by Jip Golsteijn
“When Rory was touring, every now and then, I picked up the guitar. I even played in the club with other boys in my age. But as Rory got back my playing it did not seem right anymore. Then on the spot, I became the kid brother again who looked up at him with admiration. Heard up, actually, for soon, there was not much to look up at.”
Donal Gallagher has not looked at his watch for a while, although meanwhile his brother has been an hour late. Rory’s manager is obviously relieved that I'm less bothered by it than he is. Why should I complain? My plane is not leaving for four hours. I’m than sitting in a hotel bar with plenty of plush mahogany wood, red leather and wrought iron, where so to speak, Charles Dickens has just left, with a view of Chelsea Harbor and let go some smoke from a Ramon Allondes Gigante over my tongue and palate, over which a sip of Drambuie has flown just a minute ago.
Suddenly he stands in front of us, a bit uncertain on his legs, with difficulty composing a swollen face into a smile. His eyes don’t join. He asks whether there’s still time for a beer. “In your room”, Donal says, who immediately changed into the headmaster, strict, but righteous. Obviously Rory Gallagher is wondering whether rebellion makes sense, but in the end acquiesces in the authority of his brother and manager, in this sort of situation at least.
We withdraw to the suite of at least two rooms. Donal is in one room and Rory and me in the other. Donal’s door may be closed, but the door to the communal hall has to remain open (“claustrophobia, you know?”) For minutes he is ingeniously busy with folding letter paper around the spring to neutralize the door that automatically shuts. A man in a black uniform brings beer and sandwiches. “Breakfast!” Rory says as he uncaps two bottles of Heineken. It is half past four in the afternoon.
Rory Gallagher is the type who screams before he has been hit. Every question is possibly a trap question. Although he does not see the forest through the trees, he sees an enemy behind every tree. If he has completely forgotten it, he repeats it over and over again that he is just a simple Irish buffoon who just happens to be able to play and sing the blues very well. But at least as often, he jumps to put my hand in a vice with both his hands, embrace me, surprised, if not touched, to have found a partisan. I don’t have to fake it in Rory Gallagher’s case. He is the most energetic guitar player I have ever seen or heard. I will always be more fan than professional.
“When I was eight, I saw Elvis on TV. I immediately knew that's what I want! But how? In the south of Ireland of the 50’s rock-and-roll was still music of the devil. I knew what Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis were talking about when they tried to describe their perennial inner struggles. Soft cushions on Saturday night and hard church pews on Sunday morning. That’s what it was all about."
“One was only allowed, in the Ireland of that time, to use the guitar to pluck three century-old ballads on, but as soon as I got one in my hands, I was raising Cain. I was already touring before I knew what it was. Ireland is so small that you can always end up sleeping in your own bed, no matter where you played. If you want, of course. And I do not want to. I still I still don't. Rock-and-roll was my religion, call and conviction.”
“In every band I joined, I tried to adjust myself, but after a week or two at the most, I was “odd man out”. The trouble was that my mates mainly wanted to play what was in the top 10 a week before. I wanted to play my own stuff. I have to admit the first songs I wrote probably weren’t as good is Lonnie Donegan’s, but you have to start somewhere. So why not in a dog kennel in Donegal on a Saturday night, towards closing time? My own bands were just like pigeon-lofts: those who flew out, did not always return. Most of the time I was the first one who flew out.”
“In the mid-'60s, I arrived in Hamburg as a member of a rhythm & blues band of six men, but my first official gig there was with a trio. That’s the line-up that still suits me best. Harmonica players, choirs, brass, strings, I think it’s all great, at times, but nothing beats the simple elegance of the trio with guitar, bass and drums. Back in Ireland, I formed Taste, my first trio. Never looked back, so to speak."
“I could not believe my own success! Not only did my record company agree with me doing my own songs as early as on my second album, (although nothing was mentioned about that in my contract) they also battled about selling ‘On the Boards’ worldwide! At the Isle of Wight festival in 1970, we played for 200,000 people. Brilliant, but not as brilliant s playing in front of John Lennon, amongst the audience at The Marquee a few months earlier. Lennon was a ‘soul mate’. Brian Jones too. Mick and Keith jointly and combined pushed him over the brink. He could cope with losing his wife, but he could not cope with losing his band."
“I was within an ace of having joined the Stones. In 1975, they had me come over to Hilversum to play on ‘Black and Blue’. I had not the slightest idea I was actually auditioning there, otherwise I would not have left after 4 days to catch my plane to Japan where I was about to tour. Afterwards, I was told by Keith Richards that the choice had been between Wayne Perkins, Harvey Mandel and me. It was only when Faces split up that it was possible it could be Ron Wood. Woody is perfect for the Stones. I don’t think they would have been better with me, maybe more interesting.”
"I have no complaints about praise from colleagues. I have been on stage with dozens of guitarists, including my childhood heroes, Albert Collins, Buddy Guy and Albert King, and in every company, no matter how famous they might have been, I have held my own. No, not without fear or dread. The stage fright is getting worse. I watched B.B. King in that film about U2 (Rattle and Hum -jg) walking around wringing his hands, making up one excuse after another of not having to read the music of 'When Love Comes to Town', and not having to admit that he can't read notes, so I know I am in good company, but that does not alleviate the pain. Man, talking about it hurts my very soul!"
"It is getting worse and worse", says Donal in low spirits while we are on our way to the pub. He was so wise as not to invite his brother. "It would not be that tragic if he would not be really happy on stage only. It is not for nothing that Rory has been touring constantly for 30 years. For the first time since I have been his manager, I was able to have an opening is his diary last year, so that he could take off a month. After a week he rang me, panic stricken. He had no idea what to do with himself. Whether I could arrange a gig or so for him. Well, that, at least, has never been a problem....."
This piece was originally posted to
"De Telegraaf' a
daily newspaper on Jan. 7. 1995. The interview was done in London in
It was taken from "Signals" published by Jakob Mulder in Autumn 1996
Thanks to Stefanos Tsiopanas for passing it along
Background by John Wainwright
reformatted by roryfan