What are the first things you expect to notice on being shown into a room with Rory Gallagher?  A few bottles of Guinness, for sure, a drop ‘o the hard stuff maybe, and a man clad in jeans, a check shirt …

Rory was disappointing no one last week.  The man who perpetually seems to conduct his activities well beyond the catch net of official jurisdiction was, for once, firmly entrenched at Polydor and was midway through recording his new album at Polydor Studios when he broke off to do the interview.

The period during which he was apparently “missing”, or at least ‑ uncontactable, in Ireland was spent variously rehearsing the new album and playing with a showband, but now, finally, he was back in London.

After a long conversation about the blues and the effect of the music on current trends, Rory began to talk enthusiastically about his own new album …. which is when we switched on the tape recorder.

Can you talk about the new album you've been recording?

Well we rehearsed it in Ireland for one thing and I wrote it in Ireland after the American tour. There's basically about a dozen working songs and a few stragglers as well. The only song I've been working on that isn't mine is a song called ‘Walk In The Arizona Sun’ by Link Wray, but I don't know if I'll include that or not. There's one acoustic number which we did last night which is a kind of a walking picking tune, but the rest … there's more scope electrically this time, but it's still early days to be objective about it, though it's working out well and we're really at home with the tunes, we can execute them well because we've done them in Ireland.

We hired out this boat club in Cork.  It's a question of doing the songs as opposed to rehearsing them in a studio; there were one or two songs, as always, which for a studio album you rehearse in the studio, but mostly we just keep doing them until we get the right feel to record them.

I'm very confident and if this isn't the album, I'm just going to kick it in the dustbin and make it the album – it's really going to be the one. It's original in terms of depth, it's the Gallagher approach, but there are a lot of reasonably complimentary bows to certain elements which I don't think is a wrong thing.

I'm not ashamed to reflect on the blues because if the black people knocked the blues . . . I mean people always try and act as if their whole blues approach didn't exist and I'm not talking just socially or traditionally or musically, but the whole thing. People act as if the whole idea of playing the blues is totally without merit.

I do my own stuff as well, but whatever bows I make to the blues and rhythm and blues tradition, I'm proud of and if I'm going to be doing this for fifteen or twenty years there's nothing wrong with that because there's nothing non‑progressive about it; yet there are certain people with certain ears who if they don't hear wah wah or a non rhythm and blues, blues, rock and roll type element or flavour . . .

Are you implying that your last album “Blueprint” got bad reviews?

Ummmm, guarded reviews.  It was generally complimentary, but guarded, saying that I was on the verge of something new. I suppose they were fair reviews but … I don't ever talk in terms of my own reviews I meant generally. I was just being apprehensive about a certain approach that there's something unnatural about a guy who just goes into the studios to express himself. Now, unless there's a load of ‘weird’ sounds it's not worth a sod, but I don't care I'm just going to go in and get it on and express myself as I want to.

This is the trouble with someone like myself who's vaguely connected with blues, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, getting it on, brute force kind of music. People say it's only reflecting the music of the fifties or the forties or whatever but … I could take six months off and work on jazz chords, but it wouldn't be my expression. It's just the things that turned me on when I was fifteen, fourteen, all that energy and I just tried to improve lyrically and add my own things.

On your last album some of the songs were almost folk songs – I'm thinking particularly of ‘Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son’ which was a very good song.  What have you written about this time?

Well the only song I've written in the same by‑line is a song about the carney type festival, the fairgrounds ‑ not a circus at all, but the merry‑go‑rounds as I call them in Ireland, the tattooed ladies and the bearded babies. It's a warm song which I really like.

You see I really believe that there are certain songs you can do by instinct ‑ pure animal instinct which in literature terms means nothing but a song which means sheer brute force and goes hand in hand with the music of the song. Look at ‘Jailhouse Rock’ sounds80473b1.jpg – there's a fair scope of those songs in what I've been doing and there's a few songs that are slightly humorous in the way that I did ‘Banker’s Blues’, that kind of approach. Not horse jokes, but laconic kind of humour.

There's a few songs that represent the basic life style I'm living at the particular time and I think that's as valid as I can get. I mean you can take six months off and lay back and become a Tennessee Williams or a T. S. Eliot and become very humanistic or whatever the word is . . . but there's other songs where the whole music, the voice of the music just grabs the words and shrinks them into phrase.

At the same time, there's a lot of things that aren't connected with rock or blues or folk, they're Rory Gallagher things which is really the important element and to the average ear it's the Rory Gallagher thing that I want to get through, but I'm not going to kick the blues up the backside and say ‘Thanks for the roots I don't want to know you anymore!’

When you look around there's very few bands that adhere so closely to the blues, yet in 1967 there were a whole wave of bands like Fleetwood Mac and Chicken Shack taking off on the blues ‑ it was almost a period when the slide guitar was revived.

I think a lot of the blues boom bands, and I'm sure a lot of people would include me in that to some extent, even though I generally wrote 90 per cent of my own songs … but their influences, with all due respect, they actually worked very closely with their influences. I mean I never had anyone one, but they had B.B. King and Elmore James to the front - and Otis Rush, which is beautiful, but if I look outside myself you can never say ‘Rory Gallagher and …’ because it's Rory Gallagher and quite a range of artists.

On all the albums and stage things I mean I've done a Broonzy tune, a Muddy Waters tune, a couple of oddities and a lot of songs that were very much connected with that tradition and a lot of songs that have nothing to do with it. How can I knock the Fleetwood Macs of this world for moving on to what they're doing when their connections were very much on a more sensatory basis, a very natural basis whereas my connections were very much on a sort of shake hands basis ‑ I was never that dependent on it and it didn't really matter that much whether I heard the real oldies when I heard Screaming Jay Hawkins, and the second hand blues people like Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, R&B kind of names, because ultimately I'd get back to the old guys anyway.

I think in a strange way I could have existed without hearing the old guys, although I wouldn't have been happy living without them. I mean I never had to record a B.B. King tune, but I love that old music and it gets into my veins so I'm not going to chop it off.

Have you ever felt as a sideline that you'd like to do a traditional album?

Well as I've said before I'd like to do an all acoustic album, not that's strictly with just an acoustic guitar but with acoustic piano, drums, bass, steel National, harmonica you know very much a more down home traditional type album but still I would not sit back and do an album of purely traditional songs. I can take the knocks when people say I'm doing traditionalisms, but in mathematical facts I've never done much.

You've talked about this album as being the Rory Gallagher album, does that mean that you were less than satisfied with ‘Blueprint’?

No, I mean OK eight months later one can look back and criticize it in certain respects, but even if I did it now I don't think it would end up any different.

What were the weaknesses?

I don't know, it was at the time. I had a couple of good strong songs like ‘Seventh Son’ and the Broonzy tune ‑ I did the ragtime instrumental which I've been waiting to do for a long time. On previous album occasions I could have done, say, ‘Dallas Rag’ and any of those walks, but I didn't want to do that because since I was a Lonnie Donegan fan, he did kind of rag things but I never feel a rag tune myself; then all through last year I felt this rag coming up and I was home in Ireland one night and I was fooling around with my guitar, key of C, which is the ultimate traditional rag key, and I did the tune and that was it.

I prefer to do that, than say a Scott Joplin copy, but then there were a few critics who said it was a lighthearted throwaway, well maybe ,that's a back to front compliment because ragtime always had that element anyway … but I can visualize myself playing that when I'm 40. So that was the instrumental, then I did ‘Daughter Of The Everglades’ which is a tune and a story, and ‘Walk On Hot Coals’ which is purely an instinct type of tune.

When you were back in Ireland recently you played with a showband I believe.

That was just a laugh, it has nothing to do with the present. I didn't play as much as I ought to, but I've got another week in August and … you know I'd really like to own a club and have some of my relations, my brother or something, running it because music I think is getting back to local terms like Doug Sahm, the Texas band, the Texas sound which covers Chicano, black music, country music, rock and roll, not that one should ostracize it and keep it in its own little stables, but it's important for a guy to get back to where he lives, his friends so the time will come when I'll have a little bit of a rough studio in Ireland, a rough club­-cum-jamming centre.

If it could be possible would you like to move back to Ireland on a permanent basis and ignore London altogether?

It is important that I get back there ‘x’ times a year and it's important that I can get some kind of workshop going for my sake and for the people's sake because I don't think it's enough for Ireland to have Planxty, the Dubliners, The Chieftains and all that great tradition thing going because it means that rhythm & blues, rock and roll and what have you isn't really getting a fair play. OK you've got Horslips using rock influence with a Celtic thing. I love Irish music categorically, but the stuff I play and the stuff I really dig is what I've written about. So I'd like to have a little bit of a centre – I'd keep my things going in London because the energy's here – Ireland's a bit lazy.

Do you feel that up to a point you were weaned as much on the Irish tradition, Irish airs, as you were the blues?

Well, I had no choice because at the Christmas parties at home people would sing ‘She Moved Through The Fair’ and ‘My Laggan Love’ ‑ lovely songs, so the drama of these songs must have affected me, you know the story line thing which is something which I think ultimately hit Woody Guthrie - all his songs, ‘The Grand Coulee Dam’, the dustbowl things, all his tragedy songs which is something that … Irish music never really struck me as a force until the acoustic guitar was used, which was the Dubliners I suppose, when they did their jigs and so on with acoustic guitar behind it.

You've been spending a lot of time in America, what do you derive most pleasure from in touring the States?

There's the joy of seeing the club thing coming back – we're playing clubs that were closed before and I'm convinced the club thing is coming back ‑ not to the same extent as it was before but it's coming back and in San Francisco terms the whole trucking thing is coming back ‑ people who can't find a home in Madison Square Garden.

There are enough people these days who are not prepared to go through that whole hype thing of selling out totally, not ‘a la’ Alice Cooper which is a totally different art form, but in terms of giving the whole body and soul and time away to become a huge legend inside six months. And if enough people do that it'll get back to musical terms, you know musical life.  I'd hate to have my whole life scrutinized and put down in two issues of a paper – ‘The Rise And Fall Of Rory Gallagher’. It's all right with the Alice Coopers and the David Bowies who are pure theatrical people, which is totally valid in its own way, but the critics go for all that. But then you've got all these gut musicians who might be drawn to this thing, forget what they're all about and end up sticking fifteen jewels in their face and then they get killed off by the media. It's alright if you're David Bowie because you know you can commit suicide before you're killed off or quit - you know it's all very computerized.

Do you have a downer on the rock press in general?

I don't get that emotionally involved. Critically I get what I ask for ‑ I go out and play and I play enough to get general criticism anyway, but generally there seems to be so much bitchiness between music writers ‑ I think they feel jaded and tired and if such and such hasn’t had a huge flaming torch sticking out of his ear … you know there's such a division between jade rock or shock rock, which I’m not knocking, it’s totally a valid as a sort of ‘take you and your favourite critic into oblivion’ type of thing, but you can’t come along and review the new Bloomfield, John Hammond, Dr. John album as ‘the same old twelve bar’ for instance because that’s the basic cop out for a musician to term … because calling music the same old twelve bar is like calling David Bowie the same old Max Factor or the same old circus show. Surely a journalist can get into synthetic music, then he can keep his head enough to see music which is related to blues and rock and R&B and judge it for what it’s worth rather than say ‘This sounds like Bo Diddley’ or ‘this sounds like Muddy Waters.’

You’ve talked about the resurgence of club interest in the States do you see the same thing happening here?

Yes it’ll have to come back because a minor group, in success terms, can actually have a concert tour type thing, but I try and cover as halls, but what I'd like to do next year is a college and a club tour ‑ nothing to do with all the Guildhalls and city halls and not as a token, but purely as a kind of re‑start.

I don't think any one man could open this whole thing again, but I think I could help a bit anyway, and not out of it being a kind of St. John Ambulance affair, but really I'd love … I mean tonight I’m recording, but if I'd had a night off, if Freddie King had been at the 100 Club or the Marquee or something, that shouldn’t be all I’ve got to do as opposed to going to the pictures. There should be a couple of workshop type clubs in a city this size because there was at one time. The healthiest scene is the folk club scene but that’s so hung up; even if Bert Jansch does a set of folk/blues stuff it’s closely scrutinized.

You see with all these people quitting saying they can’t improve under the conditions of being looked at fifteen hours a day or so it’s got to get back to something and that wouldn’t be a digress of step. When a guy can only play once a year in any country to keep his status that’s totally out for a musicianly type of guy.

When do you expect to be touring Britain again?

In November,  but we’re doing a tour of Germany in October, and America through September and early October. It’ll be the same concert tour type thing, but I try and cover as much territory as I can. Last time I put in some odd gigs ‑ Inverness and some odd Scottish dates, but I’m going to try and get back to the club or the ballroom that’s 150 miles away from Birmingham or whatever because it’s important.

Music to me is playing and jamming playing with people who have an odd version of an inverted seventh or have an odd way of putting lyrics across or who sing out of time ‑ critics should be prepared to view over these oddities without saying ‘It’s twelve bar blues again’.

When’s the new album due?

In October. We did this gig in Frankfurt the day before yesterday and did a couple of numbers there just to see how the numbers would extend but most of the numbers on a studio level are still live‑worthy, they're not going to change that much.

From SOUNDS     August 4, 1973
Thanks to Brenda O'Brien for sharing & typing this article
reformatted by roryfan

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added 1/16/05