Within the music business, it's long been held that Rory Gallagher presents a quandary to take a detached and highly objective view. For no matter how critical you are of Rory's music, a conversation with the guy inevitably becomes a conversion to the faith. The Blues and rock and roll are Rory Gallagher's religion, and his conviction and sincerity in the way he projects it is a vital weapon in overcoming all obstacles.
to the music business is best summed up by his own actions. When, for instance,
he joined Chrysalis Records after many years on Polydor, he did not insist
that the new company flood the Underground and the newspapers with his
photographs. The criteria for Chrysalis was concise. Just make sure the
records are in the shops when the people want them.
One of the joys of Rory Gallagher that his concerts are as enjoyable today as they were when he first started gigging in England with Taste, because of the freshness and energy he personally injects into them, with, of course the help of his excellent band, Gerry McAvoy (bass), Lou Martin (keyboard) and Rod De'ath (drums).
Over a year ago I spent some time on the road with Rory and his band on a tour of America and I can honestly say that it was an uplifting, refreshing experience. I heard that band play night after night and not once did I tire of their music, quite simply because they treated the music as music, and nothing, but nothing, was planned. Every night he would go out and start with a different song altogether. That's what you call keeping the edge. With Gallagher, there are no rules.
And the audience openly and emotionally displayed their affection for Rory's approach, and his 'get up there and play with no frills' attitude. It was an enlightening experience and one which I shall treasure for a long, long time.
Gallagher spoke to
me once about his unique low profile attitude to the music business and
his dislike of pyrotechnics in concerts.
That works. I've seen (and been astonished by seeing) Gallagher put those words into operation. You have too. We both were mesmerized when he did it. Which is why he doesn't need effects.
"I' d like to be in a position where, if it came to it, I could still grab my guitar and amplifier, plug it in and just play. The music should stand on its own. If we were stuck in a situation where the gear didn't turn up, we could make do."
Rory, however, does not put a downer on other styles of presentation. He is imageless, he announces, but is not anti-image. He likes surveying the music scene from his individual standpoint.
"I'm interested in
creating excitement with the bare minimum of effects," he once said. "It's
in the music, as opposed to using smoke bombs on time or pressing this
button on time or putting the tape machine on on time. I like to create
effects by simply playing the music. That's the sort of thing I admire
most in musicians. The excitement must be in the music."
His heart has always been in the Blues and that is where he draws his inspiration from. Gallagher has never used that heritage for pretention or to gain credibility. He practices what he preaches, joining in recording sessions with people like Muddy Waters and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Then there was the time a couple of years ago when Rory, and guitar, turned up at the Montreaux Festival for a solo concert, sans band, sans electrical auxiliaries. Just the basics. The appearance at the festival reinforced Gallagher's reputation as a musician who just loved plying his craft, whether as an archetypal hard rocker with his band, or on his own, displaying intricate maneuvers on acoustic. He hopes some day to release a purely acoustic album that will emphasise his love of the Blues. It would, of course, add a touch of schizophrenia to Gallagher's music, but it's the only way that he'll ever do justice to his own versatility. Inside every one of his electric albums there's always an acoustic song bursting to get out.
And so onto the songs that appear within this collection, and a veritable selection it is, spanning Gallagher's history to cull the best from his vast repertoire. The songs encompass a wide variety of styles, from the jazz-influenced "Calling Card" to the funky "Jacknife Beat" to the bitchiness of "Souped-Up Ford" and the finely honed melody of my favourite-ever Gallagher song "Tattoo'd Lady" and "Daughter of the Everglades".
It is in fact, only when a collection of this nature is placed in front of you that Gallagher's contribution to our daily rock diet is realised. Gallagher as an outstanding songwriter is a side to his talent that has never really been assessed, forever overshadowed by his guitar excellence and by his on-the-road resilience, but it is obviously something that has developed over the years.
It is only recently
that Rory has managed to crack the mini-jinx that has plagued his studio
albums. Work in the studio used to take second place to the electricity
of his live set, but with "Against The Grain" and "Calling Card' Rory has
established himself as a studio artist, especially on the latter, when
he at last started working the studio to his own advantage. He has always
been well aware of that criticism, but felt that it was only a matter of
time before the studio work came up to par. He had learned from past mistakes
and when the time
came to put down "Against The Grain", he had a fair idea of what to do and what not to do, although he is as suspicious as ever of the temptation of a 24-track mixing desk.
"A lot of people go in with a Nutty Professor approach" he commented one time. 'To a certain extent, I suppose you've got to use those machines to help you get the best sound. It can be very tempting. Twenty-four tracks. God, look at the tricks you can do. We recorded "Against The Grain" on a 16-track, but if you really get your stuff together, 8-tracks should be fine".
Rory's two live albums, "Live in Europe" and Irish Tour '74", have been acclaimed, capturing as they do the vitality that is unique to his gigs. Those albums, he asserts, were not put out to plug a gap while new material was written. They were valid statements of the state of his music that time and were instrumental in the build of his career.
With Polydor, Rory
reckoned that would be good to put out a live album after every two studio
ones, also consisting of material that had never been recorded before.
With Chrysalis, he feels that it's more advisable if the gap is widened
considerable, to releasing a live set after every three or four studios,
so, unfortunately, it'll be some time before we get a fresh live offering.
However, the studio albums get better all the time and the live ones, he
feels can no longer be considered his definitive works.
The live albums lead us, inevitably, to Rory's hectic touring schedule. Much has been made of the way Gallagher consistently drives himself to breaking point on the road, but somehow turns the tables by thriving on the task of touring. From America to Europe to any part of the globe you care to mention, even behind the Iron Curtain, Rory has left his mark.
Why does he do it?
"I don't know. I've been doing it since I was a kid and I know it's always been in me. You get beyond the stage of asking yourself that. All I know is that it's better than being off the road for months on end. It's like a different stage of living when you're not touring.
"We're not off the
road long enough anyway to get into that way of living. You can overwork,
too, and if you're not careful, you can become a workaholic, but I think
we strike a reasonable balance. We've been on the road so long that we
feel kind of guilty if we're not playing. That's crazy, isn't it.
"I'd prefer them to say that they don't like my music, rather than say that. "Hard working' doesn't mean anything. Our music thrives on touring. It's that kind of music. Anyway, it's my hobby."
And perhaps that is
why Gallagher gets so much enjoyment from writing, playing and singing
his music, because he has never taken it so serious that it depressed him.
The joy Rory Gallagher gets from playing his music to his people has always
been one of this most appealing characteristics. That and the fact that
he's down right good to begin with.
|To join The Loop
Mailing and Discussion List
email roryfan at
|Back to Main RoryON!! page|
|Back to previous article|