Episode 44. Parisienne Walkways
On February 13th, 2014, Yuzuru Hanyu skated his way into both the Japanese and Olympic record books. Firstly, because he became the first male skater to win a Gold Medal for Japan and secondly because he broke his own World Record by scoring 101.45 points in the Short Program category. The music he selected to skate to in that short program was Gary Moore’s Parisienne Walkways. No doubt it’s a beautiful, simple guitar piece and will be forever, rightly associated with Gary but what’s the story behind it?
In 1975, a young Chris Tsangarides entered Morgan Studios in Willesden, London and began work as a tape operator. Chris learnt quickly and before the year was out, had secured his first engineering credit on Judas Priest’s second album, Sad Wings Of Destiny although as he readily admitted, it was more by good fortune than skill. It just so happened that the original engineer fell sick and couldn’t finish the album. Chris spent the next two years learning what all the knobs and faders did on a mixing desk as well as all the different effects (echo, reverb, chorus, delay, etc) and how they could be utilised on an instrument and it was during these early years that he first met Gary Moore.
Morgan Studios located at 169-171 Willesden High Road, London. Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, Yes, Black Sabbath, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, The Kinks and Pink Floyd recorded here.
Whilst Chris was learning how to engineer, Gary was making a name for himself in the UK as a guitarist having previously been in the Irish band Skid Row before joining Colosseum II and then Thin Lizzy and it was while he was in Thin Lizzy, that he was offered to chance to make a solo album for MCA Records.* Naturally he invited his mates from Thin Lizzy to participate in the recording and studio time was booked in Morgan Studios for 1978. By the Spring of 1978, Chris was the default engineer at Morgan, especially for anyone who didn’t have a producer and as Gary had asked MCA to produce his own album, Chris was the perfect choice as he had previously worked with him.
I first met Chris in early 1983 when he produced Rock Goddess’s second album. Hell Hath No Fury was recorded, of course, at Morgan studios and I sat in the control room every day and watched him work. I learnt a lot. Over the next decade, as well as producing Rock Goddess’s third album for A&M Records, our paths occasionally crossed but then we drifted naturally apart. In 2014, I was stunned to hear he had contracted Legionnaire’s Disease and was fighting for his life. I contacted his wife, Jane, she remembered me and passed on my best wishes to him. I promised her I’d call him as soon as he was well enough to talk. As it happens, a few months later, I was researching some other stuff about Gary and took the opportunity to call Chris and ask him a few questions.
Chris: “I met Gary in 1975, at Morgan studios, he was in Colosseum II. I was a tape operator on their sessions. I was assigned as the engineer on Gary's sessions for his solo album and he told me on the first day of recording that I could produce it with him.”
Morgan had four studios and the sessions took place in Studio 1 which had a 24 input/16 output track desk linked to a 16-track 3M tape machine. At times, different drummers and bass players were used along with Don Airey on keyboards but for three of the songs, Don’t Believe A Word, Fascists and Parisienne Walkways, the core of Thin Lizzy (Moore, Phil Lynott and Brian Downey) were recorded live for the backing tracks. Gary’s guitar sound was achieved by him playing his 1959 Les Paul that he had purchased from Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green, put through a Mess Boogie Combo plugged into a 4 x 12” speaker cabinet. I asked Chris about how many takes there were of the track and the solo.
Chris: “The backing track was done in a couple of takes and the solo with the long note done in just one take.”
The string overdubs were played on an ARP Sinola string synth, one of the leading synthesizers of that time and the mandolin sound was achieved by fixing a microphone to the sound hole of a semi-acoustic Rickenbacker guitar which Gary played and Chris recorded acoustically, without plugging it in to an amp. Aside from the vocals, the only other overdubs were the descending bass notes at the start of the verses and the accordion.
Who played the accordion?
Chris: I can't remember how it came about but I remember that Phil pumped it (the accordion) and Gary played the keyboard! The intro was tracked with an electric upright bass. We had to mark the notes with china graph pencil so Phil would be able to play it.
The album, Back On The Streets, was released in the UK on September 30th, 1978 but didn’t make much of an impression on the charts; Parisienne Walkways was released as a single April 21st, 1979 peaking at No. 8 on the 18th May. After it was a hit, many people noticed by that the guitar melody was identical to that of a Jazz standard called Blue Bossa written by Kenny Dorham in 1963. Given that Kenny was still alive in 1978 when Gary recorded Parisienne Walkways, this meant that the writer had breached copyright and could be sued for not crediting Kenny Dorham and for not paying the due royalties. But who actually was the writer? The song writing credit seemed to differ everywhere. There is no doubt that Gary wrote the music and Chris remembers Phil coming up with the lyrics one day in the studio so the credit should be Moore-Lynott which the UK single had but the album credited Phil Lynott only. Various European releases credited either Moore or Lynott separately and sometimes together. Furthermore, the sheet music published by Mr Sam Music and administered by Heath Levy Music of London was copyrighted in 1978 as ‘Recorded by Gary Moore on MCA, written by Donna Campbell’ and indeed, the 1978 Demonstration disc pressed by Jet Records for the USA credits her as the sole writer. So, who was Donna Campbell?
Note the different songwriter credits.
Campbell was Gary’s girlfriend and a quick look at the other writing credits on the album reveals that she had a hand in quite a few of the songs although exactly how much she contributed is dubious. Campbell left home when she was fifteen years old after hearing Skid Row on the John Peel Show and hitchhiked to London, eventually finding a way to meet Gary at a BBC session. They became lovers and according to Donna, lived together for five years while she worked occasionally as photographic model. Shortly after Back On The Streets was released, Donna met Gary Holton, an upcoming actor and lead singer of The Heavy Metal Kids. She left Moore for; she married Holten in 1979. It was at this time that her name seems to have been removed from the song writing credits as future singles issued by Jet Records of Back On The Streets and notably, Song For Donna, credited Moore only. Campbell split with Holten after two years and attached herself to various rock stars including The Clash’s drummer Topper Headon, Jim Phantom of The Stray Cats and before Sharon, Ozzy Osbourne. Today she lives in Taunton in England and refuses to talk about her contribution to Parisienne Walkways or the rest of the album.
Why Campbell is credited at all will probably remain a mystery but the dispute over the song writing credit with Kenny Dorham was eventually settled quietly. However, it did stop Gary performing the song live for a long time. These days the credit on any release is usually to Moore/Lynott (unless they record label is replicating the original artwork) and the Gary Moore Chord Songbook published by Imperial Music Publications of London in 2000, has the words and music credited to Moore and Lynott, copyright 1978 and 2000, by Maxwood Music of London.
There are many live versions of the song, the one Yuzuru Hanyu chose being from the Marquee Club in 1980. This version has no vocal on it but several others do and some have small differences in the lyrics. The original sheet music lyrics have the first line as ‘I remember Paris in the fall tonight’ however, Phil Lynott actually sings ‘I remember Paris in '49’ which may or may not refer to Lynott’s father, Cecil Parris Lynott. Phil, illegitimate and raised only by his mother, was born in 1949 and took his adopted middle name from his father, Phil’s full name being Philip Parris Lynott. Interestingly, in another version recorded in Dublin in 2005, Moore changes the lyrics to ‘I remember Paris in '69’ which was the year Gary first met Phil.
Understandably, this is not a track that could be covered by many artists successfully because the soul and virtuosity required by the guitarist playing it needs to be something special. The Shadows did a very creditable version on their String of Hits album in 1979 and the Tribe of Gypsies covered it in 2000. Other versions by Mattson (2004) and Ed Allyene-Johnson (2006) do justice to it but it is Gary’s version that will always be recognised as the definitive one. The combination of his playing, Phil’s nostalgic lyric and Chris’ simple production technique evoke images of streets of Paris that you’ve never been too and long to go back too. That’s the magic of great music.
Chris and Rock Goddess (and various engineers) at Miravel Recording Studios in the South of France recording the backing tracks for their third album.
When Rock Goddess were recording their third album for A&M Records (which, as of the time of writing, remains unreleased, languishing in a vault somewhere unknown), they were thinking of doing a cover and eventually came up with the idea of Free’s All Right Now. Working out the chords was easy for their guitarist, Jody Turner but the inversions didn’t sound right. Chris, knowing that Gary Moore was a big fan of Paul Kossoff, called Gary from the studio and asked him how to play it. Gary described the inversions over the phone but for reasons that escape me, the idea never got further than that phone call.
*Although often referred to as his first solo album, it is in fact his second, his first being Grinding Stone released in 1973 under the title The Gary Moore Band for CBS Records.