Life with last year’s
model Carol Clerk
gets happy with Rory Gallagher. Pix: Barry Plummer
THEY were in Manchester. It was
8:30 in the morning, and the hotel was quiet. The Rory Gallagher
Band and their crew were peacefully sleeping off a heavy night.
The low rumble of noise grew louder. The
crunch of workmen’s boots filled the corridor. And then all hell
Crashing hammers and screaming drills
woke up every living soul on that floor. Rory jerked open his
eyes to find a drill boring through the wall of his room, inches above
Donal Gallagher, Rory’s brother and
manager, sprung out of bed and into action. He rang for the
manager; asked the workmen to stop; rang the manager again, pleaded
with the men.
So he resorted to a last
desperate course of action. He searched his bin for the remains
of the previous night’s Kentucky Fried Chicken. And he pelted the
workmen. The workmen charged at him with their drills. And
then the police came.
“They were going to charge me with
assaulting the workers with bits of chicken!” he said, still
incredulous, as he poured another drink, now safely ensconced in the
bar of a hotel in Newcastle. The booze flowed as fast as the anecdotes.
Outside, the night sky was beginning
to lighten, the fog steadily lifting from its traditional position on
the Tyne to make way for a clear morning view of the river. You
could’ve heard the first few early birds scaring the life out of the
worms if it hadn’t been for the clinking of glasses and the banter of
voices within. When the Rory Gallagher clan have a drink, they
have a drink. And this one had been going on for hours.
There was Rory, engrossed in the
conversations of the road crew. And drummer Brendan O’Neill,
looking forward to his first major gig with the band at their imminent
festival appearance. Bassist Gerry McAvoy was entertaining a
party of relatives, apparently recovering from the indignity of his
earlier eviction from a Newcastle night club. And the beat went
“ROCK On The Tyne” was to be Rory’s
first British appearance in a long while aside from a small surprise warm-up gig at the Canning Town Bridge House
the previous week. It had gone well, the crowd responding
gleefully to the intimate atmosphere and a roasting set that included a
brace of new numbers scheduled for release on the next album.
The festival was a different matter
altogether, conditions being necessarily more difficult in the great
outdoors. And the band was using two sax players onstage for the
first time. Rory admitted he was “jumpy.”
He needn’t have worried. He
pulled bigger crowds than Costello and Dury, the day before. He
won a more tumultuous reception than those two artists put
together. The crowd started up a “Rory” chant before Dr. Feelgood
had even left the stage. And their reaction to Gallagher swept
the site in great waves of emotion that intensified as the set neared
A response like that for a man
intentionally ignored or scorned by the media for several years is
little short of a miracle.
“Any popularity I have is from gigs or
records,” he’d said earlier. “It has kept going by word of
mouth. Even the most in-vogue acts can find that after their
honeymoon with the press is over, the press can turn against you, but
you just have to survive that. It’s lovely to be this year’s
model, but next year you just have to keep on.
“It’s all very well to be the darling
of the press and the fashion of the day, but you have to do what you
feel, and play what you feel, is best and most
enjoyable for yourself.
“They’ll criticize you for not keeping
up with the Joneses, but if you do try to do that, they’ll laugh at you
for being the wrong man in the wrong job. You have to hang on to
whatever gives you the best kick.
“I don’t work in a very programmed
fashion, and you can only expect a certain kind of success that
way. I don’t have the rock ‘n’ roll mentality, so I’ve only
myself to thank or blame. It’s not a big ‘How many times has he
been on the telly this week?’ kind of popularity. It’s a slower,
longer kind of career, and in the end it seems to be better.”
So what is it about Rory Gallagher’s
music that people still love? He’s hesitant to say.
“It’s hard for me to analyze what we
have and don’t have,” he said. “People like us because we
give them a mixture. We still have a bluesy feel and a lot of the
music is improvised on the night. There are no programmed
dynamics. It’s not a big smoke bomb show, but if you go to one of
our concerts, whether it’s good or bad, it will still be
spontaneous. It won’t be like watching television.
“I’d hate to be seen as a one
dimensional bash-bash band. We rock hard, but there are ideas
behind what we do, and we try to keep our songs interesting. I
don’t see myself as a guitar hero.”
In answer to allegation of guitar hero
postures in last week’s review of the festival, it seems worth pointing
out that any postures there are, are presented with a generous dash of
humour - another important element in the Rory story.
But most vital of all is that feeling. You
know it. Starts like a thump to the heart, floods the arteries,
chokes the throat and squeezes the eyes. A feeling that’s better
And Rory Gallagher’s still capable of
giving you that, be it in the Bridge House pub or the Newcastle
Festival grounds. His fans know that. That’s why they stay
with him. And that’s why they refuse to listen to the intolerant,
trend-ridden, self opinionated peacocks who try to tell them that Rory
Gallagher’s last year’s man.
The new material showcased at the
Bridge House and the festival shows no signs of flagging on Rory’s
part. Romping rock ‘n’ roll with irresistible riffs and
hooks and the fluid, intelligent guitar work of a true craftsman.
He’s been working on the songs since
the start of the year; now they’re in the process of being
recorded. A new album should be out by January.
“The ideas are still coming very fresh
and easily,” he said.
“Lyrics are always harder for me than
the music. “An awful lot of writers seem to think they’re the
conscience of the world. I don’t try to be a poet. But when
I’m on form, I think I can write a fairly good set of lyrics for the
right sort of rock song.
“My influences still come from the R
‘n’ B and blues sources, although I do keep pretty much in touch with
the new bands. I’m not particularly interested in the synthesizer
bands… its soulless stuff and disco completely went by me, but I don’t
think there’s anything old fashioned in that.”
One quality that’s admirable in Rory
is his lack of complacency. “I’m not totally satisfied with
things as they are for me at the moment,” he said. “I’m looking
forward to the album and to playing with this band, but I’d like more
progress in America, I’d like to sell more albums and I’d like to be
Back in the bar. The atmosphere
was more relaxed this time, the gig and the cheers of the crowd still
ringing in the ears. Bottles were emptying as fast as they were
opened, and Donal was in exuberant form, singing and returning now and
then to his inexhaustible supply of anecdotes.
“Listen,” he says, “Did I tell you the
one about the Japanese Guinness incident…?” From MELODY MAKER
of September 12, 1981
Thanks to Brenda O'Brien for sharing & typing this article
reformatted by roryfan