Dec 11 2009

Against the Grain: The Rise and Fall of Rory Gallagher

Published by at 1:55 pm under articles

The 2009 Holliday issue of Guitar World has a large, in depth article on Rory Gallagher. Unfortunately the holiday mag has already been replaced on the newsstand shelves by the premature January issue featuring a tribute to Dimebag Darrell. For those who missed it I’ve reprinted the article below. The article, written by Alan Di Pern, turns a critical eye to Rory’s career and attempts to explain the highs and lows of it, including the recent surge in popularity 15 years after his passing. In a nutshell Di Pern faults Rory for not grabbing the “brass ring” when he had the chance, and milking his growing popularity for what it’s worth. The writer can’t quite fathom the Irish legend’s insistence, much to the delight of his ardent and now resurgent fans, on going …

Against the Grain

Success didn’t elude Rory Gallagher. He turned it away throughout his short, sad life. Now in death, he’s more successful than ever. Guitar World presents the story of the Irish rocker’s demise and his posthumous revival…

Death made Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon,Elvis Presley, and Kurt Cobain even larger than they were in life. In a sense it deified them. But death also has the power to take artists who were mid-level stars, or even relatively unknown in their own time, and confer on them a radiant halo of posthumous glory. Musicians ranging from Robert Johnson to Nick Drake to Randy Rhodes have posthumously attained the widespread fame and cult-like devotion that they never lived to enjoy.

In the past few years,a sizable posthumous cult has grown up around Rory Gallagher, the Irish blues-Rock guitarist, singer and songwriter who passed away on June 14,1995. There’s been an avalanche of recent retrospective product, including a double CD “best of” set, ‘Crest of a Wave’, culled from Rory’s deep catalogue of studio and live albums, plus numerous live DVD’s including “Live In Cork” and the exhaustive five disc-set “Live at Rockpalast” compiling three decades’ worth of live appearances. There’s plenty more in the vaults; Rory was a tireless live performer.

In response to that growing interest, Fender recently made a reissue Stratocaster based on the guitarist’s beloved,heavily road-worn 1961 sunburst axe. Gallagher certainly has all the prerequisites for posthumous deification. In his prime, he was a good looking lad, with a shaggy, nut brown mane and a winning smile. While not quite Beck or Hendrix at the fretboard, Gallagher was an agile riff meister whose scrappy, energetic style was punctuated by occasional bursts of fluid, six string poetry. His playing was steeped in bluesy authenticity. Equally adept at electric or acoustic, slide and standard fretting, he brought to his guitar playing a boundless zeal that even years of hard touring and and numerous career disappointments did nothing to diminish.

Of course, Rory Gallagher possesses in spades the most important qualification for posthumous cult adulation; a sad life story. The tragedy of Randy Rhodes is all about the untimeliness of his death – that he was cut down while he was still quite young and had yet to really make his mark in the world. But the tragedy of Rory Gallagher is something different, a tale of a life filled with missed opportunities, unfortunate career decisions and misplaced idealism, all exacerbated by the familiar demons of alcohol and drug dependency. Gallagher’s fretboard prowess was all too often matched by unerring marksmanship when it came to shooting himself in the foot.

There always seems to be a surviving relative in the cults of dead rock stars, someone to tend the flame and collect the back royalties. In Randy’s case it is his mother, brother and sister; in Jimi’s case his half sister. Rory Gallagher is survived by his younger brother Donal. But while Randy Rhodes’s or Jimi Hendrix’s surviving relatives witnessed very little of their loved one’s glory moments on stage and in the studio, Donal was Rory’s closest confidant, tour manager and sometimes business manager, throughout his career he saw it all.

Rory never went for the brass ring the way other artists did, but he enjoyed being a musician. His enjoyment was to do it the way he wanted. He would have loved to have had a number one album in the states, but it all seemed so cynical and callous to him. After 25 tours, he had put in way more slog than a lot of younger bands that came out of Ireland and could’ve gotten to number one in America with little effort. I’d get angry about that. But not Rory, he would say, “I’m doing what I want to do and doing it the way I want” — Donal Gallagher

Although he came up in Ireland rather than England, Gallagher had much the same musical influences and background as British musicians like The Stones, Beatles, Cream & Led Zeppelin. The early 50’s skiffle craze gave him his first exposure to American folk and blues idioms. Rory fell deeply in love with the music, which was popularized in the United Kingdom by artists like Lonnie Donegan, and would remain deeply devoted to it all his life. But like all of U.K’s youth, he got swept away by the Rock & Roll explosion of the mid Fifties. He graduated from a toy guitar to a real one at age nine, after his family had moved from Derry to Cork in the south. By age 15, Gallagher was playing professionally in an Irish showband, The Fontanas. Showbands were a uniquely Irish phenomenon.

Those bands would play 5 hour stints at country dance halls,and they had to cover everything from country to comedy,the hits of the day and also the old -time Waltzes and a variety of traditional Irish music.The band would also have to break down in smaller units,as guys went off for a 20 minute break for sandwiches. — Donal Gallagher

Rory’s penchant for good-time showmanship-exhorting crowds to sing along or clap their hands-no doubt derives from his showband experience. But when the Merseyside boom brought the Beatles and other beat groups to the fore, Gallagher hijacked The Fontanas, stripped down the lineup and morphed the group into a gritty R&B-influenced outfit called The Impact. He persuaded the band members to relocate to London, at the time the epicenter of everything that was hip in rock culture.

Donal says”Rory would check out the Marquee, the Flamingo and various clubs, and see people like Georgie Fame, Alexis Korner and Steampacket, which was Long John Baldry’s band with Rod Stewart. He immersed himself like that.” But he adds, the guitarist’s own gigs were more humble. “London having a huge Irish population,there was plenty of Irish dance halls for The Impact to play, particularly in the north of London.”

Hit makers of the day like The Byrd’s, Kinks and Animals would play at the same venues. “They’d come in and do a 20 -minute set — a few of their biggest hits — and the Impact would be the support band. So Rory got guys like [The Byrd’s] Roger McGuinn throughout that. “But the showband thing had a stigma to it.They still had to play waltzes and country music and wear a uniform.”

Rory took The Impact to Hamburg, Germany, to work the same rough, red-light district clubs that the Beatles had worked a few years earlier during their rise to fame. By this time The Impact were a three-piece. The format seemed to suit Gallagher, and he would employ it for much of his career. By this point in the mid Sixties, the power trio was an idea whose time had arrived. It was in Hamburg according to Donal,that Rory first rubbed shoulders with members of another up-and-coming power trio Cream. The Impact eventually morphed into another bluesy three-piece, Taste, a group that recorded two studio albums and two live albums albeit with a lot of personnel shifts in the Rhythm section. Taste were serious contenders. They were favourably name- checked by John Lennon in a press interview at the time, and they played the opening sets for Cream, Fleetwood Mac and John Mayall among others, in Ireland and elsewhere. They were even tapped to be the support band for Creams high-visibility farewell performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

For that matter, Gallagher was himself invited to be Eric Clapton’s replacement in Cream. The group’s breakup had been set in motion by Clapton’s decision to quit. Impressed by Gallagher’s guitar playing, Cream’s management approached him with an offer to carry on with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, still performing and recording as Cream. Many guitarists would have killed for the opportunity, but Gallagher turned it down. It was the first of several high-profile offers that he famously declined. “It was very much a management thing-‘Find somebody to replace Clapton!'” Donal says Rory was known to them, and they got on well. “But Rory wouldn’t have any of it. He said ‘Musically there’s no way I’d try and fill somebody else’s shoes, especially Eric’. ‘”Had Gallagher had made at least one album with Cream or even toured with them, he might have put his career in overdrive.”Yes it would have been a fast track,” Donal acknowledges.”But he felt he would never be his own man.”

Gallagher’s tendency to “go it alone” was perhaps his tragic flaw. Withdrawn and shy, he was unable to trust others or to enter into truly collaborative relationships. “He was never a great one in interacting with people,” Donal admits. “He was brilliant in front of an audience, but off stage it was Jekyll-and-Hyde effect. He was bad on one-on-one
relationships. He wouldn’t even let the guy in to read the water meter or gas meter of his house. Even the band didn’t get past the front door.”

Gallagher soon got his chance to “go it alone” for real. Taste split up in 1970, amid a dispute with management, and Gallagher decided to carry on as a solo artist. In 1971, he released two albums: Rory Gallagher and Deuce. For each he insisted on producing himself, and the results were mixed at best; flashes of brilliance amid bouts of plodding mediocrity. Gallagher seemed to have lacked any capacity for editing himself. For much of his career he operated on the somewhat simplistic assumption that he could simply walk into a recording studio and do his live show and come out with a great studio album. A live-in-the studio approach does work for some groups, and it may have even worked for Gallagher, but it’s virtually impossible to self produce this kind of album.

Gallagher’s guitar tone on these early albums is an example of the problem. Unlike many power trio guitarists,he did not rely on massive Marshall stacks or huge amounts of distortion to fill the sonic space. Instead,and to his credit, he played his battered ’61 Strat through a variety of small combo amps. But lacking production expertise, Gallagher was unable to create a proper distinctive sound for himself, and his guitar tone on Rory Gallagher and Deuce is thin and weak. Without any overdubs to fill in the picture-let alone much in the way of savvy drum miking, skillful signal processing and so on, the albums sound almost painfully anemic. Tighter songwriting might have helped as well. While a decent tune smith, Gallagher did suffer at times from a lead guitarist’s tendency to string a bunch of riffs together, ad hoc, and hope they somehow add up to a song. In retrospect, Gallagher’s first two albums might have been more judiciously edited down to a single release, with time taken for higher production values. A small selection from each more than does the trick on the Crest Of A Wave compilation.In effect, Gallagher was a great sideman who insisted on being a merely adequate front man. His prowess as an accompanist is amply demonstrated on the many side projects he participated in over the years. Perhaps the most notable was The London Muddy Waters sessions disc,released in ’72.

The London sessions were a series of recordings that brought great American bluesmen and Rock & Rollers of the Fifties together with the Sixties British rock stars who adored and emulated them. The series had gotten off to a rousing start with The Howlin’ Wolf London sessions, featuring Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood and The Rolling Stones rhythm section of Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman. So it was a huge honor for Gallagher to be offered the lead guitar slot with Muddy Waters, the great patriarch of the electric-Chicago blues style. Donal thinks that London blues kingpins Alexis Corner and Chris Barber recommended Rory for the London sessions gig. For once the introverted guitarist didn’t say no.
“I think a lot of people were puzzled by the fact that it wasn’t Eric Clapton again, “Donal says. “But I recall [later] a Playboy magazine interview with Muddy Waters where he said Rory was closer to his style of music–the Chicago kind of sound with the bottleneck guitar.”

As it was,Gallagher almost missed the first session. “He had a gig that night in Leicester, which is 100 miles from London,” Donal says.”So Rory said ‘I’ll be there as soon as I can after the gig.’ I remember we really burned rubber getting back to London. Rory was upset. “‘They’ll kick me out;I’m so late,’ he said. But when he walked in the studio Muddy was standing there with a glass of Champagne for him. ‘Glad you made it. Here,have yourself a drink.’ An absolute gentleman.”

Gallagher really shines on the Muddy Waters tracks. His soloing is concise,incisive and impassioned, his comping tasteful and rhythmically savvy. Performing with greats that include keyboardists Steve Winwood and Georgie Fame and Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell, Rory has a well-defined space that he fills admirably, never overstaying his welcome and making his musical statement eloquently in the choruses allotted to him. Gallagher’s profound love of the blues is one of the most touching things about him. He’d clearly done his homework, and his deep affection never lost the innocent sincerity of a teenage love affair. He also fared well on the Jerry Lee Lewis album, The Session, recorded in London in 1972 with a host of guest artists. The young Irish guitar whiz formed a deep bond with “the Killer,” America’s original rock & Roll wild man. Perhaps it was the instinctual brotherhood of two hard-drinking men.

Donal recalls one of the defining moments of the sessions. “All went well at first” he says. “Jerry Lee was kept off the bottle. But then the producer said ‘Jerry, you’re doing all the Johnny B.Goode type old rock and Roll stuff. Let’s try something different. ‘So the guy said ‘Satisfaction’ by The Rolling Stones, and Jerry had never heard of that track.”Some of the musicians laughed when they heard this,which greatly upset Lewis. Rory, didn’t laugh, however, and this earned him the singers trust. Donal says,”There’s a great photo from that session of Jerry Lee looking up into Rory’s eyes and Rory singing to him. Rory was teaching him the words and the melody to ‘Satisfaction’. So there was a link between Rory and Jerry Lee. They got on quite well.”

Gallagher did a lot of session work over his career, most of it first-rate and much of it with musical heroes like Muddy Waters, English Jazz Trombonist Chris Barber and Lonnie Donegan. Rory seemed able to relinquish control to these elder statesman in a way he couldn’t with his peers. Meanwhile,as he prepared to make his third solo studio album, 1973’s Blueprint, he seemed to have been aware of the shortcomings of the first two discs.Blueprint marks the debut of a revamped and expanded lineup,with drummer Rod De’Ath and keyboardist Lou Martin-both from the band Killing Floor-joining forces with longtime Gallagher bass player Gerry McAvoy. A ballsy, barrel house-bluesy piano-and-organ man, Martin proved an ideal foil for Gallagher, lending a sense of variety and interplay on Gallagher’s solo work.

The format on Blueprint and its successor, Tattoo was still for the most part live in the studio, but Martin’s contributions fleshed out the sound. The Martin/De’Ath/McAvoy lineup was the most stable of all Gallagher’s backing bands. It stuck together for three years, during which time it recorded four studio albums and one live disc, with Gallagher, Donal says, “Rory never actually took a proper vacation. He’d use his vacation time for songwriting, developing, and listening to other people’s music. He didn’t know what else to do with himself.” He did not take much interest in the typical distractions of life on the road. Donal says Rory didn’t use recreational drugs, nor did he go in much for groupies.

I think that he was so keen on becoming a professional musician from an early age that he basically blocked everything else out of his life. In his teenage years, he just felt that girlfriends were a drawback. He’d seen too many guys fight over girlfriends, and seen girlfriends split up bands. For him, music was like a vocation in the priesthood. Later, there were one or two women, but he never settled down.

Like many solitary, creative and intensely driven people, Rory found in alcohol a buffer to help block out the world and to dull the pain of isolation.
Although alcohol wouldn’t become a real problem for him until the Eighties, there were earlier signs of impending trouble. “He’d go off and have a binge of drinking,”Donal recalls. “He’d lock himself in a room for three days, probably go through a few bottles and come out with a set of songs.”

Gallagher’s personal issues certainly didn’t impede his output in the Seventies. Indeed they may have been at the root of his compulsion to record and release discs. The album that many fans regard as the apotheosis of the Martin/De’Ath/McAvoy lineup was Irish Tour ’74. Live albums were hugely popular in the Seventies. Everyone form The Who and Stones to Yes, Deep Purple, Peter Frampton and Led Zeppelin released blockbuster live discs during the decade, and live performance was certainly Gallagher’s metier. Unable to connect with people very well in ordinary social situations, he may have treasured those few hours of rock & roll communion. While Irish Tour ’74 didn’t have a major impact in the states, it was the best-selling disc of Gallagher’s career, worldwide.

Had Irish Tour been less successful, Gallagher might have responded differently to an offer that came in late late ’74/early ’75 to join the Rolling Stones. Mick Taylor had just left the group and, as Donal tells the tale, Rory was the Stones’ first choice for a replacement. The offer came quite informally — a phone call from Stones pianist Ian Stewart inviting Gallagher to “come have a blow and a jam session with the lads.” The invitation was postponed several times as the Stones were having problems with a new mobile recording truck they’d acquired at the time. Rory, meanwhile, had an important Japanese tour on the immediate horizon.

“Rory was naive enough to think, ‘Oh they only want to have a blow and a jam session,it’s nothing serious,'” Donal says. “I was angry with him, to say the least.”

Finally Rory got on a plane to Rotterdam with his Strat and a small, tweed Fender Champ amp. The Stones had only provided one airline ticket, so Donal couldn’t accompany his brother. According to what Rory later told Donal, he was met at the airport by none other than Mick Jagger, who put him in a cab and took him to a rehearsal space the Stones had occupied. There he was met by Marshall Chess Jr., head of the stones’ record label at the time who reportedly said to Rory, “Welcome to the Rolling Stones. I knew it would be you, you’re the guy for the job.”

According to Donal, “Rory did four nights with them. The first night Keith didn’t turn up. So Mick said to Rory, ‘Can you give me a riff? I’ve got this song Start Me Up’ and Rory said, ‘Well I’m working on a song’ so they worked it up. It’s a legend that that album, [the Stones’ Tattoo You] has different guitar riffs from different people. I think Rory referred to ‘Miss You’ as the other song that they worked on. On the second night, Keith came down and they got going. Keith liked Rory’s style in the sense that Rory was into Hank Snow and the country players as well as the rock and blues guitarists. So they obviously listened to the same records.”

Parts of Donal’s tales seem far-fetched. The ‘Start Me Up’ riff is very much dependent on Keith Richards five-string, open-G guitar tuning, a configuration that Rory Gallagher is never known to have used. So one has to wonder where truth gives way to traditional Irish blarney in Donal’s account. Still, it is theoretically possible that Keef’s classic “Start Me Up” riff could have been derived from an earlier idea by Rory Gallagher. As to what happens next the account becomes even more muddled.

“There was no coherence in the camp” Donal recounts. “Rory kept saying to Mick, ‘Look what am I supposed to do with these Japanese dates? How long can you guys wait?’ Mick said, ‘Go and speak to Keith. ‘Mick and Keith weren’t talking to each other at the time, which was another difficulty. The last evening Rory went up to Keith in his bedroom, but Keith was comatose. Rory spent the entire night up, going back every half hour, the door to Keith’s suite being wide open. Rory had to be on the plane back to Heathrow at 10 o’clock in the morning. Everyone else had gone to bed.There was no one else around, so Rory just picked his guitar and amp up, I met him with a suitcase at Heathrow airport,and we flew to Tokyo.”

Donal was upset that Rory had let the opportunity to work with the Stones slip away. “I remember saying to Rory, ‘All you had to do was ring and say, ‘postpone the Japanese tour. “We just would have sold more tickets in Japan going back in Six months time. He said [Rory], ‘I just kept chasing for an answer and nobody seemed to know what was going on. It was a bit of a mess.’ Maybe if he had rolled with it….”

In the years after wards turned down similar offers from Deep Purple and Canned Heat, but by then Donal knew enough not to be surprised by his brothers decisions. One positive offshoot of not becoming a Rolling Stone was that Gallagher went on to make two of the finest solo albums of his career, Against The Grain released in ’75 and Calling Card in ’76. By this point, the Martin/De’Ath/McAvoy lineup had become a well-oiled machine. Calling Card also benefits from first-rate production work by Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover. For once, Rory was able to trust someone else with the production of one of his albums. Donal says,”We’d been out on a package tour with Deep Purple and Fleetwood Mac. On the road, Rory hit it off with Ritchie Blackmore and all the Deep Purple guys.”

Calling Card makes one wish Gallagher had been able to work with an-outside producer more often. Engineered by the German wunderkind Mac (who’d later work with Queen), it is Rory Gallagher’s best sounding album. The playing is tight and the guitar tones beefy. There are proper overdubbed leads over chunky rhythm tracks. But by the end of the project, trouble had broken out, and Gallagher burnt yet another bridge.

“Rory wasn’t happy with the mixes, “Donal says. “He remixed the album with Chris Kimsey, who later did the Rolling Stones stuff, and that was annoying to Roger. But they never had rows–Rory just wouldn’t talk to people. He said to me,’No that’s not how I want the album to sound. I want it remixed’,and he’d pull the album apart himself. It was difficult.”

Gallagher was hardly in a position to be high handed at this point. Bluesy hard rock bands were thick on the ground in the early Seventies. Savoy Brown, Spooky Tooth, Nazereth, Ten Years After, Bad Company, Grand Funk Railroad, the James Gang-you couldn’t throw a stick without hitting some guy with a shaggy Seventies mane riffling pentatonic s into the ground.  All these bands were competing not only for attention, but also with more cutting edge – at the time-rock genres like prog, glam and fusion, not to mention popular none-rock genres like funk, disco and reggae.  Solo artists like Alvin Lee and Peter Frampton had risen from the bluesy hard rock ranks to become major stars of the Seventies, proving that there was indeed a market for them “hot guitarist as singing/song writing front man” archetype.  But Gallagher seems to have been blissfully oblivious to the fact that that’s what it was – a market.

“Those other guys were prepared to act the superstars, and Rory wasn’t,” Donald say’s, “he would not let the record company release singles from his albums.  I remember when Live in Europe came out [in 1972], the executive from Polydor Records came down from a Washington gig with an edited version of a song “Going To My Home Town”. They said, “Polydor promises we’ll take this to number one”.  Rory nearly went through the roof, taking the Polydor guy with him. The idea of somebody editing his music … he just was not prepared to play that game.  Even the guys in Deep Purple said, “look, you have got to do this.  This is a hit single! ” But Rory was terrified of becoming a novelty act.  You release one single and pressure is on to follow it up with another hit single.  Your next single becomes more important than your next album.  I disagreed with Rory all along the way.  For me, from tracks like ‘Tattoo’d Lady’ [from 1973’s Tattoo] all the way through to “Calling Card” [from the 1976 album of the same name], there were plenty of songs that would have been playable on the radio.”

Gallagher’s refusal to play the singles game demonstrates the extent to which he lived in his own private world.  Perhaps his purest attitude derived from his early interest in folk music, that great bastion of anti-commercial sanctimony.  Whatever the underlying logic, Rory was unable  to perceive a single release as anything other than an intrusion on his divine right to solo uninterruptedly over 37 consecutive courses of a 12 – bar blues.  In a way, this makes him the ultimate guitar hero.  He was willing to commit career suicide to uphold the inviolable sanctity of a guitar solo.  Donald says the single release issue reared its head once again during the tense moments at the conclusion of the calling card sessions.  “Chris Wright, who was one the two bosses of Chrysalis Records, said, “I will tell you what.  Put the album release back here.  We’ll take the track “Edged in Blue”, lop the guitar solo off and release that as a single.  We’ll call the album Edged in Blue when it comes out.”  Chris Wright is a music exec.  I respected him.  I went back to Rory and said, “Look, this is proposed by the president of the company.”  Again, he nearly got on the phone to damn blast Chris for even thinking about it.”

End-of-the album-project jitters became an increasingly prevalent phenomenon for Gallagher as his career wore on. He’d completely recorded and mixed a follow-up to Calling Card, only to pull the plug at the 11th hour. “At the end the lacquer (master), was cut and I was about to deliver it to Chrysalis, to play it for the execs,” Donal says. “That morning right in front of me, Rory said,”You can’t play it to anyone. I don’t like the album. “Rory dropped it in the bin.”

But the adventure wasn’t over yet,as Donal discovered on returning to the L.A hotel where he and Rory had been staying. “I got back from the meeting with the execs to find a message saying, ‘Rory’s in Cedars Sinai Hospital. But he’s OK. Not to worry.’ After I’d left, he’d gone off to see the Bob Dylan movie, Reynaldo and Clara, and he’d fractured his thumb in a taxi door. So it wasn’t even possible to go back into the studio and re-record the album.”

The mood was dour when the brothers returned to Ireland. “Rory seemed to get depressed at the time,” Donal recalls. “One day he finally said,’I want to change the lineup. I’m not happy with the band anymore. ‘He wanted to make a clean sweep but I said, “Look at least retain the bass player, Gerry.”

Exit Gallagher’s most stable and successful backing band. Some of the material from the sessions Rory had trashed ended up on 1979’s Photo Finish album, with Ted McKenna on drums. Gallagher had forged a friendship with Alan O’Duffy, a London-based engineer who worked on Paul McCartney & Wings ‘Venus and Mars’ album. He trusted O’Duffy enough to have him co-produce Photo Finish and it’s successor, Top Prority. Both are solid works of late-Seventies rock, but by that point it hardly mattered anymore.

Punk rock had burst out of London and New York in a big way, charting a bold new direction for rock and roll. Meanwhile, Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhodes were setting a new, less blues-centric course for hard rock and metal. Punk in particular, declared war on Gallagher’s whole style of presentation — the long rounds of guitar, keyboard, bass and drum soloing, the compulsory good-time audience participation, the all-too-casual and seemingly interminable bouts of guitar returning between songs. Ironically, Gallagher liked Punk. He’d attended the Sex Pistols’ final gig in San Francisco and told his brother, “This is as close to Eddie Cochran as you’re going to get.”

Gallagher’s career and life took a turn for the worse in the Eighties. A hint of bitter irony creeps into some of his albums titles. Top Priority was a somewhat mocking reference to Chrysalis’ promise that the disc would be their top marketing priority — despite the trashed masters, refusals to release singles and other drama Rory had put them through in the past. The title of 1982’s Jinx is fairly self explanatory. By this point the substance abuse had begun to take its toll along with the alcohol. Gallagher had become hooked on prescription tranquilizers.

“Where the ‘medication’ — for want of a better word — started to kick in was Rory’s fear of flying had flagged itself up, “Donal says. “I think it was the pressure. He was wearing too many hats for his own good. He was being his own producer, his own songwriter, his own manager…with all the mental strain, the flying tablets probably relaxed him, so he began to take them for other purposes. Of course, after a while they weren’t strong enough, so he was constantly going back to the doctor and upgrading. Rory was very discreet about it all. He’d go swallow them in the bathroom.”

Donal didn’t gauge the extent of the problem until Rory began to have severe stomach pains and nausea. He says,”I managed to get him into a clinic, and the doctor there said,’You realize the problem is not so much the alcohol. It’s the pills.’ He lambasted Rory’s private doctor for prescribing the amount of stuff he had. It wasn’t any one prescription tablet, it was the combination. Throw in alcohol and you’re mixing a devil’s brew”.

In the final years of Rory’s life, Donal became, literally, his brother’s keeper. “I was acting as agent and manager and running an office,” he says. “In the meantime,I’d gotten married and was trying to run my own life. Kids were coming. We’d clear time and take months off. But Rory was going to seed when he had time on his hands. You could see the emptiness in his life.”

Donal settled his brother into a modern house in London that had formerly been tenanted by Elton John, Dusty Springfield and John Mellencamp. “It had great music credentials, Donal says. “I thought, maybe he won’t have dinner parties as such, but at least he’ll have people over. But he didn’t invite anyone. Then maintenance of the house became a problem so I moved him into a very beautiful hotel. I knew the manager, and he gave us a suite.”
Rory may have spent some of the happiest days and nights of his final years at the Conrad, a luxury hotel in London’s Chelsea Harbour. He would hold court at the hotel bar, hanging out with bands that passed through London and stayed at the hotel — everyone from folk artists Martin Carthy and Bert Jansch to rockers Gary Moore, INXS and Gun’s ‘N’ Roses. “Of course Slash was a huge fan,” Donal says.

Rory even befriended the musicians who played at the hotel bar. But that’s were things started to run amok. “The piano player was so out of it he couldn’t play for the customers,” Donal explains. “Or he’d be up in Rory’s suite jamming with the drummer and bass player. My manager friend called and said, ‘We’ve got to have the room back.This can’t go on.’ They had a building of apartments right across the street that they serviced. The hotel manager put Rory over there in this huge apartment. But he felt so isolated there and he got depressed and then he wouldn’t see anybody.”

Despite his declining physical and psychological condition, Gallagher completed two more studio albums, Defender in 1987 and Fresh Evidence in 1990. He managed to maintain a fairly active touring schedule into the early Nineties, although this became increasingly difficult. “The only cure for Rory was to keep him active, give him a schedule and give him a life,” Donal says. “He didn’t have a life when he wasn’t on the road, sadly.”

But the touring brought pressure, and the pressure occasioned more abuse of tranquilizers and alcohol. The road and the live gigs — the very things that had given a purpose to Rory’s life — were now killing him. “The last thing you want is to have your brother go out and make an ass of himself onstage, “Donal says. “But we had run the risk of doing just that, or pissing off the fans. At one major London gig, Rory had obviously taken taken some tablets of some kind and washed them down with a brandy. He was fine before he went onstage. But within 20 minutes to half an hour he couldn’t understand why his fingers had gone to jelly.

On one of the last tours I broke into his dressing room, stole his baggage and made it look like a robbery in order to get at the medication and find out what was going on. I was shocked. His withdrawal symptoms were colossal. After a week or so, he sweated out the toxins from his body and got his appetite back. After three weeks he played better than ever. You’d turn him around, but you didn’t want to risk him too long on the road. It was a very difficult call.

As the Nineties got under way, Gallagher was able to perform less and less frequently. Poor health forced him to turn down an offer to play on one of Mick Jagger’s solo albums, among other gigs. Shortly after what would be his final performance,in the Nederlands, on January 10,1995, Rory’s liver failed. “He was going in and out of a coma and I had to make the decision to have a liver transplant done, ” says Donal. “I’d never expected to be confronted with something like that, and the clock was ticking because we had to wait for a donor. You can’t just buy a new liver.”

Rory survived the initial 12-hour transplant surgery. But complications set in and there were numerous subsequent surgeries over the agonizing period of some three months. In the end, an infection he caught while in the hospital claimed his life. Donal Gallagher was at his brother Rory’s side when he passed away in London, on June 14,1995, at the age of 47.

“You can never say,”Donal reasons.”Maybe it was a blessing in disguise.Who knows what kind of life he would have had if he’d recovered.”

The first signs of a revival of interest in Rory Gallagher and his music had begun in Europe, where he enjoyed greater popularity than he did in the states. A street was named after him on the outskirts of Paris.Many more tributes followed. “There was quite an outpouring from Germany and Ireland,”says Donal. “People realized they missed a lot of good music.”
Control of Rory’s back catalog reverted to Donal in the late Nineties. All of the albums were remastered and reissued by BMG. “We didn’t know what was going to happen, ” Donal says “whether they were going to stiff or not. But within the first year, there were a million units of catalog sold.”

There is plenty more to come. Given Rory’s zeal for live performance, plenty of concert DVD releases are likely in the future. “We haven’t really tapped the BBC concerts yet, “Donal says” but we’ll get there yet. Next year we’re hoping to release recordings of Taste performing at the Isle Of Wight festival, because the 40th anniversary of that is coming up. Fortunately there’s a whole vault full of live performance footage, which is great because young guitar players can study Rory’s technique.”

Gallagher himself would no doubt be gratified that his music has outlived the changing musical styles that kept him out of the number one slot during his lifetime. There’s some justice in the fact that he’s found his place in the hearts of today’s rock guitar subculture. He was always most comfortable among fellow musicians.

“Against The Grain: The rise and fall of the legendary Rory Gallagher” — Guitar World ‘Holiday2009’ by Alan Di Perna

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59 responses so far

59 Responses to “Against the Grain: The Rise and Fall of Rory Gallagher”

  1. Fernando Medeiroson 28 Dec 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Great and beautiful article!

    Rory live’s in your fans in Brazil!

  2. Lorraine Chamberson 29 Dec 2009 at 9:37 pm

    June 14th, 1995 was a very sad day for the blues when Rory left us. Yet what he did leave us was incredible music to play forever. My first concert was at the age of 14 with my older brother Dermot at Crawford Hall at UC Irvine, where I witnessed the powerful rocking blues of Rory Gallagher. I have been a disciple of Rory every since. I know I have met a true rocker if they know who Rory is. When I had a radio show, Emeraldwaves Radio Program at KUCI 88.9 fm at UCI, I always try to sneak in a Rory tune since here I was, decades later, on the airwaves just a street away from where I saw Rory in concert. This article was great and the words of writers keep the memory of Rory strong. Rock on! From the Dubliner’s Daughter columnist at for Irish Emigrant Publications, Galway, Ireland.

  3. Thomason 08 Jul 2011 at 12:36 pm

    A lot of persons seem to ask theirselves why Rory never reached a superstar status and complain about his problems, his mistakes and his missed carreer opportunities.

    As i understood Rory just did it “his way” (concerning the “Taste” experience).

    “For what is a man, what has he got?
    If not himself, then he has naught
    To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
    The record shows I took the blows and did it my way!”

  4. Navigatoron 24 May 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Thank you Milo for sharing this material. It’ rather unusual in comparison to the common worship, providing a fresh look at our hero as well as some new facts. On the other hand, Rory’s character and drama are narrowed down to an archetypical image of a “Sociopath With Addiction”. Regarding Rory as a loser, author himself fails to really comprehend Rory’s spirit that was just too high and independent to chase the train of success. His stubborn decisions may look like a chain of “missed opportunities”, but deep inside I’m sure he knew what he was doing and what for.

    Besides, the author obviously goes too far with rendering some episodes:

    “Perhaps it was the instinctual brotherhood of two hard-drinking men”. – Sure, what else could two rock’n’roll devotees have had in common but Hard Drinking?

    “Rory never actually took a proper vacation. He’d use his vacation time for songwriting, developing, and listening to other people’s music. He didn’t know what else to do with himself” – As we know, Rory had other interests: he was well-read, loved cinema and fine arts and even used to draw. Was it really of any problem for him to find some occupation besides music during vacations?

    In general, author doesn’t seem to be able to look at the whole story from any other point of view besides the commercial one. He fails to understand how little Rory’s person and life were about market, show biz and all this staff.

    “He was willing to commit career suicide to uphold the inviolable sanctity of a guitar solo” – Damn yeah, and that’s what we love him for.

  5. […] his welcome and making his musical statement eloquently in the choruses allotted to him. (source) Gallagher’s 1961 […]

  6. Charles Glissonon 25 Apr 2013 at 6:13 pm

    I have issues with “The Author” of this “Guitar World” piece.

    1. Rory Gallagher was “Never” a “Loser”.

    2. There’s more to Rory’s musical compositions than what the “Author” claims is just “laying long solos over 12 bar blues”[a LOT more !!!]

    3. The wear of the finish on Rory’s Strat was NOT the result of it being left in the rain for three days; 1. It was not left in the rain, 2. Anyone with basic knowledge of Fender Guitars [like maybe someone who writes for a publication called “Guitar World” should have?] would/should know that those finishes don’ t just “flake off” in three days of Anything!

    4. The 1st two solo albums were Actually great sounding self produced debuts [contrary to the “Authors” opinion]

    5. Most guitarist would best serve themselves by ignoring magazines such as “Guitar World”, and just go straight to “The Source” of great guitar music instead!

  7. cary hyodoon 24 Sep 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Saw Rory at that old 70s mecca of blues on Yonge Street, the Colonial. Although I do enjoy him on vinyl, his sound and presence live made for a lifelong memory that just doesn’t fade.

  8. Andrewon 11 Oct 2013 at 7:31 am

    I have seen thousands of shows…from the mid sixties to date. I have seen virtually every band and musician from all of the various eras and genres of music….Rory was always one of my favorite bands to see…The raw and often spontaneous energy was undeniable..
    The first time I saw this amazing musician was as an supporting act for Cream..
    and several other times throughout the SF Bay Area…..
    and I agree with the above review by Charles….Just because a musician does not become as commercially successful as say – The Stones….doesn’t mean jack as far as the quality of their skill, talent and showmanship…In my own close up experience Rory was as good as anyone and better than most….All the shows that I attended were superb…and I always received more than my money’s worth…

  9. Peteron 18 Mar 2014 at 3:59 pm

    I saw Rory play in 1989 at the bluesfestival in Tegelen (The Netherlands). He was headliner and I’ve never seen a crowd go mad like then, haf an hour before he came up. I heard the whole crowd went: ‘Rory, Rory!’. He opened with the Continental Op and played very loud and very good. He seemed to be in a good shape and mood.

    After the show he stood maybe only a few meters from me, shaking hands with fans. I didn’t take the opportunity to shake hands with him because I was a bit shy, sadly.

  10. Dave Kon 06 Apr 2014 at 9:28 am

    I didn’t have a good childhood growing up, I had just a couple happy times through a chaotic dysfunctional upbringing. My parents weren’t around and I don’t remember too much, except that “music” was my ol’ friend and I became a real music enthusiast… (Good) music brings me to a place, my place where I feel comfortable and not alone, not left out, yet a happy camper.

    I never got to see Rory play, but the youtube videos put things in perspective that I didn’t have before. Such as watching vids of: Jimi Hendrix, Howlin’Wolf, Savoy Brown, Rory Gallagher, Robin Trower, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Johnny Winter, Gary Moore, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Steve Morse, along with many other great guitarists / bands that I played on my turntable to keep me company everyday. I hope that someday I will get to meet these guys to thank them for their music, and getting me through some tough times.

    Rory played his heart out each and every single show. You can see it, you can feel it, he always gave it his all.

  11. Craigon 13 Apr 2014 at 3:17 am

    I saw Rory play at His Majestys in Perth West Australia in 1973 when 14. (I was 14, not him. Although that would have been something!) He must have played for over 2 hrs, sweating all over the place. I reckon if he’d been asked and allowed to, he would’ve played until the sun came up, such was his enjoyment in doing what he did.

    A lot of virtuoso’s dont seem to completely connect with their audiences and lack soul.
    His performances were captivating and he was generous enough as a showman to realise his audiences had to feel included in the experience. He also knew the importance of his fellow musicians up there with him.

    Like when I saw BB King on stage, the most energy wasn’t coming from the amps and PA.
    It was coming from THE MAN.

  12. great siteon 04 May 2014 at 6:21 pm

    great site

    Against the Grain: The Rise and Fall of Rory Gallagher |

  13. Nick Bon 12 Jul 2014 at 1:44 am

    This article just pisses me off !!

  14. John Flaniganon 05 Jan 2015 at 9:52 am

    “Gallagher was a great sideman who insisted on being a merely adequate front man.” – never read such rubbish!
    Anyone who ever saw Rory in action could not have made this statement.

  15. Andrew Purcellon 06 Jan 2015 at 2:38 am

    Hello all

    I am a Rory fan, He once said when the blues gets you it gets into your veins…He did get into mine along with millions of others, a quiet shy unassuming man who lived for the moment when he was on stage and plugged his Strat into his amp..

    My view is that Rory got fucked over by the recording/management industry during Taste hence his reticence to play along as it were, I know someone who got the same hassle..He’s alive..thank God

    The first Taste album is basically go in there and press record..although it would of been interesting to of heard Taste mk1 do the same stuff..The killer track for me is “Leavin Blues” a really different interpretation if ever there was one

    “On the boards” the second Taste album, is His finest hour touching all the musical bases that Rory loved and it is bastud brilliant! Sax, harmonica, Guitars of all kinds and styles…Rory Nails it big time

    The first solo album has it’s moments “I fall apart” and “just the smile” stand out most and where I disagree with the article is that I prefer that the thin guitar sound he had and the space in the mixes…”I’m not surprised” shows Rory teaming up with Vincent Crane on Piano and “It’s you” shows He can reign himself in

    Deuce also has some killer moments..”maybe I will” and “there’s a light” spring to mind and Rory still dropped in some acoustic too

    Live in Europe captures him live and “Laundromat” is screaming! along with the “Going to my home town” with it’s mandolin to the fore

    With the change in line up came a change in style but the studio albums don’t compete with Irish Tour 74

    In my opinion the guitars don’t happen for me except for “Sleep on a clothes line” but the songs are there “Seventh son of a seventh son” shows Rory can stretch out and teh out take “Wheels within wheels” still brings a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye

    “Irish Tour 74” has become a cult album and it captures that line up extremely well, “Tattoo’d lady” and “Cradle Rock” still cut it and his version of “As the crow flies” shows Rory still in love with his acoustic

    The next two albums could of broke Rory big time but as with Rory he wouldn’t listen to advice…”Calling Card” is a very well produced album and “edged in blue” was the one that could of been Rory’s american number one…alas….

    The next album ended up in the bin and from what I’ve heard he was right to do so

    But now Punk happened

    Rory wasn’t stupid, he went for a tighter sound, Photo Finish again had it’s moments, especially “Shin Kicker”

    “Top Priority” also has it’s moments but with “stagestruck” he hit pay dirt on Rock stations world wide and Rory…he didn’t like it!

    “Jinx” has its moments as well and a couple of tracks did rotate on American Rock stations, but from then on it was downhill

    Defender is poor with the exception of two or three killer tracks, one was on the free 7 inch single that came with it but ….The B side showed He was beginning to repeat Himself

    having heard bootlegs from that period Rory’s drink and drug problem was clearly evident

    “Fresh Evidence” was a good return to form and when I last saw Him he looked well and played fantastic..Five years later he was dead…

    I shook his Hand once and vowed never to wash it again…I had too naturally..He got me into playing D and G and a whole load of blues stuff

    He should be still alive and I wish Donal had of battered some sense into him but Rory was his own man and in some ways, that’s something to be proud of…except it ultimately cost him his life……No one has a bad word to say about him except for the last tour when he was clearly not in control of himself…and I do not want people to dwell on the salacious details at the expensive of all he achieved prior to that

    I miss Him so dearly words cannot express, and as a Rory fan who is honest in his appreciation……I wish he was still here

  16. Yolon 06 Jan 2015 at 7:35 pm

    Interesting article written from another point of view. However in my view the author is not that familiar with the Irish who can be stubborn along with their well known friendly and welcoming nature. Rory had many people advising him on this or that
    (making singles for example) but he said no. I would not call that naïve or otherwise but perhaps just being stubborn or simply knowing which way he wanted to go. (Whether we like that or not ) The way Rory Gallagher’s music sounds, particularly in the early days with those simple and raw uncut sounds is in my view just how the Blues should sound! If you listen to the Beat sessions 1973 you get just that, a 3 piece band with amplifiers, pure heaven. In the end it’s all a matter of TASTE !

  17. Gilfishon 18 Mar 2015 at 4:09 pm

    Jeff Beck along with Clapton are the most overrated guitarists alive. Rory Galagher buried both of those guys blindfolded. He was a master of his craft where every note counted. He could shred with the best, but his forte was bluesgrass and slide which he has no peers. I was turned onto him by the Photo Finish and Against The Grain albums and wondered why he wasn’t as big as those guys because they could all learn from him except maybe Hendrix who was his equal. I guess he shonned fame and just enjoyed being a working musician. Like Jimi he was a tour de force, his singing, playing, performing and composing skills are an industry rarity. It’s just a shame the industry continues to ignore him.

  18. Brien Comerfordon 14 Apr 2015 at 10:44 pm

    Jeff Beck is arguably the greatest living guitarist. Page, Clapton, Gilmour, May, McLaughlin, Joe Perry, Lukather, Bonamassa, Tom Scholz and Sir George Martin have said so. Beck was Hendrix’s favorite guitarist and he was and is admired by Les Paul, Gary Moore. Stevie Ray Vaughn and Carlos Santana.

    Rory was awesome but not in the same echelon as Jeff Beck.

  19. JD Larueon 02 Aug 2015 at 2:54 am

    Snuck into the Keystone Club in Berkeley Cal at age 14 c1974 and saw Rory, He lit it up. My friend’s older brother stole his leather jacket that was hanging by the stage. There was no other live artist comparable that I’ve ever seen. I will never forget hearing him live. Hopefully all this recent popularity has put a smile on his face.

  20. Buggerallon 10 Aug 2015 at 9:45 pm

    I was just recently introduced to Rory’s music this summer. I had heard of him but never had the opportunity to have a listen. My older brother had seen him in North Jersey and said, “Yeah, Rory was cool, you can never go wrong learning his stuff.” I have been listening every day ever since I heard Tatoo’d Lady’ on You Tube a few months ago. I’m hooked. I am very familiar with all kinds of music and I admire Rory for not selling out. I admire him for standing up for what he believed in and holding true to his standards. I love his music all the more for it! The man had soul and that’s why people love him! I’m familiar with all the musical greats, Clapton, Hendrix, Beck, etc. In my book they take absolutely nothing away from Rory Gallagher. Rock on Rory, wherever you are.

  21. John Flaniganon 13 Aug 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Rory – a merely adequate frontman?
    Who wrote this drivel? Anyone who ever saw Rory loved him exactly as he was – a monster on stage and a quiet, polite and unassuming gentleman offstage.

  22. Belinda Drakeon 12 Nov 2015 at 7:41 am

    Rory is the most versatile guitarist l have EVER heard. I was brought up on west coast Jazz & classical music, which l loved/love & learned to play. Of course, always still learning! When l heard RORY, that was it!! Love Hendrix, Randy, Gary, etc etc; but to me, RORY had it all!! Bought myself a ’63 L-series Strat; never looked back. This man inspires me daily. I have learnt slide guitar as well, now playing a 1932 dobro. Don’t have many instruments like RORY. You can only play one at a time! And, you can’t break a Strat!! The above article from Guitar World is CRAP. Saw him live in Australia in 1980-totally kicked arse!! I miss him & his music, & can totally understand him being a ‘loner’. Wish l could of been his friend! I fall apart……

  23. N Carrollon 05 Dec 2015 at 1:30 am

    You should all come listen to Rory in Ballyshannon early June. Show Rory we can hear him!!!! Hope to see you there!

  24. Stu 61SGon 28 Jan 2016 at 7:02 pm

    An interesting article but I disagree, it strikes me that the author doesn’t quite get Rory’s music his description of the man and his music is wildly inaccurate the article is scathingly negative, the first two albums are produced exactly how they were meant, his sound, lack of effects units and combo amps, are what makes him unique, he didn’t need a stack, how a guitar journalist could label his tone thin is beyond me. There’s obviously a sad side to Rory’s life and maybe loneliness and mistrust played a part in his gradual slide into ill health and addiction to prescribed drugs, but at the end of the day look what he left the man is a winner that’s why we’re still talking about him now, keep the back catalogue of live shows coming because it never gets boring it just gets better R.I.P.

  25. Tony O'Brienon 02 Feb 2016 at 11:43 pm

    I had the privilege of seeing Rory play live twice, once at Cork City Hall and once at the CIT in Cork shortly before he died. He was astounding the first time, the second it was clear he was unwell and his performance was suffering. He looked bloated, pale and sick. It was so sad to lose him. I have had the privilege of introducing my two sons to his music – both of whom are keen guitarists. He introduced them to DADGAD tuning. They adore his music especially from the Taste years. I pass Rory’s grave regularly in St Oliver’s graveyard in Carrigrohane where he rests with the ordinary souls of Cork. Understated and modest to the end. My second sons name is Rory by the way. And he plays a great version of Follow Me…..

  26. Patrick Kon 06 Feb 2016 at 10:16 pm

    No one who ever saw him left thinking he was an average frontman. He was a monster onstage that played with fire and passion. He could play blues. Rock, folk, country and slide… He has no equal he was a one of a kind. A brilliant musician, who lived his life exactly how’re wanted, whe was not after fame, or fortune. He was true to himself, highly regarded highly respected, and greatly missed by legions of fans around the world. That we should all be so lucky to leave the world like that.

    P.s the hack that wrote that article, perhaps could have been a great editor, vs just someone who wrote this nonsense.

  27. carden skyrangeron 28 Mar 2016 at 7:43 pm

    Rory’s “Live In Europe” was the most inspiring and well recorded ‘live’ album for me as a 12 year old guitar nut.

    For me it truly captured the spirit of the ‘real’ Rory. The often unheralded rhythm section of McAvoy and the brilliantly wild Wilgar Campbell just playing great tunes with a fantastic vibe.

    I later saw Rory with the expanded line-up of De’Ath and Lou Martin at The Cambridge Corn Exchange in ’74 or ’75. SO EXCITING!!!

    The author is correct in observing the studio albums lacked the bite, the excitement and the fever of Rory ‘live’. The albums’ usual self-penned songs were sadly lacklustre and perhaps the ‘live’ setting bought more ‘oomph’ and passion and bought out the true Celtic spirit of Gallagher.

    Recently visited Cork on a seniors’ football tour and visited the dedicated statue. Drank at one bar with a lot of evident Gallagher memorabilia. I told the Barkeep excitedly “I was a big fan of Rory” . “Who’s that?” she replied.

    I still remember every lick of “Live In Europe” like yesterday. “Messin’ With The Kid”. “Laundromat” . Just monuments to a fantastic Blues rock guitarist.

    And don’t forget those weird guitar harmonics.Who else does that?

  28. Steve T.on 01 Apr 2016 at 9:54 pm

    I just read the “Against the Grain” article. I suppose everyone has their own opinion about music, etc. – the author has his. I have listened to & enjoyed a wide range of music. I like beat-driven rock ‘n roll, folk, jazz, big bands of the 30’s & 40’s, & most of all, all blues. I first heard Rory in 1973 w/ “Walk on Hot Coals” played on KSHE-FM in St. Louis. I went out to buy the album. Blueprint was not in stock, but Tattoo had just been released, & I bought it. Sometime soon after, in March 1974, I saw Rory play at the Ambassador Theatre in St. Louis. I was awed by his talent. He was a consummate performer. Today I have a CD tray that holds 5 CDs that I change regularly. Three or four of these slots always have music from Rory Gallagher in them. I am still awed by his talent. I think Rory was a dedicated musician, a very private person who needed to be in control, & was willing to do whatever he felt was right to stay true to himself. In hindsight, if he made some mistakes, then, who hasn’t? For me also, it is the music that matters most, & this is the real legacy of the man.

  29. Linda C.on 12 Apr 2016 at 11:54 pm

    Does anybody think that Led Zep ripped off Rory? Back in the day, I thought so, and I immediately sold off all my Led Zep records. I was an aspiring female blues guitarist in high school, so I was really studying the blues.

  30. Blayneon 21 May 2016 at 3:37 pm

    Not quite as good as Beck or Hendrix on the fret board? Does the article author have any experience on the Guitar??? It is purported that when Hendrix was asked what it felt like to be the greatest guitar player in the world he replied I don’t know ask Rory Gallagher…

  31. Gail G.on 16 Jun 2016 at 9:24 pm

    After stumbling on his “Calling Card” and “Against the Grain” records in the mid 70s, I saw him in the late 70s at Toad’s in New Haven, CT, and a couple of years later at Toad’s in Waterbury. He was astonishing, a pure wire of energy and expression. He just gave everything to his playing, and made me feel glad to be alive and watching him. I always had the buzz from him that whatever the “real thing” was, he was totally it. I’ve only met a few people in my life that had that “real thing” vibe (doesn’t have to be music, can be anything to do with people who absolutely live their own kind of life, do things their own way as much as they can because they must, and have moral integrity), and he was one of them. Perhaps the first of them. I was only 18 or so when I first saw him.

    This writer does not understand him at all. The reason people loved Rory Gallagher was because he did not want commercial success—he just wanted to get what was in his head out through his fingertips and into the air. And whatever could help him do that, was good, and anything that was an obstacle to him, i.e., other personalities, agendas, ill-health, romantic entanglements, show-biz flitter, what-have-you, was bad. He needed to play and hear his music like the rest of us need oxygen.

    Even his brother didn’t seem to completely understand this, although in everything I’ve read, he obviously cared about Rory and did his best. He was too close to him, I guess, and too normal a person in his own life goals—healthy, I mean, and mainstream in his values: middle-class life, wife and children, make good business decisions, keep things ticking. A great asset to Rory, doubtless, but Donal kept wondering how to get Rory to a more ordinary, normal, healthy life…to no avail. Why? Because it’s clear that Rory’s life drive wasn’t for those things. He had no feel for them, and apparently no desire to attain them. He wanted the same thing he had wanted back when he was a kid, starting out: his music.

    Here’s something people don’t understand in general, but I’ll say it here. When you’ve got your own creative “thing”, you really don’t need anything else—in spite of well-intentioned friends and family. As an introvert, you need to commune with your head, work with your chosen medium, and make your life happen through that. Anything else is distraction. And if you’re lucky, you don’t lose your marbles while you’re doing your thing. Now, if you’re really doing what you need and want to be doing, the people that are not in your life during all those years, because you don’t take time for them, you don’t really miss. Not if you are this intent. You just want more of what you had—like a longer life with better health. But none of us get to live forever as a young man or woman. We’re all just human. We run out of life’s road. As we get older, we may turn to other people for solace, but some of us aren’t able to. We’re just not that interested in other people’s stuff, no offense—we just aren’t. We just want to be who we were, a few years before. On our own. And I think that was all that Rory cared about.

    Music was this guy’s way to commune with the world, to feel fully human and alive. He lived the way he wanted to, really pushed for that all the time, and eventually his life ended. But I doubt he would have wanted to live any other way than he did…

    Sounds really kinda Asperger’s to me, Rory does. I wish more writers about him would show some insight instead of wondering why he just didn’t do things like everybody else…I don’t think he COULD do things any other way.

  32. Johnne in Seattleon 15 Jul 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Rory came through Minneapolis in the mid to late ’70’s and played at this bar in Dinkytown in the U of M area, called ‘The Cabooze’…which was quite literally a caboose with a bar built on the other side of it. You went through the door of a caboose to get into the place. That being said, I saw many acts there: Mick Taylor, Johnny Winter, and of course, Rory Gallagher. It had a small stage that is up about eye level, and the bar is like ten feet in front of the stage. A small place, but Rory lit up the place like a firecracker! I remember his joy on stage, and zeal for everything he played. Obviously he was on top of his game, and a pleasure to watch. I will never forget that night, and the zest for life this one guitar slinger had, slipping in and out of our little burg in Minnesota, claiming a small piece of rock and roll history that night! Johnne in Seattle

  33. blues lover from germanyon 17 Aug 2016 at 10:09 pm

    eternal love and gratitude for this outstanding bluesman. beside the “fact” that i also think he lived the life he wanted, dedicated to nothing but music, you just have to listen his playing carefully and read his lyrics or simply hear what he said in interviews. then you´ll know there was an empty space he could not fill or maybe knew he shouldn´t fill because it was the key to writing such soulful music.
    one can not play the guitar as he did if there aren´t hidden tears in the heart longing for breaking out. that´s what makes listening to his music challenging for me sometimes. thoughts come up like “did he give himself up at the end?” and leave me without answers but with the wish to find a way through his labyrinth of emotions and then place a light inside the emptiness that he showed us through his lyrics.
    Nevertheless, i keep the hope that he did want to give life chance again. and maybe i shouldn´t even feel like this sad because rory reached what he always fought for: complete respect for nothing but his unique art free of effects, marketing and lies.

  34. Tony Brownon 27 Sep 2016 at 10:55 pm

    I think Rory Gallagher and Deuce sound great too. I Fall Apart is my favourite song of his and I think the strong ballad, quieter work on the first album mixed with rockers Laundromat and Sinner Boy make it his strongest studio album.

  35. Liam martinon 29 Oct 2016 at 9:15 pm

    Article is bunch of BS.

  36. John in FL.on 04 Dec 2016 at 4:00 pm

    I had a much longer response,but due to my lack of computer prowess it deleted it.I was fortunate to see Rory Gallagher twice in the late 70’s.Both shows were amazing and there is not another performer like Rory who could play Acoustic,Dobro,Mandolin,electric,sing he was very gifted and talented.Who else could go from open “G OR”D OR BACK TO STANDARD”WHILE HE WAS TALKING TO YOU IN BETWEEN SONGS!I believe it was Rory who already knew the G tuning he sure didn’t need any help from Kieth!He didn’t sell out because he believed in respecting and honoring what came before.I think it’s ironic when all the so called “unplugged”shows started popping up where do you suppose those ideas came from?Rory was ahead of the curve and influenced many players world wide.I would like to come to Cork in June listen and play and sing the Blues,I think all musicians and songwriters who love the blues should!

  37. Chip in FLon 11 Jan 2017 at 8:26 pm

    Rory Gallagher. Enough said.

  38. […] Against the Grain: The Rise and Fall of Rory Gallagher […]

  39. […] Against the Grain: The Rise and Fall of Rory Gallagher […]

  40. Cynthiaon 21 Jul 2017 at 6:42 pm

    I did seem to play and sing with his eyes closed most the time until later I guess he was playing blind! no wonder some concerts like being in a trance for him. A moment to walk in his shoes during such a time would special!

  41. Marcuson 04 Sep 2017 at 10:29 am

    “Parts of Donal’s tales seem far-fetched. The ‘Start Me Up’ riff is very much dependent on Keith Richards five-string, open-G guitar tuning, a configuration that Rory Gallagher is never known to have used.”

    Sloppy research – seems to have been written by someone who hasn’t listened to much of Gallagher’s back catalogue. I have no idea about the ‘Start Me Up’ riff but Gallagher was well versed in playing open-G guitar tuning (though he seems to have preferred the pitch higher open-A variant – it is played in exactly the same way). He uses it on various studio and live tracks. If this meeting was late ’74 early ’75, he’d already used it on (at least): ‘I’m Moving On’ (with Taste) and ‘Who’s That Coming’ (Irish Tour 74/Tatoo). On the Irish Tour 74 re-release and on the orginal film documentary, you can hear/see Rory Playing Muddy Water’s ‘Can’t Be Satisfied’. It’s in open G. The album he released in 1975, Against the Grain, has ‘Souped up Ford’ in the same tuning. On his later albums and on stage, he uses it quite a few times (Ghost Blues, Seven Days, I’ll Admit You’re Gone).

  42. Marta Davieson 23 Sep 2017 at 5:53 pm

    I was on YouTube looking for new tunes for my playlists and I thought I’d check out Rory Gallagher. Am I ever glad I did. Now, I’m trying to get caught up with his music and reading music articles about him and I am blown away. It is totally a tragic event when someone of his age and talent passes away and I only wish that I had been lucky enough to see him perform when he was still alive. I am now sharing his videos with my friends that I know would enjoy his music…and I know they will be very happy. A legend!! Rest peacefully, Rory Gallagher and I thank you!

  43. Gloryon 30 Sep 2017 at 6:07 pm

    The Author has a negative, Freudian mind and makes ridiculous assumptions and conclusions about Rory Gallagher which are an insult to his music.

  44. john staceyon 30 Dec 2017 at 10:12 pm

    Rory was and still is very important to me for this reason. I’m 59 years old, been a player since I was 11 was fortunate to see Rory several times. On one occasion Rory was playing a small venue in Michigan called the Royal Oak Theater on the same night The Who were playing in Detroit. I could have went to see The Who but chose to go see Rory again. A friend of mine who was a huge Who fan was really bummed out that he couldn’t get tickets to their show. I had an extra ticket to Rory’s gig and offered it to him. He didn’t care much for Rory’s music and turned the ticket down. On the night of the show me and the rest of the guys going to see Rory met at a local bar so we could go together. I spotted my Who fan buddy sitting at the bar so I went to offer him the Rory ticket again, he still said no. So I said I’d give it to him for free cause I wanted him to see Rory live thinking it might change his mind about his music. He still declined. The time to leave was fast approaching so I told him he could cry into his beer for missing the Who or go see the best kept secret in music at the time. He accepted. The local warm up band wasn’t very good and my buddy was still bummed out. Rory took the stage and 2,500 fans gave him a standing O. By the third song my buddy was blown away with the sound coming from the stage. During the last encore, they had to turn on the house lights so Rory would call it a night. Two and a half hours of pure musical magic was over and my buddy was a Rory fan telling me that he would gladly pay for the ticket and wanted to go to the next show, which was one hour later. Rory played two shows in one night finishing at about 2 in the morning. Amazing. So where would I rate Rory? For those who saw him live, you know the answer. For those who didn’t, watch all the videos you can. For my buddy, I know he’s glad he did. Just say he was one of the best ever.

  45. Deltaon 01 Mar 2018 at 10:18 am

    Author of this article, Alan Di Perna, seems wanna tell that Rory sabotaged or destroyed his own career, and that is not true. Gallagher, did not make bad decisions in his career, he simply did not allow himself to be manipulated by the musical industry,and it left him aside.
    -“Rory enjoyed doing what he really wanted and how he wanted.”

  46. Penason 10 Sep 2018 at 10:55 am


    Against the Grain: The Rise and Fall of Rory Gallagher |

  47. Paulineon 28 Nov 2018 at 3:13 pm

    Well, I don’t like the tone of this article. Like it’s so very important to have huge commercial success and it was Rory’s flaw that he wasn’t willing to compromise. What kind of crap is that. And the way the author talks about his character is so negative.. why? All this talk about how he was such a loner and not good at communication with others. Why forget to mention how great and kind and accessible he was with his fans? I really don’t know anything about this site or about the author of this article. But I can say that I love true music and true artists and Rory was one of them. Why can’t you just appreciate people the way they are, and in fact appreciate that they are different. There was no need for Rory to live up to the expectations of his brother, or a record label. Let the man do what he loves and what he does best, for God’s sake. If there is anything that I truly HATE about all that editing of records, is that the guitar solo’s are gone. Good thing that Rory did it his own way. We have too much editing in recors anyways. Recently I was reading about how someone did a remake on the White Album of the Beatles. So that when played on Spotify, it wouldn’t sound like it was ‘old’ to young people. What the actual fuck. If the author of anyone else is still confused about what I mean, check out JJ Cale. Another great example of a true artist, not standing in the spotlights. Please let people be who they want to be and cut the crap about a ‘sad’ life. I bet I see more joy in Rory’s eyes when he was performing, than in the eyes if the author when writing this article.

  48. Chuck Arthuron 04 Mar 2019 at 10:56 pm

    I grew up in NW Alabama in the town of Sheffield, sister city to Muscle Shoals. I lived one mile from the famous Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Sheffield and three miles from Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. I say famous because the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Cher, Bob Seger, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Rod Stewart, Boz Scaggs, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Traffic, and many others recorded there. I try to promote the “Muscle Shoals Sound” as much as possible. I feel the same way about Rory Gallagher. Maybe the greatest guitarist and musician/performer who flew very much under the radar, especially in the States. I first heard him in 1974 on Don Kirsher’s Rock concert on TV. I was 15 at the time. Soon after that I bought the Irish Tour ’74 album. For some reason I didn’t follow Rory afterward. (It could have been that it was hard to find his albums, although that seems unlikey). It wasn’t until after his brother released those CDs that I saw Irish Tour ’74, Live in Europe/Stage Struck and Blueprint at a music store around 2001. I got them and was blown away at how good they sounded. (I don’t know what happened to my old vinyl album of Irish Tour ’74). Later, I saw Jinx and Fresh Evidence, and purchased them. I noticed they came out later in Rory’s career and wondered if they might not be as good. Well, they were! So at that point, I went online and discovered that Rory had 8 more studio albums and the BBC sessions. I went to CD now and purchased them all, as well as a Best of Taste CD. Also, the Live at Montreaux DVD. That was about 18 years ago and I still listen to them all the time. I have seen a lot of great concerts, but my biggest regret was never seeing Rory live. I envy anyone who did. It was very sad reading about his premature death in 1995. One of greats, and certainly one of my very favorites. The article was very interesting and insightful, but like others who commented, I think Rory as a great front man. I am glad he didn’t join Cream or the Stones (although that would have been interesting).

  49. Heather Mooreon 19 Mar 2019 at 2:54 am

    I saw Rory a few times in England and on Long Island, NY. I was floored. He was the ultimate guitarist and he had a raw, gutsy voice. He sang with passion. My friend fell in live with Rory and tried to pursue a relationship but he broke her heart. He could not commit. She had a nervous breakdown. Sad to hear of his death at only 47. He was DRIVEN!

  50. Tonyon 15 Jun 2019 at 5:21 pm

    I never wrote a comment on anything but reading about Rory inspired me to tell one of my memories of a Rory Gallagher concert. Long Beach California in the early 70’s. I waited all day to rush into the auditorium (not the arena) so I could be in front of the stage. About half way through his show there was a power outage. He hesitated for a couple minutes, waiting for the power then grabbed an acoustic guitar and played for those that could hear him. It went on for awhile. He then approached the front of the stage and talked to us, apologized and left. I left that concert feeling blessed and a bigger fan then before. Thank you Rory for your part in my life.

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