In 1983 as UFO were disintegrating, rather publicly as it happened, I was invited to have a play with Gary Moore who was building a solo career and had been on tour with Ian Paice, Neil Murray and Don Airey that summer. As far as I can remember Don could not do the USA tour, which was opening for Def Leppard, so they needed a replacement fast. Gary had experimented with lead singers etc but I think he was eager to have a versatile fourth member who could adapt to suit the songs. For me at the time it felt a slightly retrograde step as Gary had yet to make much headway in the States but I sensed he was a ‘rising star’ and the project was on the ‘up’ rather than ‘down’ as UFO had been heading. As it was, it turned out to be a wise decision... I think I hit it off with Gary from the start and there was an understanding between us musically. I had met Gary when I was with the Horses and he had always struck me as a little distant, but working with him was always a pleasure and I respected his pursuit of the ‘best’ and it certainly kept me on my toes and was refreshing after the recent chaos of UFO!
We began writing for ‘Victims’ and I co wrote a couple of tracks on that, the most notable being ‘Empty Rooms’ which has served me well over the years! We began the album with Ian Paice, and I think went few a through drummers in the process; lost Neil Murray too somewhere...that album was notable for the guest appearance of Noddy Holder from Slade.
( 'About Neil' from the official "Victims Of The Future World Tour '84" tour programme, 1984)
Tours followed with Craig Gruber and Ian Paice, Bobby Chouinard and Paul Thompson. Paul was a great guy and did Donnington and the ‘Emerald Isles’ video with us. It was during that time Bob Daisley joined and stayed until the end of my time (apart from the mini Glenn Hughes affair!). Glenn had introduced us to Gary Ferguson before ‘Run for Cover’ and he was an excellent drummer and worked well within the framework of the band.
‘Run for Cover’ saw the beginning of the real success aided by Gary’s hit single with Phil Lynott, ‘Out in the Fields’. Gary seemed to then get the attention he deserved and we all benefited as a result. ‘Empty Rooms’ was re-recorded and given a full ‘production’ by Peter Collins and did well everywhere. I always joke that song has bought my house, but I suppose it probably has over the years! We made quite a few TV appearances, ‘Top of the Pops’ and ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ being the most notable at the time, and went on a world tour. Japan was a big market and Scandinavia had taken Gary to its’ heart. I have very fond memories of those tours.
( 'About Neil' from the official "Live in '85" tour programme, 1985)
It was also at this time we played large festivals with Queen in Germany and Sweden. Queen were one of my major influences and to play on the same bill as them was quite the highlight of my career.
Back into the studio to record ‘Wild Frontier’, my own favourite album, with some great songs on it. That album is ironically the one I had the least input into playing wise as there were some very sate of the art keyboards (Fairlights etc.) and of course the Chieftains providing authentic sounds. But song wise I love ‘Over the Hills’ and ‘Thunder Rising’ and on the tour that followed (this time with Eric Singer on drums) these songs sounded great live. This time the venues were bigger and everything had the glow of success about it. A magical time and the crowds were brilliant from Tokyo to Oslo via Sheffield! The ‘Live at Isstadion’ video filmed in Stockholm was the biggest selling video in Scandinavia and the album went gold in many countries.
( 'Question/Answer'from the official "Wild Frontier - The Tour" book, 1987)
In early 1988 Gary and I went to Dublin and began work on ‘After the War’, continuing the Celtic theme although with perhaps more of a modern edge. This album has ‘Blood of Emeralds’ on it, an epic track which I had begun back in the UK and Gary took on to greater heights. Cozy Powell did some tracks on the album and it was suggested he join us for the tour but in rehearsals things were really not working out and we had to have a re-think and cancel the start of the tour. Chris Slade came in and learnt the set very quickly but it was a stressful time and I never quite felt we hit the mark with him onstage. The tour was a success however with big dates throughout Europe, Japan and Scandinavia although we gave the States a miss that time.
( 'About Neil' from the official "After The War" tour programme, 1989)
During the tour a lot of sound checks featured ‘blues jamathons’ which I never really took much part in and I think through these, and some coercion from Bob Daisley, Gary formulated the idea to do his blues album. On reflection he did need to do something new as there are only so many Irish reels you can play before it starts sounding a bit clichéd! So the tour ended in Edinburgh in May 1989 and that was the last time I was to play with Gary onstage.....
But...in October of 2009 Gary, who I had renewed contact with when he moved to Brighton, came to me with an idea. He wanted to do a Celtic Rock album and tour with a new band playing the rock 'hits'. And was I interested...? I had always said firmly I would never 'go back' but he caught me on a bad day at school and I said 'why not?'!
I had my doubts on a couple of levels; mainly whether I could still sing, and if I would be able at my age to remember a set of material. I have read the 'dots' exclusively for 20 years! But we got together and it sort of clicked back into place immediately which was something of a relief. Rehearsals followed with Jonathan Noyce and Darrin Mooney on bass and drums respectively. It was an excellent band and the songs sounded very fresh, Gary had a few new songs and we did the two blues 'hits' for good measure. I walked out onstage with Gary, almost 21 years to the final gig in 1989, at Trondheim and the years fell just away. It was a teriffic feeling and as natural as anything. I found it interesting mainly because I have changed so much in the years in between and I viewed it from a totally different perspective. Dates in the summer followed and a tour of the Ukraine and Russia with our final gig in Moscow in late October 2010.
I still had commitments to school and my examining work but I managed just about to juggle things. I stopped short of abandoning my other work completely, mainly because I truly love it and was reluctant to let it go.
Plans were underway for an album, and more dates were booked, when tragically Gary passed away in Spain on 6th February 2011. Words cannot express the shock, and it will take a long time to come to terms with.