'I want to be playing when I'm fifty’

With all the troubles surrounding the break up of Taste far behind him, Rory Gallagher is calmly setting out to build upon the high reputation he has already established. He has been getting a lot of publicity that he has still to live up to, but he seems more than equal to the task.

Gallagher gives the impression that he has everything under control, that he's not put out by the business side of things going on behind him. Unlike some musicians, he realises that the business side is a necessary part of a music career, and this is one reason why Rory Gallagher stands a good chance of realising his ambition to still be on the boards when he's knocking on middle age.

'I want to be playing when I'm fifty’, he said. 'my favourite musicians are the old guys who've learnt control... like Muddy Waters. People have been rushed into thinking they've got to make it by twenty five, and then they pack up their guitars and go back to working at the butcher’s. Unless artists keep themselves organised this can happen. They get into mansions and all that and it's too much to try and keep going.’

'I think it's especially hard here in Britain and a lot easier in the States. Names like Lonnie Mack are timeless. No one bothers to think how old he is, because everyone knows he'll still be there in ten years time playing even better. Everything is smaller here and it's still a commercial pop scene really, but that's just the way it is.'
'I plan on spending a lot of time in the States, but not from the point of view of earning a million dollars or anything. I'd like to do a tour of the States playing the clubs because that's where you learn. Taste only played the big stadiums with Blind Faith and although I'd like to do a fair share of them, I don't want to lose the nitty gritty.'
Rory was a little unwilling to make any comparisons between his new band ­ Gerry McAvoy on bass and Wilgar Campbell on drums ­ and Taste. He doesn't see it as a dramatic change, but as part of the continuing process of his career.
nitty gritty
'People will see obvious connections, It's Rory Gallagher doing his songs and playing. There are a lot of little new things, but its still got the main nitty gritty.'  'I'm proud of Taste,’ continued Rory. 'A lot of people start knocking what they used to do, they try to disown it. Well, I'll stand by everything I ever did. I've got a lot of musical memories. It's good to look back and listen to the old albums. You see things you would improve now, but I'm obviously more involved with the present album.'
'But whether you saw me two, six or ten years ago I was doing my best. If I said that everything I did two years ago was crap, I'd be a con man.'
In fact Rory can already look back over a long musical career starting at school concerts at the age of ten. By this time he had his first wooden guitar which replaced his plastic one on which he played Roy Rogers numbers.  

'I got into country singers and then skiffle rock: recalled Rory. 'I grew up with music. There's a lot of music there in Cork. My whole family are singers. You are singing before you can walk. Everyone sings, though of course a lot of it remains at the level of singing at parties and over a pint.”

Between the ages of ten and fifteen, Rory tried to get various groups together. 'It was impossible. They only wanted showbands.'
At fifteen, Rory joined a showband, touring Ireland, and also playing in Spain as well as a few gigs in England. 'I was playing guitar and singing. You know, doing my stuff. We used to do Chuck Berry, and it was alright to do that as long as we did Jim Reeves as well.'
Then around 1965, the showband split up and Rory, plus the drummer and bass player went over to Hamburg. 'That lasted about three weeks’, said Rory. He then reformed the group. 'That was the first Taste that lasted from '66 till '68. They played in Ireland and Hamburg and then managed to make the big break and get over to London, a vital move for any Irish musician who doesn't want to rely on showbands for his bread and butter.'
showband land
'A lot of good musicians in Ireland have ended up in showbands’, Rory explained. 'To do anything you've got to come over here to England, which means taking the extra chance of starving in London. Ireland is still basically a showband country. Dancing is very popular and traditional music is coming in again. But there is a progressive scene that is growing. It's got to the stage where I can go back and do eight gigs now instead of three.'
The work that Taste thought was waiting for them in London didn't materialise, but eventually Rory brought in Richard McCracken and John Wilson and did a successful audition for Polydor.
Taste then went on from strength to strength, building up a huge live following and becoming very big all over Europe. Taste and On the Boards, were released and a third album recorded live at the Casino, Montreux, came out after the group had split. That one made the charts.
Inevitably when a top group such as Taste split up, people want to know the reason why and the press have a right old time stirring left, right and centre. The average fan probably hardly ever finds out the true reasons for a split for only the band know that. Generally it's a lot of excitement about very little; there's always some difference of musical opinion or some difference of temperament involved; and there's sometimes a lot of mud thrown in various directions simultaneously.
All of these and more were involved in the end of Taste. Looking back on it now, Rory Gallagher reflects, 'Apart from the fringe reasons which I don't want to go into, the other two wanted to direct their own band and musical policy. It got to the old stagnation point. The other pressure reasons aren't important. They got fed up with playing with me, I suppose.'
Now Rory is all set to go with the new band. He has known Gerry McAvoy and Wilgar Campbell for some years now. 'I just knew them on the scene’, said Rory. 'They have played individually and with other groups. We know each others' playing.'
It has been Rory's policy to rehearse the new band and then complete the album, Rory Gallagher, before a debut concert tour. Since great things are expected from the band this could be a dangerous way to do it, bearing in mind that new groups do not always live up to the public's expectations. But Rory Gallagher doesn't seem to be worried by this, and with good reason, no doubt. He is first and foremost a performer who can gain an audience's complete attention and hold it spellbound for a complete set. And he thrives on his audience's response.
'A lot of musicians get into complexes about whether audiences should be sitting or standing: Rory said. 'I hate to be in an audience where everyone's feet are tapping and the guy on the mike is saying sit down. I like people to listen, but to enjoy themselves as well. If the music involves rhythms and beats, surely the idea is to get into it. A lot of groups get annoyed with audiences that are too rowdy, but I think I know where the line is. I think you can stamp your feet and still listen because if you get into the beat you hear things you wouldn't do otherwise.
'You don't see the old greats on the blues scene preaching about sitting still.’
lead blues
 Rory then expanded on his admiration for the great blues artists. 'I have always listened to the blues and I play these records every day, you know, Lemon Jefferson or someone like that. I don't feel I've eaten my main meal of the day unless I've done that. You can't overestimate the power of these greats, because they are the formers' of today's music.'

 Rory is looking forward to playing live again, and to using his new German Stramp PA system. He will probably still use his famed Vox AC 30. 'I only put it through the PA on big concerts. I find it penetrates very well, especially with a Fender guitar. You can sometimes have a loud amp that still can't be heard in the back row.'

 'You've got to keep equipment as simple as possible. There's no need to take a sound engineer round with you because over the years you learn to control the balance. You get to the stage where you almost go on and get an instant balance.' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This article from the 6/1971 issue of Beat Instrumental and International Recording Studio
reformatted by roryfan
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268  added 10/16/04