This article was from the 8/83 edition of Kerrang
"I still like to
that rock'n'roll is a thing that just grew out of the clubs and into
the theatres. Where it still has that slightly unruly touch to it!"- Rory Gallagher
Any of the 800 ecstatic Rory Gallagher fans crammed into his two sell-out nights at the Marquee about a month back, probably left wondering why rock'n'roll ever bothered to make that step. Although club land in Britain had long since waved a sad farewell to the mild-mannered Irishman, those dates were a superb opportunity to capture the magic of the man and his band in that environment once again. Rory has, of course, long been renowned for reproducing that environment and atmosphere wherever he plays -theatres large or small, even huge open air venues - but you never can beat the real thing! A chance to see close up that now world-famous battered Strat 'trademark'. The very same one that's been screaming electric blues and shooting sweat-soaked rockers to packed houses since the late Sixties.
In those early days he was fronting one of the original blues-rock power trios, Taste, with whom he cut five albums. He made his first solo album back in 1971 beginning a string of 10 studio and three live records that bear his name - excluding compilations. Those records have featured a variety of sidemen but his last, 'Jinx' (released in '82), was recorded by the same line-up that exists today - Rory himself, bassman Gerry McAvoy (who has been on every one of Rory's solo LPs) and newest recruit, with nearly two years service, drummer Brendan O'Neill.
The uncomplicated, though very proficient, brand of high energy rock they produce is amongst the most exciting I've watched in the past five years. It was only in l978, that I first witnessed the phenomenon of Gallagher, dragged along by a friend who'd been permanently converted on the previous tour. I've never regretted the tip, (thanks, lan!), and although thoroughly modern bands, such as Rush are just as likely to be in my playlist, there's no way that could ever undermine the personal importance of Rory Gallagher's music. An entertaining and totally convincing reminder of all that the basics of rock should be about - energy, songs and musicianship.
The importance of those basics (and keeping a link with the roots) kept cropping up when I spoke to him recently at his London flat. He was the quietly spoken, modest purist I had expected. Politely unable to apologize because he wasn't a subscriber to the rigidly planned, big production ethics of modem rock. A logo'd back drop on his last UK tour was the closest he's come to to Cecil B De Mille tactics (!) Usually just a handful of lights and audience - inspired adrenaline is enough. As he said: 'You have to play what you feel. If something feels stagey or made up, or too tricky, I don't like it. With a lot of bands the whole thing's too much like a military operation. Obviously, you get the other end of the scale where everything's totally disorganized and being messed up - but I think there's a happy medium where it still feels semi- natural. Just grooving along. We've toured with some of those big, sort of 'programmed rock bands' and I don't envy the people in them. I don't like the heaviness, the pressure about them."
No such pressure exists on Rory. Not even the numbers he plays at each gig are fixed beforehand. How on earth does he manage never to repeat the same set two nights running? "I'd say that there are certain songs I've never done early in the set and certain songs that are usually kept towards the end. That's about it really. Like every outfit, we've got about three songs in the repertoire that make a potentially good opening number. Naturally enough, if you're doing a long tour, a kind of programme evolves - but it's never that strict with us. We never have a list on stage. I just start a number and mouth it to the boys - or perhaps they'll recognize the intro -or perhaps we'll blend out of one song into another. Even in America, for example, where you're obliged to do two shows at some of the club dates, we never do the same songs in the second set.
'It's nice to be able to draw off the audience. If you had a piece of paper saying number four song is such-and-such' when, in fact, you feel you should be playing number seven because the audience is flagging, or the song is too fast or too slow for them, then your repertoire would be too rigid. It should be more flexible."
So between numbers something just comes to you..?
"Yeah - on the last chord of the previous number, or when I walk up to the microphone I just have to, (snaps his fingers), think quickly y'know!!"
kind of spontaneity must be built upon an incredible understanding
"Yeah, it's great. Most nights you get a good bit of ESP going so you don't have to have big long discussions - it just feels right. Occasionally, I might say: 'Oh, the first number will be 'Shinkicker' ' or whatever, but when you plug in, the first chord you play might turn you on to something else! It's healthier that way."
I gather you included 'Knock On Wood' at the second Marquee show...
"We just improvised it, (smiles), we'd never rehearsed it. We've a few songs, standards like that one, that we'll just blend into the end of a particular tune if the chording is similar. Silly things like a couple of verses of a Four Tops number, or The Byrds' 'Eight Miles High'. Those things are really just for the fun of it. They're semi-tongue-in cheek!"
What about the acoustic numbers you do mid-set. This section seems to have shortened?
"First of all, good acoustic material is not that easy to come by, believe it or not. It's hard to find songs that are 'gritty' enough to stand up with the audience in a set like ours. I can't do very soft ballads or very, very quiet acoustic stuff.. . unless it's a really attentive audience and the acoustics of the hall are perfect. Then I'll go for four or five numbers. But I do love to play at least a couple of those songs because they show the other side of the coin.
"I'd love to do a whole album of acoustic material, actually - I'm always scouring around for it - that would be great. Then I could cover everything from folky things right across to rag time and country blues. I wouldn't want it to be just 'Rory Doing A Bunch of Acoustics', though. It would have to be a strong, valid album. I imagine even the better acoustic artists - Martin Carthy, Bert Jansch or Davey Graham- as great as they are, have trouble finding 10 or 12 pieces of music that really do 'hold up in court'!
"Sometimes I'll write a song on acoustic and say 'Oh that's great! That's for the album!' Then I'll try it out on electric with the band and it takes on another dimension. 'Ride On Red' (although I didn't write that) and 'Who's That Comin'' were examples of that. Certain songs could have been left as acoustics - but we'll see next time around... "Between 12-string, mandolin, mandola and the dulcimer - you could get a very interesting album. You could listen and it wouldn't reek of being just one wooden box - it could have lots of colours in there... I'll have to drink a few gallons of cider and see what comes out!!"
Fans of that acoustic side of Rory will probably have to wait awhile for that particular album- unless there are any generous scrumpy barons reading and willing to lend a hand in the creative process. Top Priority now is another Rory Gallagher Band album. This has been in the proverbial pipeline for some time now, but the trio have found themselves so busy on the Continent and in the States (their last visit - something like the 20th tour! - lasted about four- and-a-half months), that the project has got increasingly overdue. Currently, it has a "late October/early November" release schedule. After that Rory hopes to do an extensive tour of these Isles, including Scottish dates, to make up for his virtual absence since the 'Jinx' dates of over a year ago.
If you've yet to
him, set aside space in your diary for a baptism you'll
regret. If you've already got the bug, then you won't be needing
prompting, will you?
Mailing & Discussion List