audience reaction to a
typical Rory Gallagher concert has been well
documented in the overseas music papers, but I was still not
fully prepared for the tremendous excitement
that this man generates. It's hard to analyse the reaction that
occurred in the Town Hall that night. Gallagher himself seemed at a
loss for a complete explanation.
first thing immediately
noticeable onstage is that Rory Gallagher is the show and
there can be no doubt that this man is an excellent musician whose
control of the guitar, whether acoustic or electric, is truly
outstanding. On the other hand, his background band is unexceptional,
with the keyboard player being of questionable musical ability. In
fact, the musical highlight for me was Gallagher's solo bracket of
three acoustic songs which showed the audience that he could play
tastefully and subtly when required.
the interview the
following day, I found Gallagher to be a very pleasant individual who
is completely immersed in music and uninterested in other aspects of
'showbiz'. Because of its length,
the interview has been edited in length in an attempt not only to
reduce space, but to produce a more coherent article.
was amused at the
excitement you aroused in the audience last night. Is the set
deliberately paced to obtain that reaction?
I try to get a rock 'n' roll reaction from the first two numbers.
It's common sense. You take it down from there and build up again so
that the set moves up and down – it flows. But I definitely try to
grab the audience as soon as I get on stage – I like to be a 'live'
musician as opposed to being a 'laid-back' musician. That's fine for
some things, but half the time, 'laid back' is simply an excuse for
of course is the major criticism of Jerry Garcia
and the San Francisco school.
it could be a reflection of different personalities, I suppose, but I
think my approach stems from the musicians I like, whether its Django
Reinhardt, Eddie Cochran
or Buddy Guy.
you always get a similar audience reaction
to the one last night? I even noticed some males in the audience
playing imaginary guitars.
NO. We get different reactions according to the particular area.
Blues numbers might receive more applause in the clubs than they do
in concert. But I never change the set
because of the area. I don't drop numbers just because I know that
the rockers go
down better here than they do on the West Coast, for example.
I'm saying is that we get a certain type of reaction to certain songs
or a certain category of songs.
known in Melody Maker as the man who plays 365 days a year. Is this
image an accurate one?
they've taken it too far. The English press
is lazy. Once they get an image – in my case it's the hard-working
checked shirt bit, they never bother to write anything new about me.
I estimate I'm probably on the road 10 months of the year.
the same, you're quite the antithesis of some San Franciscans and
Southern bands who do live performances and tours simply as
interludes to recording.
that's a tragedy, but I can understand it
because of the recording industry record advances etc. It should be
the other way round, but as I've said, I think of myself as a 'live'
performer. This is probably because I have a romantic conception of
music based on figures like Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly – musical
hobos. Touring keeps the music on its toes – it keeps it clean and
stops it from becoming too fat.
critical are you of your own playing?
music's abstract – it's not just either good or bad. You might play
one number fantastically well and then the next one not so well, but
you get an amazing feeling across. This sort of thing is particularly
true with this kind of music that's improved.
it possible to say what proportion of improvision constitutes your
I couldn't say. It varies so much. Sometimes I add or leave out
verses as well as extend the instrumental breaks. Then again, I may
change the flavour of the song completel
by doing it on acoustic guitar instead of playing it on the
electric guitar. For example, sometimes I play
J.B.Hutto's 'Too Much Alcohol' acoustically in a different key
and a different tempo. This gives the song more of a antique flavour.
you mentioned Buddy Guy earlier and it
occurred to me that you are associated with a Fender Stratocaster in
much the same way he is, or for that matter Hendrix was.... You have
a similar approach to Buddy Guy – that very intense strangulated
sound – another of your trademarks is the use of harmonics.
I'm very much a Strat man. You see Gibsons
are so easy to play that they tend to control the player. They
literally only have about two tones. Plug them into any old amp and
they still sound great, but plug a Strat into the wrong amp and it
sounds like a tinny toy.
a Strat you really have to work on it to get the menace out of it and
they give you the freak tones that Gibsons don't. Also, I think
Fenders are more versatile. Their single pole
pickups give you that strangled sound and you can get to the
volume and tone controls quicker than you can on a Gibson.
for the harmonics, they're purely a Strat
thing. I didn't know what they were at first, but now I can get three
types of harmonics.
there any players you're listening to at the present who impress you?
lots. If you want a gush of names, there's Doc Watson, Django,
Martin Carthy, Bert Jansch, Al Wilson (deceased- Canned Heat),
J.B.Hutto, Buddy Guy, of course, and
Otis Rush, Lowell George ( Little Feat) too. There's a whole range of
people. I'm just a guitar fan.
people say B.B.King
is God or Hendrix is God and that they're the only guitarists.
The rest of us are just servants. I think the more guitarists the
better. It keeps the whole thing bubbling along. There could be a guy
playing in the bar on the corner, who means as much to me, maybe
more, than Hendrix and Hendrix is fantastic.
notice on your records, that you always seem to include a
country-blues – is this deliberate?
but only to satisfy myself, not to impress or satisfy anyone else. At
any moment there's always at least one country-blues song that's in my
head and it keeps on killing me for 9 months till I get it down. At
the moment I'd like to do a Leadbelly
number using a Scottish tuning (!) and oh – yeah, there's a Blind
Boy Fuller song, 3 Ball Blues I'm crazy about.
attracts you to pick up on those old country-blues tunes?
the lyrics, it always comes down to the lyrics, whether it's an old
country-blues or more contemporary material such as Tony Joe White's
As the Crow Flies or Muddy
Waters' Garbage Man, both of
which I play in concert.
notice, though, you always avoid the signature tunes of older blues
mean, for example, Mojo and Hoochie
Coochie Man with Muddy Waters – yeah
well I avoid them as they've been overrecorded and there are songs
round by those same artists that are as good if not better than those
songs are OK at jam sessions where you're looking for some common
grounds with musicians you don't know very well.
did you come to play on the Stones record?
they just phoned me up and asked me to come down to the studios. They
seem to spend 2 or so weeks working on a couple of numbers just
getting them as perfect as possible.
do you think of the suggestion made by Ry
Cooder that the Stones lifted licks from
him when he worked for them as a session musician? He claims
part-credit for Honky
heard that one before. I don't know if Ry Cooder's being fair though,
he may have come up with a lick that Keith later worked on. Little
Feat also claims the Stones did the same thing to them. Lowell George
said they sent an acetate of the second album (Sailin Shoes
to the Stones and heard parts of it back on Exile on Main
Street. On the other hand, it could be said that some songs on
the first Little Feat album sound like the Stones.
think everyone's influenced by various people and when groups have a
similar set of influences you're bound to have have similarities in
their music too.
you like to comment on the rumour that you may be joining the Stones?
people are throwing that one around – the Stones do have a similar
blues background and Keith's into all the various blues open tunings
– but I'm a guitarist, singer, songwriter and bandleader, so it
would be a question of how I could manage – having a double career
or whatever. Anyway, it's only a hypothetical question.
what are your plans for this year?
doing tours of Spain, Germany and America, an acoustic album and a
band album. The plan is to try and get a killer album out this time
and I'm sure we've got it in us.
also toying with the idea of taking classical guitar lessons. It's
probably because I've been taught by my own ears. I can't read and
there comes a time when it gets to you. I feel now that taking lessons
wouldn't ruin any individuality I may now have.
From Joachim Matz's great
Rory timeline, I found that the show referred to was
at the Auckland Town Hall in New Zealand on 3/7/75
interview comes from the March 1975 issue of HOT LICKS from New Zealand
reformatted by roryfan