Rory Gallagher: Full Blooded Gallagher


DURING A RECENT trip to America I was able to watch Rory Gallagher work at that musical pit of iniquity known as 'The Whisky A Go Go' on Sunset Strip where so many good British bands have faltered before a crowd of 'tequila sun-risers' who believe they have seen it all before. He produced a full blooded set which got even the blasé  West Coasters on their feet cheering.

He's 'The Working-man's Guitarist' - a street level musician who manages to combine an intuitive feel for blues with a gut-level approach to rock and roll which keeps his music both emotionally exciting and direct.

It has been said before of course, but 'performance' is really what Gallagher is about - and although we have had a number of interesting and varied albums from him, nothing yet has captured the essence of his stage work.

On stage he slogs, sweats and showers sparks that eventually build to an explosive finale. However, although he has yet to produce a dud album, most of his recording has given the impression of being controlled and refined without fully capturing that essential spontaneity.

He does claim however, that his next album 'may not be the best but it is the newest!' He believes that it exploits the promise of Blueprint, but has a livelier quality.

When we talked recently, the conversation turned to religion, and some of Billy Graham's recent pontification on the Irish troubles, about "the devil being at work in Belfast and being everyone's responsibility to stop the bombings! "

"As if we didn't know that," mumbled Gallagher. "Sometimes I wonder about these preachers in their Cadillacs and gurus in their Rolls Royces - I wonder how much contact they really have with the people and the problems. "

Gallagher is a Catholic, and refuses to be drawn further on the subject of religion and politics, believing apparently that musicians should stick to talking about music. I pushed him on the subject of personal information and significantly got nowhere.

"I really don't lead a very spectacular life and so it is really more interesting to ask me about my music and my guitar ... I haven't many interesting things to say about myself that I would want printed."

He's not married, lives on his own, with one home in Cork and one in England, and has a car, but can't drive. And that was all. Another mind probing and incisive character analysis bites the dust. What interests Rory? Music. What motivates Rory? Work.

"I've been playing guitar since I was nine. I just enjoy playing. It's not work to me - it's making music. I want to be on the road when I'm fifty playing to people.

"People like Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters are still working why shouldn't I? It's what I enjoy most.

"It's another reason why I am so scared of that super stardom propaganda. I don't want to be elevated to the kind of level where I become a cult figure - someone like Bob Dylan who virtually had to stop working. I don't want to do it all, so to speak, in just a short space for a few years. I have a life-time.

"Of course I want to develop and widen my market to reach people who have not heard me, but I want to do it my way. It may take longer to get around to playing for everyone, but I'm convinced it is the right way and the lasting way.

"I could turn to my record company now and say right 'Operation Gallagher' is on and they might make me a giant by Christmas. I think if I wanted that it could be done.

"It may take me ten years to do things my way which a promotional hype could do in a few months. It's not an obsessional thing, because there are compromise situations. I mean, I do make records and I do interviews because I don't want to be a non-success. I want a balance which suits me.

"What I'm saying is really not all that extraordinary if you think about it because I want to lead a normal and sane existence.
"I want to be able to go to pubs, restaurants and places without feeling I am a freak. I want to go into the bar next to the gig and be able to talk to people. I can. I do. Once you get to a super-star status and your whole life swings out of control - normalcy gets lost. All that running from Rolls Royce to Rolls Royce and hiding from people ...

"'There are things I want of course, but most of them I have - nice guitars, equipment etc ... and the other motive is to improve, communicate and reach more people, but it would be nice to do that in a dignified manner."

What of Tattoo and Rory's earlier promise that if this was not 'The One' he would chuck the tapes in the dustbin? "What I meant by that was that I was determined to - give it some time and not let a tour get in the way - not let anything get in the way. I wasn't going to be rushed into an early release date.

"This is properly scheduled. We will have it out in mid-October and be touring by mid-November so people will have had time to familiarise themselves with the tracks and digest the material.

"There are nine original numbers and the title track 'Tattooed Lady', which is about the kind of travelling fair we still have in Ireland - tattooed ladies and bearded babies!

"There is an acoustic blues, a road song (which sounds like a cliché but isn't). It's fairly meaty stuff. It has a better sound and more atmosphere than Blueprint. It was recorded here and rehearsed at leisure in Cork."

Gallagher is one of the few musicians I have come across who unashamedly admits to early Lonnie Donegan influences.

"I've never been able to understand why more people haven't credited him with popularising folk blues and country music," he said. "He helped so many young kids into an idea of making their own music and turning them on to obscure and neglected folk and blues artistes ..

"It's funny really because I mentioned once or twice in interviews that he was one of my early influences and it came out O.K. in New York papers. But I arrived somewhere in the Mid-West and picked up a paper which read "Rory Gallagher, who had a big hit with 'Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It's Flavour', is in town tonite". I nearly cried. Just as well Lonnie never saw it."

Keith Altham, NME, 13 October 1973
reformatted by roryfan
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added 3/19/06