Sep 07 2009

They Don’t Make Them Like You Anymore

Published by at 5:40 am under commentary

I was emailing with a fan of the late Rory Gallagher and he mentioned that next year will be the 15th anniversary of the great one’s passing, and that we should do something special to celebrate the event. He thought that a tribute CD with famous artists doing covers of Rory’s songs would be just the ticket. One stipulation: the artists would have to be true Rory fans and not just people cashing in on the Rory groundswell that seems to have taken place over the past few years. It’s been just that, a groundswell, a Rory Renaissance with more CD’s and DVD’s coming out these past few years than in the previous ten before that. It use to be you had to scour the internet to find any video at all of Rory. There was the official releases: the Irish Tour DVD and the Cork Opera House DVD, but for anything more you’d have to forage among the trader sites to get your fill of Rory — a Rockpalast show here, a Montreux show there, some grainy footage from Vienna or maybe a copy of someone’s VHS tape of Rory on the telly, playing a couple of songs on the German “Beat Club” or Don Kirschner’s “Rock Concert”. In fact, I first decided to do a Rory Gallagher fan site after viewing Dave Gaviotti’s web site. He had a short video clip of Rory doing Shadow Play at the Montreux Jazz Festival. I had never seen it before, but watching Rory pore his heart and soul into that song made me want to do something so people would remember him. Hence

In the past few years there’s been a flood of Rory Gallagher media. It started at the end of 2004 with the official release of the 3-DVD set of his Rockpalast concerts: 5 concerts, 9 hours of Rory at his finest, spanning the years from 1976 to 1990. Then came the release of the 24-track 2-CD compilation “Big Guns” in 5.1 surround sound, and it just snowballed from there. Eagle Rock Entertainment brought out Rory Gallagher Live at Montreux a 2-dvd compilation of his 5 appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival and even released an audio CD of the shows. More importantly, they released the videos, along with a second release of the Rockpalast shows, in NTSC format, so the starving masses across the pond in the Americas could see them. Then came a tell-all book by Rory’s former bassman, Gerry McAvoy, and a coffee table book by photograper Fin Costello, a re-release of a the “Live at Cork” video with bonus features, 2 songbooks, and a signature Martin guitar, and suddenly the world had gone nuts for Rory. And just this past month Eagle Rock puts out a 2-CD compilation called, “Rory Gallagher: Crest of a Wave!” It just keeps getting better and better.

So a 15th Anniversary tribute to the greatest blues and rock guitarist that ever lived would be a nice addition to the ever-growing Rory media juggernaut! That being said, it should be pointed out that there is already a tribute CD out there. It was recorded a few months after his passing and was filled with wonderful renditions of his songs. Songs performed by true fans that mourned the loss of their hero. It wasn’t a commercial CD filled with Pop stars using the occasion to promote their own fame. The bands who played on the tribute CD never graced the cover of “Rolling Stone”. And you didn’t buy this CD in your local record shop or at, it was more a communal thing. It was shared. If you wanted a copy all you had to do was ask and some Rory Gallagher fan would send it to you. It all started with an email by Rick Oppegaard to a Blues newsgroup:

Rick Oppegaard's email got the ball rolling

The original idea started in Nov 1995. I posted a message on a newsgroup, and within days I started getting replies. Kimmo Hagleberg and Volker Grupe were a big part of getting the news out, because they had the only two Rory Gallagher pages at that time. In fact Volker’s page was the very first Rory website.

So, as the months went on, various bands signed up, then dropped out, and I started getting their tapes in the mail. My whole idea was, it didn’t matter how good you were, everyone who contributed would be included, because if you had a love for Rory’s music, that’s what counted. My original thought was to compile all the music sent to me, then send it back to all the contributors. —Rick Oppegaard

I thought it was an excellent project. This was only a few months or so after Rory had passed and long before websites. It was all done with a few e mails flying. The track [Barley & Grape Rag] was recorded in my house in Aberdeen and recorded live with a long term musical collaborator Janice Clark. Janice & I had played in an acoustic blues band with Spider Mackenzie called Off the Tracks for some years. Spider plays blues harmonica on my cd. Janice is rated as one of the top traditional folk singers in Scotland, but as we had played blues for a long time B&GR was no problem to her.. — John Carnie

I’m a big fan and jumped at the chance to contribute to
that tribute. It was pretty low-fi…we recorded it in our drummer’s
bedroom, I think. I remember we came in late [into the project]
and all of the tunes I had in mind to do were taken by other
bands. “I Wonder Who” was a centerpiece of The RedHot Blues shows and
was always a crowd favorite–I stuck to Rory’s arrangement because I
couldn’t imagine anything better. So I started out wanting to do that, as I
think a ton of bands did. But I think the deal was the tunes had to be
written by Rory. We also did Too Much Alcohol and Shin Kicker and a few
others I can’t remember over the years. I continue to do his version of As
the Crow Flies in my acoustic sets, though I have never been able to match
his fever…he was really such a consummate blues musician. I’ve always
thought “blues rock” was a bit misleading for him…he was a blues musician
and he was a rock musician…the difference being that he was a master in
either form, whereas most “blues rock” players often are masters at neither
but excel only at their intersection. I think he would have been a killer
solo acoustic act when acoustic became all the rage, and though jaws dropped
for him during his live shows, I don’t think a lot of people would have been
prepared for his fiery solo act. — Junior Lee Klegseth, RedHot Blues

The project took on a life of it’s own as musicians from all over the world sent in tapes to be included. Bands such as the Fenton Brothers, The Boz Roz Band, The Loop, RedHot Blues, Nothingface and individual performers such as Dirk H. from Germany, John Carnie & Janice Clark from Scotland, and Marianne Murphy from the USA sent in their songs which Rick then compiled onto two tapes, one 90 minute and one 60 minute. Originally meant to be distributed only amongst its contributers, fans heard about it and started requesting the tapes. “The Irish Voice,” an East Coast newspaper aimed at the U.S. Irish demographic, wrote about the project as did Ireland’s “Hot Press” magazine. In the end, over 300 sets of tapes were sent out.

It was Åge Ericsson’s [from Nothingface] idea to give the project a name, and make it something more than what I had orginally thought to do. Tom Clancy had done “They Don’t Make Them Like You Anymore”, so that seemed like a great name for the project. Patrick Kennedy contacted me and offered to pay for the printing of the covers for the project. There’s a cover [designed by Phil Rossner of the Boz Roz Band] for each tape of the set, with a different photo on each. Tape one, the 90 min tape, had a sentiment that I wrote, and tape 2, the 60min one had a sentiment that Patrick wrote. —Rick Oppegaard

A few years later, Rick revisited the project and compiled a CD with highlights from the tapes, handing them out at the Hammersmith Tribute for Rory in 2003. He also uploaded them to a server on the web so anyone who wished could have a listen. Rick’s web site, Phattydomain, is no longer out there, but I’ve re-uploaded the songs that were included on the tribute CD to my server. You can have a listen to them below, or download higher quality mp3’s on my downloads page. Maybe some weren’t professionally done in a studio, but they all come from a deep abiding love for Rory and his music, and that means more to me than a big “star” doing it for the money.

   They Don’t Make Them Like You Anymore

A Tribute to Rory Gallagher

Blister on the Moon – Nothingface
Don’t know where I’m goin – Dirk Hoffman
I’m not surprised – Matthew Coughlin
The Loop – Boz Roz Band
I’ll Admit You’re Gone – Marianne Murphy
Shadow Play – Fenton Brothers
Out on the western plain – Matthew Coughlin
They don’t make them like you anymore – Tom Clancy
Barley and grape rag – John Carnie and Janice Clark
Same old story – Red Hot Blues
Laundromat – American Zen
Continental op – Fenton Brothers
The cuckoo – Dirk Hoffman
Cradle rock – Tom Clancy
Calling card – The Loop
Too much alcohol – Fenton Brothers
In your town – Fenton Brothers
Hero from the emerald isle – Marianne Murphy

   ©2000, Phattydomain, Inc.

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