Rory Gallagher, the Irish bluesboy with the blistering guitar, never leaves the road. Without a hit single, or even an album that has done well on the charts, Rory maintains an amazingly strong following in every town. How does he do it? He plays every town in the universe.
by Tom Harrison
Well, it certainly is nice to know that some things in rock and roll never change, what with bands splitting left and right and solo projects started, but never finished, with pseudo reunions and false revivals, with tours canceled before they've begun, with record execs being deposed and all kinds of "super-stars" in varying degrees of activity, limbo, semi-retirement or degeneration.
It's really comforting to know that Black Sab's next album is gonna be exactly like the last one, that perpetual nice guy, Ringo Starr, is always gonna have that hockey stick of a proboscis no matter what he tries to camouflage it in; that true rock and roll will stand no matter what such time release expendables as Sha Na Na, Teen Angel, Wednesday, Flash Cadillac, and K Tel do to our connotations of the term. And finally it's truly a relief to know that guys with integrity, like Rory Gallagher, are always gonna be up on stage doing what they love most for themselves and those who came to share in it.
It shouldn't be any surprise
then, that, in the year since Beetle
last featured this supremo Irish guitar player, Rory is still the same
Rory. His work load is still heavy and his upward mobility is still spiraling
; his onstage stance is still total jump, his offstage manner mild- quiet,
relaxed, polite, reserved. In fact, so pleasingly unchanged is Rory Gallagher
as a personality, that once the bases have all been covered he leaves very
little to write about outside of the excitement he generates from the stage
and his steadily improving career.-
Only a couple of days earlier, Shawn Phillips had sold out this same building (a small, unglamorous hockey arena known as the PNE Forum) and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, due only a few days later, had long ago sold out the 20,000 persons capacity Colosseum at six bucks a shot. This night Bob Dylan and The Band were churning it up in Seattle, having lured literally thousands of Vancouverites into a Curiosity / Nostalgia / Religion motivated pilgrimage south. Vancouver was in the middle of a music boom with money and musicians flying everywhere and still there was room enough for another sold out concert by two middle level stars coming into town on a minimum of advertising. Times have certainly changed again on the West Coast.
Another unexpected aspect of this concert was that the majority of the crowd was not here to see/hear the venerable, Butterfield, a coastal institution from the sixties, but Gallagher whose last trip to Vancouver had him third on the bill to Fleetwood Mac and Deep Purple. That had been eight months earlier when 'Blueprint" was starting to make waves. Previous to that, barely anybody even knew of his association with Taste and his three other solo albums. Meanwhile, back on stage, Rory's band is making times (unintentionally) difficult for Butterfield's Better Days, tearing through a melange of material from 'Blueprint" and earlier albums, some old blues and rock standards and a heavy dose of the newer stuff from Rory's latest and possibly greatest to date, "Tattoo".
"Tattoo" is a good title for the album because, if anything, it's indelible and it stings. More single-minded than "Blueprint"- being hard edged blues-rock/jazz tinged excursions-if it was the new Gallagher design, then "Tattoo" is its foundation and one which leaves the band (consisting of Gerry McAvoy, Rod De'Ath, Lou Martin and, of course, Rory) plenty to build upon.
When I arrive for the interview, Rory pulls a beer from a garbage can full of ice, thoughtfully supplied by the promoters, cracks it open and hands it off to me in return for Bob Dunne's article on him from last year.
Since that article, Rory's joined the growing list of Music Heroes of The Western World out to conquer the new rock frontier of Japan. Bowie's been there, as has Deep Purple, as have countless others and Rory, describing his tour, probably echoes the sentiments of those who preceded him: it was "very good. ..very organized. The halls were nice and there were quite good audiences. They have a pretty broad knowledge. The atmosphere was pretty nice and relaxed."
Rory still likes to play to his homeland whenever he can ,and ,being a good old Irish lad, limits the dangers of playing in this strike ridden, violence torn country. But Rory feels fairly safe while onstage there. "We just did two days in Belfast; it's a dangerous city all right but not as dangerous as you'd imagine. You do a concert and people come. The incidents happen on the street. The night you go there nothing might happen."
It would appear that Rory Gallagher is always on tour ricocheting around the world like a berserk ping pong ball. It's true- he does work hard ,but "we don't work every single day of our lives. We take time off to rehearse and record and we have to take a breather now and then, but we don't like to go off the road for months on end and hang out because after a week the whole band, myself included, gets irritated. We just love to play, y'know. It gets a bit boring to play for yourself."
This goes a long way towards explaining how, without the benefit of a hit single or overwhelming hype, Rory's popularity just keeps on growing snowball- like. The sheer enjoyment of what he's doing shows and the audience picks up on it. His availability is something his fans appreciate. But without talent this integrity-accessibility combination means nothing and talent is something Rory is dripping in.
According to the Polydor press biography, admiring English rock fans rate Rory Gallagher the world's fifth best guitarist which Rory regards with both modesty and amusement. Technique style and taste, after all, are relative, and if you consider the persistent cult of Hendrix worshippers, incongruous. "I got into Hendrix, but I never took the man out of context. He was a brilliant musician, but I think the whole thing got out of hand. It got out of perspective if you consider some of the people who are as good as Hendrix in their own way."
"Some big favorites of mine
would be Muddy Waters, Blind Boy Fuller, Scrapper Blackwell.
"I like John Hammond. AI Wilson of Canned Heat, I used to like. I always keep my ears open for the English players as well. Beck is always interesting."
"Originally I was influenced by Lonnie Donnegan-we're not talking about just guitar players, of course-Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry , Buddy Holly and then "inspired" or influenced by Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, the Stones, some folk types as well like Doc Watson, Bob Dylan. ..I'm just a music fan. Any kind of thing hits me somewhere in the middle."
"I love Rock and Roll, but I don't like all this Woolworth's packaging and a lot of the guys they're bringing back don't deserve to be brought back. Chuck Berry deserves to be brought back certainly and Carl Perkins and Buddy Holly, but so many others don't deserve it."
Unlike many other performing bands who get their biggest kick out of working for an audience and disdain the studio, Rory and the band don't seem to mind at all. "It gives us a chance to preserve what we are into at the time." Great shades of Roger "each-album-is- a -magazine -for -the -ears" McGuinn. As far as his recording career is concerned, Rory seemed generally satisfied with the progress made to date, although there exists two "live" Taste LPs which were released without Rory's consent or knowledge sometime after "Taste were dead as a group".
"I don't care if I have an AM hit on the radio, no, I wouldn't object- but I've never set about to make the kind of record that would be a hit on the radio. We just go in and record. If I have something to say that I want to put in a song that I feel is important I'll go ahead and do it, but I'm not into what might be called social protest."
As for the actual recording process, it's not much different from that of many other bands. By the time a piece gets to the studio, it's changed several times since its conception. By the time it has been committed to tape it has undergone still more changes. By the time Rory has played your town, the material has evolved further still. This is a jamming band (by way of a number of sober British Blues bands. Drummer Gerry McAvoy is from Killing Floor for instance) and, as Rory put it, "we don't like to restrict ourselves. You can't play as often as we do and do a song the same way every night. It would get boring very quickly." Call it group therapy. ..or something. ..but you can be sure that it is their ability to build upon the material they do that sustains their passion for playing and keeps them sane and satisfied during those grueling road trips. It is Rory's way of remaining Rory-easy going and quietly exciting.
When I left him, Rory was
leaning against a mountain of sound equipment sipping on a Canadian made
"English Style" beer. He was unnoticed and went undisturbed within the
dark of the Forum. A swell of people gathered round the front of the stage
for Butterfield just as they had for Gallagher during his performance.
They seemed unaware that the man they had hailed back for a frenzy inspiring
encore an hour ago was now among them and safe within their anonymity.
Some things never change.
Note: See a writeup of a show in Manitoba from the tour in Article #180
From the October 1974 issue of beetle magazine
photo from the article
reformatted by roryfan
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