Gary Moore

When Gary Moore joined Jack Bruce and Gin­ger Baker in the ‘er­satz Cream’ BBM, it was a dream come true for the gui­tarist – but one that was over al­most as soon as it be­gan.

Classic Rock - - Contents - Words: Harry Shapiro

When he teamed up with Jack Bruce and Gin­ger Baker in the ‘er­satz Cream’ BBM, it was a dream come true for the gui­tarist – but one that was over al­most as soon as it be­gan.

Gary Moore was off the road and hardly in the stu­dio dur­ing 1993, un­til he took a call from for­mer Cream bas­sist/ vo­cal­ist Jack Bruce, who had just lost his gui­tarist Blues Sara­ceno to the glam-metal band Poi­son. Jack had a cou­ple of gigs com­ing up in Au­gust in Esslin­gen, Ger­many, where his wife Margrit was born. Steve Top­ping was down to play the first night, but couldn’t do the sec­ond, so Jack asked Gary if he fan­cied step­ping in.

Gary Hus­band was Jack’s drum­mer at the time: “I was im­me­di­ately pretty im­pressed by Gary’s ‘light­ning strike’ im­pact as a gui­tarist. He meant ev­ery note, and that means a lot to me. For the ma­jor­ity of the time we were play­ing Cream ma­te­rial, which wasn’t my favourite en­deav­our with Jack be­cause I al­ways hated try­ing to fill some­one else’s shoes in a very par­tic­u­lar and per­son­ally formed way of play­ing. Gary, on the other hand, came in and ‘owned’ those songs, seem­ingly from mo­ment one, al­most as if he had been the gui­tarist in the orig­i­nal group. It was al­ways very im­pres­sive how he did that.”

Gary Moore told me in 2009: “That gig in Esslin­gen went so well, I asked Jack if he fan­cied do­ing some writ­ing to­gether, be­cause I was plan­ning the next Gary Moore al­bum.”

Gary had tried to set up a stu­dio in his house in Shiplake in Ox­ford­shire. He ex­per­i­mented with the chang­ing room of the out­door pool but it didn’t work, so he rented a house nearby that would serve as an of­fice and an eight-track stu­dio. Gary said: “Jack would come over and would work with me dur­ing the day. I’d writ­ten some songs, but it was kinda weird be­cause the songs were mov­ing more his way and I was start­ing to think of Jack singing them.”

At the be­gin­ning of Novem­ber 1993, Jack cel­e­brated his 50th birthday with an all-star con­cert over two nights at the E-Werk in Cologne, fea­tur­ing many of the mu­si­cians he had played with over the years, in­clud­ing Gin­ger Baker, Si­mon Phillips, Clem Clemp­son, Dick Heck­stall-Smith, Pete Brown and Gary Hus­band, and Gary Moore was in­vited to take part.

On the day the mu­si­cians gath­ered to be taken by coach to the venue, Gary dis­ap­peared into a limo – to much mut­ter­ings about “bloody big­headed rock stars”. The limo was fol­low­ing the coach, but when the coach pulled up out­side the E-Werk the car van­ished, and Gary with it. He ar­rived about an hour later. It turned out he was ner­vous about this very im­por­tant gig and had in­structed the driver to park up away from the venue while he sat in the back with his gui­tar and prac­tised.

With Clemp­son play­ing lead gui­tar on the first night, Gary stepped up for the sec­ond. He be­gan with Jack and Si­mon Phillips, play­ing Jack’s fran­tic Life On Earth, a revved-up ver­sion of the riff of Cream’s Tales Of Brave Ulysses played at break­neck speed. For the past three years, Gary had been re­train­ing him­self in the art of blues re­straint. Now he was off the leash – Gary Moore, rock gui­tarist, red in tooth and claw, hark­ing back to the fre­netic fu­sion work­outs of when he was in jazz-rock band Colos­seum II. Jack was lov­ing it – they faced each other, ex­chang­ing riffs and smiles, driv­ing each other on. Si­mon fin­ished off with a drum solo, while Jack and Gary stood to the side, arms around each other.

Si­mon be­gan the beats to NSU and then left the stage as Gin­ger picked up the re­frain. Gary must have thought all his Christ­mases had come at once. When he played Cream’s NSU nearly 30 years ago, in front of hordes of amazed Belfast teenagers, could he pos­si­bly have imag­ined that one day he would be play­ing the Eric Clap­ton role in front of a packed Ger­man au­di­ence – where Gary had a large and en­thu­si­as­tic fan base – along­side two-thirds of Cream?

They car­ried on with Sit­ting On Top Of The World, Politician, Spoon­ful and White Room. It was a bravura per­for­mance by Gary – truly own­ing the songs, as Gary Hus­band ob­served. The years be­tween Gin­ger and Jack fell away – they were as pow­er­ful as ever, and even Gin­ger could be spot­ted smil­ing at the back.

And from that came the most un­ex­pected twist in the tale of Gary Moore.

Early songs that Gary and Jack worked on in­cluded City Of Gold, Wait­ing In The Wings and Can’t Fool The Blues. The project was geared to­wards Gary’s next al­bum, which, on the strength of the songs he was writ­ing, wasn’t planned to be an­other out­right blues al­bum. Gary Hus­band had been told that the project was in the off­ing and that both Jack and Gary wanted him in­volved. Yet the weeks went by and the drum­mer heard noth­ing, so by the time the call came to go into the stu­dio, this multi-in­stru­men­tal­ist mu­si­cian was com­mit­ted to do­ing an al­bum as Billy Cob­ham’s key­board player.

“Amaz­ingly,” said Gary Moore, “Jack sug­gested we get Gin­ger over. I said: ‘Are you sure about this?’”

Jack and Gin­ger had man­aged to get through a one-off gig with no trau­mas, but the pair’s love/ hate re­la­tion­ship was leg­endary. Could it pos­si­bly work as a band? Jack had no such qualms. “Yeah, yeah, it’ll be great,” he said. “Don’t worry.”

“So I’m scream­ing at the roadie: ‘What the f**k is go­ing on? All I can hear

is the f**kin’ bass!’”

Gary Moore

Now with Gin­ger in­volved, they were look­ing at a very dif­fer­ent beast. Re­al­is­ti­cally, it could no longer just be Gary’s next al­bum, with Jack and Gin­ger as ‘back­ing mu­si­cians’. This was a whole new project, and they needed to se­cure an al­bum deal as a band in their own right.

Steve Bar­nett had moved to the United States to es­tab­lish Hard To Han­dle man­age­ment, as the US end of Part Rock. This worked fine for Gary when he was liv­ing in Con­necti­cut, but it was much more dif­fi­cult when he re­turned to the UK, and so Gary’s day-to-day man­age­ment passed to Steve’s UK part­ner Ste­wart Young. Mean­while, Gary had a new tour man­ager, John Martin, who dur­ing the course of 1993 found him­self thrust rather re­luc­tantly into the role of man­ager, as the ar­range­ment with Young wasn’t work­ing out. None­the­less, Steve was the deal-mak­ing wizard and he flew in to ne­go­ti­ate with Vir­gin Records.

Steve was pre­sent­ing to Vir­gin that much ma­ligned con­cept ‘the su­per­group’, which had a top­i­cal edge. Back in Jan­uary 1993, Cream had been in­ducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. They played to­gether in public for the first time since Cream broke up in 1968, hugs and glad-hand­ing all round, cre­at­ing a ma­jor buzz through the busi­ness that they were go­ing to re-form. How­ever, that was al­ways Clap­ton’s call, be­cause he had the or­gan­i­sa­tion be­hind him to make it hap­pen, and, prob­a­bly with one eye on his own solo ca­reer, he didn’t want to do it.

Now, with the in­dus­try still talk­ing about Cream, Vir­gin were pre­sented with the chance for two-thirds of Cream to com­bine with their star gui­tarist in what the Ger­man show had al­ready demon­strated was a po­ten­tially mon­strous band. The deal was struck for a ‘non-com­mit­ment’ al­bum – that is, not part of Gary’s main deal with the com­pany.

At that point, John Martin had yet to of­fi­cially take over from Young: “I re­mem­ber driv­ing back with Steve to Heathrow,” he re­calls, “and telling him that Gary had asked me to man­age him. Steve’s ex­pres­sion sug­gested it wasn’t go­ing to be a day at the beach. He said to me: ‘Are you re­ally sure you want to do this?’”

No doubt, John’s ini­tial foray into man­age­ment would be some­thing of a bap­tism of fire.

t all started calmly enough. The new band went into the large res­i­den­tial stu­dio at Hook End, Berk­shire. And as a present for Gin­ger, Gary’s team man­aged to track down Gin­ger’s old Lud­wig dou­ble-bass-drum Cream drum kit on sale in a drum shop in North Lon­don. “Gin­ger walked in,” said Gary, “and he was just freaked when he saw it. But he didn’t end up us­ing it be­cause it didn’t sound as good as his mod­ern kit.”

Gary did have con­cerns, though, when Gin­ger first ar­rived at the stu­dio, as pro­ducer Ian Tay­lor ex­plains: “Gin­ger had been paid a lot of money for the ses­sion, flown in from Amer­ica Busi­ness Class and so on, and he turned up with hands full of cuts and cal­luses. Turned out that Gin­ger had been build­ing fences for his horses and his hands looked like a stock­man’s.”

He also had a whop­ping great bump on his head. Ap­par­ently he had been do­ing a spot of roof re­pairs on a windy day. He tried to grab his hat as it blew off, for­get­ting that he was hold­ing a ham­mer at the time.

Af­ter they ran through some Cream songs to warm up, “we started putting down tracks and it was very easy,” Gary said. “There was no prob­lem at all. It was re­ally fun and I got a great in­sight into the chem­istry be­tween Jack and Gin­ger. It wasn’t what I thought at all; they weren’t at each other’s throats. I think Jack re­ally looks up to Gin­ger, and Gin­ger knows it, so he’ll never tell him he’s any good. They’re like two broth­ers, just wind­ing each other up.

“One day I said to Jack: ‘Can you ask Gin­ger to play the hi-hat pat­tern like he did on Born Un­der A Bad Sign?’ ‘No way. I’m not fuckin’ ask­ing him. You ask him.’ So I just pressed the but­ton in the con­trol room and asked him to play that pat­tern and he said: ‘Yeh, sure, man. No prob­lem.’ And Jack looked at me speech­less. They were just like an old mar­ried cou­ple. It’s just the way they were.”

Ian Tay­lor agrees that, for the most part, and given the egos, it was re­mark­ably plain sail­ing.

“We did have one prob­lem over tim­ing with Gin­ger. For some rea­son we were us­ing a click track on Where In The World, and Gin­ger just couldn’t or wouldn’t get on with it. It can be a prob­lem for the older drum­mers. I re­mem­ber

“Gary came in and ‘owned’ those [Cream] songs, seem­ingly from mo­ment one, al­most as if he had been the gui­tarist in the orig­i­nal group.”

Gary Hus­band

do­ing a ses­sion with Gary and try­ing to get Cozy Pow­ell to play to a click track – it was ter­ri­ble. But Gary was a bit fa­nat­i­cal about tim­ing, and even­tu­ally we used Ar­ran Ah­mun on drums. But apart from that it was fine.”

As it was a band project now, they needed a name. Some of the ones they came up with were Driver’s Arm, Rock­ing Horse, Herbal Rem­edy, World­wide Cargo, Mega Bite, In + Out, Piece Of Cake, Thrilled To Bits, Tit Bits, Fan­tas­tic Three, Grand Three and Ex­pand­ing Uni­verse, the lat­ter of which was the front run­ner for a while. Noth­ing stuck, though, and even­tu­ally they set­tled for BBM – al­though not be­fore a band called Bang Bang Machine tried to kick up a fuss.

Once the al­bum was in the can, they started think­ing about the cover. They used David Shine­man as the pho­tog­ra­pher. John Martin says: “We did a ses­sion all day of them in­di­vid­u­ally, Jack play­ing cello and so on. At one point, David asked Gin­ger to stand in front of some an­gel’s wings that had been used for a fash­ion shoot. When we got the con­tacts sheets back from Vir­gin, it was such a strong im­age.”

It was also the most amaz­ing jux­ta­po­si­tion: rock’s Grade-A cur­mud­geon in a long black coat, smok­ing a fag, pre­sented as a heav­enly ce­les­tial be­ing – one of rock’s clas­sic al­bum cov­ers.

The al­bum, Around The Next Dream, was re­leased on May 17, 1994 at the start of the tour. The whole vibe about a pos­si­ble Cream reunion, and the fact that half the songs clearly had their Cream an­tecedence, gave the crit­ics am­ple am­mu­ni­tion for com­ments along the lines of: ‘They couldn’t get Eric, so they got Gary in­stead’, which was a world away from the truth.

Gary re­called that one in­ter­viewer ac­tu­ally asked him: “Have you al­ways wanted to be Eric Clap­ton? And now you can be?”

“And I thought: ‘No, fuck off.’ And then Gin­ger chimed in with ‘Gary plays like Gary. Eric plays like Eric.’”

Jack also found the ‘er­satz Cream’ jibes very irk­some: “We de­lib­er­ately wanted to nod to­wards Cream. It was around the time when Oa­sis were copy­ing The Bea­tles, so I thought:

‘Why shouldn’t I do a copy of me?’ So it was very de­lib­er­ate, and I thought it worked very well.”

Some re­view­ers did buck the trend:

Q mag­a­zine con­cluded that the al­bum was “sat­is­fy­ingly well rounded… which proves that BBM are not Cream re-formed with one notable omis­sion, but a cred­i­ble band in their own right.”

Even the ever-as­trin­gent Charles Shaar Mur­ray, writ­ing in Rolling Stone, felt that im­proved record­ing tech­niques gave this band a sound that was “big­ger, cleaner, rounder and more de­fined than the of­ten fuzzy, scuzzy, over­com­pressed Cream”, and thought Gary had out-Gib­soned and out-Mar­shalled his il­lus­tri­ous pre­de­ces­sor.

De­spite all the carp­ing, the al­bum sold well in Europe and got to No.9 in the UK chart.

he re­views of the al­bum came out once the tour was un­der way, and it was BBM on the road where the whole project be­gan to frac­ture.

They played a ‘worst-kept se­cret’ warm-up gig at the Mar­quee in Lon­don, and the band al­most folded there and then. With Cream, the spar­ring was be­tween Jack and Gin­ger, with placid Eric stay­ing out of it or try­ing to act as peace­maker. What­ever la­bel you want to pin on Gary Moore, ‘placid’ would not be one of them: a Celtic band leader in his own right came up against Jack, an­other fiery Celtic band leader hewn from the same rock.

The stu­dio and the stage are two to­tally dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments. On stage you’re in front of a pay­ing au­di­ence, there is a ‘per­for­mance’ go­ing on, no re­takes or over­dubs, some­body has to cue songs in and out. It was all about who was the leader on stage.

“That BBM tour was the worst of my life. There were nights on that tour when I was

on my own in my room in tears.”

Ian ‘Robbo’ Robert­son, tour man­ager

“You have to re­mem­ber there were three lead­ers in that band. Put them to­gether

and it’s very hard for them to com­pro­mise be­yond a cer­tain level.”

Gary Moore

BBM re­hearsed at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Stu­dio in Wiltshire, drove into Lon­don for the sound-check at the Mar­quee, and all seemed fine. But when it came to the gig, ac­cord­ing to Gary: “I was only us­ing a small amp be­cause it’s only a small place, so I thought I’d bet­ter not play too loud, so I used a fifty-watt Mar­shall. But Jack had about three bass rigs, and I think he turned them all on at the same time and nearly blew me off the stage. So I’m scream­ing at the roadie: ‘What the fuck is go­ing on? All I can hear is the fuckin’ bass.’

“And then I said some­thing to Jack af­ter­wards and he gave me this filthy look: ‘I don’t like to dis­cuss gigs af­ter the gig. I have a rule.’ I then said some­thing re­ally bad back and he was re­ally up­set. Gin­ger was out­side hav­ing a fag and says: ‘See, Gary, that’s what broke Cream up.’”

Jack did say later that “Gin­ger re­ally did un­set­tle me that night. He was in such a bad mood.” And ac­cord­ing to John Martin, there was the usual row be­tween Jack and Gin­ger over vol­ume. But for once, Gin­ger was more the by­stander in all this. At any rate, Jack and Gin­ger walked out on stage for the encore; Gary walked out of the build­ing with John Martin. They fin­ished up at the nearby Grou­cho Club. And so it started.

How­ever, for the most part, when they were on the stage BBM ab­so­lutely tore places apart – they were a su­perb live act and ful­filled all the prom­ise of Jack’s 50th-birthday con­cert. Gary es­pe­cially en­joyed the gigs they did in Spain: “They were the best ones. We got into jam­ming a lot in the Cream tra­di­tion – it was a very mag­i­cal band.”

Once John had taken over as man­ager, he brought in Ian ‘Robbo’ Robert­son as tour man­ager. An ex-mem­ber of the para­chute reg­i­ment, Robbo had al­ready acted as se­cu­rity for the Nat­u­ral Law Party Al­bert Hall con­cert. That night, he had roped in a friend of his, an­other ex-ser­vice­man and a full­time fire of­fi­cer, Dar­ren Main. Look­ing back, Robbo says, “I think the great­est ser­vice I did for Gary was to em­ploy Dar­ren.”

Dar­ren be­gan as se­cu­rity for Gary, but quickly be­came his long-stand­ing mul­ti­task­ing per­sonal as­sis­tant, friend and con­fi­dant who (a bit like Radar O’Reilly in MASH) knew what Gary wanted al­most be­fore Gary knew him­self.

Gary ac­knowl­edged that for all the ex­tra­or­di­nary mu­si­cal telepa­thy there was be­tween him and Jack, there was a ‘po­lit­i­cal’ di­men­sion to their re­la­tion­ship: “You have to re­mem­ber there were three, not two, lead­ers in that band. Put them to­gether and it’s very hard for them to com­pro­mise be­yond a cer­tain level. I think Jack felt it was more my thing and wanted to get back to be­ing in charge of his own mu­sic, al­though I was try­ing to keep things as equal as pos­si­ble.

“To be hon­est, at that time I was prob­a­bly the most pop­u­lar of the three of us – I could sell out very big venues all across Europe. I think Jack felt he was be­ing pulled along by me, but I didn’t want it that way at all.”

Putting the pol­i­tics aside, they were the best of mates. Post-gig, Gin­ger would re­pair to his room for tea and a spliff, while Gary and Jack would hit the bars with at­ti­tude. Gary: “We’d be sit­ting in a bar, and some guy would come up and talk to me and I’d just sit there while Jack an­swered ev­ery ques­tion, just tak­ing the piss. We’d drink brandy and get re­ally pissed and he’d sud­denly say: ‘Shall we go home?’ And it was like four in the morn­ing.”

Al­though in truth they never went any­where in the end, ex­cept back to their ho­tel.

When Gary talked about fly­ing home, he made it sound like he and Jack surfed the net, booked some tick­ets and off they went. But this was 1994, so no on­line book­ing, and they cer­tainly weren’t go­ing to plough through all the flight sched­ules bound in huge pa­per timeta­bles, work­ing out how to get home and back again for the next gig.

As tour man­ager for BBM it was up to Robbo to make sure that the de­mands of th­ese per­form­ers were dealt with as best as he could, and most tour man­agers can take this kind of left-field re­quest in their stride. By his own ad­mis­sion, Robbo wasn’t that ex­pe­ri­enced and maybe didn’t yet have the rhino hide you need for the job. “You’ve got to be a com­plete ass­hole to do that job and you can­not let all the shit get to you,” says John Martin. As Robbo ad­mits: “That BBM tour was the worst of my life. There were nights on that tour when I was on my own in my room in tears.”

Nev­er­the­less, the tour car­ried on. Plans and bud­gets were drawn up for a US tour, with some lu­cra­tive op­por­tu­ni­ties in the off­ing, but even­tu­ally the band ground to a halt be­cause much of the lat­ter part of the Euro­pean tour was blown out by Gary, who said he was hav­ing ear prob­lems.

“We tried all sorts of things,” says John. “I talked to Pete Town­shend about it, au­di­ol­o­gists, we tried new at­ten­u­a­tors.”

Gin­ger was fairly fed up, com­plain­ing that Gary con­tin­ued to play at full vol­ume and then can­celled gigs be­cause of ear trou­ble. They also had to pull out of the Le Zenith gig in Paris be­cause Gary said he had dam­aged his fin­ger on a dry-clean­ing sta­ple. Jack found this a bit odd: “I’ve played with fin­gers hang­ing off, you know. Gary was very in­se­cure on stage. He wanted a re­hearsal for the gig at Brix­ton Academy, and Gin­ger was fu­ri­ous be­cause he didn’t want to re­hearse and blamed me. I could hear him com­ing down the cor­ri­dor, shout­ing: ‘I’m gonna kill that Jack Bruce!’ But Gary had in­sisted.

“He kept a lot of things to him­self, even with me. We had some re­ally good con­ver­sa­tions, but he never re­ally opened up and it seemed im­por­tant that he kept th­ese things to him­self.”

There was cer­tainly one thing that Gary wished he could have kept to him­self, some­thing that added hugely to the toxic mix of ego, emo­tions and pol­i­tics that en­gulfed and fi­nally sank BBM. On Novem­ber 23, 1993, The Sun and the Daily Mir­ror ex­posed Gary’s af­fair with the Moore fam­ily’s for­mer nanny.

es­pite all the has­sles, Gary said he took noth­ing but pos­i­tives away from play­ing with Jack and Gin­ger. He re­garded the lat­ter as “the finest drum­mer I ever played with… they both helped me to be a bet­ter player, for sure. They changed my rhyth­mi­cal feel [and like the blues guys] taught me to lay back a bit more and not be so fran­tic.

“Jack is one of the few peo­ple I would call a ge­nius. I was crazy about his solo al­bums. Phil [Lynott] and I used to lis­ten to Songs For A Tai­lor [Jack’s first solo al­bum, in 1969] all day long. The mu­sic he was com­ing out with was just as­ton­ish­ing, so other-worldly. No­body was writ­ing mu­sic like that. He made it flow so beau­ti­fully melod­i­cally. I was quite in awe of him.”

With the col­lapse of BBM and also his mar­riage, it was hardly sur­pris­ing that Gary pretty much dis­ap­peared off the scene for the best part of a year, al­though he must have taken some heart from the re­sults of Gui­tarist mag­a­zine’s 10-year an­niver­sary read­ers’ poll in 1994, span­ning the decade, which awarded him third place in Best Al­bum for Still Got The Blues; sec­ond spot in Blues Gui­tarist, be­hind Ste­vie Ray Vaughan; an over­all third in the gui­tar slot, be­hind Vaughan and Clap­ton; and third in Best Act, be­hind Pink Floyd and Queen.

As there would be no sec­ond al­bum from BBM, there was talk of a Gary Moore ‘best of’, which, John Martin says, was orig­i­nally con­ceived as a four-disc box set go­ing right back in his ca­reer. “And we tried to get a re­lease on Check­ing Up On My Baby and Go­ing Down, which was done with the Stones on Na­tional Mu­sic Day.”

This never hap­pened, and the box set idea was scrapped, to be re­placed by 1994’s Bal­lads & Blues 1982-1994. The al­bum ti­tle made it plain that this collection was not ma­jor­ing on ‘Gary Moore, fret melter’, but what­ever Vir­gin’s com­mer­cial thoughts might have been be­hind the re­lease it was a use­ful re­minder to the record-buy­ing public of Gary’s track record as a soul­ful song­writer. In ret­ro­spect, it be­gan to lay the ground for Gary’s ex­cur­sions to come in un­charted wa­ters.

“Gary was very in­se­cure on stage. He wanted a re­hearsal for the gig at Brix­ton Academy and Gin­ger was fu­ri­ous be­cause he didn’t want to.”

Jack Bruce

Taken from the brand new of­fi­cial Gary Moore bi­og­ra­phy I Can’t Wait Un­til To­mor­row. Only avail­able in the forth­com­ing BMG Gary Moore: Blues And Be­yond box set. Pre-or­der now from https://bmg.lnk.to/GMBluesBeyondT R

Liv­ing the dream: BBM play­ing at Brix­ton Academy, Lon­don, June 5, 1994.

“Can you turn down a bit, Jack… I said can you turn

down a bloody bit!

Al­though he was their equal in BBM,

it didn’t help that Moore was some­what in awe of Baker and Bruce.

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