDEN PARTY!!!" My Mum did her best. "Are you going with him?", she said. The Line-up was Jethro Tull, Mama's Boys (also from Northern Ireland), Gary Moore, Magnum and headliners Marillion and it was very much Marillion's audience Gary was in front of. The beginning of Victims Of The Future is all acoustic guitar for a minute and then heartfelt singing to follow. At the end of the acoustic guitar part Gary didn't sing. He just cupped his ear to the crowd and let them sing back to him. Sadly, no-one knew the song and Gary was greeted to utter silence that made him burst out laughing, go red and say "Oh. I thought some of you might know this one". He did a rock pose and it backfired. Of course it did. All that posing was for popstars, not Gary.
Yesterday, when I found out Gary Moore had died I actually stopped in my tracks. Not Gary. At least it was my childhood friend and co-Gary fan, Dotes, that told me via Twitter but, of course, that made it all the more track-stoppable. I felt like someone had sat on my chest (better than what happened at 6 Music the day before, I suppose). That's a part of my youth gone. I know Gary Moore isn't as glamorous as Bowie or as clever as Morrissey or as iconic as Kurt Cobain but he was a talented boy from Northern Ireland doing well and therefore a better thing to attach yourself to than most other things covered by the media about my home. There was definitely something gripping about turning on Top Of The Pops and seeing a white Ulsterman singing an anti-war song with a black Dubliner. Put it this way, when I found out that Gary Moore was dead I bought Out In The Fields: The Very Best of Gary Moore. When I found out Kurt Cobain died I remember going to the shop and buying Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes. That proves Gary is best.
If you are going to buy a Gary album let me recommend Corridors of Power or Victims Of The Future. My favourite though is Rockin' Every Night: Live In Japan because it sounds massive and it came with aJjapanese lyric sheet. Cool.
Well, that got a bit serious, didn't it? Here's my favourite Gary song, Military Man featuring Phil Lynott on vocals: