Ladies & Gentlemen, on guitar….


OK, SO NOW I'M GONNA be biased. Well what else can you be, on meeting for the first time the person that you've worshipped for the last eight years, especially when he’s as good as this guy is. There can’t be many people who aren’t aware of Rory’s history from the ‘Taste’ days to the present time, but for those of you interested in learning how this 'God-of-the-Guitar’ came into being, let's delve into the far distant past of our fast fingered friend.

Born in Ballyshannon, County Donegal he began bashing out chords in the shape of cowboy tunes and Irish (believe it or not) folk songs, by the time he was nine. At the ripe old age of fifteen, he joined the Fontana Show Band and was able to tour England and Ireland which gave him an early appetite for a life on the road. Sadly though, being a Showband they could only play half an hour of Rock ‘n’ Roll a night, and Rory was hungry for more, so he left the band but took with him their Bass player and Drummer. As this trio they played many small clubs throughout Europe and it wasn't long before he realized that this was the life he’d been looking for.  Then in December of 1965, Rory formed the original Taste, with Eric Kitteringham on Bass and Norman Damery on Drums, and went as support act to many ‘giants’ including John Mayall, Blind Faith and Cream.  Due to the pressures of almost non-stop touring, the band underwent several line-up changes and finally split in 1970. Early in 1971, came the new Rory Gallagher band, which has happily existed to the present day.

Like thousands of other lucky people, we managed to catch Rory earlier this year on his British tour, and I can honestly say that even though this is the tenth time I’ve seen the man, at every concert he’s been better than the time before, and I can't say that about ANYONE else. This last gig was Hanley Victoria Hall in Stoke, and a good many phone calls several weeks previously had assured WAY AHEAD an interview.  So speedily (knowing what these Superstars are like, here one minute, gone the next) we made our way to the rear of the stage, but we needn't have worried, for like the nice bloke that he is, he, and his brother / manager Donal Gallagher had arranged everything and they even supplied us with Whiskey (there's Irish Hospitality for yeh). After warming the deeper reaches of my throat with this superbly fermented liquor, I asked Rory (although this gig was an excellent one in the audiences’ opinion) was it a good gig by usual Gallagher standards?   

“Yeh, I think it was. It’s very hard to compare gigs with the kinds of stuff that we do which is very primitive, if you know what I mean. Every hall is different and every audience is different, but we always try and make it an exceptional gig, it sounds like a corny cliché, but it’s true. Once you start going out there and try to lay back or try to not give it everything you’ve got, that's when it’s a waste of time.  We try and treat it like our first important talent show, y’ know, anyway that’s it and it was great tonight. I enjoyed it, the sound was good I thought, and the audience cracked very early on and they were on their feet prior to the acoustic set, whereas normally they hold out until the last 20 minutes.”

Although you always appear to have consistently good nights, how do you cover up the evenings when you’re maybe not feeling as healthy as you might?

"Well I don’t actually try to cover anything up, I just play.  It’s a mind over matter thing really.  Some nights when I'm feeling physically under, and I come off the stage and say “it was only fair”, quite often other people say that that was the best show I played ever, or for the last week, so I never go on and think in terms of covering up I just do it, and make the best of it that I can.”

wa424Recently you’ve been playing more in the States than in Britain, do you prefer America?

“Not particularly no, it’s just it’s a very important part of the world and a lot of bands from Europe go over and they find the first couple of tours heavy going and tough, and they say ‘to hell with it, we’re big in Europe and we’ll concentrate on that’, but I wouldn’t be satisfied with that.  Luckily we’ve been very strong in Europe for quite a while now, but I hate to retire without having cracked America, it's just the ultimate for me, really. That’s not to say I don't enjoy playing back here, but so much of the music that influenced me came from the States, so I dunno, I just think it’s a bit lazy not to attempt to go over there and work hard. You see when you go over to America and you're top billing over here and in Europe, over there you have to start from the bottom, 3rd on the bill with 25 minute sets then you work up.  So we’ve done about 12 tours in 5 years and it’s paid off I cos we’re top billing now in lots of places and it’s been worth it.  I’d hate to have not done it y ‘know.”

You still use the Old ‘Strat’ which by now obviously feels right, you must know every inch of it, but surely the equipment on it is getting a little old or do you replace various items quite often?

“Well, two of the pick-ups blew, the middle pick up is still the original, but the pick guard is new, the bridges are new, the machine heads are new, the frets are new, naturally, you couldn’t expect them to last the way I play, but the basic chassis of the thing is the same.”

I notice you’ve discarded the legendary AC30, why?

“Ah, well I picked up an old 1955 Fender amplifier in the States and it’s got a couple of extra watts, and it’s got 10” speakers and a better tone range than the VOX, but I still love the VOX, the VOX is by far the greatest amp ever made ,it’s just that the Fender has a certain thing about it. The tone isn’t that different actually, I find it more or less like the VOX, but with just a little bit more middle on it.”

When you tour these days it’s with huge P.A.s, lighting rigs and in the largest halls, would you not like to get back to the intimate atmosphere of the smaller clubs?

“Yeh, but the club scene in Britain is gone now.  Well there's clubs going but not like in the 68/69 era. We still play clubs in the States occasionally and we don’t need the lights, big stage and all that, but you see a hall this size by American standards would be called a club, we have different standards to them.  No, I don't miss them because the days of ‘Mothers’ in Birmingham are gone, we'll exclude the London clubs because they’re thriving on this Punk thing so it’s going great, but the whole club circuit that I used to do with Taste has really gone, they’re all Discos and Bingo places so how can I miss them if they’re not there?  But I love playing clubs; I'm basically a club musician.”

You’ve always been the person known to never do singles, and yet you've got people in the record companies pushing your records and giving you publicity so why give the ‘cold shoulder’ to the singles market?

"I don’t mind the guys pushing the records, and I'm not against having publicity providing it’s for an album or a tour or something, because you’ve got to be totally brainless to expect to go on tour here without ads and things.  Off stage I'm not really a showbiz type, I don’t go hand in hand with publicity and it doesn’t worry me if I’m not in the papers every week with new image this and new image that.  I can’t go along with publicity campaigns with PR people saying dress this way and say this, and I just wouldn’t I cos it’s not my style, but the single question is a different one.  The 'Taste' did some singles, but we never did them on purpose and the day might come when I might do one, but I never get the energy to do them.  Quite honestly, I would like to be on the radio more, because the trouble with doing albums is that you only get about half a dozen radio shows in the country.  Then they say, ‘OK to get on the playlist you’ve got to have a 2 1/2 minute single, so they take a song and they cut out the first verse, cut out the guitar solo and cut out the ending and totally fool around with it and that’s not cricket, as they say. (He laughs).  But I like the idea because I’d like to push my music and spread my gospel and influences onto other people, which I suppose is my duty, but I’d like to do something like a 4 minute single.  Even then, though you'd have to do TOTP’s or you wouldn’t be in the top ten and it’s just the system, the world is all full of systems and we all have to live with them, but if you can keep out of some of them you're better off.”

After Taste split, you mentioned in an interview that two years was long enough for any band to stay together if they weren’t old school friends. (He smiles and agrees to saying it) Do you still feel that way?

"Obviously not, because this bands been together for almost 6 years now, but I didn’t expect this band to be together for this long, it’s had new leases of life over the years and I'm beginning to feel like they're old school friends.  At the time, people were saying to me 'Taste split after only two years’ and I told them that for a band of guys who were playing almost every night, it's a pretty heavy duty job, you could last for 4, 5 or maybe 10 years.  I still think 2 years is quite a long time, I mean I’ve seen bands split up in 3 weeks or six months y ‘know, but the longer you stay together the better it is.”

As you mention Lou, Gerry and Rod have been with you for a fair time now, would it be the same with any musicians because obviously the audience come to see you, or are they deeply part of the band?

“They're very important, it's easy to under-estimate what they do, but let’s put it this way if I played with a bad bunch of musicians, people wouldn’t come to see me anymore, also if I wasn’t playing with good musicians and I rate these guys very highly, I wouldn’t be inspired and you need to feed off other musicians and they give you ideas, courage and go, and you give it back to them.  No, these guys are great, they really are.”

To move onto the most recent album 'Calling Card’, some critics criticized your previous albums saying you didn’t capture the live excitement on record whereas this one has done. (‘Um’ he murmurs in agreement).  I personally wouldn’t agree with that because I feel the previous albums have been equally as good as this one, what would you say?

“I agree with you, I think the criticism has been way out of line. If you take an artist like me who is very instinctive on stage and when working over a two hour period anything can happen and the sky is the limit. Whereas there are certain bands who are better in the studio than they are live, because they play the thing note for note as they did in the studio.  I take a song and stretch it this way and turn it that way and people miss that, and they miss the stage excitement on record.  To be fair, I think recent albums have been getting much more exciting with ‘Against the Grain’ and ‘Calling Card’, but on the earlier albums if they weren’t as exciting as the stage thing, they were certainly strong in studio terms.  Although when you go to do an album you don’t immediately think in stage terms, like when I did the first solo album. I hadn’t been on stage since the ‘Taste’, and the songs were more introspective ‘cos that was the mood of the album.  When songs like Sinner Boy and Laundromat hit the stage they became a different thing.  The cornerstone of the whole argument is the fact that I wouldn’t use certain studio techniques out of sheer bullheadedness, I wanted to always sing live, play live lead guitar like on a live gig and of course that doesn't always work.  I mean you may get a good vocal and bad lead guitar, or a good lead guitar and a mistake from one of the band, y ‘know what I mean, whereas now we’re inclined to be a little more relaxed about the idea and say well let’s go for a good rhythm track and do the vocal or half the vocal later and I don't regard that as selling out.  In the early days, I was really trying hard to get that stage thing, but now I’ve realized that to actually play live in the studio doesn’t necessarily mean you’re gonna get the live excitement so you're better off treating the thing as a studio project and then eventually, with the right approach, you might get the live excitement in a different sort of way.

You’ve used Roger Glover as Co-Producer on the album, is that because he’s a musician himself and would probably be more agreeable with your ideas?

“Actually, he’s given the full title of producer even though I was fairly stuck in there myself.  No, I knew Roger from some tours that we did with Deep Purple in America and he’d produced Purple, Nazareth and several other things, and I'm very nervous of producers because sometimes they say ‘Rory this has gotta have Brass, it’s gotta have Strings, it’s gotta have some other guy playing the guitar’, they take an artist and totally take the heart and soul out of him, but Roger’s a nice easy going guy.  As it turned out he was the man for the job.

Finally, you recorded the Album in the Musicland Studios in Munich, why go to Germany?

“Well, I rang up Roger who was already installed at Musicland doing his own solo album, and he wanted to produce our album, but couldn't get away long enough, so he said ‘Why don't you buy some time off me?’ ‘cos he’d rented the studio for about 2 months, so that’s what we did.  We bought 4 weeks off him and he was great I mean you’re living in a hotel, step in the lift and down at the basement you’re in the studio, no driving around town to get there, great equipment, canteen, the hotel is nice, SIX FRIENDLY BARS, (he shouted) what more could you want?

What more indeed, an honest man, an amazing player with a genuine love for his audience and music.
Ladies and Gentlemen RORY GALLAGHER.


From  The Best In Rock - Way Ahead - No. 10 - 1977
many thanks to Brenda O'Brien for sharing and preparing this article!
reformatted by roryfan
To Join
The Loop
Mailing & Discussion List 
email roryfan at
Back to main RoryON!! page
 Back to Articles page
Back to previous article
Forward to next article
added 1/23/11