PLAYING UNTIL THE GRAVE
GALLAGHER: scratching the surface in America
WAS the kind of plastic guitar which you can buy in Woolworth's for a
few bob. The little Irish boy spotted it, took note of the Elvis
Presley signature scrawled across the body, and then made his
purchase. Rory Gallagher tucked it under his arm and went home to
learn to play.
learned pretty well. Today the boy is a man and is among the
outstanding contemporary guitarists in rock music. He is a rock idol
in a society which clamours for guitar idols like they clamour for no
other make of musician. It is the virtuoso instrument which
generates incredible excitement in the right hands. In the wrong
hands it is ill-used and abused.
hasn't so far achieved the status of universal superstar which some
have achieved. He isn't yet a Clapton or a Hendrix in terms of
hard success and whether he will ever become one is a matter of
conjecture. He has been acclaimed in Ireland and England, but in
America he still has to fight for acclaim in competition with a
million other guitarists, most of whom aren't fit to stand on the
same stage as the Irishman.
has just returned from the US. It was his first tour there with the
band he formed after the collapse of Taste. America is a different
trip from what he is accustomed to. There he has to work from the
bottom of bills and earn applause from an audience who have probably
come to see someone else.
had been back for only two days when this interview was set up. It
was at Polydor Records. W.1, and the agreed time was 3:30 p.m. Now,
Gallagher is never late for a gig, for an interview, for anything. You
can't say that for a lot of his brother musicians. At 3:30 the
door opened and in walked Irish Rory. It was as if he had lingered
awhile until the clock bade him enter.
was the tour, Rory?” he was asked by Polydor people. “Oh not too
bad I guess.” In return for that piece of information he was
rewarded with the news that the new album “Deuce” had advance
sales of 10,000 so far. That pleased him.
has made some nice albums and this is among the best. It illustrates
exactly where he is at with his blues, his electric guitar,
bottleneck, acoustic, the lot. In the past albums have charted his
progress fairly accurately. The two others that are best preserved
for posterity are “On The Boards” and “Live Taste.”
were recorded in the era of Taste when his sidemen were bassist
Richie McCracken and drummer John Wilson. After they had split
Wilson was to say that until the album “On The Boards” the band
had a definite musical policy. Thereafter there were
divergences in outlook which reached a climax in a mist of
musical and money squabbles at the beginning of one tour last autumn.
The band agreed to complete the tour and that would be it. The End.
while McCracken and Wilson went into Stud. Gallagher spent several
months forming a new group. Again he chose Irish musicians, Gerry
McAvoy and Wilgar Campbell. It was another three piece because
that was the slender framework within which the young bluesman
thought he could best work.
the meantime there was the “Live Taste” album. Recorded at
Montreux, it was a warm reminder of what Taste were capable of doing
in halcyon days.
of course went on the much trodden path around the colonies
which most British groups deem necessary. So Gallagher was not
completely forgotten when he returned to America these last few
weeks: “You know, people actually called out for numbers from Taste
and also off the first album we did with the new band. That's
is important to us. A lot of what we do in the future will be fitted
in around touring over there. I sometimes think that to make
any lasting impression you have got to live over there for perhaps
six months at a time.
we achieved this time was the ultimate in scratching the surface type
of thing. We played with people like Buddy Miles, Fleetwood Mac and
Lee Michaels. We didn't take too much equipment ‘cos the P.A.'s
over there are generally very good.”
they did take they could jam into a big American station wagon and in
this the Gallagher road show drove about America. Their leader's
mentality is such that he is quite prepared to put up with some of
the non musical pressures that top bands tend to leave to
the administrative minions who mill around.
got no time for some musicians. You see them sitting around
like great sheep dogs and saying ‘do this, do that’. I'm
not saying that musicians shouldn't be treated properly though. They
deserve the same respect that, say, ballet stars and other
attitude is reflected in the actions of the man himself. He's
on no ego trip, save perhaps in his music sometimes. And that is
acceptable in an age where musicians manage to maintain
egos off stage as well as on. Naturally enough he enjoys praise
and reckons that the biggest buzz of all is when someone comes up
after a gig and tells him: “Hey Rory, you sure played the blues
Irish guitarist has his critics but they are few. Their scorn is
directed at the spectacle involved as he sweats away with his
beloved old Fender. Why, too, are his sidemen so eclipsed? they
answered both points. Was he flash on stage? “Well, people don't
tell me I am, not to my face anyway. I don't think I am but you
must take into account the nature of the instrument. I do try to be
original, for instance with the slide work I am always looking for
new ways to do it.”
his musicians get a raw deal?”
I do, and always have, is give the musicians I work with as much
freedom as I think is necessary and that they need themselves. People
praise the whole band, say, after a good gig, but when they
criticize, it is usually me they are having a go at. And I
accept that I must take the blame because after all the band has got
my name, hasn't it?”
is doubtful whether Rory has many critics in his native land. There
he is idolized as a leader of the Irish rock scene. Rightly so, for
he and Van Morrison are the two most important history makers in rock
to come out of Ireland. Morrison hammered out a permanent landmark
with Them and “Gloria”, and Gallagher followed to make an
even greater impact with Taste.
the death of that band last year, Gallagher has had to spend a long
while just consolidating his position. The lapse when he had no band
cost him dearly in America, and in this country too, although, to a
lesser degree. He is now making up for lost time and has a long,
long time to do it. You see, Rory Gallagher reckons to go on
playing the blues until old age and the grave.
GALLAGHER: “DEUCE” (POLYDOR)
SORT of rehearsed the numbers for a few days and then dashed off into
the studio with a crate of beer and laid everything down. bang, bang,
that Rory Gallagher hammers his fist on the table to demonstrate what
he means. He is talking about “Deuce”, his second album with
Wilgar Campbell and Gerry McAvoy, where together they lay some
marvelous blues on anyone who is wise enough to listen.
recording problem with a band like Gallagher's is that they are
best witnessed live. The aura of excitement and authenticity, which
Gallagher can produce, is a spontaneous, immediate thing. So life in
the studio is something of a compromise.
there is no air of anti climax about this. Rory endeavors to
recreate his stage atmosphere and succeeds.. The only other way
to do it is by recording a “live” album and this approach is
planned perhaps for the next album.
“Deuce” there was no clinical steady approach with a careful mix
at the end. Just the opposite for everything was put down in a few
hours, vocals et all together.
isn't any Jekyll and Hyde about Gallagher as there is with some
people whose recording and live personalities are different scenes
his electric guitar work is exquisite, delicate at slow speed and,
often absurdly good when speeded up. His bottleneck playing improves
all the time and so do his vocal contributions. I'm sick to death
of guitarists who are clearly inept vocalists, but Gallagher is
articulate on both scores.
Thanks to Brenda O'Brien for sharing & typing this article
reformated by roryfan