by Keith Miles
Last night, an old friend came calling. Hadn't seen him for years.
Unlike me he is a very good guitar player and we first met at my
favourite local rock pub. He's twenty years younger than me and used to
play in a band covering Guns and Roses, Bon Jovi, Ozzy Osbourne kind of
stuff. We had a
cup of tea and reminisced about the old days. He now lives in London.
Needless to say, we talked music for several hours. Being a mere sprog,
he had never seen Rory but remembered that I always seemed to be
referring to him, back in the old days. He was a follower of Joe
Satriani and players in similar vein. Without any prompting from me, he
said that he'd been hearing Rory's name quite a few times since we last
met and seemed interested in knowing what the man was all about. What
was my recommendation for some listening material, he asked. Fatal
mistake, that. I couldn't stop talking. On went the TV and I showed him
some clips from the 1974 Irish Tour video. He picked up on Rory's
unique style immediately and left with a couple of my spare CDs, "Jinx"
and "Deuce". Nuff said, I think. I first saw
Rory, with Taste, at the Isle of Wight in 1970. I was 17, then. I then
remember picking up a copy of "Sounds" at Coventry railway station on
the way home and reading the bold headline "Taste Split !". I was
destined to become a retrospective fan of Taste and a future major fan
of Rory's though I didn't know it at the time. It should also be borne
in mind that my music tastes at this point in my life had been somewhat
conservative. This was still the Beatles era, after all ! My first
encounter with Rory was Hall 5, I think, just after the NEC had been
opened. I was transfixed before he'd played a note ! It's been said
elsewhere so many times but he had an almost uncanny immediate effect
on me which I have never been able to explain. Instant contact. No act.
You instantly knew that you were in the presence of someone very
special indeed and you immediately wanted to meet him. Totally honest,
totally unpretentious, and, whilst animated on stage, he still retained
a sense of humility, even shyness. He was a one-off. I saw him
at Warwick University, Coventry, when he guested with the Chris Barber
Band. I feared that it might not work and felt for him when some of the
audience walked out during his solo spot. Rory was fine. The narrow
minded audience was the problem. The band came back on stage. The seats
filled again. Chris Barber gave Rory a warm thanks though Rory was
offstage. There was subdued applause from the audience. Wrong crowd.
Rory did not reappear. I was told by the person next to me, during
Chris Barber's second set, that Rory had sat down for a drink in the
almost deserted bar. I lost my bottle to step outside and have always
wondered whether I missed my opportunity to have a quiet drink with him
and shake his hand. On the day
that he died, I received the news by telephone from a bass-playing
colleague of mine. One hour later, I no longer had dry eyes. It seemed
so cruel and tragic. I had last
seen him at Rock City in Nottingham, had spoken to a roadie about his
American trip and his music seemed reborn and improving all the time.
It was a great gig and I took another "Gallagher novice" (another
musician) with me that night who kept looking at me and saying "f*****g
hell !." Another convert. I met that guy recently, (again after a few
years gap). After the usual greetings, hugs and stuff, he said, " I
still remember that Gallagher gig, you know. F*****g hell !" Exactly.