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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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Jul 13 2012

My Brother Rory: by Donal Gallagher — as told to Brian Robbins

Published by under articles

The following is Part One of Brian Robbins conversation with Donal Gallagher published in the 20th Anniversary Issue of the music magazine Hittin’ the Note. Many thanks to John Lynskey, publisher of Hittin’ the Note, and Brian Robbins, the author of the article for allowing me to post this to my blog. Part Two of the interview is in the latest issue of the magazine and will be posted here soon. For those that can’t wait you can order the latest issue of the publication through their online presence at: And be sure to catch Brian’s previous reviews of the new album Notes from San Francisco, the re-release of Rory Gallagher’s classic albums, and the Blu-ray DVD of Irish Tour ’74 on

My Brother Rory — Part One

My Brother Rory

Rock and roll has always embraced working-class heroes. Some take on that aura via the work of clever publicists and management, others just are.

Guitarist Rory Gallagher was of the latter category. His style combined the roots of his native Ireland with the American country blues, jazz and the rock ‘n’ roll that he loved. Gallagher earned the admiration of fellow players – including Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Jack Bruce – but was never one to let ego get in the way of the music. A powerful performer on stage, Gallagher was humble and private by nature. The argument could be made that his personality prevented him from achieving the kind of fame he deserved … but the argument could also be made that Rory Gallagher remained true to himself and his music – something not every performer can claim.

Rory Gallagher died in June 1995 at the age of 47 from complications following a liver transplant. The music he left behind will forever be fodder for “how did he do that?” discussions in guitar circles, and still continues to attract new fans. 2011 saw the re-release of Gallagher’s catalogue of classic albums (both studio and live) by Eagle Rock Entertainment, along with some great live performances on DVD and Blu-ray. Newly re-mastered (and including some previously-unreleased material), this new wave of music has something for both the uninitiated and the longtime Rory fan.

Rory’s brother Donal oversaw the re-release project, his duties carried out both as family and from the viewpoint of having been there himself. Throughout Rory’s career, Donal was by his side as his “road manager,” a title that hardly does his role justice. Perhaps “brother” is truly the best title of all.

Donal Gallagher was kind enough to share some of his memories of Rory with Hittin’ the Note. Granted, his stories could fill a book (and possibly will some day), but in the meantime, we’ll need to be content with just a few glimpses into the lives of Rory and Donal Gallagher.



One of Donal’s earliest musical memories of his brother is of a young Rory listening to American Armed Forces Network radio, broadcast from the Navy base in Derry, Northern Ireland during the Cold War:

Rory always had this kind of amazing understanding of music. It wasn’t so much the blues at that time as it was jazz – The Voice of America Jazz Hour on the radio. He must have got the gene from my father, in terms of the ability to play and instrument.

I remember Rory’s wish was to get a guitar – and at that time, a guitar wasn’t a very common thing. I recall trying to make guitars and banjos from round Kraft Cheese packets, rulers and elastic bands. Rory had just an unnatural appetite to learn all about the musicians and the music.

After the jazz guys came the blues guys: you had a lot of American influence from the musicians who’d come over to England and stayed on. Chris Barber is someone who doesn’t get his full credit – a traveling jazz/blues bandleader who had a show on the BBC radio. He brought people like Muddy Waters and Albert King to Britain. Hearing them on the radio was Rory’s musical education.

Donal described how early “musical differences” between he and Rory set the stage for his career as his brother’s road manager:

Rory, being the older brother, was always right, of course! But in fairness to Rory, he always had this tuned-in direction for himself. He knew where he was going, what he wanted and didn’t want – and was very clear about it. We were always close; the family had a lot of movement from city to city as we were growing up. Our father’s family lived in Derry in Northern Ireland, while our mother’s family lived in Cork in the south – very different feel and identity.

As Rory developed his guitar skills, he played at hospitals and at church concerts. I was brought in for harmonies: we thought ourselves the Irish version of the Everly Brothers – at the age of, oh, nine and eleven! One night I tried to fill out the time with a traditional Scottish piece I knew, but stopped a ways into it to tell Rory that he wasn’t playing it right – he was trying to put a rock ‘n’ roll feel to it.

I guess I embarrassed Rory – I got “fired” that night! I ended up doing whatever I had to do to get back in his good graces, including carrying his guitar and amplifier. That’s when I became his “roadie.”

Rory wasn’t going to let the violence stop him from playing to people

We’ll fast-forward now to one of the highlights of the new Eagle Rock re-releases, the Irish Tour ’74 album and video, featuring Rory, drummer Rod De’Ath, bassist Gerry McAvoy, and keyboardist Lou Martin. The period was an especially troubled one in the country’s history, with violent clashes between the Protestant unionist and Catholic nationalist communities in Northern Ireland. Nonetheless, Rory Gallagher wanted to take his music to everyone.

It was certainly dangerous to be on the road in Ireland in 1974 – particularly Belfast. The venue where the Irish Tour ’74 concert was filmed was the Ulster Hall there. The street it was on got renamed “Bomb Alley.” Just to give you an idea of things. You couldn’t predict anything as far as the bombings went… there was no protocol to it. It could happen anywhere. One of the hotels we stayed at was demolished by a bomb just after we’d moved on.

I remember playing on New Year’s Eve when eleven bombs went off in the vicinity. And we were all waiting for the twelfth one. When we said anything about it, we were told, “Apparently they’re saving the big one for next year.”

We were warned not to drive overnight, as well – to do all our traveling during the day. But we figured, “if we drive overnight, we’ll make better time.” And Rory wasn’t going to let the violence stop him from playing to people.

Recorded four years into Rory’s career as a solo artist after the breakup of the power trio Taste, Irish Tour ’74 is a snapshot of the quartet at the height of its powers. A sweat-soaked Gallagher brandishes his beloved battered Strat for much of the performance, leading his band mates to places far beyond the walls of the Ulster Hall.

In the beginning, that was meant to be a documentary about Rory and Ireland for the BBC. Rory said, “With this band and this lineup, I just want to get it recorded – it can’t get much better.” You know, he had a sense of it: the simplicity, the dynamics, the kind of psychic thing that was going on between the guys at that point. There was never a set list; there were a lot of nights that he might open with the same number, but it was so unpredictable that the guys would say to me, “Do you know what Rory’s going to open with?” And I’d have to tell them I had no idea.

There was this feeling of keeping it on the edge and unpredictable all the time. they’d take a song somewhere and you’d be watching, think, “God, they’ve really gone out on a limb … how’s he going to get back into the main part of the song?” And somehow they’d manage to bring it back in. At the end of the day, you have to please yourself on stage and that’s what they did every night. There was an excitement – like a football final or something. Whether there was 100 or 100,000 people in front of him, Rory played to them, brought them in with that electricity. Their vibes would come into it and he’d play off that, as well. They performed their part. Everybody was involved.

As mentioned earlier, Rory Gallagher’s talent was well-recognized by his fellow musicians – including the Rolling Stones, who had their road manager make a call to Ireland after Mick Taylor’s departure from the band in December 1974.

After Rory delivered the Irish Tour ’74 record to Polydor – that was the final album of a six-album contract he had with them – Rory was in a position to do whatever he wished.

It was the early days of January ’75 and we’d just gotten back home and had one or two days off. As I remember, it was around midnight when the phone rang. I knew it was long distance as in those days you had to connect to an operator to call another country. Of course, whenever you got a call that late at night, you’re worried that someone’s been killed in an accident or something, you know?

This guy comes on the line and says, “Have I got the right number for Rory Gallagher?” in a very British accent. This was at the height of the troubles, of course, and it had been suggested to me that Rory was a possible kidnap target.

I’m being very evasive about whether he had the right Number or not, trying to find out who he is. I finally said I could get a hold of Rory, but it would take a few minutes – could I tell him who’s calling? And the guy said, “My name is Ian Stewart.”

Of course, speculation was rife at that time about who the Stones would have and immediately I put two and two together. I almost blew it by saying, “Of the Rolling Stones?” – but I held back and said, “Of … London?”

I told him to hang on, as I could get Rory, but it would take a few minutes. Rory had gone to bed a short while earlier, so I knocked on his door and said, “You’ve got a phone call downstairs.” He said, “Who is it?” and I said, “It’s the Stones.”

Of course, he thought I was having a prank with him and refused to get up. Eventually, though, he went down and took the phone call. They wanted to know if he could be in Holland on the tenth of January – was he willing to come over and have a jam with them? Rory said he’d be delighted and honored.

We then returned to London immediately – there was a tour booked for Rory at the end of January in Tokyo. When the ticket to Rotterdam showed up, there was only one, “Where’s mine?” I asked. Rory said, “There’s only one – I guess you’re not coming.” He was really thinking there was no need of me being there while they were just sitting around and playing, you see.

The simple fact about it was that Rory was the one the Rolling Stones wanted; there was no one else in the race at that time. If you think about the music the Stones had been releasing in the years prior to then, the Mick Taylor years were really a golden period. They were trying to find someone who could fill that gap or even embellish that scenario. Rory was the closest person to fit in that role.

When the Stones started their own label in the early ’70’s, Keith Richards mentioned in interviews that one of the artists they’d like to have was Rory. He’d obviously listened to Rory and recognized how he had combined some variation of American country music – which Keith loved – into rock and roll. Of course, the Stones are always referred to as “Keith’s band,” but Mick Jagger really runs things as far as the financial arrangements and “who’s in/who’s out.”

In the meantime, the Stones postponed the date they wanted Rory to come – and we were close to the start of the Japanese tour. They told us that the Stones mobile recording unit was having problems and they needed to get it going. But I think what was really happening was Keith was going through one of his worst drug periods. When Rory finally got the call to come, he took his Strat and a small Fender Champ amp and flew across to Holland on his own.

Rory Gallagher ©Kirk West

On the night of his arrival, Rory was met at the airport by Mick Jagger himself. I remember Rory telling me it was snowing and he was standing outside freezing with his guitar and amp while Mick went down the taxi line negotiating the rate to Rotterdam. There were no stretch limos!

Marshall Chess Jr. was managing the Stones at that time. Rory allowed that when he and Mick got to the concert hall in Rotterdam where everyone was waiting, Marshall said to him, “Welcome to the Rolling Stones. You’re the guy for the job and I’m delighted that you’ve come and joined us.”

Rory didn’t know what to say, of course. And when Marshall asked him, “Who do I talk to – where’s your management?” Rory had to tell him, “Well … he’s not here. I … I just thought I was coming for a jam.”

They got a session going that first night, but Keith didn’t turn up for it. Mick was nervous; that’s when Rory realized Mick and Keith weren’t on talking terms and Mick was trying really hard to get the band back together. Charlie and Bill had no say whatsoever, so they just stayed out of it and just came in when they were recording. Mick says to Rory, “Look, I’m not sure about Keith – whether he’s going to come down or not. I’ve got a song I’ve been working on … have you got a riff for me?” Rory had been writing a song and he started up a riff. They began making music; started getting down to work. I think the song was “Hot Stuff.”

The next evening, Keith showed up. Rory told me they did four tracks, one of them being “Miss You.” I believe I know when Rory heard that track later on he said, “That’s my riff.”

Finally it got to the point where Rory had to say to Mick, “Look, I need to be in Tokyo in a few days time – I’ve got a tour. What’s the plan here?” And Mick said, “You’ve got to have a conversation with Keith. He’s waiting up in his room for you, go up and talk with him.”

So Rory goes up to Keith’s palatial suite and finds the door wide open. Rory walks in to find Keith on the bed, completely comatose. Rory stayed up all that night, checking every half hour to see if Keith was up or if he could wake him gently, but he was too out of it. By eight o’clock the next morning, Rory – who hadn’t slept at all the night before – packed up his guitar and amp, got on the plane and flew back from Rotterdam to London. I met Rory with a fresh suitcase at Heathrow and we flew straight to Tokyo.

There was really very little conversation between us about what happened in Holland with the Stones. I think Rory’s attitude was, “If they wanted me badly enough, they would have told me.”

Upon reflection, if I’d been there… I don’t know how it would have worked out if things had been different. It’s one of those ‘what if’ things.”

This concludes part one of Hittin’ the Notes’ visit with Donal Gallagher. The second half of the conversation with Donal is in the current issue of Hittin’ the Notes and includes memories of the sessions behind Rory’s newly-released Notes From San Francisco album. Stay tuned for the second half of My Brother Rory

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