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Classic Tracks: Gary Moore 'Parisienne Walkways'

Engineer & Producer: Chris Tsangarides By Richard Buskin
Published July 2012

'Parisienne Walkways' showcased Gary Moore's virtuoso guitar work and quickly became his signature song. Its recording also provided a young engineer at Morgan Studios with his first, unexpected production credit.

Gary Moore playing the Gibson Les Paul given to him by Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green. Gary Moore playing the Gibson Les Paul given to him by Fleetwood Mac's Peter Green. Photo: Redferns

By 1978, Gary Moore and Phil Lynott had known each other for quite some time. A decade earlier, 16‑year‑old Moore had relocated to Dublin from his native Belfast and joined his first professional outfit, Skid Row, playing his emerging brand of blues‑rock guitar in a line-up that briefly included 18‑year‑old Lynott on lead vocals. Then, in 1974, after recording the Grinding Stone album with his own short‑lived Gary Moore Band, the Northern Irish virtuoso had replaced Eric Bell in Thin Lizzy, the group fronted by Lynott in his dual capacity as singer and bass guitarist. This time, it was Moore who quickly moved on, doing session work and playing with prog‑rock/jazz‑fusion group Colosseum II, before '78 rolled around and he was invited by Lynott to rejoin Thin Lizzy for a US tour in support of Queen after guitarist Brian Robertson had broken his hand in a fight.

This coincided with the recording of Moore's first official solo album, Back On The Streets, which saw Lynott and Lizzy drummer Brian Downey playing on three of the tracks: 'Don't Believe A Word', 'Fanatical Fascists' (both written by Lynott) and the iconic 'Parisienne Walkways'. The last, a number eight UK chart hit in May 1979, featured Phil Lynott singing the semi‑autobiographical lyrics he had added to what was originally envisioned as an instrumental ballad. It would subsequently become Moore's signature song, a concert highlight that has since been captured on numerous live recordings, showcasing the guitarist's wailing, blues‑drenched (and increasingly lengthy) solo as well as his own understated lead vocal.

"I remember Paris in '49,” Lynott sang on the studio recording, before emoting about summer days spent in the French capital. This was an amendment of the line as it appeared in the original sheet music — "I remember Paris in the fall tonight” — and it was probably for a good reason. What few listeners knew was that, following his August '49 birth, Philip Parris Lynott had taken his middle name from Cecil Parris, the Afro‑Guyanese father who'd parted ways with Phil's mother Philomena Lynott when he was still an infant. In 1976, after Parris read an article about his son in Titbits magazine, the two had met for the first time, yet Phil Lynott reportedly wasn't enamoured with the man who'd been absent while he was growing up in Birmingham, Manchester and Belfast. So, the romantically nostalgic lyrics that he wrote for 'Parisienne Walkways' probably commenced with a private lament for the kind of father he would have wanted but never had.

"There was no vocal until the day he said, 'I think it'll be more commercial with some lyrics. How about these?'” recalls Chris Tsangarides, who engineered and co‑produced the track with Gary Moore. "Then again, when Gary first played me the cassette demo, he did say it was called 'Parisienne Walkways'. So, I think he came up with the title and then Phil added the words.”

Giant Leap

Gary moore on stage with Thin Lizzy, 1979. Gary moore on stage with Thin Lizzy, 1979. Photo: Redferns

A North Londoner who played guitar in a number of local bands before beginning his career as an 18‑year‑old tape op at Willesden's Morgan Studios in 1975, Tsangarides was initially mentored by several top in‑house engineers — most notably Martin Levan — at a time when Roger Quested was the facility's manager. His first fully fledged engineering gig was on Judas Priest's second album, Sad Wings Of Destiny, for which he was an assistant until being asked to take over when the original engineer fell sick. Thereafter, following several projects that saw him still regarded as an assistant, Tsangarides' next official engineering assignment was Japan's Obscure Alternatives, before he took a sudden and unexpected leap into production with Gary Moore's Back On The Streets.

"I knew Gary from when I was the assistant engineer on some Colosseum II sessions,” he explains. "Then, when he got a deal to make a solo album, the production company also owned Morgan Studios and so I was asked to engineer it. Well, as soon as I got together with him, Gary asked me if I could recommend a drummer and I immediately thought of Simon Phillips, who I had worked with on a Jack Bruce record. Gary brought him in, and on the first day of recording the new album he said, 'You can produce this with me.'

"My response was, 'Uh, yeah, all right, whatever.' I thought he was messing around, but he was serious. So, there it was, and I remember coming out with the classic line, 'You play it, son, I'll record it.' As it happens, he just let me do whatever I wanted, because he didn't have any more clue than I did. I knew what the knobs and dials did, so I'd be pushing things up and down as I saw fit, and things progressed very quickly because in those days there was only so much you could do to a recording. So long as we had a good balance and a nice feel, we were happy, and we'd know when we had the right take: 'Yeah, that's the one!'

"The record company didn't interfere with Gary's decision to have an unknown co‑produce with him, because back then, producers weren't quite in the same league as they'd be in the '80s and '90s. Often, it would just be someone from the record company who would say, 'It's time for lunch,' and I'd be sitting there as an assistant, thinking, 'Who is this bloke?'

"One time, I was working with [the engineer] Robin Black and this chap was sitting next to him, coming out with things that I thought were irrelevant. Finally, I asked Robin, 'Who's that?' and he said, 'Oh, that's the producer.' I said, 'What does he do?' and he started laughing and said, 'Shut up, keep your voice down.' It wasn't until 1976, when Peter Gabriel was booked into our studio to do his first solo record with Bob Ezrin, that I realised what a true producer was. I thought, 'Ooh, that's what I want to do.' So, although I was surprised when Gary asked me to produce, I was also ready to go for it.”

Morgan Studios

Chris Tsangarides in the control room of his Ecology Room Studios. Chris Tsangarides in the control room of his Ecology Room Studios. Photo: Lee Thompson

The Morgan complex housed four studios and the Back On The Streets project commenced inside Studio 1, where the long, narrow control room was equipped with a Cadac 24‑input, 16‑output console, 3M 16‑track two‑inch tape machine and Tannoy Gold monitors. Outboard gear included two EMT 140 echo plates — "one of them shared with Studio 2, so you had to ask if anyone else was using it” — an EMT compressor, a couple of Pye compressors, two Urei 1176s and an Eventide flanger, as well as four Kepex and four Gain Brain modules.

Located on the mezzanine level, the control room looked down into the 18‑foot‑high, 30 x 20 foot live area. For the 'Parisienne Walkways', 'Don't Believe A Word' and 'Fanatical Fascists' live rhythm section, Brian Downey's drum kit was positioned in the middle of this area, separated by screens from Phil Lynott's bass rig to the left and Gary Moore's guitar rig to the right.

"Whereas, for all the other songs, Simon Phillips' kit was miked with a Neumann U87 on the tom‑toms, a U47 on the bass drum, a KM84 on the snare and U67s for overheads, I only used three overhead mics on Brian Downey's kit, together with the 47 on the bass drum and 84 on the snare,” Tsangarides recalls. "That's because Simon had eight tom‑toms — a single‑headed [Ludwig] Octoplus kit that created more of a tight, jazzy sound — and I just got into the Glyn Johns method of miking.

"This was after [Fairport Convention drummer] Dave Mattacks had come down to the studio one day for a session following some work at Olympic and showed us how he'd been recorded there. As soon as we saw it, we were sold. A mic directly above the snare, another one over by the floor tom aimed towards the snare, and then you panned one hard right and the other hard left. They had to be equidistant from the snare and, once you balanced them so you heard the snare drum in the middle, the actual stereo imaging and balance of the toms was just phenomenal. Don't forget, four tracks of drums when we were recording to 16‑track was more than enough — we had to figure out what to do with the extra eight tracks when we went to 24!”

Phil Lynott's Fender Precision bass was DI'd and also recorded off a combination of Ampeg Portaflex and Marshall amps and cabinets. Gary Moore's 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard — which he had acquired from blues rocker Peter Green after Skid Row had opened a show for Fleetwood Mac and, with Green's help, secured a CBS record deal — went through a Mesa Boogie combo that was plugged into a 4x12 cabinet and miked with a Neumann U87.

"They had headphones if they chose to wear them, but sometimes they didn't bother,” Tsangarides says. "They could physically hear everything, like they were in a rehearsal room, and there was remarkably little spill on the drums from either the bass or the guitar.”

Mixed Material

Gary Moore 'Parisienne Walkways'

The cassette demo of 'Parisienne Walkways' that Gary Moore first played Chris Tsangarides consisted of a drum machine, keyboard and the guitar solo.

"What we'd recorded up until that point was all this sort of Jeff Beck‑style, jazzy, rocky material with complicated double bass drums and weird timings played by Simon Phillips,” Tsangarides recalls. "Now we had this funny little 'Parisienne Walkways' melody which I immediately thought was bloody lovely, as well as 'Don't Believe A Word' and this punky song called 'Fanatical Fascists', and I was thinking, 'What the hell are we doing?' Nowadays I'd probably say, 'Well, maybe you should focus your material a little better,' but I'm pleased we were that naïve and that it didn't matter. This is what we had to record, that's what we did, and I think the album's better for it.

"The 'Parisienne Walkways' demo had the guitar solo, but it was really the melody that struck me more than anything. By then I was very used to hearing Gary play a million and one notes all brilliantly — I knew how good he was before I even met him, having seen him play with Skid Row when I was about 15 years old, sitting in the front row at the Country Club while he was standing literally four feet away from me. Bless him, when we met up all those years later I reminded him about that gig and he said, 'Oh yeah, I remember!' It was absolutely bizarre, but that was the start of a very, very long friendship between us and our families. It was wonderful.”

Blue Peter Spirit

Before Phil Lynott provided the lyrics and overdubbed his lead vocal, the 'Parisienne Walkways' backing track was recorded in straightforward fashion.

"I set up the sound and then it was just a case of 'One, two, three, off we go,'” Tsangarides remarks. "It was captured in no time at all — one or two takes, maybe three at the most — and what surprised me was that Gary left a gap for the big long note [that commenced his solo, about two-thirds of the way through the song] and then they started up again. I couldn't understand how he knew where the band would come back in. There was no click. However, the solo you hear on the record was captured in one take and he got it in perfect time. There's a double‑track and a harmony, and all I added was echo plate. Unbelievable.

"In terms of the other overdubs, Phil pumped the accordion and Gary played it, and Phil also played the song's descending intro notes on an upright bass. It was an electric one and we had to put chinagraph marks on the fretboard so he knew where to place his fingers. I'm not sure why he used the upright, he probably had it and just wanted to play it. Gary played [an ARP] Solina string synth, while to imitate the sound of a mandolin — which we didn't have — he used a Rickenbacker 12‑string semi‑acoustic guitar. I didn't plug it in; I gaffer‑taped a Neumann 84 on the F‑hole to pick up the resonance and Gary strummed the strings. The shape of the F‑hole is more like a stripe on a Rickenbacker and it fitted the 84 pencil condenser fairly well, so I stuck it on there and it worked out fine.

"Out of necessity you'd find how to do things, and that's what was brilliant about those days. You'd think, 'Ooh, I'd love it to sound like this, now how do I do that? I've got a piece of sticky‑back plastic and a cardboard tube.' The old Blue Peter spirit would kick in and off you'd go. If someone asked for a bathroom sound on the vocal, we'd put the mic in the bog and say, 'There's your bathroom sound, mate!' In fact, I remember doing a vocal with Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull out on Willesden High Road because he wanted that atmosphere. People were walking by, looking at this crazy guy singing and standing on one leg with a flute in his hand. Whatever needed to be done was done, and it was really good fun.”

By the time that Phil Lynott suggested lyrics would enhance the commercial appeal of 'Parisienne Walkways', he had already written them. However, Chris Tsangarides can't quite recall if Gary Moore was aware of this.

"I think he was,” he says. "I think he had an inkling that Phil had an idea for some vocals. Anyway, he pulled out the lyrics, I set up the mic, he sang it and then Gary did the harmony part. Again, both were recorded with a Neumann U87 and limited with a Urei 1176. They each gave complete performances — maybe the odd word was punched in, but there weren't all that many lyrics, so we just got the atmosphere right and off Phil went, followed by Gary. We got the desired results in next to no time.”

Thumbs‑up From God

Among the other Back On The Streets cuts, Tsangarides particularly enjoyed working on 'Don't Believe A Word'. A source of tension during the 1976 sessions for Thin Lizzy's Johnny The Fox album, Lynott had written it as a slow 12‑bar blues only for guitarist Brian Robertson to dismiss it as "shite”. When the singer‑bassist left the studio and didn't return for a few days, Robertson toned down his opinion of the number and embellished it with a guitar riff while drummer Brian Downey gave it a faster, shuffle‑style tempo. After re‑emerging, Lynott was so pleased with the new arrangement that, much to Robertson's annoyance, he ensured he was still credited as the song's sole composer when it was included on the Johnny The Fox album. Yet, no such controversy surrounded the version that Lynott, Downey and Gary Moore recorded for Back On The Streets, since this adhered to the original, slow blues that Robertson had disparaged.

"I loved the simplicity and emptiness of the version we recorded,” says Tsangarides, whose subsequent work with the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath, Anvil, Helloween, the Tygers Of Pan Tang and Judas Priest would make his name synonymous with heavy metal, though his versatility has been amply demonstrated by his recordings with Gary Moore, Thin Lizzy, Killing Joke, the Lords Of The New Church, Concrete Blonde, the Tragically Hip, Depeche Mode and New Model Army. "It had a sort of Peter Green/Santana/'Black Magic Woman'‑type vibe. Ironically, Peter Green, who was making one of his famous comebacks at that time, was in the adjacent studio to us at Morgan, and he popped in to see Gary. So, I played him this song and he turned around to his producer and went, 'How come we don't sound as good as that?' I remember Phil looking at me, me looking at Gary and Gary looking at Phil, all with big, cheesy grins, as if to say, 'We've got the thumbs‑up from God!' It was amazing.”

Although Gary Moore reciprocated Phil Lynott's contributions to his record by touring Australia with Thin Lizzy while the still‑inexperienced Chris Tsangarides mixed a couple of the album's tracks on his own, the guitarist was present for the mix of most of the other numbers. These included 'Parisienne Walkways', whose famous solo was basically treated to just one effect during an era when such equipment was still relatively limited.

"I just rode the reverb, increasing and decreasing the send,” Tsangarides confirms. "Everything came from Gary's fingers and from his heart and soul. Quite honestly, if he'd had a Woolworths guitar it would have still sounded good. That solo was unique, and I love how, when he performed it live, it got longer and longer. I used to joke about timing the long note in the middle — we could have used a stopwatch and kept a log of them. 'Oh, that's not as good as the one you did in Montreal last week!'

"He was absolutely marvellous to work with. I mean, what an amazing thing to say to a kid like me at the start of working on his first solo album — 'Go on, mate, you can handle it' — and to then have the faith in me right to the end. He saw something in me that he could work with, and I'm just so glad he got what he wanted and that the record was a success.”  

Ecology Room Studios

Since April 2006, Chris Tsangarides has been managing, producing and engineering at his own Ecology Room Studios in the coastal village of Kingsdown near Dover, at one end of the White Cliffs. A former scout camp located on 50 acres of land and overlooking the English Channel, the studio itself is in a building that was a military administration centre during the Second World War.

"It's a pretty solid little bunker,” Tsangarides says. "It has a poured concrete ceiling, 12‑inch‑thick walls, and is absolutely perfect for a recording studio. In fact, although it's not huge by any stretch of the imagination, its dimensions are uncannily similar to Morgan Studio 1, with a long, narrow control room. It's unbelievable. What with the natural daylight and being able to look out to sea, it's quite wonderful, and the live room sounds amazing.

"The desk is a 32‑channel TL Audio VTC and I use RADAR 24 for recording, Pro Tools for editing, Focal Twin main monitors, NHT nearfields and a shitload of outboard gear: TL Audio, Yamaha, TC Electronic — proper racks of equipment.”

Among the projects that Chris Tsangarides has worked on at Ecology Room are recordings by the Tygers Of Pan Tang, Biomechanical, Crowning Glory and the Strawbs, whose singer‑guitarist Dave Cousins is Tsangarides' partner with regard to his new Dark Lord Records label.

"I am inundated with work, which is absolutely brilliant,” Tsangarides remarks, "and that is because I have my own place with accommodation that's as cheap as chips. These days, a producer doing the kind of music that I do, without his own studio but with the shrinking budgets, will not work. It's sad, but that's the way it is, which is why I've also started my own label. I've done independent projects that have turned out fantastic and then no one knows what to do with them. So, now I have a home for them.”