A Taste of Rory

                    Jerry Gilbert concludes his interview with Rory Gallagher

TASTE had already established themselves as Ire­land’s top band, and the logical step from there was across the Irish Sea to England.  But it was necessary for them to make several trips back and forth before they attracted sufficient interest to keep them in England full time.

“When we came over, first of all we didn't get much work so it was very much a case of hanging around,” Rory Gallagher recalled.  “So we went back to Belfast and eventually returned to England: Polydor saw us at one of our gigs and offered a contract and that was it.

“I was already writing material for the band then ‑ in fact I had been writing for the showband when I was fifteen.  We were doing a mixture of Chuck Berry ‘hangover’ songs that we all knew just to fill up and some of my songs, so by the time we started recording in ‘68 most of the songs in the act were mine or if they weren't mine they were, say, Willie Dixon compositions ‑ blues stuff.”

Taste were fortunate in that they quickly came to the attention of the Marquee Organization, and they were offered an immediate residency at the club in the days when such an achievement was tantamount to an automatic springboard to stardom. “We got the residency after doing a few gigs there and we built up a following.  It gave us the chance of competition and solid work every Tuesday night ‑ it was a real morale booster,” Rory went on.

Soon the fanfare of trumpets sounded to welcome Taste ‑ they appeared at the NJF Festival and were heavily tipped for stardom as an exciting new heavyweight band.

"It was weird because the old Taste used to get pushed into general bags, such as being heavy, which we never were as such, and also as being twelve‑bar‑blues‑ish which we never were total­ly, but I don’t think we ever fitted any cate­gories.  Taste was a band playing blues and rhythm and blues and working on our own compositions to try and develop our own style, that was basically it."

“The thing is, the trio was a terrible stigma.  People instantly thought we were trying to do the obvious Hendrix or Cream thing, which we weren’t ‑ they weren’t our favourites at all.  If anything we preferred the American white blues players at the time and it just happened that we were there; so subsequently they forgot we had small amps and weren’t doing heavy material, but it just looked as though we were influenced by Cream even though we were a trio before Cream formed.”

Yet despite the promise, Taste didn't really break big until the beginning of 1970 when their second album “On The Boards” appeared to spring from nowhere.  However Rory attributed the band’s success more to their steady cumulative work than this one album, yet the fact that Taste hadn’t really scored heavily prior to that album is possibly due to Rory’s aversion towards commercialism.  In fact, Taste never released a single nor has Rory sub­sequently become involved in the singles market.

“When you have this dogmatic notion about pop‑singles it does create lulls in publicity and so called popularity.  But I think the very first Taste that was together for two years was much more basic than the popular Taste (with John Wilson and Ritchie McCracken) because the second was much more technical, the musi­cians were much more proficient, but the first half of the life of the second Taste was raw, gutty music which I still inherit but … we could have been really big if we’d all made concessions, but was the point?"

“You see, I’ve always had the feeling in the back of my mind that no matter what goes wrong I can always go down to the local club and just play the music I like.  I can do without the Albert Hall, but if I can’t walk out on a Saturday night and have a pint and plug in and have a good jam … this is the kind of attitude I think the musicians of the thirties had - the Glenn Miller period.”

Rory picked up the story of Taste and re­traced it through the release of “On The Boards” and on towards the inevitable split.

“I think ‘On The Boards’ did break the band, but even without that I think we would have made it because we were doing an amazing amount of gigs and we were doing well at festi­vals, but it probably broke us as far as the critics were concerned.  It was a good album actually and I still like it.  The first one was very bluesy and derivative, but the second one was quite original using saxophone and so on.  There was a fair bit of jazz influence on ‘On The Boards’ but there was quite a variety … there was a bit of country and a bit of main­stream stuff.”

Did Rory feel that the band reached its peak during this period?  “Probably, I think that was the inspiration and highlight of the thing and after that we just disintegrated because of dif­ferent approaches to the music.  We got a lovely jazz feel out of ‘It Happened Before It’ll Happen Again’ . . . . John got that feel on it and I enjoyed that as a song, but then I’d want to do ‘Gambling Blues’ or something like that and naturally you couldn’t bring the jazz in­fluence into that kind of number; maybe some of the other boys thought you could and that maybe it was a new concept, but I didn't think so.

“It didn't happen every night, but towards the end it just became a very paranoid type of musical attitude; besides everyone had a fair bunch of talent and maybe if we were older and more mature we could have used every­one’s talent to the best advantage, but it just didn't work out that way and the inevitable happened.”

Thus Rory disappeared away from the almost hysterical reaction that greeted the break up of Taste.  He hid away in Ireland, not as a defense measure, but simply to assimilate his ideas and prepare his next campaign, “I knew Wilgar (Campbell) from the early Belfast days when I lived there for a while, and Gerry (McAvoy) because I’d seen him on a few of the Taste tours when he played in the support band, Deep Joy.  Wilgar was in London and I asked him if he’d come and have a blow and I rang up Gerry and he was doing nothing so I brought him over.

“We made the first album, then went on tour and went back on the road.  I was only off the road for about six months really.”

Rory resurfaced to find that he’d lost none of his old flare - and none of his fans either.  This time he was out in front, no mistake, not as part of a three piece band, but as a calm, assured musician fronting his own band under his own name.  “My whole approach changed inasmuch as I was handling my own affairs which cleared up a lot of problems - it meant that if something went wrong I had only myself to blame.  I had these six months to re‑think and also the last couple of months of Taste to reconsider and get out of my system and try new approaches and to use all the things I learnt with Taste and like with Taste.”

In fact, Rory clearly wanted to close the book on Taste once and for all and open a completely new chapter in his career when he returned with the new three piece.  “I decided when I finished with Taste that I wasn’t going to come back and make it on Taste’s hits ‑ I didn't do any Taste numbers at all and haven’t done since, even though I love the songs and they’re my compositions.  But I wanted a fresh start ‑ and I couldn’t wait to get back.

“The audience was prepared to listen - there were a few people shouting for Taste numbers and I’d have been surprised if they didn't shout.  But soon people started calling out for ‘Laundromat’ rather than ‘What’s Going On’, so there wasn’t really anything hard about coming back - you know if you really work hard at something and believe that it’s solid, it’s very hard for people not to like it.”

The conversation inevitably swung round to Rory’s best loved music ‑ that of the blues guitarists.  “I haven’t got any one idol, which I think is a healthy thing because it means I don’t get that of BB King complex.  But I think the electric player I like best is Buddy Guy … and Muddy, I like his style and Jimmy Rodgers.  I like all the Kings, but of that style I think I like Buddy because he takes more chances, and Junior Wells; but then JB Hutto I like and so it goes on.  Other than that I tend to listen to more of the acoustic players, Blind Boy Fuller, Willie Johnson, Broonzy and Scrapper Blackwell.”

It’s Rory Gallagher’s battered old Strato­caster which he’s had since the age of 15, and the equally inextricable Telecaster that have seen him through classic post‑Taste cuts like ‘Laundromat’, ‘In Your Town’, ‘Going To My Home Town’ and ‘Messin’ With The Kid’. They’re the guitars that have taken him through four albums all of which have grown logically and progressively to reveal more facets of the man’s musical make up.  ‘Deuce’, the second album, was a perfect sample to whet the appetite for the live album which was re­leased towards the end of last year; and for my money it’s the most dynamic live album I’ve heard from any British band containing aside from the tracks mentioned above, his superb tribute to Blind Boy Fuller on the acoustic ‘Pistol Slapper Blues’.

On the new album ‘Blueprint’ he takes the acoustic side a step further with his own self-­written syncopated piece called ‘Unmilitary Two Step’ which is a fond nod in the direction of the late Gary Davies and is perfectly executed.  But it also highlights Rory as a lyricist and draws attention to a side of him which usually evokes attention.  ‘Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son’ is a classic ballad of a man back home who happens to be, as the title says, the seventh son of a seventh son and is blessed with amazing healing powers.  ‘Daughter Of The Everglades’ is another song which holds the attention of the lyrical theme alone.

‘Blueprint’ was recorded immediately after Rory had returned from a mammoth tour of the States which eventually lasted for three months, it’s the first to feature new drummer  Rod de’Ath and for the first time, a pianist.  Rory finally broke away from the trio format to introduce Lou Martin, who formerly played alongside Rod de’Ath in Killing Floor, which further emphasizes that his mind is far from closed.  The changes he has undergone as a result of the long American campaign, coupled with the arrival of Lou Martin has created a much wider capacity in which he has already started to maneuver.
Rory Gallagher’s best music is still to come ‑ his musical capacity is enormous and in whatever stage of the 1970s and whatever context he happens to find himself at the time, I feel that one day Rory will find his “Sgt. Pepper”, his Utopia or whatever you choose to call that elusive goal that so many rock musicians strive for yet so few attain.

From the February 17, 1973 issue of SOUNDS
Thanks to Brenda O'Brien for sharing this article
background is a B&W photo from the article I mutated
reformatted by roryfan
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added 12/12/04