Poll to Poll, Gary Moore was simply the best – it’s time for a statue in Belfast

July 31, 2017

FLICKING through my Facebook feed while waiting in line for the next roller-coaster ride in the sapping Orlando heat, I noticed yet another click-bait poll but one which, for once, grabbed my interest.

Who is Northern Ireland’s greatest ever guitarist, the poll, conducted by Bushmills Whiskey, asked. It was not a poll in my mind that would have required debate, however. Before clicking though, I was already voting Gary Moore, the east Belfast-born six-string genius sadly no longer with us.


Gary Moore

Whiskey brands and Rock ‘n’ Roll have gone hand-in-hand for many years, so while the Bushmills poll seamlessly promoted a guitar worshipping event in Moore’s native Belfast there was perhaps a contradiction in overlooking the tragic alcohol-related passing of the former Thin Lizzy star.

The Bushmills Whiskey poll included, naturally, the likes of Def Leppard’s Vivian Campbell, formerly of Whitesnake and Dio, Thin Lizzy legend Eric Bell, Nathan Connolly of Snow Patrol, Paul Mahon of The Answer and the widely respected guitarist and tutor Paul McMordie. Van Morrison was also on the list – for what reason, I have no idea. I think of him as a singer, songwriter and a musician, yes. But a great guitar player … no.

Surprisingly, Blues master Rab McCullough was not included in the poll. That certainly made me wonder who put this list together and who was consulted…? It reminded me somewhat of a recent American Express list of the 57 Most Influential Album Covers. American Express. It’s as American as Uncle Sam and Mickey Mouse, yet on this glorious list of ‘influential’ album covers there’s no mention of American greats such as Appetite for Destruction (Guns n Roses), 1984 (Van Halen) or Destroyer (KISS) let alone other influential album covers from across the pond, Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd), or Abbey Road (The Beatles). That’s the thing about Polls you see, they create debate or downright anger – and either way, the brands that put them out get what the seek – engagement.

Unforgivably, Fermanagh-born Pat McManus of Mama’s Boys was not included in this poll. Think about that for a second. Pat McManus. The Professor. Mama’s Boys. Really?

Irritated now.

Anyway, back to Gary Moore. He topped this particular poll with 67% of the vote, with Vivian Campbell a distant second with 10% of the vote. Paul McMordie and Paul Mahon attained 3% apiece, behind Van Morrison on 6%. I would argue that McMordie and Mahon are better than Morrison – but then that’s just my opinion, ahem.

With the sweat gained from the Floridian sunshine soaking the back of my KISS t-shirt and the line for the roller-coaster progressing at snail’s pace, my thoughts travelled back to the Kings Hall in Belfast. It was March 1989. I was 17 years old and I was going to the venue to see Gary Moore perform live for the first time.


My Gary Moore concert ticket

All around me were much older rockers – many who were fortunate enough to have seen the Dundonald man on many occasions both as a solo artist and while he wielded his axe with arguably Ireland’s greatest ever rock band, Thin Lizzy. (Whoops, is that another poll coming?).

It was a concert recorded also for screening later on BBC Northern Ireland. I remember thinking, ‘wow, BBC is putting a Gary Moore show on TV’ – and I recall watching it in the kitchen of my parent’s home on a 7” screen because my dad and my great uncle Jimmy, a former Al Jolson impersonator, had taken over the living room as per usual.

My dad disliked my music – though I do recall him giving a reluctant acknowledgement to Parisienne Walkways on one occasion.

If one good thing that came from this Bushmills Whiskey poll, it was that people started talking online about a permanent tribute to Gary Moore in Belfast – a statue, no less. Belfast is to get a statue of the legendary Rory Gallagher – a man who Moore himself might have voted for as Ireland’s greatest guitar player.

While I would be first in line to polish a Rory Gallagher statue – which will go up soon at the famous Ulster Hall venue in the city in recognition of his famous shows there during the prolonged period of civil unrest in Northern Ireland – Rory was not born in Belfast or the north. He was in fact born in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal and raised in Co Cork.

We now have statues of great Belfast boxers in the city – and the city council has become a little more forward thinking in this regard. So let’s start the conversation. Let the city boast about its famous guitar-playing son, Gary Moore.

Let’s make it happen.

Perhaps we should have a poll…?

Should Gary Moore receive a statue in Belfast?

You vote:

1. Yes

2. Yes

3. Yes


Full list of results from the Bushmills Whiskey poll:

• Gary Moore - 67%

• Vivian Campbell - 10%

• Eric Bell - 7%

• Van Morrison - 6%

• Nathan Connolly - 4%

• Paul Mahon - 3%

• Paul McMordie - 3%



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LOVE GUN, 40 YEARS ON … it was alright with Aunt Mary

ON this day, June 30, 40 years ago, I was approaching my sixth birthday.

Every day was fun, and sunny (okay, it never really was sunny in Northern Ireland, ever) and my surroundings were protected by parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. I was attending primary school, in love with my first teacher, and was on a path of discovery as I looked forward to my sixth summer on this planet.

On the same day, in a place very far from Belfast back then, four young New York shock rockers were unleashing their sixth studio album entitled LOVE GUN. According to a Gallop Poll conducted in 1977, KISS were the most popular rock act in the United States, ahead of The Eagles, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, to name a few. They were at the top of their game after a stuttering start to their career.

LOVE GUN, released June 30, 1977, features the hit title song and the awkward Christine Sixteen

It was pure coincidence that today of all days, the first KISS t-shirt I reached for in the drawer donned the classic artwork from the Love Gun album – and every time I see that shirt or listen to the LP, it reminds me of a occasion when I my unwitting aunt Mary would stand ground with me against the wishes of my late mother (my mother and I laughed about this years later).

Aged six, it would be another five years before I heard KISS for the first time – I was 11 years of age and it was 1982. That was an amazing summer made memorable by the fact that Northern Ireland had qualified for the World Cup in Spain – my first ‘tuned in’ World Cup following on from the vague memories of watching the 1978 final with my dad, somewhat baffled by his enthusiasm for it.

Aunt Mary was, and still is, a special kind of aunt. One of those ‘one in a million’ aunties who goes beyond their so-called status in the family circle. Bizarre story … she almost died aged nine months when she fell gravely ill with what was then described as ‘inward convulsions’.

Back in Belfast, 1949, the names of sick children were placed in the Belfast Telegraph, and the police would keep the family informed. The police did call to my grandmother’s door .. to tell her young Mary had died. They later discovered they had called to the wrong house.

Mary never had children of her own. If anyone deserved to have 1,000 of them, it was her – and she would have no doubt catered and cared for each and every one.

She was, to me, a hip aunt. She was ‘in tune’ with the kids. Youthful. Attractive. Always smiling. Always perfectly presented.

Most Fridays she would come to our busy home and tell my mother she would take a few of her children off her hands for the weekend. One Friday (it must have been around 1984) I asked my aunt Mary if I could bring a record to her house. We didn’t have a turntable at the time and I had acquired a new copy of Love Gun and had only heard it from the speakers of my next door neighbour’s (Kevin) stack hi-fi system.

“Mary,” my mum said with sincere concern and a sigh, “look what he has under his arm, look what he’s bringing to your house..”

Mary took a look at the Love Gun album. She would have been around 35 years of age then.

“What’s wrong with it Anne,” she asked.

“Mary, just look at it. It has women half-dressed and in leather and its very crude looking. He’s too young for that, he shouldn’t have that.”

“Ack, Anne, let him be. Sure it’s only music and art and sure he’s not daft. He’ll either grow up with it or outgrow it. Sure it’s no harm.”

Mum was usually a pushover – you just had to know how far you could push…

I went with Love Gun to aunt Mary’s plush bungalow and I listened, and listened again, to the album. It sounds simple, but it was one of the most magical Friday evenings of my youth.

I recently recalled this memory with my aunt Mary – and was pleased to learn she had remembered it too.

“Sure you turned out alright in the end – and you still love those head-cases…”

I never outgrew Love Gun, nor my love of KISS. I have, however, outgrown the awkward Christine Sixteen – a song that appears on the album – about an older man falling for a younger (much too young) school girl. I didn’t realise that back then. It’s a song I wish KISS would confine to a darkened corner – and I wish quick-buck-making record companies would cease using it on thrown-together compilations.

Christine Sixteen aside, Love Gun does show in great light the talent throughout the band, with guitar hero Ace Frehley’s booming Shock Me, Peter Criss’ jazzy Hooligan, Paul Stanley’s I Stole Your Love and Gene Simmons’ Plaster Caster, a song written about a groupie who made casts of famous musicians’ private parts, of course.

Love Gun is a certified Platinum sales album.

I still have my original copy, in addition to several remastered versions of it.

And 40 years on, it still ROCKS!

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