Interview with one 1 1/2 page photo, four
large almost full page photos and a 11x17" photo (pages 34-41):
Burning Hot Gallagher ("Brulant Gallagher") by Christian LEBRUN
Rarely has the Olympia
Paris] vibrated as much as during the Rory Gallagher concert December
. "Vibrated". Vibrations. That's the word. Rarely has there been
communication between musician and audience. One has to go back to Eric
or Alvin Lee to find that. Rory Gallagher is in that league of players
force enthusiasm for and the love of a crowd through their generous
of energy, by their untiring way of seeking ecstasy. In this case, the
sees directly the personality of the man on the stage. Rory
faithful to the Blues, marvelous guitarist, exuberant, kind, simple,
working, was in Paris on one stop of a vast world tour. He played the
tunes from his last album, "Tattoo'd Lady", "A Million Miles Away" and
Rock", he held the entire hall's attention with acoustic numbers "Going
My Home Town" and "Unmilitary Two-Step", and then he finished everyone
with the wild electricity of "Walk On Hot Coals" and "In Your Town"
a final celebration with "Bullfrog Blues".
Rory Gallagher, during this time of rebirth of sophisticated rock stars, could seem a bit old-fashioned. He is anything but that; his success will grow. This tranquil Irishman contents himself by making excellent record after excellent record, by doing hot show after hot show. Nothing else matters. Some say he'll never be a star, but he just goes back to work, winning over legions of fans every day. Plus, he's a person who is always interesting to encounter and speak with; that's what we've done.
Christian Lebrun (CL): You're coming here straight from a British tour, I believe. How was that? Did you find a change in the British audiences of 1973?
RG: It was great to get back to that audience. We haven't played for them for nine months, except for the Reading Festival. Nine months have given us time to clear our heads, to re-evaluate what we're doing, to freshen us up. During this time there was the experience of an American tour, the new tunes from the last album. So it wasn't the audience that changed, but the style of the concerts. So it was great to come back like that and I really had a good time.
CL: What did you learn from the American tour?
RG: During an American tour, one night you're playing for 20,000 people, the next day in a festival for 300,000, then you do week in a club for a few hundred people. That gives you a lot of different experiences. Also, it lets you share the bill with amazing performers and that forces some competition. For example, we played with ZZ Top, Freddy King, some really great performers. We also played with the Faces, and there we had only one hour to play instead of our usual two, so we had to give more density and cohesion to our set. That surely gave us more bite when we came back to Great Britain. We also played in Wales, which we've done for years and that was interesting. It's always difficult to play in Wales. There were concert halls in Cardiff and Swansea where not too long ago you couldn't enter wearing jeans, you had to be "well dressed". The band could play in jeans, but not the audience...
CL: What do you feel when you play in a place like Chicago or in the south of the USA, at these places where the Blues were born? Have you played before a black audience?
RG: That's the best! It's a great source of inspiration. We haven't played for a completely black audience, but sometimes before a well mixed audience. We haven't played in Chicago. I have to say, nevertheless, that it's a bit deceiving in that the blues towns are not particularly different from any others. The best places for rhythm'n'blues and the blues are now found in cities like Atlanta where the blues bands come from the Carolinas, or in Texas. There you can see groups like the Allman Brothers Band, Wet Willie or Little Feat, which is a group from Los Angeles that often plays the Atlantic coast. Every tour reveals new interesting cities like this. Nashville, Toronto, Canada, Atlanta, San Francisco, of course.
CL: Have the influences of Bluegrass and Country been comparable to those of the Blues on your guitar style?
RG: It's hard to make the distinction. I've been interested in folk music for a long time. Long before I became familiar with the blues, long before I even knew what the Blues are, my idol was Lonnie Donnegan, who was very inspired by Country, Folk, and Woody Guthrie. From there, I became interested in Country-Blues: Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy. Then I was influenced by the rockers: Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly. Then later on, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed, electric blues. Country has also greatly influenced me by way of the compositions of Hank Snow and Merle Haggard. But I think that my major influence is the Blues. It's better to have many influences. If you only have one, your style, especially concerning guitar style, will be severely limited. There are many things the country players do and not the blues guitarists. Such as the picking that I do, myself.
CL: How, more precisely, did you discover the Blues?
RG: Oh! Like everyone else. At the time, there weren't that many records available. The first I listened to was Chuck Berry. It was my guide towards the blues. Lonnie Donnegan, too. Then it was the discovery of the "EP's" of Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, Buddy Guy...
CL: You weren't like Van Morrison, in a family possessing a blues record collection?
RG: No. In his case, his mother ran a record store. He had the best collection in Belfast. He was born with that in his hands. John Mayall's father was a jazz guitarist who taught him at a very early age the T. Bone Walker style. My parents were musicians, but they were more in the Irish music scene.
CL: Do you ever want to incorporate Irish music into your compositions?
RG: I like the Irish song writing style. If I find a good old Irish tune, I'll do it. But it has go go along with my style. There's a tune like that on my first Lp, "Just The Smile". But it seems difficult for me to play a jig, a reel or something like that, even if I love Irish music tremendously. There are groups like Horselips who have experimented with that to a certain level. There's Planxty, who are traditional players but they are very good. Steeleye Span achieved that, also. It's possible, but I would find it difficult to imagine myself writing words for an Irish theme.
CL: How did young Irish consider Irish music when Rory Gallagher was a teenager?
RG: When I was an adolescent, the young people were more interested in rock'n'roll than in Irish music because it was associated with very short sighted, conservative performers. It didn't have the same attraction to the young. But in the past two years, people have been having second thoughts about it. They've begun playing it without getting all dressed up, for example... and now, there's a true movement in Ireland. Everyone is playing in groups like the Horselips.
CL: Are you going to go back to play in Belfast soon?
RG: The last I heard we are supposed to go play there a little after Christmas [late 1973/early 1974]. We were supposed to play there last year but the organizer changed his mind. We think that it's going to happen this year, but if the organizer says no, we won't be able to do it. We can't play in the street. It's difficult to organize a show there because there are so many permits to obtain! I'd love to go back there and play. We'll maybe play two concerts. People there are not deprived of music,. but they are deprived of big concerts.
CL: Do you think that as an Irishman, you need to speak out about your thoughts on the Northern Ireland question?
RG: I have my opinion, my point of view. But I don't think that whatever I think about the British government will interest the young British coming to the shows. Anyway, the people coming to the concerts know more or less what is going on in the North who is right, who is wrong and what should be done.
CL: Do you really believe that?
RG: Oh yes! When I speak with them, I can see that their opinion is made and they don't need my comments. They know. They read the papers. And even if the papers twist the facts, they know. They know that I'm Irish and that I hope for a unified Ireland. If at every concert I took ten minutes to explain to people, it would be very thorny.
CL: In any case, even if you did it, do you think that show business, the press, the establishment in general would let you? If one thinks about what John Lennon suffered after "The Luck Of The Irish" and "Sunday, Bloody Sunday"
RG: Yes, the reactions were very bad. Particularly in the rock press which is normally slow to respond to a political song in England. It was because it was done in Ireland and mostly because it was an Englishman who said that Ireland should be reunified... But even the English understand now that Ireland should be reunified. There will be a united Ireland. It's a question of time. But the songs have been written. By John Lennon, by Paul McCartney, by the Dubliners, by Lindisfarne. We can't rewrite them forever.
CL: How do you compose a song? On the guitar or on the piano?
RG: On the guitar. I can't really play the piano very well, which I regret because it's good to compose on the piano. I use a different methods to compose a song. Sometimes I'm walking in the street and something strikes me, and I take note. Sometimes I sing extemporaneously while I play the guitar.
CL: How do you manage to compose tunes that seem so fresh, so vigorous, without leaving you stifled by this type of fatal repetition or routine that the relatively strict structure of the blues imposes?
RG: I never sit down saying to myself "I have to write a song with a blues structure"... so I never have any difficulty. Ninety percent of the songs I write could be played in different styles and rhythms. I play them as blues because I feel the blues. However, if you play my records for a blues purist, he'll tell you that it's not the blues. I never let myself get submerged in a definitive style. I prefer to let the melodies expand.
CL: Do you think we can talk about a type of "white blues" where guys like John Hammond or Johnny Winter or yourself could be simply considered to be passing phenomena?
RG: I don't like the term "white blues". I think a white man can play the blues, definitely. But it's his own blues, his own emotions, his own sentiments. The blues originated with the black people, that's for sure. Very well. But it's the same problem as the Japanese violinist playing Austrian music. If we wanted to get into the problem in terms of race... John Hammond has thrown himself into the blues for years, yet strictly speaking, it's a false base, as he has evolved it into something more clean. The same for Johnny Winter. I have more respect for Muddy Waters myself than many young blacks. Even though a lot of young blacks don't like the blues. What one wants to call "white blues" is not good music. I think it pulls more strongly towards Rock, because Elvis Presley or Buddy Holly always found their strength in the way that whites could play the blues. The music should be innocent in any case. You play it like you feel it.
CL: What memories do you have of your "Session" last year with Jerry Lee Lewis?
RG: That was great! He is one of my favorites. It was simple: I arrived, the other musicians played, drank... then Jerry Lee said "OK, let's try Whole Lotta Shakin' and everyone got down to it. It was really like that. I think there was only one tune where we had to do more than one take. The Muddy Waters session, that proceeded differently, more slowly. We rehearsed a few times together. Jerry Lee is a good guy. He still plays with fire. That's rare. Most of them have lost their fire.
CL: Other than your world tour, do you have some precise projects in mind?
RG: I'm not really someone who devises grand projects and announces them with fanfare to the press. I know it makes good publicity to announce grand plans that one will never realize, but oh well... the only one I know who keeps his promises is Pete Townsend. We are surely going to record "live" during my upcoming Irish tour in hopes of putting out an album. Maybe "Live in Belfast"? Then we'll record in the studio in Los Angeles where Phil Spector worked in the old days.
by Christian LEBRUN
translation by Len Trimmer 9/98
typed and reformatted by roryfan 2/99
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