News this morning of Gary Moore’s death in a Spanish hotel room gave me a jolt.
His simple, sequential, yet heart-wrenching riff for Parisienne Walkways was the first coherent, recognizable tune I was able to carry, enough to show my parents that I might be onto something; practice was easy, because I was happy to replay this piece that made such melodic sense endlessly. Given the technical focus of guitar music in the intervening Shrapnel era, it was 20 years before I came back around to Moore, discovering with more mature ears that he was of course a monster of overdriven blues tone and phrasing. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Les Paul sound so good.
The battered, iconic ’59 Les Paul from which Gary coaxed his best tubular, searing, singing lead tones was special, having accumulated more mojo in its existence than some entire bands. (Read a touching ode to the guitar here.) It’s been given away to a homeless man, broken in two in a car accident, left in a taxi, and it’s had two separate spotlit rock and roll lives: first with founding Fleetwood Mac member Peter Green; second with the man to whom he sold it for £100, Gary Moore.
It was also special because of its unusual innards, namely a neck humbucker that, whether by mistake or design, harbored a reversed magnet, making for a unique out-of-phase tone in the middle position, where both pickups are selected. Watch any of Gary’s vigorous performances and notice he’s constantly adjusting the guitar’s volume controls; that determines not just how loud he is but, in this setup, how out-of-phase or quacky the sound is. The closer to unity the two pickups are in volume, the more phase cancelation, the more quack.
Given the purview of the site, today seemed like a good day to pay tribute the only way I know how: as a tone nerd, highlighting the free and simple modification, often called the “Peter Green mod”, that was so much a part of Gary’s blues. He’s gone today, but we can take a little of him with us. A tone tinkerer’s tribute.
The Peter Green/Gary Moore Mod
- Remove the neck pickup from its mounting ring
- Remove its metal cover if it has one
- Loosen but don’t remove the four small screws on the base of the pickup
- Locate and push out the long bar magnet that sits under the two bobbins
- Flip it over or rotate it 180º, just don’t do both!
- Slide it back in, reassemble, enjoy
More detailed instructions can be found here, or by Googling ‘Peter Green mod’. Most important is not to knick the tiny wires that connect the coils, as you could kill your pickup. For aestehtics, optionally replace the modified ’bucker the opposite way round, matching the orientation of the bridge pickup, as it was on the Green/Moore guitar.