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.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?
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.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?
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%