Archive for the 'Interviews' Category

Sep 23 2013

Kicking Back with Daniel Gallagher

Published by under Interviews

Kickback City Teaser

These are exciting times for Rory Gallagher fans. With the last of the remastered solo albums making their way into the record shops, the media outlets are now a buzz with word of a new project soon to be released that promises to knock the socks off the Gallagher faithful. The new project boasts a total immersion into the crime story songs of the late Rory Gallagher, including a Rory inspired novella by famed crime author Ian Rankin . It was something that was hinted at in last April’s release of the Continental Op EP on record store day. On the inner sleeve of that EP was a b&w comic book style collage of crime noir scenes with the words “Coming Soon. Kick Back City. Starring Ian Rankin, Timothy Truman, and Aidan Quinn.” And now we learn the specifics. Set to be released in late October, the project combines the talents of the U.K.’s number one crime fiction author, Ian Rankin, writing a Rory-inspired novella, with graphic artist Timothy Truman illustrating, and award winning actor Aidan Quinn providing narration. Add in a hefty dose of classic Rory Gallagher numbers and you’ve got a witches brew with more punch than the great Clones “Cyclone”, Barry McGuigan. And we’ve got Daniel Gallagher, son of Rory’s brother Donal to tell us all about.

Kicking Back with Daniel Gallagher

Shadowplays: Hi Daniel, thanks for taking time out from your busy schedule to answer a few questions about the latest re-releases and the upcoming release of Kickback City. And what a busy time it’s been. Let’s start out with the reissues. Towards the end of last year the second batch of remasters was released, the albums from Rory’s time at Chrysalis. Once again ANDY PEARCE and MATT WORTHAM went back to the originals?

Daniel Gallagher: Hi Milo, my pleasure!

Andy Pearce is very highly regarded for not over compressing and joining the ‘loudness’ war that currently perpetuates in the music industry and this keeps the sound quality of Rory’s recordings at the forefront be it the professional, almost mainstream sound of Calling Card or the very lo fi Deuce. Once we’d started the re-issues with Andy and Matt it was definitely the right thing sonically for all the albums to subsequently be mastered by them from the original 1/4 inch tapes.

Shadowplays: The original artwork from Jinx has returned, along with the proper tracklisting! Any idea why the late ’90’s remix had scrambled them so bad? Was it because of the popularity of Big Guns in concert and so they decided to capitalize on that fact and put it at track one?

Daniel Gallagher: Jinx would of been the first Rory album I got, I remember my Dad giving me a copy on tape when I was quite young and it’s stayed as a personal favourite of Rory’s records (only beaten Deuce and Irish Tour). I didn’t realise the track listing had been so jumbled up over the years, the obvious solution was to go back to the initial order. I think it was Rory who altered the track list for the Intercord re-release in the late 80s, I do suspect that Big Guns’ popularity live had a part to play in the track becoming the opener.

Sculpture by Geraldine Creedon

Shadowplays: Jinx, a forgotten masterpiece. Some great lyrics on that album. No wonder Geraldine Creedon included so many bits of the lyrics from Jinx on her abstract sculpture. I like the additional write-ups from Cameron Crowe and Simon Frith on the album Against the Grain, and nice to hear once again the missing bridge from the song Ain’t too Good. Any idea why it was edited out of the 1999 remaster?

Daniel Gallagher: For all the re-issues I tried to find relevant reviews or articles to go with Donal’s track descriptions, and that Cameron Crowe article is a wonderful insight to Rory and the period of Against The Grain where he’d just signed for Chrysalis and was gracefully doing a lot of ‘promo’ work for the album which he probably hated.

The missing bridge vocal on Ain’t Too Good from the 90’s remix was a mistake at the time, Tony Arnold mixed the track without the vocal which was then corrected but the wrong master tape got sent to manufacturing and it wasn’t noticed on the test pressings. It’s great that we got the chance to correct things like that with these releases.

Shadowplays: There are some great additional photos in these re-releases. Love the extra “Philby” live shot on the remastered Top Priority. Was that the photo from the Philby “single” that was released back then?

Daniel Gallagher: Yes that is the shot from the Philby single cover. That photo session is by Brian Cooke it has Rory, Gerry and Ted in a dark rehearsal room with stage lighting and it looks like they’re having a lot of fun jamming and throwing shapes.

Shadowplays: Most of the bonus tracks returned on these re-releases with the exception of Calling Card where a new bonus track, “Where Was I Going To” replaces the previous bonus tracks. What’s the history behind that little gem?

Daniel Gallagher: I’ve tried to keep the bonus tracks relevant to the album they were recorded for and moved tracks from certain albums to where they ‘belonged’ such as ‘Just A Little Bit’ to Irish Tour from Tattoo. With Calling Card the previous bonus tracks had been from the Notes From San Francisco sessions and I felt after the release of that album that I’d take these off the album. I looked through the tapes for any unused track and came across ‘Where Was I Going To’ on a Blueprint sessions tape and cheated my rule of keeping the bonus tracks with the relevant album and mixed it for Calling Card. It’s a great whimsical track with some fantastic Lou Martin piano and a Serge Gainsbourg bass line. The song didn’t make Blueprint originally because I don’t think Rory had finished writing it, there was no lead guitar, the recording is actually nearly 8 minutes with the band going round and round trying to work out how to finish with Rory trying different lyrics. I edited it and tried to encapsulate everything the song intended to be and at 5 and a half minutes it feels pretty complete, to me anyway.

Shadowplays: Fairly seamless editing. Though I’d love to hear the actual recording of them working on the song, get a glimpse on how a Rory tune is crafted. Shoot, a Rory practice session would be far more interesting than most of the stuff you hear on the radio these days! Overall, How have the remasters, the Polydor and the Chysalis sets, been received by the fans? Because of the years involved I’d assume a higher demand for the earlier Polydor’s.

Daniel Gallagher: I was slightly nervous that some people might feel it was unnecessary to remaster the albums again but thankfully the response I’ve had has been very positive. The mastering is a lot ‘gentler’ than the previous masters which were quite loud, I think Rory’s production and mixing nuances come through better sonically and while Rory’s mixes might not be the 100% clean perfect for radio it’s how he wanted his albums to sound and how he wanted people to hear them.

Both sets have done very well though I think the initial demand for the Polydor releases was slightly higher than the Chrysalis albums, in part that’s down to them having more of a legacy, classic front covers such as the Mick Rock photos etc. It also just comes down to the first set of releases in a series getting more attention, press and retailer wise, than subsequent sets.

Shadowplays: I understand that Sony had also done a Rory “Original Album Classics” series too. A bargain box set containing 5 of his albums (Deuce, Calling Card, Top Priority, Jinx & Fresh Evidence) I don’t recall this coming out in the states. When and where was this released?

Sony Original Album Classics

Daniel Gallagher: I think Sony did this back in 2008 for Europe, I think they were looking to get Rory into supermarkets racking and thought a bargain box set would work. Personally I think these items slightly ‘de-value’ Rory’s music that’s why I prefer doing something like the full re-issue series that gives prominence to the music at a very reasonable price.

Shadowplays: And that’s one of the great things about these new remasters, not only do you get a great sounding recording, but the price point is so low. Well worth it I think. It is amazing though that the Rory bargain box set that Sony put out was the hottest selling set in the series — in New Zealand of all places, a country Rory only rarely visited. Go Kiwis!! I’m curious then about the demographics. Where is the market strongest for Rory releases or re-releases?

Daniel Gallagher: Europe in general is still the biggest Rory ‘market’ with the UK, Ireland, Germany and France at the top. Outside of Europe; in Japan he remains very popular and now New Zealand! Looking at a royalty statement though it’s amazing to see how far his music stretches around the globe with CDs and downloads being bought everywhere from the Arab Emirates to Taiwan to Poland. I think that’s in huge part to the internet which has led to people discovering Rory and his music on youtube and Facebook etc.

Shadowplays: You got to wonder how big Rory would have been if he had been touring in this internet age we live in. Music industry analyst and critic, Bob Lefsetz recently remarked that it use to be that you toured to promote your album, but now it’s all about the tour, and nobody toured longer, harder or better than Rory.

So this month the last of Rory’s solo albums – Stagestruck, Defender, and Fresh Evidence have been remastered and released. How are these different from the previous releases? These weren’t remixed or remastered in the late 90’s were they? Any additional tracks?


Final 3 Rory Gallagher albums remastered

Daniel Gallagher: Stage Struck has it’s original artwork restored and on all the albums there’s some interviews / reviews added to Donal’s sleeve notes and more photos. Stage Struck also gets another bonus track as I found ‘Hellcat’ on the master tape which had been held back from the album for a giveaway promo single. I placed it with the other bonus tracks in the middle of the album as that’s where it was on the master tape.

I’m not sure how much tinkering or mixing was done to these albums back in the 90’s but the mastering is much better, in my opinion, it’s less aggressive / loud and I think you hear the intricacies of the musicianship clearer.

Shadowplays: This last batch seemed to have taken a bit longer to be released than originally planned. Weren’t they expected out in June?

Daniel Gallagher: At first I wasn’t sure that we’d release these last 3 albums, as I mentioned I didn’t know if they’d been mixed differently in the 90s. Then I saw some comments and posts from fans saying that they hoped these albums would get the same treatment as the others and it did feel a bit incomplete to go back to the original artwork, mixes etc on all the other albums and leave out these three. I’d gotten a release month of June for the albums from Sony but then Kickback City as a release started to happen so everything got slightly put on hold, hence the few months extra.

Shadowplays: And on the heels of these reissues you’ve just announced the other day the release in October of a very special project, titled Kickback City. Named after one of Rory’s crime songs. What’s the story?

Daniel Gallagher: My Dad had always mentioned the idea of doing a compilation of Rory’s crime based tracks. While working on Wheels Within Wheels with Tony Arnold he was asked to write the foreword to a crime novel called ‘Low End’ by Harry J Pellegrin (who’s also a guitarist and Rory fan). While Donal was writing the foreword Tony mentioned to him that he had “A Question Of Blood” by Ian Rankin as an audio book in which the character Rebus listens to Jinx and signifies ‘The Devil Made Me Do It’ with his current case. Donal saw that these crime writers had picked up on Rory’s lyrics and crime songs and wanted to do a release based on these tracks.

Low End by H.Pellegrin

Shadowplays: I’ve read Harry’s two crime novels. He’s been a Rory fan for ages. He also built his own version of the Rory Replica Strat. Kept the hardware outside in his backyard to get it good and rusty!

Ian Rankin is considered the top crime fiction writer in the U.K. How were you able to corral him?

Daniel Gallagher: When Donal found out that Ian Rankin was a Rory fan and had tied in some Rory tracks with his Inspector Rebus novels, Donal got in contact with Ian’s publishers to thank Ian for mentioning Rory in his novels and mentioned that Rory had been very passionate about crime fiction. Ian replied but was unaware of Rory’s reading habits and the influence they had on his songwriting so Donal sent him a collection of Rory’s crime songs and mentioned the idea of him writing the sleeve notes for a crime compilation. Ian was very open to the idea so I cheekily recommended to my Dad to ask Ian if he’d write a short story using Rory’s lyrics instead of just sleeve notes. Amazingly Ian agreed, we sent him around 50 Rory tracks which had some crime reference, plus the lyrics for these and he in turn completely surpassed anything we could have imagined with his story The Lie Factory.

Shadowplays: He’s referenced Rory in several of his Inspector Rebus novels, including his latest, “Standing in Another Man’s Grave.” I wonder if he sees a bit of Rory in his Rebus character? After all, Rebus tends to go a bit “Against the Grain” too.

Daniel Gallagher: Ian mentioned that Rebus would be a fan of Rory’s in part because of it’s working class roots, no nonsense or frills attitude etc. Also I’m sure Rebus would feel there’s a Celtic connection between himself and Rory. It’s weird talking about a fictional character as if he was real.

Shadowplays: Tells you how good a writer Ian Rankin is when you start thinking about whether the character Rebus would like this or that kind of music! Ian Rankin’s first “Rebus” novels were published in the late 80’s. Being such a voracious reader of crime fiction I wonder if Rory was aware of Rankin’s stories.

Daniel Gallagher: We just collected together all of Rory’s crime books for a photo shoot and there was a couple in there I think, ‘Witch Hunt’ I remember seeing. The photo shoot is for a double-sided poster I’d like to make which is Rory’s Strat in front of his book collection in full, actual size both back and front.

Continental Op by Hammett

Shadowplays: Many of Rory’s later songs seemed strongly influenced by the hard-boiled fiction of Dashiell Hammett; not only the subject material but also the phrasings. Harsh, spare, and to the point. Does the Rankin’s novella quote some of the lines in Rory’s songs? Or the ideas behind the lyrics?

Daniel Gallagher: The story is written very much in the Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett style that Rory so adored. It’s a subtle mixture of Rory lyrics and song titles that are in lines or are a characters names, for instance ‘Kid Gloves’ is a boxer in the story, much like Rory’s track.

Shadowplays: There are some similarities between Rory and such fictionalized characters as the Continental Op – the lone operative, an outsider, a defender of what’s right. In some ways that’s Rory don’t you think? Hammett’s unblinking look at political corruption and class warfare could easily translate to the sordid underbelly of the record industry and the London centric music scene that Rory had to contend with

Daniel Gallagher: Definitely, when looking at the subtext to some of Rory’s later songs I think he does infer to the music industry as being the villain / mob type which he has to duck and weave in and out of to survive. Songs like ‘Kid Gloves’ where the boxing character is told to take a dive strikes me as Rory being told to release a single, it’ll earn him money but won’t help his soul. I think in Kickback City as a track you can really hear Rory’s despondency with having to exist in the business side of music where “You try to line all your lines and you try to play the part”.

Shadowplays: Oddly enough, comparisons of Rory Gallagher with the Continental Op have even reached the hallowed halls of academia. A recent lecture given at New Saint Andrews College by Wesley Callihan, was partly about the similarities between Rory Gallagher and the Continental Op. Mr. Callihan suggested that “Perhaps Rory Gallagher was drawn to another character who was essentially alone, or who had to maintain a certain emotional distance from most people in order to do what he had to do the way he had to do it.” What do you think of Mr. Callihan’s interpretation?

Daniel Gallagher: I showed that video of Mr. Callihan’s lecture to my Dad who was just blown away. It’s funny how his lecture came about just as we were putting the final touches to the Kickback City project. I agree with his sentiment of Rory being drawn to characters that are fiercely independent both professionally and personally. While Defender as an album title for instance came from a blues background I think Rory was aware that it, like ‘Last of The Independents’, is a title that that evokes the idea of himself being out on his own, fighting his corner against an industry he had to work in but didn’t feel a part of.

Shadowplays: Ian Rankin’s novella is being illustrated by Timothy Truman, a well respected graphic artist whose credits stretch back to his days with DC comics. He is also a musician and Rory fan and has done artwork for The Grateful Dead, Hot Tuna and Jim Lauderdale. Why Truman? And did he need much coercion?

Daniel Gallagher: Timothy Truman’s involvement came down to you actually! I read your interview with him on and saw his drawings of Rory from his Grimjack comic. I’d showed the interview to my Dad and when Ian agreed to write the novella and explained it would be a Chandler/Hammett esque detective story we both had the same light bulb moment that it would be amazing if we could get Tim to illustrate it. Thanks to yourself we were able to email Tim and he was very excited at the prospect of what the project could be. We flew out to meet him in person and had a long chat about all things Rory and Tim’s art etc.

Issue #4 Grimjack

Issue #4 Grimjack with image of Rory

As soon as Ian had sent over the novella we passed it on to Timothy to start coming up with the look of the characters and scenes. Tim did an incredible job, the front cover alone is a thing of beauty and special thanks also goes to the art director Mark Jessett who worked closely with Tim on all the finest details to capture the mood and feel of Ian’s story and characters. Tim really went above and beyond to supply us with so many wonderful illustrations and details for the album.

Shadowplays: That’s the spirit of Rory coming into play I think. There are some good graphic artists out there, but when you’ve got one that is also a passionate Rory fan then I think that passion crosses over into their art and then you’ve got a really great graphic artist and some really great results.

You’ve also gotten Aidan Quinn to do a narration of the story. He’s seen regularly over here in the States in the TV series ‘Elementary’, a modern take on the old Sherlock Holmes stories, and he’s also been in some topnotch movies; such as, Unknown, Legends of the Fall, Michael Collins, Desperately Seeking Susan. What’s the Rory story there?

Narrator Aidan Quinn

Daniel Gallagher: When I read Ian’s novella it had a real film noir feel to me and I thought it would make a great audio book if it had the right voice narrating. We’ve been working with cinematographer / director Declan Quinn for a while now on a potential Rory film and I asked him if there was any chance that his brother Aidan would be interested in narrating Ian’s story. I sent over the Lie Factory and Aidan liked the story and next thing I was on a plane to New York to record him. I was pretty nervous as I’ve never done any work on an audio book before but meeting Aidan was a pleasure, it was an odd situation for me to be ‘directing’ him as I was a little out of my depth but he was exceptionally professional and took the story to another level. I was expecting that he’d want to just read the story straight in his voice but he’d actually worked on different voices for the characters and little intricacies in their accents. It’s funny now when I read any of the novella I have Aidan’s tone for the main character Regan in my head.

Shadowplays: Aidan was also in a movie directed by his sister Marian Quinn called 32A, a very good coming of age movie that also had a Rory Gallagher tune in it — “I Fall Apart”. And if I have my facts straight, his brother Declan was at the New York tribute to Rory back in ’02 at the Bottom Line. The Quinn Family — Actors, Directors, Cinematographers, and Rory fans all. I definitely sense a possible movie here, Daniel!

32A directed by Marian Quinn, and co-starring Aidan Quinn and including the song “I Fall Apart”

Daniel Gallagher: Yes Declan got in touch with Donal a few years ago with his idea to make a film on Rory. He’s been working on several re-drafts of scripts in between all the films he works on. It’s still early days but I think the script is close to being finished and then begins the work of finding a film board who want to back the production I think.

Shadowplays: There’s also a connection between Aidan Quinn and Timothy Truman, by the way. Timothy got one of his first big breaks illustrating the Jonah Hex comic book series, and Aidan played General Grant in the movie version of Jonah Hex. It’s karma!

Daniel Gallagher: Yes! There’s always some weird connection when working on Rory’s music some intangible force, such as the timing of your interview with Timothy just when Donal was talking with Ian Rankin.

Shadowplays: And that’s about the time I started reading Ian Rankin’s books! I had heard that he was mentioning Rory quite a lot in his books and so picked one up and liked it so much I’ve read them all!

Along with the novella and the audio CD narrated by Aidan Quinn, you’ve also included 2 CDs of songs. Both studio and live versions of the songs referenced in the novella. Are the studio cuts taken from the newly remastered releases?

Daniel Gallagher: The studio cuts are all from the new remasters, even the Eagle Rock (North & South America) release has the Sony music masters.

When compiling the CD we were guided by the tracks referenced by Ian in his story that’s why ‘Slumming Angel’ and ‘Sinner Boy’ for instance are included despite not being crime based songs. It was hard to whittle down the other tracks as there’s so many potential ones to use even something like ‘Tattoo’d Lady’ about the life of a traveling fair / circus makes reference to crime;
“The law came and tried to close her sideshow down. But soon she had the D.A. cheering, the police chief wearing, her garter for a crown.”

I’m sure there’ll be some tracks that people will feel I missed out, I was really caught on whether ‘Philby’ should be included because it’s such a great song but in the end I felt it was more a cold war, espionage theme rather than a crime based one. Who knows maybe Patrick McCabe might write us a story and we’ll get to do another one!

Shadowplays: I noticed in your studio selections that you opted for the “B-Girl” version of Public Enemy no.1. Why?

Daniel Gallagher: To be completely honest I didn’t have the track down initially as one for the compilation as when I first read the Lie Factory I didn’t pick up on Ian using a lyric from the song in the story. I only noticed it when going through the artwork files for the release so I had to quickly choose between the NFSF version and Top Priority. I probably went with NFSF version because of familiarity as I’d worked on that mix.

DVD menu from Live at Cork

Shadowplays: And the live cuts?

Daniel Gallagher: The live side I remastered from the Live In Cork film, it’s the Defender period when Rory’s material was most heavily influenced by crime writing and it’s such a great concert that I felt it would make a nice bonus in the package.

Shadowplays: A cracker of a concert with some great video extras, like the tour of “Rory Gallagher’s Cork”. These crime story songs really showcase Rory’s songwriting skills, don’t you think?

Daniel Gallagher: Yes that’s hopefully something that people will pick up on when they listen to the tracks. We all know about Rory’s musicianship and standing as a guitar legend that it’s nice that his great songwriting is highlighted in this package.

Shadowplays: Were you aware that last year one of the original Celtic punk rock bands, The Radiators from Space, had covered the Rory penned taste song “It’s happened before it’ll happen again” on their new album Sound City Beat? In an interview with Hot Press, Philip Chevron from the Radiators (and also the Pogues) mentioned that Rory’s lyrics were often overlooked because of his exceptional guitar work. I think we do tend to overlook his songwriting ability because that guitar was so damn good!

Daniel Gallagher: I only saw that recently when you posted it up on Facebook. It’s a very different version, I like it but it’s weird not hearing Rory’s sax and guitar lines.

Shadowplays: I think Chevron pared it down to highlight further Rory’s songwriting skill. I love it when someone takes a Rory song and moves it in a different direction. There’s a band called Moo, I think Dublin based, that turned Rory’s “Crest of a Wave” into a Rockabilly number. Blasphemy, I know. But it worked! Of course at the end of the day, you still want to go back and listen to the original “Crest of a Wave” and hear that paint-peeling slide!!

And speaking of Taste, Daniel you know I’m not going to let you go until I get the latest word on a potential Taste release? Are you any closer to securing a deal with the labels about the Isle of Wight video, and/or the remastering and general spiffing up of the Taste catalogue?

rory gallagher at the Isle of Wight
Rory Gallagher at the Isle of Wight ©

Daniel Gallagher: Still completely stuck with legal issues on Taste, sadly.

The catalogue and rights for Taste belong to Polydor / Universal who aren’t looking to do anything with the albums etc. We’ve been trying to license the rights from them but they’re not being very helpful. In turn this halts the Isle Of Wight film as Polydor have the soundtrack and own the performers consent, which means that because Taste were exclusively signed to Polydor at the time of the festival they have to grant us permission to use the bands performance in the film.

We have pretty much worked out a deal with Murray Lerner for the footage but need to sort the audio rights out, as any label who would look to release the film would want the CD rights as well.

Shadowplays: That’s a shame! Give me a name at Universal and I’ll make sure his email box is stuffed with some choice messages! What about the Irish Tour anniversary issue? Are you still planning on releasing a special edition of IT ’74 including extra tracks, for next year? Are there full concert audios from all three concerts: Belfast, Dublin, and Cork?

Daniel Gallagher: Yes I’m working on the Irish Tour 40th Anniversary release right now. At the moment the plan will be the main Cork concert in it’s full length and setlist order, I hope people don’t see it as blasphemy releasing IT’74 in a different order but my idea is to give the whole concert and a few tracks segue into each other, Hands Off goes into Too Much Alcohol for instance.

I’ve been editing together the Belfast and Dublin shows and I think I’ve got close to complete sets for these and then I’ve got a possible 7-9 tracks from rehearsal/ soundcheck. All in all I think it might run to 7 CDs!

I think The Who 40th Anniversary Live At Leeds Box Set and Deluxe Edition are a similar type of package to what I’m looking to do.

Backstage with Rory Gallagher during the making of Irish Tour ’74, ©Pat Galvin

Shadowplays: That’s fantastic news. For a long time now, I think a lot of Rory fans have wanted full concert releases of some of the standout shows, like the Irish Tour ’74 shows, the Cowtown Ballroom show and Luton Town Hall show, to name just a few. It may take some getting use to listening to IT ‘74 in a different track order, but I think I can live with that so long as I get to hear gems like “Hands Off” and other newly added tracks from that Cork concert. Of course, you’ll have to promise to keep Mickey Connolly’s intro at the start of the concert! Well that’s certainly something to look forward to in 2014.

Daniel, thanks for taking time out to talk about these latest releases!

Donal mentioned once that it almost seemed like Rory had been airbrushed out of rock ‘n roll history. Yet today I find references to Rory everywhere: in music, art, literature, and poetry. In literature there’s the casual mentions in Ian Rankin’s Rebus series, and Joseph O’Connor’s novel Inishowen, where several pages are devoted to going to a Taste concert. And then there’s American author Jim Fusili who wrote a short story about channeling Rory’s spirit in “The Ghost of Rory Gallagher”. Poets Louis DePaor, Eamonn Wall, and Dermot Bolger have all written poems about him, and in music, artists such as John Spillane, Pat McManus, Jean-Pierre Froidebise have all composed tunes about him. We even have a bagpipe jig written in his honor by legendary Scottsman Gordon Duncan! In art we’ve had paintings of Rory and his guitar (and sometimes just his guitar) by such noted artists as Dutch painter Theo Reijnders, Irish American Mia Funk, and Scottish Renaissance man, Alec Galloway. Ireland it seems, and perhaps other countries as well, have refused to forget Rory and still holds him dearly to their hearts. And with the great work you and your father do in overseeing his incredible catalogue, perhaps one day we might see Rory get the respect he so richly deserves.

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Apr 24 2012

They Don’t Make Them Like Rory Anymore…

Published by under articles,Interviews

In the latest issue of Fireworks Magazine, Sue Ashcroft interviews Donal Gallagher, the brother of the late Irish Blues legend, Rory Gallagher. Special thanks to Bruce Mee and James Gaden of Rocktopia for allowing me to post the interview. For more great interviews be sure to pick up the latest issue of Fireworks at

firework header

In 1995 the world lost a truly inspirational guitarist and songwriter in Rory Gallagher. Now, his first six albums have been re-mastered and reissued from the original quarter inch tapes. Rory’s brother and former manager Donal has been flying the flag for Rory’s music for many years and spoke frankly to me about his hopes for his brother’s music in the future. But first, I decided to totally freak him out…

Donal, let me cast your mind back to 1966….. do you remember your cousins coming over to visit you from Scotland?

Yes… I’m worried now.

They had a girl called Pamela with them?

Yes, I remember her!

Well, that’s my sister!

Oh my goodness! That’s amazing!

We actually have a lot more connections than that, but I’ll get to those later. I want to know about how you feel Rory’s legacy is being carried on. Are you ever surprised by the level of love and respect that still exists for Rory all over the world?

I’m always pleasantly surprised – I don’t take it for granted though because I know the kind of world it is. It’s wonderful that the feeling is there, on the one hand, but on the other, when Rory was alive, you wish people were, dare I say, more appreciative of him, particularly in the latter years. I’m thrilled to bits the way it’s grown and particularly the younger generations who seem to have grasped the music and understood it and got the same love that their mums and dads did. I find that quite unique.

You stage the Rory Gallagher tribute weekend which is now in its eleventh year, winning awards for being one of Ireland’s best festivals and with people AND bands coming to it from all over the world – that must make you very proud?

It’s fabulous and the network that has evolved from it – there was another tribute weekend a few weeks ago in Oslo! Then, there’s Holland and Cork both having them in March for Rory’s birthday and the last call we had was from a guy in New York who’s doing one in June. It’s just extraordinary, but the great thing is that they all seem to swap bands and I love the interplay. It’s not about the records as such, it’s about the live music.

And that’s proven by the fact that Rory’s biggest selling album was the Live ’74 album! You’ve managed to get the remasters all sounding amazing. How did you go about doing that? It’s been a bit of a family affair, hasn’t it?

Well, respect to my son for that – that’s the top and bottom of it! It all came out of the last album ‘Notes From San Francisco’ to be honest. A lot of the fans wanted to have Rory on vinyl and the label said they would do a test run on that album, just to see how it went. They put it to
their sales staff and the limited edition that they intended to do was sold out before they’d even pressed it! So, then they came back and said that we were right and that they’d do the vinyl on the other albums for the 40th anniversary of the first releases. To have them in time for that would be something I thought Rory would have loved to see. So, in the course of doing that, Dan (my son) asked to do the project. He’s a guitarist – I think the artist gene must’ve bypassed me! So, he listened through the tracks and he decided that we should go back to Rory’s original mixes – the way he heard it himself and then apply the new technology and the new studio techniques to get the best out of that. In fairness to him, it was his concept to do it that way. We went right back to the original quarter inch and half inch tapes – there were a whole variety as we’d retained everything. So, it was the actual same tapes that Rory took to the studio. Obviously with the technology nowadays you can get so much more, so that’s how that was achieved. Then, in addition to the mastering, Sony said we should do a box set, but I said, as nice as that is, and however celebratory, if you want to turn someone on to Rory’s music, you have to make it affordable, because not everybody has the money in the present economic climate to buy a very pricey box set – let’s do it as it was originally done, so that you can buy one, or all, or none of them, that’s great – if they want to buy the whole set, even better!

How refreshing! Normally, people would say “No – we’re releasing it as a box set, because that’s going to bring more money in.”

We did get them to do better covers because the plastic jewel cases for normal CD’s weren’t always good enough to get good artwork, but we pushed them further and said, it would be great to have the first six look like mini vinyl albums.

Yeah, they’re great – I love the cardboard covers with the inserts. They really are like mini albums.

In fairness, they didn’t spoil them, they went with it and did the extra pictures and it was actually a guy who they fired from Sony who did the artwork, so they brought him back in and it was a labour of love for us all, to be honest.

So your family all still feel that connection to Rory and his music?

Oh very much so. Needless to say, there’s not a moment goes by that I’m not ‘preaching the gospel’ as it were. I have four kids and they all grew up with it – my two eldest boys saw him at Hammersmith Odeon. My youngest was too young to remember, but still knows the music. My eldest son now lives in Cork and he likes the scene over there. He’s very proud of it all and I think they all get such a kick out of people posting videos or articles about Rory on Facebook and other social media (I’m not one of those people, but I know they get a real buzz out of it).

Did you ever think that all these years later you would still be carrying on his legacy and that people would still be interested in the music?

Well yeah, I always felt that I was committed because I did feel like there was a certain injustice done to Rory in some ways. I think he was overshadowed and overlooked for a lot of stuff that nobody remembers now who or what it was, but he didn’t seem to get his fair share of the limelight, particularly in the latter years. Because he didn’t play the corporate game, he did get airbrushed out of the media for a long time. He knew though that the long term was what it was about, the music itself and him as a musician and after all, he had to live with himself and his decisions. I knew the potential of the music, so I never had my doubts. I suppose though, to stand back and think about it, if you’d asked me the question in 1995 after Rory died, where I thought we’d be at this point, it’s extraordinary really. Even when you’re a certain age, you don’t think about it. I remember hearing Sergeant Pepper’s for the first time when I was all of seventeen or eighteen and I remember the line “it was 20 years ago today….” and thinking “how ancient was that, twenty years ago?!” It’s like someone saying now “it was forty years ago today”.

I know what you mean – I keep thinking how have I been married twenty years when I’m only seventeen in the head? I notice at the festival this year, although you’ve not announced the full lineup yet, you have announced Pat Macmanus?

I don’t know who’s playing to be honest. Trying to get hold of Barry O’Neil is nigh on impossible! He got married on the 30th December and I was at his wedding, but I haven’t seen him since, despite all the attempts, but I know he was changing things to be inside a marquee so the whole format of the festival was going to change and we were going to have a discussion about it, so I’m glad you’ve reminded me! Pat, I saw at the wedding – he’s a lovely fella.

Well I had never seen him play live, even though I’ve been a fan of Mama’s Boys for thirty years, but I saw him at Hard Rock Hell in December. He had stepped in at the last minute when another band had pulled out and I think, because he’d played with the Quireboys in Belfast the week before, they’d managed to persuade him to come and fill in. You know – it was the first time in a very long time that a guitarist has moved me to tears. He was just amazing and I’m glad that you have that kind of player at the Rory Festival. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it – people with the passion for the music?

It’s the sincerity as well, that’s important.

How many people attend the show every year now?

Rory Gallagher

Well, because it’s over four days, some people come for just one day, some come for the whole thing, so all in all, it attracts about 20,000 people. This is what I’ve been waiting to discuss with Barry – as it was, every bar in town had a Rory band on or they’d be playing Rory’s records, so initially when it started off, they were all contributing to help support the bands to come in, but because of the total success of it, a lot of the places don’t put their hands in their pockets anymore. It’s left Barry with the dilemma – what do you do then because a lot of the bars have the crowds coming in anyway, but they’re too mean to contribute. So, Barry’s talking about putting it into a marquee so that it’s more contained and that way, the money that’s spent goes to the bands and then it also gives them the possibility to try and get someone like Joe Bonamassa or somebody of that calibre. The thing is, there’s a Scottish singer Sandi Thom, who got my number from a friend of mine and called me up. She explained to me that she’s Joe Bonamassa’s girlfriend and that Joe was coming to town. She wondered if there was any chance that I would go and say hello to him. I said of course and that I’d been hoping to do that because Joe’s covered Rory’s ‘Cradle Rock’ and always spoken very highly of Rory and every other time he’s been in London, I’ve been out of town, so I’d been waiting for this to happen. So, I said that I would go along and see him at the Hammersmith Apollo. In the course of the conversation I said that really and truly, when these guitarists ask to meet me, it’s not the brother they want to meet, it’s the guitar! They want to hold ‘the mistress’. Johnny Marr did the same thing. He called me on my mobile one day and said “sorry about Rory, blah, blah, blah, could I come and have a cup of tea with you sometime?” and I said “sure – when were you thinking about?” and he said “well, what are you doing tomorrow?” and I said “yeah, if you like”. Gave him my home address and he said “ok, I’ll be down first thing”. So, he hung up and then a few minutes later he rang back and said “just one more thing – before I get there can I just ask – I don’t suppose there’s any chance I can hold Rory’s guitar?” so I know that’s what they’re all after! He must’ve set off very early from Manchester, because he was at my house at 9 in the morning! So anyway, back to the story. So, I brought the Strat to the theatre – it was Sandi Thom’s Christmas present to Joe. It all went very well and it was lovely meeting him.

remastered albums

Now I have to get on to one of my other connections with you. My friend Alec Galloway is in the process of designing some stained glass panels of Rory for you. I’ve seen a couple of his sketches so far and they’re fantastic, but how did that come about?

Well, it was through Ronnie Garrity (former Down n Outz and current Henry Gorman Band and Heavy Metal Kids bassist) who had told me about his artist friend when I was up visiting him. On the Saturday morning, we went over to Alec’s studio. It was a bit of a setup between Ronnie and my wife, to be honest. Ronnie took me up there to see the Rory stained glass which was just amazing.

He’s a very talented boy, isn’t he?

Stained Glass Panel of Rory

Absolutely! The thing is, if somebody said to you ‘stained glass’ and ‘Rory’, you would think they were mad, but it’s such a lovely composition – abstract in some ways, but very beautiful in others. He’s such a lovely guy and he explained how he’s trying to further his career through commissions, so I made a few suggestions and then Alec said he’d love to come down and sketch Rory’s guitar, feel it and get the whole ambiance of it, as it were. So, he came down just before Christmas and stayed at the house and had the guitar with him for the whole night. I’m a member at the Chelsea Arts Society and I said that I thought it would be good for Alec to be a member there, so I took him up and we bumped into a few people I know there and I spoke to the council there and they understood about him being a teacher and so on, so they had no problem in giving him a reciprocal membership. They have a great space to exhibit and get your name out there amongst the artist fraternity in London, so I now have a piece to do for their website on the subject, so I’ll get that up soon so people can read about it. Another thing I wanted to talk to Barry O’Neil about is where I commission a piece for perhaps the music library in Cork or somewhere, but I’d like to be more specific as to where a piece is going, other than make a piece that they just shove in somewhere you wouldn’t particularly see it or whatever. Even the piece I got, it took me a while to put it up in the right place. It’s much better if you put lighting in it, so now I’ve got it to be mounted on a window so that in the daytime you get the natural light and in the evening you can plug it in as extra lighting for the room.

The thing is, my sister told me about how your dad used to make stained glass pictures out of sweet wrappers!

Yes, that’s right! It’s great that she remembered that!

I think it’s amazing and strange that your dad used to make stained glass pictures from sweet wrappers and here you are commissioning proper stained glass to commemorate one of your family… and the person doing it is from Gourock!

Luckily, I still have one that my dad did. It was done during the war years when they didn’t have a lot. My dad used to get just a piece of glass and shape it all and then hand paint a scene in black paint and then, over a period of time, he’d collect sweet papers – you know, the foil and cellophane – and there were all sorts of patterns on those. I remember as a kid there was a magnificent one of a woman running across a common and she was in a full, flowing Victorian dress with a brolly and a bonnet and so on. The sweet wrappers were glued to cardboard before they were mounted on the glass, so it had a beveled effect.
The one I still have, the glass is cracked so there’s not a lot I can do with it, but that’s of an old sailing ship in full sail. The sails are in silver and there’s a storm in the background – he was a very artistic man, plus he was a musician. He was in the Sean Kelly Dance Orchestra. He would’ve been Ireland’s answer to Jimmy Shand! He won all these cups and medals, but then the war broke out. There was no conscription in the north of Ireland, so you either had to take a boat to Liverpool or wherever and
enlist in some regiment you didn’t know, but at that time he couldn’t afford that, so he walked across the border to Donegal and joined the army, where he was transferred to Cork and that’s how he met my mother.

Wow. You had an album released in 2003 with a lot of previously unreleased tracks featuring some top notch musicians. Considering that some of the most famous players in the world, such as Slash, Brian May, Johnny Marr, Joe Bonamassa, etc. have all said how big an influence Rory has had on their lives, do you think that the way to go in the future might be to ask all those people to record their favourite Rory track for an album?

Oh yes, absolutely! That’s actually something that we have on the drawing board, but it’s been there for a little while because the thing is, they all say they want to do it, but when you push them to do it….I mean, Brian May was the first one who said he wanted to do it and that was just after Rory died. He said “I’m going in to the studio with Roger Taylor and we’re going to record a version of ‘Morning Sun’. I’ll send you the master tape and you can do what you like with it” – I’m still waiting for it! I bump into him and he keeps saying “oh, I must do that for you!” Equally, Johnny Marr was saying he wanted to do a track from ‘Calling Card’ – it was good of him to want to do an obscure track. U2 used to do ‘Moonchild’ as their sound check, so I asked them and they said “yeah, yeah, we’ll get you a version of it”. Their sound engineer is a guy I trained up in Cork and he said he would just record it off the sound board one day, but it’s just a case of getting everybody together at the same time. I actually think the best way to do it would be to get all of the bands in the one room at the same time – almost like a Jools Holland type show. There was another guy who came to me with another idea which was to record these guys by taking a mobile unit to where they were and recording it live. I think ZZ Top were up for doing one, but at the end of it, the budget the guy wanted for doing it was out the window. In some ways, I’d like to ask Johnny Marr to produce the album because you have to hand the reins over to someone else, because in some ways if it’s ‘Rory’s brother’ then I think a lot of the guys perhaps feel inferior trying to do a Rory track because “oh God, I can’t do it better”, or “I can’t do it justice” their heart’s in the right place, but I think they need to be coached by somebody else entirely.

It’s not about doing it better or doing it the same, it’s about doing your interpretation of how you think it should be played or how you ‘feel’ the song, isn’t it?

Yes, I mean Joe Bonamassa agreed to do it and I was speaking to Sandi, whose music I wasn’t familiar with, but I got her albums and I was quite knocked out by her. I thought God, this has passed me by and I feel guilty speaking to people when I don’t know about their music. So, then I called her up and said “Joe wants to do a track for the album, so I’d love for you and he to do a version of ‘I’ll Admit You’re Gone'” because it’s a track with a woman’s voice on it and I think you have to think outside the box when you’re trying to put something like this together. It doesn’t have to be a bloke on a guitar playing faster than Rory’s solo, but that’s the way various people tend to think about the tracks – how do I make it heavier than Rory or how do I rock it out more.

Thank you for your time Donal and you never know, with all our weird connections, we might bump into each other in Gourock some day!

Wouldn’t that be lovely? My cousins had always told me how beautiful it is, but being out on the road all the time, I never had the time to go and, when I eventually did, it was so amazing. I mean, the topography of the place and everything – I’m even looking at weather maps and I’m just so intrigued about how the lochs and the mountains and the way Gourock is on the bend of the river. Even someone who came to dinner here the other night who was sent to boarding school from Ireland to somewhere outside Glasgow and they were describing how they would take the boat over to Glasgow and it would stop first at Gourock and all the animals and goods would be taken off and the ship would then continue up the Clyde into the city. But it’s just amazing when you get chatting to people about Gourock.

I’m telling you, it’s the centre of the universe – all roads lead to Gourock!

It really was an honour to chat to Donal about his family history, and indeed MY family history and home town! It seems that enthusiasm for Rory Gallagher is still building year on year and is not only helping his home town and other musicians, but is still inspiring artists in other media to be creative. What a true legend.


Rory Gallagher’s first six albums have been remastered and reissued from the original quarter inch tapes. The albums are released by Sony Legacy. For more information visit

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