Rory Gallagher roars back
                  by David Fricke

The Irish guitarist has scored a 'Photo-Finish'

Rory Gallagher makes his living from his fingers. So when the 29-year-old Irish guitarist got his right thumb caught in a Los Angeles taxi door last year, he felt more anxiety than pain when he pulled it out. "I paid a taxi, got up to close the door, and just didn't take my thumb out of the way," Gallagher explains while he examines the digit under discussion. "For a split second, I thought it was gone, but it got caught just on the joint. I had a dressing on it for six weeks. It can't completely bend like it should"- he flexes the thumb for emphasis- "but I can play."

In Gallagher's line of work, that's the important thing. Currently making the Stateside rounds to support his ninth solo album; Photo-Finish (Chrysalis), Rory Gallagher has played guitar for his bread and butter since 1965, when, as a young rebellious 16-year-old, he split school and home in Cork to tour European bistros and army bases with the Impact Show Band. Then it was four years with his trio Taste and seven subsequent seasons on the road as a solo artist. That the popular bluesbuster can still pay the bills in this Age of Anti-Lead Guitar is a tribute as much to his personal resolution as his chops. His new album, Gallagher says, "stands up on its own as a good record," With soft- spoken modesty, he stares face down into a cup of hot tea with which he's nursing a sore throat, "That whole critical commandment- thou shalt not do a long guitar solo- you're not even allowed to say 'lead guitar' anymore. I still want to be modern and valid, but I haven't sold out on the past, the things I love and refuse to drop."

"Shin Kicker," "Shadow Play," and "Brute Force and Ignorance" all bristle with the same manic intensity that first lifted Rory out of the British blues-rock quagmire on his 1971 solo debut (Rory Gallagher). He'll also cite "Cruise on Out" as an example for those who insist he's treading the same old mill or, worse, that Rory can't cut it in the studio the way he does live.

Gallagher has almost no use for producers. With the exception of '76's Calling Card (helmed by Roger Glover), he's always produced himself. " A lot of producers don't understand the blues thing. You say you want to try a Slim Harpo sound and they say who's he?' Then you have to explain it to them: you're teaching them. "

Rory did give Photo-Finish a go with Elliot Mazer in the States, only to be so dissatisfied with the results" that he canned the tapes, five songs, and band- members Rod de'Ath (drums) and Lou Martin (piano), retaining bassist Gerry McAvoy and recruiting ex-Sensational Alex Harvey Band drummer Ted McKenna. The thumb episode and touring schedules further fouled up recording, so that by the time the album was done a second time, it was for Gallagher, an uncharacteristic two years between releases.

Simplicity remains Gallagher's strong suit. He can't read music, first thought the Beatles were a revivalist '50s rock & roll band, and bought his first electric guitar without realizing he needed an amp to go with it. But like the title of his song, Rory Gallagher is the "Last of the Independents," a no-frills man ("Like Freddie Laker," cracks brother/road manager Donal) who looks exactly the way he plays- trademark flannel shirt, faded jeans, flat-footed sneaks, wild half-curly tresses falling unkempt to his shoulders. "He looks like a paper boy in his plimsoles and blue jeans," granted one English rock pundit.

But fad and fashion are not Gallagher's concern. He works out of London, calls Ireland his home, thrives on road work, and plays his blues as hard as he can. "It's important to find your own trail and drive along it as far as you can go."

And he still has a thumb for hitch-hiking if he needs it.

This article come from the January 1979 issue of Circus magazine
Thanks to John Murphy for passing it along
reformatted by roryfan
the background is a photo from the article, mutated by roryfan
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