is especially droll to note that
John McLaughlin once took it upon himself to reprimand Rory Gallagher
(Rory's) attitude to audiences. Last year the two bands found
the inventory of artistes booked for an open air festival in Los
One of Rory's band had just tipped an ice bucket over the head of a passing roadie.
McLaughlin, who had previously remained silent to Gallagher's "how are you doing John?" because the former had omitted the Mahavishnu prefix - had sidled across, radiating his characteristic radiance, taken Rory by the arm and pointed out that "as an entertainer, do you not realise that you have a responsibility towards uplifting the consciousness of your audience?"
Readers may note that several weeks later McLaughlin suffered a brain-storm and renounced his faith after gulping down a half bottle of Teachers. While Rory, of course, never changed at all. He soldiered on, with only a lumberjack shirt, and a battered Stratocaster to keep him company.
Why, only two weeks ago Rory played an entire set solo in Birmingham, England, because his band couldn't get through the fog. The next morning he cut his index finger shaving. Undeterred, he took the stage that night with plectrum clutched between fore and third fingers.
"You go on stage," says Rory modestly, "and the Judy Garland thing hits you and you don't feel the pain any more."
The assembled company cracks up. Rory is not the grey dullard most people would have you believe.
"Essentially," he adds, "I'm a solo artist anyway.
And the Last of the Progressive Blues Artistes as well, eh?
"I'm a blues freak certainly, but I don't think you're doing The Blues a service by simply aping old blues stuff."
The talk, by the way, is taking place in the boardroom of Rory's new record company, Chrysalis, high above London's bustling Oxford Street.
His debut album for Chrysalis, Against the Grain is his seventh. While it reveals few changes in his rather conservative blues / rock -heavy metal musical formula, it does indicate for the first time that Rory is finally coming round to the idea that the recording studio can be honestly exploited.
"This time we had a long gap. We rehearsed all summer in a nice roomy studio. The first two albums I did after Taste broke up, we tried to do the vocals and the guitar live. (Taste - the Irish heavy-rock, bluesband trio specialising in interpretations of blues standards. Rory was definitely the main impetus in the group which split in 1971.) Mention of Taste draws Rory into reminiscences of his own pre-Taste roots – days when he was playing in clubs in Hamburg (Germany) and Belfast (Ireland). "I remember we were depping for a group called The Fendermen in Hamburg," he recalls, sipping Waitrose wine from a crumpled paper cup. "We had to pretend we were them for a night or two. To get the booking we'd sent them a photograph of us as a four-piece - with a friend of our standing at the organ like this" (he affects a Rick Wakemanesque straining-and-soaring pose.) "He was tone deaf. The thing was ... the only trio popular at the time was the Big Three. The general idea was that the more players in the band meant the better the band was. So we turned up and told the promoter that the organist got sick on the ferry." Prior to 'Taste, Rory had raved through the Irish ballroom circuit within the Impact Showband. The drummer did a country and western spot "because he sang like Jim Reeves", the bass player and the rhythm guitarist covered contemporary Top Twenty material. Rory did Eddie Cochran impersonations. “The Irish love to dance,” Rory explains, “and they like bands who’re versatile on a Saturday night.”
His next move was the. formation of the power trio Taste in 1965. They arrived in London in 1969, signed with Polydor; Got Big Quick, their final album (they made three), was a live set, and it hit the tail end of the English charts. In February 1971, Rory formed a new hand - Wilgar Campbell, drums: Gerry McAvoy, bass. This band recorded Rory Gallagher. More restrained than Taste. The albums Deuce and Live In Europe followed; Live In Europe made the charts. The band then ventured into America. Rory bought new jeans, combed his hair, laid in extra Guinness rations. In 1972, drummer Wilgar Campbell left. He was replaced by Rod de'Ath. At about that time, keyboard player Lou Martin joined the band. Blueprint, Tattoo and Irish Tour '74 were released. Live In Europe went gold, the double Irish Tour'74 certified silver. Rory bought a Ford Executive auto and a new set of guitar strings. He didn't get sucked into the Los Angeles Rock Party syndrome and Cher never invited him to her mansion. He still stays in an Earls Court bedsitter when touring England.
Bear with us as we investigate The Rory Enigma.
Uh, Rory, are you married? Do you have a girlfriend?
"No," (blushes), "I'm on the loose. Free."
A sympathetic workman in an adjoining room nixes this Embarrassing Moment by drilling noisily.
"Hah," notes Rory. "They're extracting evidence from a bass player upstairs. It happened to me only the other day, you know. I woke up in the hotel in Birmingham at 10:30 in the morning to find a drill coming through the wall. Made a terrible fuss. Went straight to the manager and asked him why they couldn't be doing it at 5.30 in the afternoon."
“ 'Son,' he said, 'you've got your job to do; we've got ours'."
Do you find that a roving image tends to attract the kind of ladies who want to domesticate you?
"You mean wash shirts for me? We all get that. Any touring band. Particularly in the States. You know: 'let me take your laundry home with me.' That kind of thing. It makes no difference whether you're a blues band, a rock band, a folk band ..."
What you spend your money on, then?
"I buy a couple of records;" (bashful); ") really don't know."
Do you invest it?
"No, I buy a newspaper, a meal, a guitar, the Ford Executive ... I haven't got a license, though. My brother drives it. The band uses it. "
But you must be making a fair amount of dough?
"I don't think anybody makes much money nowadays. Very few people make that much money from touring the US."
Home is his parents' house in Cork where his antidote to endless touring is - preparing for the next tour.
"Guitars are my hobby. I suppose I should play golf or something. I hate new guitars."
In showbands you see guys turning up every January with a new guitar. It's like a new shirt.
"I hate new shirts,- new clothes ..."
Rory has a Telecaster for a slide, a National Steel Aeolian (one resonator), a 12- string Harmony Sovereign ("the best 12- string you can get, although you might have to take the neck off and put it back on to lower the action"), a 15-dollar Silvertone ("for that really cheap sound"), an old Burns up in the attic with the pickups hanging off - and another Strat. ("heir apparent for when the current one falls to pieces"
"I mean," he continues, "when I get off the road, I'm more interested in checking out m' pickups, on m' guitars, getting m' amps fixed, getting m' shirts washed ... I used to do drawing, but it's gone by the wayside. At one point I was going to paint some album sleeves for a series of blues albums.
"One of my ambitions is to paint my own album sleeve."
Haven't the Fender Guitar Company got on to you for touting such a disreputable looking Stratocaster? (his latest publicity pics revolve around a montage of windswept shirt sleeved Rory and chipped, damaged Stratocaster. And the Against the Grain title of his new elpee refers to his beating the paintwork off said Fender till the woodgrain showed through).
"No," replies our anti-hero laughingly. "In fact, they're the only company who haven't. I must get on to them."
I notice all the screws are rusted.
"Well, I've been playing it since 1963 and it's only a very light varnished finish. Between the sweat and the alcohol...
"You see, I've a lot of salt in my blood. Yes, I've had trouble with those screws before. Last time I had one of the brigades changed they had to saw if off. There's so much salt in my blood, it's not true."
Surely, I hazard, somewhere along the line someone must have tried to impose An Image on Rory?
"Not really. It's never been a problem. One does interviews and says hello to people after a gig but that's as much as I do.
"No one says to me 'if you're not seen with Alice Cooper down at the Roxy it'll be bad news."
Passing trends have never dented his live drawing power. His sweat-popping, power- blooze musical approach has assured him a fanatical following of bedenimed teenage punters.
“I've always thought that music that's vital, with a lot of verve, and a knowledge of what's happening on the ground, will never date. Without being corny, mine's like a kind of electric folk music."
And Rory, of course, is the ultimate electric folk hero - ever mobile. ever stuffing crumpled shirts into his suitcase.
Mailing & Discussion List
| Forward to next article