Mar 19 2013

If You Like Led Zeppelin… then you’ll LOVE Rory Gallagher!

Published by at 1:10 pm under prose


Dave Thompson

Born in Devon, England, Dave Thompson got his start writing and publishing the TV Times fanzine during the punk explosion at the end of the 1970s. A regular contributor to the weekly music paper Melody Maker throughout the 1980s, he has also written for the publications Record Collector, Rolling Stone, Mojo, Q, Spin, Alternative Press and many others. He is currently a columnist in the record collecting magazine Goldmine, and a contributor to the All Music Guide. His latest foray into the world of rock ‘n roll is “If You Like Led Zeppelin” an new addition to the “If You Like” series of books from the Hal Leonard publishing empire. “It is the unique story of how Led Zeppelin came together not as players, but as influences and ideas. It unearths the music that the musicians themselves were listening to, to open up an entire new world of experience and excitement for both casual and committed fans. It then travels beyond Led Zeppelin, to the bands and artists who in turn took their own lead from the Zep.” One of those artists discussed in the book is Rory Gallagher. Dave has kindly allowed me to post an excerpt from the book that deals with the legendary Irish axeman.


excerpt from

IF YOU LIKE LED ZEPPELIN… — written by Dave Thompson

 


If You Like Led Zeppelin

… But there was a generation rising up behind and around them, too, for whom Zeppelin’s sonic and subtle influences were an open invitation to take things to a whole new level.
   Blues guitarist Rory Gallagher moved to London from his native Ireland in late 1967 with Taste a band constructed firmly in the three-piece shape of the Experience and Cream. But it was Fleetwood Mac and, in particular, their guitarist Peter Green who gave Taste the confidence to follow their hearts, Gallagher later reflected — a debt he repaid shortly before his death in 1995, when he contributed a couple of tracks to the Rattlesnake Guitar Green tribute album.

“You cannot overestimate Fleetwood Mac’s importance at that time,” producer Mike Vernon agreed. “They brought the blues back into focus and rejuvenated the whole scene.” Vernon signed the infant Mac to his own Blue Horizon label, and admits it was the band’s immediate success that allowed the label to flourish as it did, becoming the primary staging ground for virtually every homegrown blues band of the era.

…And so back to Rory Gallagher, the man Jimi Hendrix once called the best guitarist in the world. Two studio albums attest to Taste’s brilliance, both released in the wake of Led Zeppelin I and both learning its lessons; Taste and On the Boards, two slabs of archetypal blues rock shot through with some astonishing detours. “some of the tracks,” affirmed Gallagher’s nephew and archivist, Daniel Gallagher, “could almost be very early metal, with that very deep, almost guttural bass. They tried to handle everything — tracks are country, the amazing jazz stuff they did on On the Boards — and that took a lot of attention away from that dark, brooding sound. It was brilliant. And if Rory had allowed ‘What’s Going On’ to be released as a single after [they played] the Isle of Wight Festival, when they were really flying, a lot could have changed.”

rory gallagher at the Isle of Wight
Rory Gallagher at the Isle of Wight ©rorygallagher.com

Instead, he broke up the band, forming a new trio for a solo debut album, Rory Gallagher, that was as strong as that third Taste LP should have been (had they only hung on to make it). Deuce (1971) was defiantly low-fi, no frills, no production — just a hard-hitting roar Danial sums up as his uncle simply asking, “‘How loud can I get this amp and how well can I play through it?’ and saying, ‘Guys, keep up’ to the band.”

The masterful Live in Europe followed. Unique in that many of its contents never appeared on a studio disc, Live in Europe was the first and, in some ways, the best of Gallagher’s many solo concert sets. “It’s such a good album and he captures the songs so well. Anybody else would have rerecorded the songs in the studio environment to show how great they are, and tried to have hits with them. But Rory realized, no, ‘this is exactly how they should sound, I nailed them,’ and he never went back to them.”


Live in Europe promo

Gallagher’s only Top 10 album in the U.K., Live in Europe has too many highlights to list. But we must spare a thought for “I Could Have Had Religion,” a song Gallagher based around four anonymously written lines he’d found in a book of Irish poetry. He wrote the tune and further words, but still co-credited the song to the ubiquitous “Trad Arr.” So when Bob Dylan rang him up one day, wanting to cover the song himself and hoping for further light on its origins, the American folksinger was staggered to discover just how un-trad it really was. His own next album was intended to be an all-folk covers affair, spotlighting his own rearrangement abilities. “I can’t do that to this song,” the Zim sadly told Gallagher. “Because I can’t take it away from you.”

Gallagher was at his best. 1973’s Blueprint is arguably the repository for some of his best-known numbers: “Walk on Hot coals” (immortalized on a classic Old Grey Whistle Test performance), “Daughter of the Everglades, “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”; Tattoo followed that same year, and then came Irish Tour ’74, the subject of both a double live album and a phenomenal concert movie of the same name.

The stars were all aligned. Gallagher was at the peak of his power and his popularity. Readers of the weekly Melody Maker had just elected him the number one guitarist in the world, and Irish Tour (both incarnations) lives up to all expectations.

In terms of rawness, the vinyl was the way to go; it captured the sound of Gallagher and band as they sounded every night, tight and turbulent, mixed with the magic of a tiny club PA and loud enough to make you sweat in your living room. The movie, shot by Tony Palmer, is a more considered affair; studio fixes and overdubs cleaned things up for what would become one of the best-loved rock flicks of the seventies.

But even here, the polish could not disguise the purity. This is still the blues at their most electrifyingly effortless, and the fact that the two releases shared just six (of nineteen) tracks ensured fans had to grab them both.


Leadbelly

The Rolling Stones certainly did. Gallagher was the first name on their list when they were seeking a replacement for Mick Taylor, long before such better-remembered names as Jeff Beck, Wayne Perkins, and the ultimately successful candidate, Ronnie Wood. Four days were spent in Rotterdam rehearsing, before Gallagher hightailed to Japan for his own next tour. They asked him to join the band as well, but he demurred. He liked being his own boss too much. And as for him gifting them with the riff to “Start Me Up” … well, that’s the tradition in the Gallagher household, and it wouldn’t be the first time Mick and Keef played magpies with other people’s music. It took them six years to release it, of course, but it took Rory that long to record “Out on the Western Plain” — a simply devastating Leadbelly rebuild that had been around (in lyrically different form) since the Taste days, and which he now recorded for 1975’s Against the Grain.

The last truly essential Gallagher album is 1976’s Calling Card. Indeed, his nephew cites “this and Irish Tour [is] where I’d start people if they didn’t know Rory. Maybe it’s Roger Glover’s production, but it’s his most mainstream album … you’ve got the funkiness of ‘Do You Read Me,’ the great rocking tracks like ‘Moonchild,’ his voice is really good on ‘Calling Card,’ the beautiful melody of ‘Etched in Blue’…”

Gallagher would continue recording for the rest of his life, touring too and amassing a back catalog which, when remastered and reissued in 2011-2012, comprised a solid seventeen separate releases. And he was as vital on his last album, 1990’s Fresh Evidence, as he was on his first, as Daniel explained:

“The lyrics on Fresh Evidence are that kind of ‘Don’t give a …’; it’s all about having taken so many hits, dealt with so much stuff, the walking wounded … ‘Everyone’s had their chance, but I’m still here making another record.’ … ‘Kid Gloves,’ with that stuff about being asked to take a dive … It’s a very independent record, a very fierce one.”

It was also his last. Gallagher died on June 14, 1995, from complications while awaiting a liver transplant. He was forty-six.

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13 responses so far

13 Responses to “If You Like Led Zeppelin… then you’ll LOVE Rory Gallagher!”

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  2. Terryon 19 Mar 2013 at 3:11 pm

    I had the great fortune to attend several of Rory’s annual Dublin gigs in the 70s. His performances will live in my memory forever, the man was brilliant. It is so sad that he is not with us anymore. Sad too that recently we have lost two other greats; Dan Toler and Alvin Lee. These are incomparable musicians, it doesn’t matter who thinks who was the greatest guitarist ever, the important thing is, they were all fantastic.

  3. Joe Bernardon 20 Mar 2013 at 10:51 pm

    I agree with Terry. I saw Rory play. What a buzz it gave me to see a guy who could make the guitar do what he wanted, so expressive, and yet he was such a humble no bullshit, no Led Zep pomp type of guy…. Love him, always will, he has a huge loyal following to this day.

  4. Graeme Wilsonon 20 Mar 2013 at 11:01 pm

    I was lucky enough to see Rory play in Glasgow in the late 70s. I will never forget the energy he produced in his shows. He was a straight up performer, with no spin doctor trying to protray him as something he wasn’t. Just a great guitarist and fantastic performer. As Terry notes above it is sad that he is not with us anymore. Big loss.

  5. Will Smithon 21 Mar 2013 at 6:16 am

    I saw Rory perform at the The Bayou in Washington DC summer of 1976, he was electrifying and humble. I was 21 and soaking up every riff as if it was created for me personally. Rory was one of the greatest performers indeed. He should be on the cover of a book titled. ” Musicians Who Changed the World .. but never go a Grammy.”

  6. Simeon Grimeson 21 Mar 2013 at 11:38 am

    If I could re-live one gig from my life it would be Rory in the City Hall Cork. Lovely article.

  7. Edward Klenkon 21 Mar 2013 at 1:28 pm

    I saw Rory in Germany many times – when he was on stage – the stage was on fire!!!
    I saw him for last time December 05, 1994 in Berlin, Germany. A few months later he passed away – what a loss!

  8. timon 22 Mar 2013 at 12:54 am

    Saw Rory open for Jethro Tull in 76.. To me, Tull was just the closing act / Rory owned the day and I’ve never forgotten that show.

  9. John Shorton 22 Mar 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Been to loads of Rorys gigs, and him and his band were always outstanding. On 2 occasions, even had the pleasure of having a drink with his band before his gigs in Newcastle City Hall. Always be a legend.

  10. Shemaya Shiloh Phillipson 22 Mar 2013 at 3:32 pm

    I never saw Rory anywhere. I bought Against the Grain in 1975 and still listen to it regularly. He is largely unknown and greatly unappreciated, as anyone reading this knows. But snagged me was the mention ‘if you like Led Zeppelin’ which struck me odd. Both I love to death and till death, but Rory Gallagher doesn’t strike me as a, see Rory Gallagher, note for a Led Zeppelin article. You know what I love best about Rory is for over 35 years people have heard me playing his music and people who love music saying, “WHO IS THAT? DAMN!!!!”

  11. Danny Hyneson 24 Mar 2013 at 11:15 pm

    Beauti!! What a Gem, sad that Rory’s gone but glad he lived what a gifted musician, Thank You, Lord.

  12. […] excerpt from If You Like Led Zeppelin… by Dave Thompson, as posted on Shadowplays.com. Please visit their site to read the entire […]

  13. Jimmy Campanaroon 04 Sep 2017 at 5:30 pm

    That’s exactly how I felt when I just (embarrassing to admit this) discovered Rory last night on Facebook on a video from a rock and roll page. I was like “who is this? Holy cow! I heard so many influences…….my first song I heard was “Shadow play” and at first I was like who is this? Wow a trip like Rush but really good…..then I hear influences like Mark Narfler……then all of a sudden I heard him playing like Alex lesson from rush like in “working man” then all of a sudden I hear eddy van Halen influence……i was so blown away. Then I looked him up. I could see his roots influence like Muddy waters etc. Taking blues to an extremely new leval and mixing it up. Just like Led zep but raw! If Robert plant and Jimmy page had a child sorta speak…..but so much better. I now need to find and study everything on Rory Gallagher! Love the music scene from the late 60s on into the 70s and 80s…….i couldn’t believe the stones basically took “start me up” from Rory……how interesting

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