It’s interesting that I only found out about Gary’s death this summer. He died back in February when the news was all Arab Spring and Egyptian revolution. I was in Russia during that month where Gary’s demise wouldn’t have made even the most western-friendly english-language Lizzy fanzine.

I saw him at Portsmouth Guildhall in 1990 when he was flushed with the success of his reincarnation as master bluesman. Of course he made his name as a Thin Lizzy axeman but he was always Mr Johnny-come-lately in that band. His solo albums before and afterwards completely passed me by. In fact I only listened to ‘Out in the Fields’ when I read an interview with Gary where he complained that this track was all the fans ever wanted to hear — that and pretty much the entire Lizzy back catalogue.

Nevertheless, it must have taken a lot of guts to throw out the whole rock God persona and release ‘Still got the Blues’ in 1990. Let’s face it, the blues as a chart topping musical recipe is not a sure-fire success particularly if you’re going back to the roots as Gary did. Of course, he beefed it up considerably, nobody got more out of those lovely old Les Pauls that he did — and I say that as a major Slash fan. Gary liked it loud but he could perform well when he turned it down to 4 or 5 too — check out ‘Separate Ways’ on the ‘After Hours’ album, very nice with zero face-melting fretwork.

At that Pompey gig I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone more happy to be on stage: the title track was charting and the venue was full.  It was clear his plan  had worked when I saw Bob Geldof on a BBC show called Jukebox Jury claim emphatically that ‘Walking by Myself’ “sounded like real music” to great applause. Wow! The blues was going mainstream and with my Les Paul copy I sought out as much tab as I could for his blues work and learned more than a few nifty licks that way. So a big thank you Mr Belfast bluesman; I am still that boy on the cover of SGTB sitting on his bed struggling to finger the chord correctly.


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